Seeing with Our Souls: Monastic Wisdom for Every Day
Molleur, Joseph, Anglican Theological Review
Seeing with Our Souls: Monastic Wisdom for Every Day. By Joan Chittister, O.S.B. Franklin, Wis.: Sheed & Ward, 2002. ix + 124 pp. $14.95 (paper).
Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister, indicates in the introduction to Seeing with our Souls that the book "will look at those qualities of the soul that must be cultivated by each of us if we are to become a different kind of people in this rapidly different kind of world" (p. ix). Among the twelve soul qualities she treats are compassion, humility, imagination, questioning, purity of heart, and inclusion. Each quality is the subject of a chapter, and the chapters share a common structure: first an orienting Scripture verse; next a page-long anecdote, usually drawn from Chittister's own experience, that serves as an introduction to the particular quality; and finally five to seven pages of brief (most are fewer than six lines in length) thoughts, or meditations, which have the "feel" of Pascals Pensees or Confucius s Analects.
Seeing with our Souls is an inspiring hook that will appeal to a wide variety of readers. It can most profitably be read a chapter a day, as part of ones prayer or meditation time. Reading the book straight through, while certainly possible, would conduce to "spiritual indigestion"; Chittister's apothegms are rich and thought-provoking, needing to be lingered over rather than hastily consumed. A few examples may be helpful. "Real failure comes when we consider ourselves good enough at something to be able to repeat it rather than to develop it" (p. 49). "The most subversive thing in life is a question. The courage to ask, Why? has toppled autocracy after autocracy" (p. 77). "Ask yourself who your heroes are and you will know something more about your own character" (p. …