How to Be: A Monk and a Journalist Reflect on Living and Dying, Purpose and Prayer, Forgiveness and Friendship

Judith Valente and Paul Quenon. Hampton Roads, $16.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-64297-034-0
Journalist Valente and Trappist monk Quenon follow up their The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed with a genial and spirited epistolary collection of introspective reflections. The duo passed back and forth letters on daily challenges, comments on current events (written over the recent period when “the Covid-19 pandemic would transform American life... and a racial reckoning would envelop the country”), and lofty theological questions (“We will follow where the Spirit leads us—to fancy or to foundational truth,” signs off “Brother Paul”). Major themes that emerge include, along with theological concerns, meditations on mortality, purpose and call, and the craft of writing in what Valente calls “a dialogue between people stuttering to articulate life’s universal questions from within highly diverse contexts.” As Catholics, both authors express appreciation for and frustration with their own faith and traditions (“My concept of sacrament is evolving,” writes Valente), as well as openness to learn from other spiritual practices, particularly Buddhism. Valente’s struggles as a married professional with a hectic schedule and Quenon’s decades of monastic living are discussed, but a poetic sensibility infuses and elevates all. Readers will want to savor these wise and lyrical offerings. Agent: Amanda Annis, Trident Media Group. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 10/22/2021
Release date: 11/01/2021
Genre: Religion
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