GRACE IN THE DESERT: Awakening to the Gifts of Monastic Life

Dennis Patrick Slattery, Author, Thomas Moore, Foreword by . Jossey-Bass $22.95 (153p) ISBN 978-0-7879-7104-5

In 1998, Slattery, a faculty member of Pacifica Graduate Institute, turned a professional sabbatical into a personal pilgrimage, traveling to 11 monasteries and retreat houses throughout the western United States. He dedicates one chapter to each of his destinations, which are diverse in tradition and style and include a Russian Orthodox monastery, an urban prayer center run by Benedictine sisters and a Zen center. Slattery describes the flavor of each retreat center, but spends the bulk of each chapter recounting the spiritual musings prompted by each place he visited. At times, his account is pointed and compelling, as when he shares his unfolding comprehension that his own life is re-manifesting the patterns, if not the specifics, of his alcoholic father's excessive behavior, or when he observes this personal transformation after weeks of pilgrimage: "I no longer believed in God.... Instead, I felt his presence in every corner of my life." At other times, however, his ruminations tend toward the generalized and hypothetical. Moreover, Slattery's style undermines his effectiveness: he has a fondness for stretching metaphors paper-thin, and his prose is frequently self-conscious, even affected, as when he describes monks arriving in chapel as "silent, sacred specters in white robes that whooshed." Slattery's sensitivity to spiritual matters is clear, but ultimately the book leaves the reader wanting a more satisfying, focused account of what was obviously a powerful pilgrimage journey. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/08/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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