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The Cloister Walk

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  6,701 Ratings  ·  356 Reviews
Norris turns to the monastery as her spiritual landscape. Writing with insight and lyrical grace, she examines the language, customs, ceremonies, and sexuality of the men and women who have chosen the cloistered life.
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Published May 1st 1996 by Audio Literature (first published April 2nd 1996)
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Jessica North One of the resources she sites was published in 1963. This is simply a typo, but someone should change it!
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Rebecca Foster
Oct 13, 2016 Rebecca Foster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, theology, essays
(4.5) Like Amazing Grace, this is an impressively all-encompassing and eloquent set of essays on how faith intersects with everyday life. In particular, the book draws lessons from the time Norris spent as a Benedictine oblate. From this experience she learned the benefits as well as the drawbacks of solitude and communal living. She also considers the place that celibacy and monastic living might still have in modern life: “The fact that Christian monastics, men and women both, have been singin ...more
Oct 13, 2008 booklady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all believers
Recommended to booklady by: The Common Reader
Read this book many years ago but I can't recall exactly how many. I'm 99% sure it was in the late '90's. In any event, I was still so ignorant about my own Catholic heritage at that point I hadn't even heard of The Rule of St. Benedict,* which I promptly went out, bought and read from cover-to-cover. (Now I have three -- or four -- copies of it!) When I think of a good 'rule of life' I think of St. Benedict's Rule and I am grateful to this Protestant woman for teaching me about it!

The Cloister
Aug 23, 2007 Magda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual, own
I was rather uneasy with this book, although I did manage to struggle through to the end.

There were a few definite mentions of Orthodox Christianity when referring to "ancient" saints, but everything else was the black-and-white Protestant/Catholic divide. I don't know about many Protestant monastic communities, but there are several Orthodox monasteries in the United States. While I stop short of insisting she be completely inclusive, I thought it odd that Orthodoxy was relegated to antiquity,
This book changed my life.

It's hard to explain. You really have to read it. (Based on my experience, it helps to be a Catholic who loves books.)

Kathleen Norris is a poet and has a poet's perspective on Catholicism and the ways of Benedictine monks. But she's also a Protestant, with a refreshingly level-headed outsider's perspective on the seemingly impenetrable world inside a monastery. The monks and nuns she describes are real, honest, witty and faithful people, with great stories and a passio
Nov 09, 2009 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Cloister Walk offers “food” for the soul at a time when many of us are hungry. Norris’s book chronicles her experiences as a lay oblate at St. John's Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, Minnesota. What makes this book fresh, wonderful, surprising, and completely relevant to people of all faiths (or non-faith) is that Norris is not—-as one would anticipate—-a Catholic, but rather a Protestant filled with spiritual doubt.

When I first read The Cloister Walk and Dakota (also by Kath
christina white
Apr 04, 2007 christina white rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Courtney Bambrick in Philly
Norris is introducing us, one by one, to the core religious aspects of Christianity as she comes to know and understand them. We explore every key dimension of monastic life with her: Why celebacy; why community; why Scripture reading; why choir and music; why poverty; why we are not perfect. I think, like many people, I expected this book to be a straighforward description, something like, "This was my year in the monastery. We ate beans and prayed, blah, blah, blah..." However, we as readers r ...more
Mar 06, 2008 Suzanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in monastic life
Shelves: spiritual
Recently reread after completing In This House of Brede. Norris is a married Protestant poet and a Benedictine oblate. As a poet and a Benedictine she is drawn to the Psalms in the Bible and their poetic imagery. This book is about the time she spent studying at a Benedictine monastery in the 1990's. Sadly, I find her prose uninspiring. I didn't "feel" the joy that comes through the pages of Merton and Godden. It just seemed forced to me.
Rita Quillen
Dec 28, 2013 Rita Quillen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book moved me in a way few books do...and I guess it's because it was like very few books I've ever read. It's such a raw, open, personal book, but the writing and the sensibility of it are just exquisite.
Kathleen Norris has an uncanny way of being theologically astute and real-world practical at the same time. This book was amazing. It was hard to put down. Her chapters were usually short, but the book was over 350 pages. It provided a lot of bite-sized chunks of wisdom gleaned from interacting with monks as an oblate, living life in a small, South Dakota town, and being a professional writer and poet.

Norris would usually tackle an issue concerning monastic life, such as celibacy, for example,
Jan 19, 2013 Angelo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember this book from when I first started working at Politics and Prose. This was one of the big, non-fiction best-sellers in the store. I remember, in particular, Kathleen Norris coming to speak and sign at the store. It was a very interesting event. I was intrigued by the subject matter and I loved the cover (I have always loved this picture of trees). At the time I was living with my ex and kids in an apartment at Bishop's Gate - an old Church and oblates' residence that had been turned ...more
Dec 26, 2012 Sheila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion-faith
What a fascinating book. There is a blurb on the cover from The Boston Globe which says in part "This is a strange and beautiful book." and I have to say I agree completely with that sentiment.

The book is strange because of the variety of things included. Some chapters are basically journal entries from the author, diary entries of her life. Some chapters are her thoughts about the Benedictines that she has spent time with, about their beliefs, their practices, their lifestyle, etc. Some chapte
Emilia P
Jan 05, 2008 Emilia P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are really attached to their religion and would like to have a better sense of why
Shelves: real-books, churrrch
I got the chills approximately every 5 minutes reading this book. Norris meanders through her stays in a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota, her thoughts (and Benedictine thoughts) on the scriptures and on early saints and theologians...the poetry of liturgies and the sacramental and sacred in daily life. Oh, dang, so great.

Norris has lived in DC, Illinois, Hawai'i, Vermont, and NYC, but ended up in South Dakota. There is a peaceful prairie way about her work and a great sense of curiosity
Amy Neftzger
Jan 13, 2015 Amy Neftzger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that I thought I could read straight though and move on to the next novel on my TBR list, but it wasn't that simple. Norris has the poet's eye for insight and the material written here includes some beautifully written prose with keen observations on life and humanity. The reflective nature of the book caused me to pause between sections to let her stories and observations sink in. While she writes about monastic life, she doesn't romanticize it. Instead, we're drawn to examine ou ...more
Willa Grant
Nov 12, 2012 Willa Grant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took longer to read this book than I have ever taken to read any book. Not because it was difficult but because the author gave me so much to think about. I had to go & get books to read that she was commenting on & wanted to think about things she brought up carefully. I especially liked Ms Norris' take on the Book of Revelation. I also realized that one of the things I most love about litugy is the sanctifying of the everyday things. I love ritual, I love liturgy & I am going to ...more
I wanted to read this book ever since it was in a box of books to add to the collection back in 2012 when I worked at a college library. The title suggested nuns to me more than monks, but that is a minor quibble.

For the first 200 pages, this was a solid, four star reading: thoughtful, quoting the Desert Fathers, a Presbyterian who likes hanging out with Benedictine monks, which did make me a little nervous about if she was illicitly going to Communion all those times she talks about going to M
Jerry Oliver
Dec 25, 2012 Jerry Oliver rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I write this review in joyful tears. This book is such a mysteriously profound, simple, surprising and timely read. I shouldn't be surprised. It touches and inspires much like Dakota, The Virgin Of Bennington and her collections of poetry. Kathleen Norris has grown to become one of my favorite authors.
I always find it amazing how we find our way to the right books at the right time. Though I've read most of her other works I for some reason never picked up The Cloister Walk until now. She has a
Nov 01, 2011 Heidi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found myself more interested in the beginning of the book and parts of the last third, but I found it hard to get through. I did, however, find many quotes to be very insightful...

“A friend who was educated by the Benedictines has told tme that she owes to them her sanity with regard to time. ‘You never really finish anything in life,’ she says, ‘and while that’s humbling, and frustrating, it’s all right. Liturgical time is essentially poetic time, oriented toward process rather than productiv
May 08, 2015 Cheryl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of my all time favorite quotes by this author from another book:
"This is my spiritual geography, the place where I have wrestled my story out of the circumstances of landscape and inheritance. The word "geography" derives from the Greek words of earth and writing."

This was so disappointing. It is not about a spiritual journey as far as I could tell. It is a dry, boring,factual account of the readings they did, why they are meaningful to her, and what being a monk means in this day and age. T
Wonderfully moving and engaging book describing Kathleen Norris's experience living in a cloister. I read this book years before I converted to Catholicism, so it's clearly not required to have "insider knowledge" to relish this book.

There was a passage somewhere in the book that has stayed with me. I can't remember enough of the wording to even Google it successfully. Norris was speaking to a monk, I believe, who had a view of the many and varied people walking by. She asked him, given that the
Mar 19, 2012 Rachielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris recounts her communal experience with the monks at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota. The author is an outsider to the Catholic faith, especially to the community of celibate men. She is a married woman with a Protestant background, and as a poet, she likens her role to that of a monk, something that the modern world had written off as entirely useless. She writes the book in the pattern of the liturgical year, celebrating the seasons of Lent, Advent, Christmas, ...more
Jun 01, 2013 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
This is a re-read for me. In fact, I've re-read this book so often that I've lost count. One reason for that is that I found Kathleen Norris so calming a writer that, on those occasions when I'm on edge, I tend to pick up one of her books and read a few pages at random to get some perspective. Like Norris' other Christian non-fiction, Cloister Walk makes observation from Norris' Benedictine and small town South Dakota perspective (which, oddly, remain highly congruent). She weaves in the spiritu ...more
I first read Dakota by Kathleen Norris not long after having my first child. It was a timely coincidence that I found myself reading her again shortly after having my second child. While not as good as Dakota, this book was still moving.

The Cloister Walk is like a collection of essays; each chapter reflecting on Norris' year long stay at a Benedictine monastery and the following year outside of one. Her earthy view of spirituality illustrates how every day life can be sacred. Apparently this mes
Dianne Oliver
Jan 16, 2012 Dianne Oliver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
For some reason I had the idea that I didn't like this author. Did I not care for Dakota? Did I start reading her in a hectic place? Anyway, I thought this book was lovely. I appreciated that fact that she could come out of her box as a Presbyterian and look thoughtfully and appreciatively at the Benedictine order- their customs, history, how they live- and apply it to her walk. It is sometimes a stretch for me, but a healthy one. I was really moved by her take on the Psalms, and the value of li ...more
Oct 29, 2014 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kathleen is a beautiful writer. What I appreciated most were the stories and reflections upon her time with the Benedictines,and the knowledge conveyed through her stories about this order and monasticism in general. These were interwoven with other stories that contained connective and broader reflections, but I sometimes lost interest in these and/or felt that the stories went to far in different directions in regard to time, subject matter, theme. That could be because I was so enthralled and ...more
Melissa Jill
There were some great little jewels in this book. I did enjoy it. I just wish it was laid out in a more organized fashion. The chapters more or less stood alone and didn't flow from one to the other. I found myself sucked in to some of the stories in the book but it was a slower read for me because the over-arching story was not well tied together. That being said, I did like the little glimpses into modern day monasticism. Really interesting since I knew next to nothing about it previously.
Claire Gilligan
May 22, 2014 Claire Gilligan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was skeptical when Liz recommended this--a sort of memoir by a Protestant woman who's a Benedictine oblate at one of the more liberal Catholic monasteries in the US. But it turned out to be quite good, in part because of her sometimes very different perspective on things. Definitely glad I bought this one.
Apr 05, 2007 leah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
liked it at the time... but don't remember anything profound. does that say a big something about the book... my brain... or something else? :)
i wonder if books like that have a place anyway because they affect our lives for a moment and maybe help us to become more cemented in what we believe/are... even if we can't consciously remember how we were affected later. thoughts?
Aug 22, 2014 Betsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After dipping into this occasionally, I went ahead and read the latter 3/4 through on vacation. Kathleen Norris's honesty and passion bring freshness to reflections on feminism, fashion, vocation, work and play, marriage, aging, community, and other threads of the fabric of life.
Totally and completely saved my spiritual walk!
Kelley Kimble
Oct 28, 2016 Kelley Kimble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poetic, lyrical, rhythmic, faithful ....much like I imagine life in a monastery
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Kathleen Norris was born on July 27, 1947 in Washington, D.C. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, as well as on her maternal grandparents’ farm in Lemmon, South Dakota.

Her sheltered upbringing left her unprepared for the world she encountered when she began attending Bennington College in Vermont. At first shocked by the unconventionality surrounding her, Norris took refuge in poetry.

After she grad
More about Kathleen Norris...

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“I wonder if children don't begin to reject both poetry and religion for similar reasons, because the way both are taught takes the life out of them.” 24 likes
“Only Christ could have brought us all together, in this place, doing such absurd but necessary things.” 7 likes
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