Cover image for Making a heart for God : a week inside a Catholic monastery
Making a heart for God : a week inside a Catholic monastery
Aprile, Dianne.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Woodstock, Vt. : SkyLight Paths Pub., [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 197 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX2525.T733 A67 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The monastic experience demystifiedan essential guide to what its like to spend a week inside a Catholic monastery.

A life of quiet, work and prayer, monasticism has been a part of the Christian spiritual tradition for over 1,700 years, and it remains very much alive today. This book offers you a personal encounter with daily life inside the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, as you might encounter it on a one-week retreat. Including a detailed guide to the monastic places in North America that receive visitors, as well as a detailed glossary, Making a Heart for God is an excellent introduction for anyone interested in learning about monastic spiritualityand it is also the perfect preparation for your first retreat experience.

Whether youre simply curious about whats behind the mystery, or interested in experiencing it firsthand, this is the ideal handbook.

Also included are a helpful glossary of terms and a listing of monasteries throughout North America that receive visitors.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

As American society becomes increasingly more materialistic and technology-driven, the collective cultural fascination with the simplicity of the monastic life expands accordingly. This respectful guide to the monastic experience details the daily routines of the Trappist monks residing at the Abbey of Gethsemani in rural Kentucky. Using the parameters of a week-long retreat as a framework, Aprile introduces the curious to the rhythms and rigors of daily life in a monastery. In addition to observing customs and rituals, the author also interviews a host of monks and retreat participants, providing intimate glimpses into a series of individual spiritual journeys. An illuminating portrait of the contemplative life. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Aprile is a journalist who spent enough time at Kentucky's Abbey of Gethsemani while researching her book The Abbey of Gethsemani: Place of Peace and Paradox to earn her the rare privilege of being considered a sister to the brothers there. It is from this unique perspective that she has written a comprehensive guide to the oldest Trappist monastery in North America. Made famous by Thomas Merton, it is a place where men dedicate themselves to "God alone." Using a week-long retreat as the framework for her "insider's view" of Gethsemani, Aprile draws on anecdotes and conversations recorded in the many notebooks she has filled with her impressions over the years. She describes the monks' daily routines, their interaction with outsiders, and their struggles to live out their vows of stability, fidelity and obedience. Aprile writes with sensitivity to the secular reader who may be unfamiliar with the trappings of Catholic religious life, and her special relationship with Gethsemani enables her to sketch a balanced picture of the oft-romanticized monastic world. Her closeness with the community is evident in such charming details as the fact that the monks celebrate the feast of St. Bernard each year with pizza and beer. Although this book has the flavor of a primer, anyone who has ever visited a monastery will appreciate it for the texture it gives to life behind the monastic enclosure. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

To the average person, monasteries seem dreadfully forbidding. Yet for all their isolation and austerity, monasteries are hospitable and welcoming places where you may go to be apart and center yourself. This is true of both Trappist and Zen monasteries, as we discover in these two accessible books. Journalist Aprile (Louisville Courier-Journal) is a longtime friend of many of the Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani, one of 17 Trappist abbeys in the United States. Like most Roman Catholic monks, the Trappists follow rules devised by St. Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century. Trappists do not insist that guests have a purpose, so a retreat is usually informal. The guest makes a reservation to stay for a weekend or a week (their guesthouses are booked for months in advance); he or she may attend church or meet the guestmaster or another monk for spiritual advice. Aprile offers a thorough, readable introduction to the Trappists and experiencing one of their monasteries. Maguire (The Power of Personal Storytelling) takes us through a week at Zen Mountain Monastery (Mount Tremper, NY) under the guidance of its abbot, John Daido Loori. The retreat experience here is very different. While Trappists impose little structure on guests, at a Zen monastery visitors follow a formal schedule and an ideal style of observance. Guests have a specific goal: waking up to oneself and one's life. The principal means of waking up and becoming attentive is zazen ("sitting meditation"), but other activities are also directed to that end: kinhin ("walking meditation"), dokusan or daisan ("meeting with a teacher"), and mondo ("informal question-and-answer sessions"), among other activites. Both books are well worth reading, and if they inspire one to spend time with the Trappists or Zen monks, so much the better. For both public and academic libraries.DJames F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

These two works show the salutary shaping hand of series editor David O'Neal, presenting informative and extraordinarily accessible descriptions of two historically unrelated forms of communal religious life that, in current American expressions, exhibit striking similarities. Both works combine historical sketches and interviews with personal accounts and trace in detail events typical of a day, week, and year in these institutions. Both have extensive lists of monasteries and retreat houses in North America and include useful glossaries of technical terms. Both authors comment on the current US interest in intentional religious communities, while noting a reluctance to make long-term commitments to that life. Catholic monasticism has experienced a marked decline in vocations in the last 30 years, while the lay desire to go on weekend or week-long retreats and briefly taste the monastic life has increased. The "pure" monastic life of Zen that still prevails in Japan has largely given way in the US to a very small core of monastics and a large number of retreatants and other lay students. Curiously in both cases, retreatants are often not believers.Aprile's account reflects a less regimented life and warmer feelings of affection and gratitude toward the monastic atmosphere and the monks encountered over many years of retreats at Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery in Kentucky made famous by Thomas Merton. Maguire reflects the more austere humanistic Zen tradition, showing a more impersonal life at Zen Mountain Monastery in New York's Catskills. Yet, both stress that the primary work of the monk is the acquisition of self-knowledge, and both recognize the mysterious nature of the ultimate goals of monastic life (union with God, or enlightenment/awakening). Both also paint attractive pictures (with several photographs) of a number of the people and places encountered, without ignoring the difficulties inherent in such undertakings.This reviewer considers Aprile's work to be more balanced and informative than the popular The Cloister Walk (1996) by Kathleen Norris; Maguire's work is also a better introduction to Zen monasticism than Janwillem Van de Wetering's Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery (1973). Both recommended for all levels. A. L. Miller emeritus, Miami University

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Introduction: Step by Step, the Journey Beginsp. 3
1 An Out-of-the-Way Place: Respite from a Harried Worldp. 13
2 A Space of Liberty: Observing Life Inside the Wallsp. 31
3 The Less-Traveled Road: What It's Like to Become a Monkp. 54
4 Daily Work: By the Labor of Their Handsp. 77
5 A Gift of Simplicity: The Freedom to Bep. 101
6 Together in Solitude: The Experience of Communityp. 114
7 Welcoming the Stranger: Social Lifep. 132
8 Saying Goodbye: Fruits of the Experiencep. 147
Appendix A A Monk's Day at a Glancep. 161
Appendix B The Monastic Family Treep. 163
Recommended Readingp. 164
Catholic Monasteries That Receive Retreatantsp. 167
Glossaryp. 184
About SkyLight Pathsp. 198