Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life
by Abbot Christopher Jamison
Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006
Reviewed by Jan Jett
The Monastery, a British television series, chronicled the lives of five men who lived at Worth Abbey in West Sussex, England, for forty days and forty nights. In Finding Sanctuary, Benedictine Abbot Jamison tells the story of their developing understanding and experience together. Through their tale, Jamison challenges the reader to deepen obedience to God and spiritual practice. Spiritual life, he tells us, begins with recognition of a call from God to listen and obey.
Jamison draws on history and stories of the desert fathers and mothers to trace the founding of monasteries in order to demonstrate the commitment of men and women who choose to follow God in a monastic setting. The struggles of monks living within a monastery are recognized in a very real way. The commitment to obedience does not automatically solve problems of daily life. Fifteen hundred years ago Saint Benedict developed a rule of obedience that addresses issues that arise when human beings strive to live together in community. Each chapter in Finding Sanctuary delineates a Benedictine rule or insight with explanation and challenge for an organized community, and each of us as individuals.
The Rule of Saint Benedict can be used as a guide to build a spiritual life in the every day world. Jamison likens our task to the building of a physical structure including a foundation, the floor, silence and meditation, the door of virtue, the ladder of humility, and the roof of community. The rule is thus a description of a way of life including a balance of work and prayer.
Jamison acknowledges that contemporary society has reached a point he describes as “spirituality shopping,” and has moved away from classic religion. He warns of this as he emphasizes the need for community and building relationships together. Safe space is necessary where one can experience good conversation with honesty.
From the question “how did I get this busy?” (p. 13) through the final chapter titled “Hope,” Jamison makes us aware of the importance of hearing God and obeying God in everyday living. He acknowledges it is not an easy journey but it is ultimately rewarding.
Each chapter ends with a conclusion and “further steps” which include Web sites and books for those wishing to expand their study and commitment to a specific rule. A bibliography is included for further perusal. Jamison concludes this book with a Lectio Divina process using the familiar Christian story of the prodigal son. The final four pages lead the reader through meditative questions, a response, and prayer. This exercise would be of value for individuals or group spiritual direction.
Jan Jett is a retired diaconal minister (United Methodist) fromIndianapolis, Indiana, USA. She serves as a spiritual director, retreat leader, and writer. Her spiritual direction training was completed at the Benedictine Inn, Beech Grove, Indiana. Further education was at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, and Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, Evanston, Illinois, USA.