A Good Life: Benedict's Guide to Everyday Joy

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9781557253569: A Good Life: Benedict's Guide to Everyday Joy

"There is no shortage of good days," writes Annie Dillard. "It is good lives that are hard to come by." Reflecting on what makes a "good life," Robert Benson offers a warmhearted, humorous guide to enriching our lives with the wisdom of Benedict, a 6th century monk. Each chapter is shaped around a Benedictine principle: prayer, rest, community, and work, and reveals the brilliant and infinitely practical ways that Benedictine spirituality can shape our lives today. Benson is honest and wise, sharing his own failings and the constant tension that he feels between the demands of the temporal and the spiritual. For anyone who feels caught in a web of conflicting priorities, or who finds the pace of modern life more draining than fulfilling, A Good Life will come as a welcome treat for the soul.

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About the Author:

Robert Benson is a frequent retreat leader and conference speaker. An alumni of the Academy for Spiritual Formation (United Methodist Church), he is also a member of the Friends of Silence and of the Poor, an ecumenical order of lay people. His other books include Living Prayer, Venite, and That We May Perfectly Love Thee. He lives in Nashville.

Review:

You know, I don't get paid to write these reviews. I receive a copy of the book (for which I'm grateful), but my personal test of whether I really like the book or not, is if I'm willing to spend money for it. I have already started planning who will be getting A Good Life: Benedict's Guide to Everyday Joy for a birthday or graduation or Christmas. It is a lovely and fresh articulation of the most essential of Benedict's truths, concerning itself not with the "what we do" of monastic life, but instead the "why we do it" and the implications that "it" has. The book is comprised of six short reflections dealing with key themes: longing, prayer, rest, community, work and living. The author also includes brief notes at the end on the life of Benedict and other books he finds helpful. Each reflection begins with a collection of quotes from the Rule which sets the tone (some collections more effectively than others) for the thoughts that follow. Allusions to a wide array of famous and lesser known spiritual writers are used well throughout. Benson makes it clear at a number of points that his purpose is not to act as if he or his readers are monastic, ("If you do not have a uniform, so to speak, you cannot be on the team.") but rather, to suggest how people can use monastic values to write the "Rule" they live by in the context of their own lives. What is best about A Good Life is how it does not pretend to be anything other than what it is. It makes no claims for doing exegesis of the Rule or monastic history or ecumenical dialogue (the author is Episcopalian) about what Benedictines have to offer the world. Having said that, however, I want to note that there is sound liturgical history in the section on prayer, and intriguing anecdotes in several sections about how the author uses the Rule in the retreats he facilitates. The text is written from an authentic and personal perspective which, as we all know, can yield the most universal insights. The author's language is graceful and his ideas, graced. At just about the halfway point of the book, he writes: "Some of the things that regulate our lives are things we can choose or change. Some are not. What is important is that we look at them from time to time and recognize which things are which, and which things can or should or might be adjusted in ways that help us to balance our lives." Simply stated ideas like that might seem obvious, but a genuine examination of one's life reveals that Benson's advice might be just what we, non-monastic and monastic alike, need to hear. My only quibble about the book concerns the gathering of Rule quotes at the beginning of the sections. Benson culls the most quotable quotes and weaves them together without citing what chapter each comes from individually. In one of the end-notes, he talks about the translation he uses and the fact that, in places, he paraphrases. The overall effect, though, is something of a distortion, albeit a potentially flattering one, of the Rule of Saint Benedict. A reader unfamiliar with the Rule, who picks it up after A Good Life, will be unpleasantly surprised, I suspect, by its detail, pickiness, and sometimes harsh tone. A scholarly text this is not. But it is a delightful one, I want to give it to friends who are new oblates, relatives who wonder at this seemingly arcane lifestyle of mine, and students who seem to be discovering their own Benedictine hearts. At a meeting a couple of weeks ago, I even floated the author as a possible retreat director for my community. At any rate, the ninety minutes it will take to read this book would be a worthwhile investment in the questions it will prompt about one's own longing, prayer, rest, community, work and living.

Susan Quaintance, O.S.B., St. Scholastica Monastery, Chicago, IL American Benedictine Review September 1, 2006

Selected as one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2004 by Spirituality Health
". . . .a fine primer on everyday spirituality bolstered by practice." Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat Spritituality & Health June 24, 2005

He calls us to remember that what we each do on this Sabbath day is "not even for us, it is for the Living God." Lois Sibley Episcopal Life November 24, 2002<hr>

Robert Benson shares insights on how Christians can more meaningfully prepare for the Eucharist. Ecumenism June 24, 2002<hr>

This is an unpretentious book, simply written, truly felt.... It reminds us of things we have half forgotten. It opens our eyes to things we have only half seen." Frederick Buechner Author, Speak What We Feel January 24, 2002<hr>

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Book Description Paraclete Pr. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 96 pages. Dimensions: 7.8in. x 5.3in. x 0.4in.What makes a good life in todays fast-paced, competitive world In this book, beloved author and spiritual guide Robert Benson turns to the wisdom of Benedict, a 6th century monk. Compassionate and practical, Benedict created a rule of lifebalancing prayer, rest, community, and workthat has helped centuries of people to lead more fulfilling lives. With trademark humor and elegant prose, Benson shares his own struggle to balance a spiritual life with the demanding roles of father, husband and writer. Anyone who feels pulled in too many directions will find in A Good Life thoughtful, ancient wisdom for creating a life of deep meaning and joy. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9781557253569

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