TEACHING A DEAD BIRD TO SING: Living the Hermit Life Without and Within

W. Paul Jones, Author . Paraclete $14.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-55725-303-3

After first encountering a Trappist monastery in 1971, Jones kept returning, finally taking monastic vows in 1992, becoming a full-time hermit in 1993, and being ordained a Catholic priest in 1996. In this book he summarizes the stunning arc of his life, which includes an impoverished childhood, marriage and five children, and work as an activist and Protestant theologian. These facts, however, serve only as a backdrop for the story of his first difficult but profoundly cathartic months as a hermit in the Ozarks in 1986. After preparing at a monastery for his initial ten-day stint in his hermitage, Jones failed horribly in the metaphorical "desert" created by his solitude. His attempts to follow the monastic schedule by himself seemed absurd and he quickly abandoned them. This disastrous maiden voyage will resonate with all extroverts who have tried and failed at aloneness and contemplation. Happily, Jones was able to return to the hermitage—one he built himself with lumber and nails from condemned buildings—and face the many demons that had tormented him throughout his life. In the process, he experienced God, and happiness, for the first time. This book consists largely of journal entries that Jones shares now "because I have been persuaded of how many of you out there are caught in the same backwashes and dead-ends that have laced my own life." This humble, helpful tone permeates the book and is a gift to all of Jones's fellow spiritual pilgrims. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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