Selections from the Monastery Library
Here are two dozen books from our Library that may be especially helpful for people who yearn to discover their place in personal monasticism (listed in alphabetical order):
Catholic Source Book. Rev. Peter Klein, editor (Brown-ROA/Harcourt Brace & Co., Dubuque, IA, 1990). This is a deliciously fun and useful book for those who are not familiar with the history, culture and lore of Roman Catholicism—as well as for those who are. Open it anywhere and learn something interesting.
The Cloister Walk. By Kathleen Norris (Riverhead Books, New York, 1989). Part record of a poet’s time among the Benedictines of St. John’s Abbey, part meditation on various aspects of monastic life, The Cloister Walk demonstrates, from the rare perspective of someone who is both an insider and outsider, how immersion in the cloistered world—its liturgy, its ritual, its sense of community—can impart meaning to everyday events and deepen our secular lives.
The Gnostic Gospels. By Elaine Pagels (Vintage/Random House, New York, 1979). Professor Pagels makes accessible to the modern world the best from the early Gnostic Christian library unearthed at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. You will find gems from The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, The Gospel of Truth, and others. For Christians, the Nag Hammadi’s 52 texts easily eclipse the Dead Sea Scrolls in importance for genuine insight on the origins of our faith. “Pagels sets forth (gnosticism’s) principles with concise clarity. Her evocation of the world of the church fathers is a marvel.” –Boston Globe
Holy Bible. Many versions and translations are in our Library. The ones we turn to most are:
+ The Oxford Annotated Bible (RSV). The annotations offer true historical context for each book and help give light to ambiguous or unclear words and phrases.
+ King James Version. The language of this popular translation is both familiar and beautiful. Ours is the same as ones found in motel rooms across America, placed there as a service of the Gideons.
+ The New American Bible. This is the modern Bible used by Catholics. The language, scholarship, and explanatory notes are excellent. It also contains books not found in Protestant Bibles.
How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from he Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. By Thomas Cahill (Doubleday, New York, 1995). Brilliant and beautifully written historical narrative essential for understanding the qualities of very early Irish monasticism and its huge contribution to Western culture. In a dark time, these saints and monks were truly “keepers of the light.”
Joshua: A Parable for Today. By Joseph F. Girzone (Scribner/Simon & Schuster, New York, 1983). What if Jesus were to appear in our midst today? Would his selfless ways and miracles of healing bring a community together, or would tradition-bound prelates again try to discredit and suppress his message? A retired Catholic priest wrote this irresistible and compelling short novel.
Just Another Spiritual Book. By Bo Lozoff (Human Kindness Foundation, Durham, NC 1990). “Certainly there are spiritual mysteries to explore, and states of ecstasy or enlightenment beyond descriptions. But as we mature it becomes clear that those special experiences are only meaningful when they arise from and return to a life of ordinary kindness.” Bo Lozoff does extraordinary work with people in prisons through his 1985 book, We’re All Doing Time. This book is a little heavy on personal experience letters, but simple truth comes through—truth applicable to life lived anywhere.
Meditations: On the Monk Who Dwells in Daily Life. By Thomas Moore (HarperCollins, New York 1994) These brief meditations by a former cloistered monk will invite you to appreciate the meaning, value and purpose of personal monasticism.
Mere Christianity. By C. S. Lewis (The MacMillan Co., New York, 1943). Several generations of college students have been inspired by the challenging light in Lewis’s very readable books (especially The Screwtape Letters). In these short essays that were originally radio talks, Lewis gets to the core of religious questions that, at one time or another, have arisen for nearly all of us. In doing so, he shows why the call of the Christian way is so compelling.
Narcissus and Goldmund. By Hermann Hesse. The contemplative and the active impulses in our nature as explored through the lives and dialogue of two very different friends. Every novel and short story by this wonderful German writer contains profound personal, psychological, and spiritual implications.
No More Plastic Jesus: Global Justice and Christian Lifestyle. By Adam Daniel Finnerty (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 1977). On page 97 you will find The Shakertown Pledge, a nine-point personal declaration for Christians who are called “to cherish, nurture, and provide loving stewardship” for the earth and who yearn to lead religiously responsible lives.
Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics: Lifestyles for Self-Discovery. By Marsha Sinetar (Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ, 1986). Sinetar sought out and interviewed people who had found inner peace and spiritual integration by their own paths. Sections include: The Way of the Monk, The Way of the Mystic, and the Way of Wholeness, which includes a chapter on solitude and silence in one’s spiritual integration. Written somewhat in the style of the “Me Generation,” it’s a bit dated now, but still useful.
Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words. (Published by Ocean Tree Books, 1983. Trade edition is available at www.oceantree.com for $12). Peace was a penniless pilgrim who walked the highways and byways of North America for 28 years, bearing a simple message of peace: “Overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”
Peace Pilgrim’s Wisdom:A Very Simple Guide. By Cheryl Canfield (Ocean Tree Books, 1996. Available at www.oceantree.com for $14). 365 thoughts from the writings of America’s wayfaring saint—one for each day of year–with room for your own insights and inspirations. A study guide to Peace’s simple way, the book also contains previously unpublished notes from her travelogues.
The Prophet. By Kahlil Gibran. (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1923.) The Lebanese mystic and poet’s finest work, including the memorable On Prayer, which includes one of the finest and simplest prayers ever written (“Our God who art our winged self; it is thy will in us that willeth…”).
The Rule of St. Benedict (Editions from The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1981, and Image Books/Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1975.) Written as a guide for the monks of his monastery at Monte Cassino in the sixth century, Benedict’s simple guidelines are the foundation for practically every Christian monastic community in the Western world. His Rule for spiritual living is both ascetic and demanding, yet ultimately insightful, humane and forgiving of our imperfect natures.
Saints: Who They Are and How They Help You. Elizabeth Hallam, editor (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994). More than 150 recognized saints from Agnes to Zita. An easy way to find who is in charge of what, and how each came to his or her divine specialty.
Spiritual Notes to Myself: Essential Wisdom for the 21st Century. By Hugh Prather (MJF Books, New York, 1998). “We tend to think of awakening as a single dramatic event, but it is experienced most often during he small moments when we remember the present and return to our actual nature of kindness and joy. These moments increase and join together as we learn that our divine nature, which is loving, understanding, and happy, links us to everything … To awaken and to stay awake, turn your mind to the waking state. Over and over, turn your mind to where you are, what you are and who is with you. That’s the whole enchilada.”
The Treasury of Spiritual Wisdom. By Andy Zubko (Blue Dove Press, San Diego, 1998). A collection of over 10,000 inspirational quotations form hundreds of sources, patiently gathered and categorized by a home monastic and student of spiritual mysticism.
When I listen…to the Voice of God’s Love. By Marilyn Gatlin & Mary Lou Cook (Ocean Tree Books, 1998. Available at www.oceantree.com for $9.50). This simple yet brilliant meditation brings you into a place of silence, where God’s gentle voice can be heard in peace. “There can be nothing more important than the silence of our minds, to trust God, and listen to His voice.” –Gerald Jampolsky
The Wisdom Tree: A Journey to the Heart of God. By Gary Guthrie (Ocean Tree Books, 1997. Available at www.oceantree.com for $12.95). How could God work through religions that are seemingly contradictory and burdened with hypocrisy? Dr. Guthrie uses the analogy of a genealogical tree of man’s religions to show how beliefs may be uniquely distinct, yet part of one system. Each chapter goes to the center of a prevailing world faith (Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, etc.) to show how the Divine Intelligence appears to be revealing one message through different cultures and traditions.
Woods, Shore, Desert. By Thomas Merton (Museum of New Mexico Press, 1982). A minor Merton work, these journal reflections written over two weeks in May 1968 are among the last by the beloved Trappist monk before his journey to Asia and his unexpected death in Bangkok that December. All works by Merton are valuable to today’s contemplatives. On the Mendocino Coast, before departure to the east, he wrote: “(I should) Just go for walks, live in peace, let change come quietly and invisibly on the inside. But I do have a past to break with, an accumulation of inertia, waste, wrong, foolishness, junk…a great need of clarification of mindfulness—a return to genuine practice, right effort, a need to push on to the great doubt. Need for the Spirit. Hang on to the clear light!”