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The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery

Darton, Longman and Todd
RRP $29.95

This is a probing spiritual journal recorded by well-known writer and Dutch Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen when he chose to spend seven months in a Trappist Monastery (Henri died in 1996).

Nouwen immersed himself in the contemporary day-to-day life at Genesee in New York. His desire was to experience the life of work and prayer as a monk rather than as a guest.

Nouwen’s life had become busy and restless with constant teaching, lecturing and writing so he sensed he needed to ground what he was telling others by experiencing this basic life himself. He was searching for inner peace desiring to give his total commitment to God.

The Genesee Diary records his moods and reflections and in parts is very personal and realistic as Nouwen himself deals with the human condition.

Nouwen didn’t choose this journey at the monastery to solve problems but to still his inner being to be able to praise God in the midst of the challenges of life. He actually dedicates The Genesee Diary “to all contemplative men and women who by their commitment to unceasing prayer offer us hope in the midst of a troubled world.”

Nouwen tells of how when he read the psalms afresh they became “burning prayers.” He seemed to be comforted in his journey by reflecting on Thomas who doubted the resurrection but kept faithful to the community of the apostles.

This diary gives the reader a fresh insight into contemporary monastery life as those who live there continually lift their heart and mind to God. There are seven chapters covering 219 pages.

This diary will impact the daily life of any Christian. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Rev Barbara Bailey. Caloundra