The Monastic Heart: 50 Simple Practices for a Contemplative and Fulfilling Life

Amy Pagliarella reviews Joan Chittister's book.

Joan Chittister
Convergent Books, 288 pages
Published September 21, 2021

“Where do we go now as individuals to find our way out of the shadows and toward a new life?” asks Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister in her introduction to 50 Simple Practices for a Contemplative and Fulfilling Life. After two years with the “shadow” of COVID looming over even the most mundane aspects of daily life, I welcomed Chittister’s response.

She doesn’t provide a single, easy answer. Instead, Chittister invites us to cultivate the spiritual seeker inside by drawing on monastic traditions, exploring their bounty and trying on those practices that speak to us. Disciplines ranging from singing to silence and from solitude to communal peace-making are introduced with accessible descriptions, brief reflections from her own experience and gentle invitations to experience them. Simply reading The Monastic Heart is a kind of spiritual practice. I raced through it like a page-turner, eager for what was next, before beginning again, this time as a kind of lectio divina.

I have been known to try on one spiritual practice after another, discarding them when they aren’t the silver bullet I seek. Chittister’s confidence that we are all “lights in the darkness of a world struggling to find again the best of its human self” gave me permission to try again — to resurrect old practices and sample ones I had never considered, secure that my best spiritual self lies within, ready to be cultivated.

Presbyterian Outlook supports local bookstores. Join us! Click on the link below to purchase The Monastic Heart: 50 Simple Practices for a Contemplative and Fulfilling Life from BookShop, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. As an affiliate, Outlook will also earn a commission from your purchase.