For my small study group of women who faithfully meet on an early morning once a week, this book calmed and directed turbulent souls. This was especially important and meaningful to us since our first session ended just minutes before the tragedies of September 11 occurred. The book's wisdom has continued to help carry us through. A previous acquaintance, however small, with the benedictine way has been helpful to individual members.
Most people find spirituality a wonderful concept, but they suspect that it is difficult to practice spirituality in the midst of ordinary daily concerns. Elizabeth Canham offers a wisdom of spirituality that is grounded in the classic practices of Benedict, and she helps readers understand that the spiritual practices described by the 6th century Benedict were intended for ordinary working people. Canham structures the book so that we begin with Scripture and then we move to that essential Benedictine spiritual practice of hospitality. Prayer is a foundational discipline that Canham covers, but her conversation about other practices is a treat. She writes with an ease and charm as she yokes manual labor and rest, two spiritual practices that are misunderstood spiritually.
Canham seasons her work with her life's experiences. She grew up an evangelical Christian in England and is now an Episcopal priest in the US. She lived in Manhattan and in a monastic situation in rural South Carolina. These experiences make visible the very Benedictine understanding of life as pilgrimage. Her work is well informed. Her understanding of Benedict's insights allow me to take up these practices in a life in which I fend off chaos and disorder. And that seems to have been a part of Benedict's vision in the disorderly 6th century.