Kathleen Norris Quotes

Kathleen Norris quotes from her
book entitled,
The Cloister Walk


When speaking about becoming a Benedictine Oblate:
"I knew two things:  I didn't feel ready to do it, but I had
to act, to take the plunge. I also had no idea where it would lead."

In contemplating if she was ready to make the commitment
to be an oblate after three years sorting out her muddle:
"I can't imagine why God would want me, of all people,
as an offering.  But if God is foolish enough to take me
as I am, I guess I'd better do it."  The monk smiled broadly
and said, "You're ready."

Benedictines insist that there is time in each day for prayer,
for work, for study, and for play.

Liturgical time is essentially poetic time, oriented toward
process rather than productivity, willing to wait attentively
in stillness rather than pushing to "get the job done."

Marriage has for me been a primary instrument
of conversion:  a school for love.

I was taught to read more with the heart than the head.  
One does not try to "cover" a certain amount of material
so much as surrender to whatever word or phrase
catches the attention.  A slow, meditative reading of
the scriptures respects the power of words to resonate
with the full range of human experience.

Every day you recite the psalms, and you listen, as
powerful biblical images, stories, and poems are allowed
to flow freely, to wash over you.  Doctrine and dogma
are effectively submerged; present, but not the point.

Ephrem the Syrian, a great theologian and poet of the early
church said, "Scripture brought me to the gate of paradise,
and the mind stood in wonder as it entered."

Sometimes a relationship can feel hard and dry as the
bristly grasses of early fall, as exhausted as drought-
stricken trees.  True strength of soul can emerge in the
worst of times when the outer world is collapsing--a
world torn to pieces by so many problems.

Being reassured from Jeremiah, "I have loved you with an
age-old love...Again I will build you , and you shall be built."  
We can find hope to go back to the runes of life.

Something of the Psalm's emotional honesty, their grounding
in real life rubbed off on me.  

The Rule of Benedict:
"We hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome."
"The souls of all concerned may prompt us to a little
strictness in order to amend faults and safeguard love."
"No one shall be excused from kitchen duty" with only exceptions
for the sick or urgent business.  
In loving, Benedict says to persevere, bear one another's
burdens, be patient with one another's infirmities of body and
behavior.  And when the "thorns of contention" arise, daily forgive,
and be willing to accept forgiveness.  Remember that you are not
the center of the universe and "keep death daily before your eyes."

Hildegard of Bingen:  "What I do not see I do not know."

Writing teaches us to recognize when we have reached the
limits of our language, and our knowing, and are dependent on
our senses to "know" for us.

While Benedict respected the individual he recognized that the purpose
of individual growth is to share with others."  

A monk said, "We live in vigil, working at love in common living.  It
looks toward eternal life, where love will be completed."  

"We know that details matter," another monk said, "and we'll tinker with
our liturgy of the hours, trying a minute of silence after each psalm,
after discovering that ninety-seconds is too long.  But we are still
an experiment, after all these years, and we resist codifying."

Another monk, "Go to the dining room and to prayers, and you'll
find out how a monastery is doing."

Jerome:  If Eve is the mother of the living, she is also
the mother of the dead.  

Therese:  "I have found my calling; my call is love."  She considered
the poor, "dying without even hearing the name of God."  "I have
come to realize, that the radiance of the rose and the whiteness
of the lily do not take away the fragrance of the little violet or the
delightful simplicity of the daisy."  "Perfection consists in being
what God wants us to be."  Theresa became a uniquely valuable
twentieth-century saint, a woman who can accept even the torment
of doubt, as she lay dying, as a precious gift, who turns despair into
fervent prayer for others.  She was a saint for unbelievers in an
age of unbelief, a voice of compassion in an age of beliefs turned rigid,
defensive, and violent.


                                                                                     
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