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Book reviews

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life

By Abbot Christopher Jamison.

In these years of war and rumours of war, of famine and rumours of famine, of the threats of climate disasters far away and near at hand, many feel we need to find sanctuary, but that there is no place to hide.

Monks are astonishing witnesses to Christ. They don’t do hiding. When asked difficult questions, they give real answers. Sometimes they are brave enough to say “I just don’t know how that works or why that happens.” No nonsense, no jargon, no mumbo jumbo passes their lips. When the author of this review was a militant atheist, one of the first things to break through her armour was a 1980 televised interview of a monk who had the courage to say he knew, he had faith, but he certainly didn’t understand God. And yet, what peace he exuded.

After the BBC’s 2005 television series “The Monastery” attracted 40,000 hits to their website in a month, it became clear that a lot of people needed to hear more of the unadulterated truthfulness and deep peace that is found in monasteries. The Abbot of Worth was asked to write a book on monastic wisdom. This book, he quickly noted, had already been written 1500 years ago: St Benedict’s Rule for monastic life. But we obviously needed an update. Abbot Christopher Jamison decided to outline St Benedict’s rule, showing lay people in the 21st century how they can create a quiet and deeply peaceful space for God and themselves in their busy multi-tasking lives, or even in the heart of dangerous situations.

The “seven steps to finding sanctuary” -- Silence, Contemplation, Obedience, Humility, Community, Spirituality and Hope -- are all explored in the light of contemporary life. Jamison is especially sensitive to the way that everything in life seems to have become part of a market. To find peace, we go on internet and shop for good holiday destinations. We go to the spiritual supermarket to buy those bits of spirituality we feel we need to get through the week. We would love to buy a system that forces our dog or our kid or our spouse to be more obedient (our own obedience is of course not a problem). The book invites us to think more deeply and take more time to strengthen our own capacity to “get” the 7 steps for ourselves, from our own resources.

Throughout the book, the reader will find tools for finding sanctuary in his or her own life. Aside from a variety of contemplative and other practices coming from far and wide, at the end of each chapter we find two outside resources to support our quest for sanctuary, a book and a website.

Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life

By Abbot Christopher Jamison (Worth Abbey, Sussex) Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 2006

Finding Finding...

We had a copy of the book in the library for a while, but it seems to have disappeared. Perhaps someone will return it?

and here is a little website ...

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