A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray and Still Loving My Neighbor
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This wry memoir tackles twelve different spiritual practices in a quest to become more saintly, including fasting, fixed-hour prayer, the Jesus Prayer, gratitude, Sabbath-keeping, and generosity.
Although Reiss begins with great plans for success ("Really, how hard could that be?" she asks blithely at the start of her saint-making year), she finds to her growing humiliation that she is failing - not just at some of the practices, but at every single one. What emerges is a funny yet vulnerable story of the quest for spiritual perfection and the reality of spiritual failure, which turns out to be a valuable practice in and of itself.
Behind the scenes
January - Choosing practices
February - Fasting in the desert
March - meeting Jesus in the kitchen. . . or not
April - Lectio divination
May - nixing shopertainment
June - Centering Prayer er, The Jesus Prayer Look! a squirrel!
July - Unorthodox Sabbath
August - thanksgiving every day
September - Benedictine Hospitality
October - what would Jesus eat?
November - seven five three times a day will I praise you
December - Generosity
Epilogue - Practice makes imperfect
When I first encountered the title "Flunking Sainthood: A year of breaking the sabbath, forgetting to pray, and still loving my neighbor," I thought, "That sounds like me in my stumbling efforts." I sensed I would find a kindred spirit in author Jana Riess, and I read this memoir hungrily. I enjoyed this book very much and could identify with the author's longing to cultivate good habits and to deepen prayer life. I laughed aloud, and nodded my head in solidarity. I, too, have craved closeness with God, and tried many practices suggested by spiritual leaders. The chapter on praying the liturgy of the hours (or divine office) really struck home. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to read morning psalms and then the compline prayer service at bedtime each day. Rather than feeling frustrated when I forget to do this, I enjoy the prayer time when it happens. After all, the quiet time is a gift to myself, and not an obligation in any way. The chapter on Benedictine hospitality sent me straight to the library so that I could reread the "Rule of Saint Benedict." How I long to be able to live the instruction that "all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: 'I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'" As Jana Riess experienced, it is not easy in our fast-paced culture to slow down and enjoy our unexpected encounters with people. While I read "Flunking Sainthood" in two eager sittings, I appreciated that the book could be picked up once a month, taking one chapter at a time and trying a spiritual discipline alongside Jana Riess. For this reason "Flunking Sainthood" would make an ideal read for the start of the new year, when many of us try to adopt positive habits. Perhaps you long to try "lectio divina," centering prayer, or a deeper sabbath observance. With "Flunking Sainthood," you can enjoy the companionship of Jana Riess as you experiment and journey. The honesty and sincerity in the writing of Jana Riess provide encouragement, inspiration, and laughter. I am excited to see that Paraclete Press has published a useful companion volume, "Flunking Sainthood Every Day: A daily devotional for the rest of us." --Lisa, "Light to Read By"