St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
Readers who have been following my blog will be familiar with the title of this book. It has been listed as a resource for many of my columns.
As the title suggests St. Benedict’s Toolbox is just that… an excellent tool for applying The Rule of Saint Benedict to lives outside the monastery wall. Jane Tomaine does a incredible job laying out the chapters in a user friendly fashion with ideas and resources that will blend with your personal lifestyle and faith practice. If you were to buy only one book to help you begin applying The Rule you must buy St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday BenedictineLiving by Jane Tomaine! I’m crazy about Jane’s book and plan to use it for years to come! Every time I open it I get more excited about putting it into practice. Thanks Jane!
It’s always exciting when I discover a book that has fresh concepts and approaches to the subject of addiction recovery. Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr is just that and more.
I’ve been using this book in my own recovery walk for over a year now. With every chapter I get new insights that help me get up and take my daily baby steps again. Though himself not a recovering addict, Fr. Rohr has a sweet way of lining up our hurts and issues with the spirituality and healing we all long for. Breathing Under Water, like all of Richard Rohr’s books, is beautifully written and is one of my favorite books. I highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with addiction of any type.
To finish out this year I have chosen to review the two best resources I’ve found for becoming a Benedictine Oblate. Both books are beautifully bound with durable hardcovers designed for years of use. They are similar in style and format with topical essays in easy to read chapters written by excellent contributing authors.
The Benedictine Handbookbegins with a brief introduction to Saint Benedict and his Rule followed by the tools for Benedictine spirituality and how to practice them in our every day lives whether we live in a community or as a solitary. The Benedictine Handbook is an excellent resource to help you understand the basics of the Benedictine lifestyle and the foundation of this type of spiritual walk.
The Oblate Lifethough very similar in style and format regarding Benedictine history and spirituality, it focuses mostly on what it means to live as a Benedictine oblate. Whether married with a family or single, in our community or the church, the essays cover all areas and seasons of life. The bibliography in The Oblate Lifeis an excellent list of resources to help us delve deeper into all things Benedictine.
If you feel called to the Benedictine spiritual walk both of these books are a must have for your library. The Benedictine Handbookand The Oblate Lifeboth serve as a great introductions to many of the best Benedictine authors in the market today. I have thoroughly enjoyed studying both books and will continue to for years to come.
Benedictine spirituality is unfamiliar to Protestants and Catholics alike. For this reason we must equally welcome Dennis Okholm’s wonderful book Monk Habits for Everyday People. As a Protestant pastor and Professor of Theology, Dennis Okholm helps to bridge the gap with excellent historical background. He unreservedly gives reasoning behind why Saint Benedict’s rule is vitally important to our modern world.
When I first began to explore the roots of contemporary Benedictine monasticism, it dawned on me that in one sense Benedict belongs to Roman Catholics no more than he does to Protestants. His life preceded the Reformation by a millennium, and the same Protestants who revere and learn from Augustine (b.354) may just as legitimately, and without feelings of betrayal and guilt, appeal to Benedict (b.480).
In Monk Habits for Everyday People Dennis shares stories of his retreats to monasteries. He digs deep into the basic tenants of Benedictine spirituality: Listening, Poverty, Obedience, Humility, Hospitality, Stability, and Balance while giving practical application to all. If you are at all curious about Benedictine monastic practices I highly recommend this resource. Monk Habits for Everyday People is a great beginning place for anyone interested in learning Benedictine ways. One of my favorite things in this book is the list of simple suggestions that help us begin practicing Benedictine spirituality in our every day lives.
For the last several months I have been using Phyllis Tickle’s prayer book series. I purchased the entire set which includes prayer books for each season of the year, along with a book of Night Offices. I started with Prayers for Springtime and have now moved to Prayers for Summertime.
If you are unfamiliar with Phyllis Tickle you will find her a prolific writer with dozens of books to her name. She is the founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly and has been a muchsought after speaker on religion in America.
In The Divine Hours Ms. Tickle makes primary use of The Book of Common Prayer, the writings of the Church Fathers and takes Scripture readings from the New Jerusalem Bible. Each book is divided into specific time categories: Morning, Mid-day, Evening and Night and is easy to navigate to find today’s reading.
As a recovering addict it’s critical that I keep my prayer routine on track and The Divine Hoursseries has been most helpful in this area. Although I have several prayer books and iPhone apps, I really enjoy Phyllis Tickle’s books and use them regularly.
If you are looking for a way to freshen your prayer and praise routine while participating in the ancient practice of the liturgy, I highly recommend The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.
Shortly after I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality in 2012, I found Joan Chittister. The title to this book was intriguing to me since I’ve been walking the recovery road for a while. In The Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility RevisitedJoan does a remarkable job breaking down Saint Benedict’s 12 steps of Humility into easily applied life principles. I’ve read this book twice and use it regularly as a resource. I also enjoy Joan’s blog and other books which you can find here: joanchittister.org. Sr. Joan’s writing is beautifully descriptive. She is one of my favorite authors today.
How to Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job is a great place to start if you are considering the life of an Oblate. This was the first book on the monastic lifestyle that I read two years ago. At 119 pages with short flowing chapters it’s a easy introductory read.
Br. Tvedten does an excellent job giving us historical background to Benedictine spirituality, the values for daily living and what it actually means to become an Oblate. He includes a wonderful list of Benedictine titles many of which I have read and will be reviewing here in the future.
I highly recommend How to Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: An Invitation to Oblate Life by Brother Benet Tvedten. It was after reading this book that I knew without a doubt the Benedictine spiritual path was where I belonged.
Only recently introduced to Richard Rohr’s writing, I was pleasantly surprised to read concepts often represented by Eastern religions or New Age philosophies shown in our Christian traditions.
In The Naked Now Fr. Rohr literally teaches a new way to see. He helps us move from the all or nothing; either / or thinking, to more inclusive both / and views. An excellent book to help bridge the gaps we see so much in our culture today. I love that he isn’t afraid to quote other religious teachers: Zen Masters and The Dali Lama for instance.
One point he made that I have seen in my own life is that many Christian denominations focus so much on doctrine but don’t give us the vision or practices that can help us actually experience the truths. Most awesome is the appendixes that teach us how to practice The Naked Now!
What a fresh word! I’m ready to read this book again!
If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE for a introduction to The Naked Now by Richard Rohr.
One of my new favorite people is Esther de Waal. In my opinion Esther is responsible for the global growth of the Oblate movement for the last 30 years. Her book Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict brings St Benedict’s Rule to life for those trying to live monastic principles in our ordinary lives outside monastery walls.
Ms. de Wall breaks down the Rule, written by a celibate man to other celibate men over 1500 years ago, into ways that can be applied to every life. Along with the beautifully translated Rule, each chapter is punctuated with sweet prayers and quotations perfect for a devotional or meditation time.
I learned many things in this wonderful book. But the most important is something I use every day; a principle that is tied to our daily work, whatever it may be.
Reflecting on this quote from the Rule:
He will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected. (RB 31.2)
Esther de Waal writes:
What we can learn from the Rule is that the sense of God’s presence can be mediated throughout daily work and not destroyed by it… seeking God does not demand the unusual, the spectacular, the heroic. It asks of me as wife, mother, housewife that I do the most ordinary, often dreary and humdrum things that face me each day, with a loving openness that will allow them to become my own immediate way to God. (Ch VII Material Things)
After reading this I put a daily ritual in place to help me keep this forefront in my mind. I start each morning by lighting a candle at my kitchen altar where I have placed a reminder card of this principle. Prayerfully, I dedicate my hands and work to God. Reminding myself that every implement of my work is a sacred vessel on the altar of my transformation. This immediately puts my heart attitude in check with the Holy Spirit.
You may not be interested in becoming an Oblate. But if you are pursuing spiritual growth, I highly recommend you read Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. Esther’s words have been so inspirational to me. This is a book I will read again and again!
If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful teaching by Esther de Waal given at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 2013. I love love love this woman! Her spirit is so sweet! I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. Blessings… Tamara
Thomas Merton(1915-1968) was an incredible spiritual thinker of the 20th Century. Though he lived a mostly solitary life as a Trappist monk, he had an amazing impact on the world through is writing. He was an out spoken anti-war and civil rights proponent and was reprimanded for his social criticisms. He was unique among Christian leaders in that he embraced Eastern mysticism and sought to bridge the gap between the East and the West. Over the last several years I’ve run across Thomas Merton’s name in many books. Having read several by now, I am quite taken by his way of teaching, his convictions and his sweet poetic writing style. A Book of Hours wasn’t written personally by Thomas Merton, it is a recent compilation from his books sweetly edited by Kathleen Deignan and beautifully illustrated by John Giuliani. Designed as a daily prayer book, A Book of Hours has various selections from Merton’s poems and other writings divided up as hymns and prayers which are to be read each day of the week at Dawn, Day, Dusk and at Dark. It has been the a tradition of the Christian church since ancient times to pray throughout the day. In this way the church fulfills the Lord’s precept to pray without ceasing. As I have embraced monastic spirituality, praying the Liturgy of the Hours has been a wonderful way to keep me spiritually focused through the day. It helps me specifically in my recovery walk to stay on track. I highly recommend The Book of Hours by Thomas Merton. Beautifully bound, it is a great gift for yourself or a friend. It is one of the sweetest prayer books I own. I will treasure it for many years to come.