Sister Joan Chittister proves once again that her monastic wisdom is timely and relevant. She calls us to act justly and compassionately in a world where chaos, fear, separation, and hatred loom large on the horizon. The twelve chapters here, each based on a scripture passage, are arranged around those qualities of soul that offer hope in these troubled times. These meditations and aphorisms, arising out of the practice of lectio divina or sacred reading of a text, were first printed in the 2000 edition of Chittister's monthly spirituality sheet, The Monastic Way. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for Contemporary Spirituality.
The first chapter focuses on the spiritual practice of vision. Chittister notes that it is "not the ability to predict the future. Vision is the foresight to create the future." Good questions are always part of this forward-facing activity. Those who reach out in the darkness with vision never take the present for granted. And they are not afraid to risk all for a daring moment of ethical clarity. The quotations and reflections in this chapter do justice to the scriptural text Proverbs 29:18: "Where there is no vision the people perish."
Chittister does some fine shadow work in a chapter on "An Understanding Heart." She challenges us to rethink our swift judgments of others and see how often they are built upon our lack of charity for our own failings. Here's one of the best quotations in this section: "Compassion is the ability to understand how difficult it is for people to be the best of what they want to be at all times." An understanding heart makes it possible for us to empathize with the failings and imperfections of others.
Other chapters cover humility, soul, holy indifference, gentleness of spirit, imagination, questioning, emotional stability, purity of heart, inclusion, and the nature of the heroic in life. With each new volume, Chittister adds to the ongoing creation of her own inimitable wisdom literature.