27 November 2019, The Tablet

Three books for Advent


Domestic Monastery
(Darton Longman &Todd, 112 PP, £6.99)
tablet bookshop price £6.30 • tel 020 7799 4064

Hearers of the Word
(Messenger Publications, 144 PP, £17.95)
Tablet bookshop price £16.15 • Tel 020 7799 4064

Sister Wendy’s 100 Best-loved Paintings
(SPCK, 232 PP, £25)
Tablet bookshop price £22.50 • Tel 020 7799 4064

I’ve always had a problem with the Mary and Martha story: no wonder Martha is indignant when she sees her sister loun­ging about listening to Jesus, while she toils away in the kitchen, preparing food for their guest. To be told that Mary has chosen the better part must have been no comfort at all. And life is full of these tensions: between contemplation and action; passion and purity; duty and personal fulfilment; the community and the individual; this world and the next. What Ronald Rolheiser’s delightful Domestic Monastery suggests is a right balance between all these tensions. As the title indicates, Christians should, in a sense, be living in a monastery, as parents, children, partners, colleagues, creative spirits, consumers, lay and religious. It’s not either/or, Martha/Mary, worldly/spiritual, practical/artistic, but both. A full life comes in many forms; what should be constant is a spirit of giving, of welcome, of openness, guided, however busy we may be, by a sense of ritual that gives a rhythm and a direction to the simplest action. Rolheiser sums it up like this, “There’s a rich spirituality in these principles: stay inside your commitments, be faithful, your place of work is a seminary, your work is a sacrament, your family is a monastery, your home is a sanctuary.” Makes sense to me.

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