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A Monk's Alphabet: Moments of Stillness in a Turning Worldby Jeremy Driscoll
Synopses & Reviews
Monastic literature has inspired and challenged the world outside the cloister ever since monks started putting their thoughts on paper well over fifteen hundred years ago. With his Monk's Alphabet, Father Jeremy Driscoll brings the genre into the twenty-first century, offering a collection of compact and thought-provoking essays on life, faith, and the world around us from the perspective of someone whose existence is structured around the unfolding of the interior life.
The 187 meditations are arranged by short titles in alphabetical order to emphasize that the reader can approach them in random fashion, without preconceived ideas, to be surprised by where they lead the heart and mind.
"If I am a monk," Father Jeremy says, "that means also that I am just a man, connected with all other men and women in my time . . . and in other times. I am searching, like we all do. I struggle to believe, like we all do. Life is lovely, life is hardthis is true for me like it is for us all. That is why I think to share my alphabet. Not because monks are different and so worth a visit to see them in a zoo, but because my monastic life has given me the space to think about things that we all care about and all have to face."
"What do the following words have in common — O'Keeffe, Orchard, Oyster? Not much apart from their initial letter, and therein lies a problem with this book of alphabetical meditations. Driscoll, a Benedictine monk who commutes between an abbey in Oregon and a seminary in Rome, claims Marcus Aurelius, Evagrius Ponticus and Blaise Pascal as his literary models (they all wrote 'short, provisional essays... to provoke thought') and promises that 'the many and varied thoughts come together and begin to sketch certain patterns, not created by ourselves trying to remain in control, but formed from a deeper logic.' The book's introduction is actually quite fascinating. But by the time readers hit Bluntly, Breathless, Bugs, they may be longing for Kathleen Norris's Amazing Grace or Frederick Buechner's Wishful Thinking, abecedarian books with fresher insights and more focused ramblings. Much of Driscoll's writing is highly personal, as if lifted from private journals; depression is a recurring theme. Though he tends to belabor the obvious and is sometimes annoyingly self-absorbed, he tells a few good stories, asks some thoughtful questions and will appeal to readers who have always wanted an unedited peek inside a monk's head. Mistakes, Monastic, Moose. (Aug. 8)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In the tradition of Thomas Merton, Henry Nouwen, and Kathleen Norris, these are contemplations of a Benedictine monk who is also a poet, a critic, and a theologian of renown.
From the time of the desert fathers to our own post-Christian age, the literature of monastic wisdom has provided inspiration for those of us who lead ordinary lives in the world. Father Jeremy Driscoll, a poet and theologian who is also a Benedictine monk, brings the genre into the twenty-first century with this exquisitely written collection of reflections on life from a monastic perspective. Whether reflecting on the details of the cloistered life, or observing the weirdness of American culture, explaining a fine point of Catholic theology to a child, or meditating on the flight of a seagull over the glittering ocean at sunrise, Fr. Jeremy's voice both enchants and provokes us to further contemplation. The 187 meditations are arranged by short titles in alphabetical order to emphasize that the reader should approach them in random fashion, without preconceived ideas, in order to be open to where they lead the heart and mind.
About the Author
Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., is a priest and monk of Mount Angel Abbey, St. Benedict, Oregon. He is a professor of theology at Mount Angel Seminary and at the Pontifical Athenaeum Sant' Anselmo in Rome. He is the author of several books of theology and poetry.
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