Review: Domestic Monastery

Domestic Monastery
Ronald Rolheiser
Paraclete Press, 2019
Goodreads | Hoopla

It’s not a secret that I love books about monastics. I read every nun memoir I can find, and have read more than a few “Christian living” titles, looking for that elusive something.

Well, this might be it. At only 80 pages, this little gem of a book is a simple exploration of the home and of parenting as a vocation towards deepening one’s spirituality. Whereas the virtues that we aspire to may not be exactly the same as the ones espoused by Rolheiser, we can see how following parenting and hearthkeeping can help us grow in hospitality, integrity, beauty, and compassion.

Focus on your spirituality where you are, the commitments that you have made, and learn from them. Do not put off learning and deepening when we know what we are dedicated to: what can those dedications teach us? This call to live our faiths in our daily lives speaks to me.

Rolheiser explains how maintaining a balance (“living the proper tension”) between seemingly opposing forces in our lives is necessary for the pursuit of spiritual health. As someone who has struggled with these very questions — the tension between contemplation and action, passion and purity, community and the individual — I was pleased to see them included here. Perhaps you’ll find that “maintain a balance” is something of a non-answer; indeed, the quest for balance is something that I’ve not understood in much of paganism, seeing in some instances how balance leads to a lack of depth and substance. But he does not provide answers, only more questions. You have to provide the answers yourselves, of course.

Like any time a pagan reads a Christian book, take what you will and leave the rest. Do not be afraid to read books from other traditions and learn — but be aware of where you are learning from, and what cultural baggage may come along with it.

So go to your cell, and your cell will teach you everything you need to know. I’ll be here in mine.

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