Cover image for Stalking the divine : contemplating faith with the Poor Clares
Stalking the divine : contemplating faith with the Poor Clares
Ohlson, Kristin, 1951-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Theia, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 256 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX4364.C57 O45 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A stirring, luminous work in the tradition of The Cloister Walk.

Wandering into a forgotten downtown Cleveland church for a Christmas mass, Kristin Ohlson discovered the Poor Clares--a tiny, threadbare congregation of cloistered elderly nuns with one mission: to pray day and night (literally 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) for the sorrows of the world. Ohlson--utterly enchanted by these devoted women--started to attend church for the first time in many years. So began her three-year dialogue with the Poor Clares, a dialogue that afforded Ohlson a fascinating, unprecedented glimpse into the intensely private nuns and their life in the cloister. Why, she wonders, have these women retreated from the world to joyfully devote themselves to perpetual adoration? How do they sustain their faith? And what, ultimately, is faith?

As Ohlson--a long-time skeptic--opens up to the Poor Clares, she opens herself to the possibility of the sacred. The result is an inspiring personal journey as well as a poignant reflection on the power of the church and faith, no matter what our religion may be.

Author Notes

Kristin Ohlson, a freelance journalist, essayist, and fiction writer, has been published in the New York Times;; Ms.; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; New Scientist; Food & Wine; Tin House; Poets & Writers; and many other publications. A teacher, she occasionally works with creative writing students at Cleveland State University and women prisoners at the Cuyahoga County jail. A recipient of the Ohio Arts Council's Individual Artists Fellowship in Fiction for 2003-2004, she lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Journalist Ohlson knew nothing about the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration; the name sounded, she thought, like something from Saturday Night Live. The self-proclaimed errant Catholic decided to attend Christmas mass in downtown Cleveland, however, and there she encountered the anachronistic, enigmatic Poor Clares: 16 cloistered nuns who maintain a rigorous, round-the-clock schedule of prayer. Ohlson was fascinated by the qualities that set them apart from the outside world, awed by their seemingly selfless commitment to a higher power. By telling their story, she hoped to make sense of her own mixed-up spiritual life. Above all, she yearned to have a faith she could believe in again. Yet she remained less a true believer than a spiritual observer. Still, to follow Ohlson as she is allowed into the nuns' inner sanctum, as they reluctantly reveal more of themselves and the order, as she discovers the meaning of the Poor Clares' history, as she clarifies her own belief status, is to absorb a quietly moving, surprisingly humorous testament of faith. --June Sawyers Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A longing for belief at midlife has provided endless book material for authors, but Ohlson's beautiful writing, gritty honesty and parallel story of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration set this one apart. At age six, Ohlson wanted to be a nun, but later wandered from her childhood Catholicism. One lonely Christmas morning she stumbled across an advertisement for mass at Cleveland's St. Paul Shrine and decided to go. Attendance, she found, had dwindled, and only 16 cloistered nuns remained in the monastery, but she discovered that "somehow, the act of going had created the desire to go." Hoping that writing a book about the Poor Clares and the St. Paul Shrine might "help me construct a framework for trying to make sense of their faith, and, perhaps, learn to build some kind of faith of my own," she explores the history of both as her own faith journey unfolds. Ohlson remains insecure about her beliefs, but she finds that the patterns of faith and retreat keep the sparks of her growing faith kindled, and she takes heart in the "tiniest of convictions that God is like a fire burning in the darkness." Although she confesses she's not quite there yet ("I'll hear the words at mass-the words that I'm saying along with everyone else-and I'll think, `Are you nuts?'"), Ohlson's vulnerability about her doubts in the midst of her new commitment will appeal to anyone who has ever yearned to believe. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

There is no end to personal memoirs about the experience of faith or the recovery of faith in modern life: Ohlson's book is notable in this crowd for its very spikiness, its refusal to rush to sentimental conclusions. Ohlson, who has contributed to the New York Times, Ms., Discover, and other magazines, stumbled by chance upon a small congregation of Poor Clares in downtown Cleveland and found herself fascinated by these nuns and their life of prayer and silence. Ohlson's candor about her own rather languid Catholicism and her moments of boredom and dismay when confronted by some aspects of the Clares' lives are entirely convincing and winning. She comes away from her visits with the Clares better informed, perhaps wiser, perhaps faintly more faithful-but as much herself as when her journey began. Highly recommended. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.