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The Cloister Walk Paperback – Apr 1 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (April 1 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573225843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573225847
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.8 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #98,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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In the tradition of Thomas Merton, Kathleen Norris gives us an intimate look at how religious life fills a gap in the soul. Her poetic sensibilities internalize the monastery as a symbol of spirituality, with its sanctity and humor, questioning and uncertainty, rhythm and vigor. Beyond moral precepts and Bible stories, Cloister Walk is a very personal account of religion lived fully. It depicts a depth and beauty of spirituality in monastic life that has survived the vicissitudes of Roman Catholic politics and pomp.

From Publishers Weekly

The allure of the monastic life baffles most lay people, but in her second book Norris (Dakota) goes far in explaining it. The author, raised Protestant, has been a Benedictine oblate, or lay associate, for 10 years, and has lived at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota for two. Here, she compresses these years of experience into the diary of one liturgical year, offering observations on subjects ranging from celibacy to dealing with emotions to Christmas music. Like the liturgy she loves, this meandering, often repetitive book is perhaps best approached through the lectio divina practiced by the Benedictines, in which one tries to "surrender to whatever word or phrase captures the attention." There is a certain nervous facility to some of Norris's jabs at academics, and she is sometimes sanctimonious. But there is no doubting her conviction, exemplified in her defense of the much-maligned Catholic "virgin martyrs," whose relevance and heroism she wants to redeem for feminists. What emerges, finally, is an affecting portrait?one of the most vibrant since Merton's?of the misunderstood, often invisible world of monastics, as seen by a restless, generous intelligence.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A RING OF TRUTH: Like Kathleen Norris, I am a Protestant who lives in a small town and have been heavily influenced by being a guest in a Benedictine Monastery many times. Like Norris, I have been invited into the cloister. Her account has the ring of authenticity. By the time I finished the book I realized I was reading while listening to the CD of chants prepared at the monastery I most often visit.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS BOOK? Norris is a poet. This book is a collection of sketches from inside the monastery, from monastic history, from her own small town, from her vacations, and from the cities she has lived and worked in. Some chapters are long, while others are short. Her themes bounce from chapter to chapter. If you like poetic imagery written in prose and are interested in this theme, you will like this book.
WHO WILL NOT LIKE THIS BOOK? If you like to read technical manuals and books with finely structured outlines, you will probably not like this book. You may feel that Norris rambles too much and doesn't stay with her main point.
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By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 29 2003
Format: Paperback
Kathleen Norris' magnum opus, The Cloister Walk, has provided the entrance into monastic spirituality for almost as many people as any work in history, assuming, of course, that the people who purchased her book read, mark, and inward digest the meanings contained therein.
It is a truly remarkable achievement--one born of contradiction and ambiguity. A woman has found such spirituality and insight in communities predominantly organised and lived in by men (I wonder how different or similar this work would be had Norris concentrated on visiting convents?). A protestant has found a home in her own soul for many of the most 'catholic' of practices. Where these insights and practices lead are different at different times, ever changing yet ever constant.
Norris structures her book (and structure is very important for monastic types) in a similar fashion to a monastic day and year. She follows a liturgical calendar, and fills in the gaps with reflections and stories of experiences.
She uses the daily cycle to great effect--for instance, on April 2, the day of Mary of Egypt, Norris incorporates the story of Mary into her narrative in much the same way that monastics incorporate such stories into their practice and contemplation: 'Monks have always told the story of Mary of Egypt to remind themselves not to grow complacent in their monastic observances, mistaking them for the salvation that comes from God alone. ... Repentance is coming to our senses, seeing, suddenly, what we've done that we might not have done, or recognising, as Oscar Wilde says in his great religious meditation "De Profundis", that the problem is not in what we do but in what we become.
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Format: Paperback
For many people, Kathleen Norris' story is somewhat familiar. She was raised in a faith tradition as a child, abandoned her faith, or at least put her faith on hold, then rediscovers her faith as an adult. Norris' experience is hardly typical, but it is definitely not "the same old story" with a different person telling it. Norris rediscovers faith accidentally, but it is not the Protestant faith of her youth. She is now a Protestant whose faith is colored by Roman Catholicism, particularly the Benedictine monastic tradition in Catholicism.
Norris is a writer whose primary genre has been poetry. In 1991, she spent a year at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota and entered into the life of this monastic community. From time to time she also traveled to her home and to various parts of the country for conferences or speaking engagements. The book is taken from reflections of that experience. In the book, she is connected to her life outside the monastery while at the monastery and while away from the monastery, she still seems to be very present to the life of the monastery. The life in the monastery has a certain pattern to it, based on the Rule of St. Benedict. The year follows a calendar, but it is the calendar of the Roman Martyrology which lists the days that various saints and religious feasts are remembered. The Liturgy of the Hours, chanted by the monks is essential to the life of the monastery as is time for personal prayer and reflection. As both an insider (as a person connected to the monastery) and an outsider (a Protestant woman in an all male Catholic community), Norris is able to make keen insights into the life of the monastery with a unique perspective.
This is a book that should be read from cover to cover when the book is read for the first time.
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Format: Audio Cassette
I had been curious about "The Cloister Walk" for many years, but have been inexplicably reluctant to read it. Recently I had the opportunity to listen to the abridged audio version of the book, read by actress Debra Winger. Now that I've heard the tape, I'm looking forward to reading the entire book someday.
As a convert from Protestantism to the Eastern Orthodox Church, I found that many of Kathleen Norris' thoughts, feelings and experiences in discovering and participating in liturgical life paralleled my own. Her writings remind me of Orthodox writer Frederica Mathewes-Green, notably "Facing East" and "The Illumined Heart," a well-known convert from the Episcopal Church.
I appreciate Norris' penetrating insights into the monastic life. By living with the Benedictines, she was able to answer many of the questions that those of outside of the monastic life have undoubtedly wondered about.
I'd recommend this book to anyone curious about liturgical life, monasticism or about going deeper in the Christian walk. While Debra Winger did an adequate job of reading this abridgment, I was unconvinced that she knew what she was reading about. Fortunately Norris' narrative is captivating on its own.
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