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Religion Social Issues

How to Be

A Monk and a Journalist Reflect on Living & Dying, Purpose & Prayer, Forgiveness & Friendship

by (author) Judith Valente & Paul Quenon

foreword by Kathleen Norris

Publisher
Hampton Roads Publishing
Initial publish date
Nov 2021
Category
Social Issues, General, Inspirational
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781642970340
    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
    List Price
    $23.95

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Description

 

“Readers will want to savor these wise and lyrical offerings.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) 
 
The spiritual seeker’s guide to living with authenticity and integrity in troubled times by a lauded journalist and monk mentored by Thomas Merton.
 
This book is a dialogue between two spiritual seekers—one a Trappist monk and the other a married professional woman. It is two people “stuttering to articulate life’s universal questions from diverse contexts and perspectives.” Brother Paul writes as one steeped in silence and the daily rhythms of the ancient prayer practices of monasticism. Judith Valente writes as a professional woman attempting to bring a sense of prayer and contemplation to a scattered life in the secular world.
Valente uses the story of Brother Paul’s interview for a PBS documentary as a jumping-off point: When asked the purpose of the Trappist life in the modern world, he said that it is “to show you don’t need a purpose.” The purpose of life, he said, is life. “You’re to live your life.”
How to Be offers a window into two people living their lives on purpose (or not) and struggling to come to terms with the big issues everyone faces: faith, mortality, mystery, prayer, work. It is a book that provides insight and inspiration for those walking the spiritual path—particularly for those interested in the contemplative path.
 
Includes a 16-page study guide—for individuals and group use.

About the authors

Judith Valente is a former staff writer for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism. She is a former correspondent for PBS’s Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly and senior correspondent for investigative reporting and long features at the NPR affiliate in central Illinois. She was also a special correspondent covering faith and values and arts and culture for Chicago Public Radio. Valente contributes articles to US Catholic magazine and National Catholic Reporter. She lives in Normal, Illinois. Learn more at www.judithvalente.com.

Judith Valente's profile page

Paul Quenon, OSCO, is a monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani. Brother Paul cooks, sings a lot in and out of choir, hikes and meditates outdoors. He puts words together into something like a poem, and shoots a camera at something like a picture. Some say he’s only something like a monk, but he has stopped guessing about that after 50 years in the monastery. He is the author of Terrors of Paradise, Laughter: My Purgatory, and Monkswear.

Paul Quenon's profile page

Kathleen Norris is the author of two books of poetry, Falling Off (1971) and The Middle of the World (1981) and has received awards from the Guggenheim and Bush foundations. She lives in Lemmon, South Dakota, with her husband.

Kathleen Norris' profile page

Editorial Reviews

“This book is “a small taste of eternity” as Judith and Br. Paul invite us into stories of ancient wisdom lived in contemporary contexts. Modeled through letter writing and spiritual friendship, they tackle some of the biggest questions: change and stability, humility and purpose, time and eternity, life and the afterlife. This book preserves ageless monastic wisdom as monasticism itself is evolving before our eyes. People of all spiritual backgrounds and across generations will find insight on how to live through challenging times, personally and societally, in these pages.” 

Katie Gordon, co-founder of Nuns & Nones and staff member of Monasteries of the Heart

“Readers will want to savor these wise and lyrical offerings.”

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"This small book brought me joy and solace at a difficult time—what more may I say?  Such a pleasure to read the correspondence of two thoughtful, perceptive people about what really matters.  This small book demonstrates again that letters are among our most important literary forms."

Fenton Johnson, author of At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life

“Snow fell outside my dark study as I read these exquisitely simple letters by computer light. I was a blissed-out fly on their writing desks as I buzzed back and forth between these wise words exchanged between a married woman and a monk. In the end, I was over-joyed for having spent hours in their good company. Their friendship saturated me with comfort and calm. So many good words made me happy, especially "I know you and you know me. But wait. I hardly know myself—at least not, as yet, in the totality of what I will be. The little letters we write, the casual contacts we make in life, the fragments of acquaintance, the relationships, broken or made whole, are just the beginning. Each is a small seed of what can develop in eternity. None of it is ever lost. Nothing is ever lost." Oh, thank you both for including me.”

Jon Montaldo, The Intimate Merton (with Brother Patrick Hart)

"These letters remind us that the monastic life is a gift to the world. The prayers and teachings of monks and nuns are here to help make contemplatives of all of us, regardless of where we live."

Jon M. Sweeney, coauthor of Meister Eckhart's Book of the Heart; translator of Francis of Assisi in His Own Words

"An inherently fascinating, absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout. An extraordinary, unique, and highly-recommended addition to community, seminary, college, and university Christian Values, Social Issues, & Self-Help collections."

Midwest Book Review

Other titles by Paul Quenon