Book Review

Stumbling into Grace: How we Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy

By Mary Pezzulo

I chose this book at random and rather regretted my decision when I read the reviews which mentioned the authors ‘desperate straits’ and ‘despair’. I had enough stress in my own life without taking on someone else’s as well! Having read the book, I am glad that I did so.

This book is an excellent example of how one can use one’s own struggles to help other people and, in doing so, give meaning to one’s own life and experiences. The author tells us about her life of poor health and extreme poverty but not in order to elicit our sympathy and support. Rather, she is saying ‘I really know what I am talking about here, so please listen to my advice on how you can help other people like me’. She divides the book into chapters based roughly on Matthew 25:35-36 ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food …’. Each chapter has two parts. In the first part, the author uses her own life experience to discuss the problem of hunger, homelessness etc in her community and steps that this community have taken to address the problem. The second part is a list of specific things that we as individuals can do in our own communities. Being involved in my local food-bank, I was interested to see what she would say about feeding the hungry. I was impressed by her list, which showed a real understanding of the practicalities involved – cash is often the best gift to the organisers because then they can buy what they most need; do not donate ‘out-of-date’ food; do not give a homeless person something difficult to chew – they probably have bad teeth.

This practical attitude continued in the other chapters – only donate clothes that you would wear yourself; be hospitable to your neighbours; check up on friends or neighbours who are ill; make your voice heard in your politics. The book is more than just a manual for being a good neighbourEach chapter talks about how these practical steps are ways of expressing our love of Jesus and reflecting His love of us.

In summary, I was very impressed with this book. It would be a useful handbook for any parish group wanting to be able to hear Jesus saying ‘Come, you whom my father has blessed.’ (Matt 25:34)


Jane Coll

Book Review

Joan Chittister “Grace-filled moments with Sr. Joan (365 Reflections on Life, Loss, Healing and Joy.)


A Review by John G McKinlay MA, MBA, DPSE, DipEd (Oblate of Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin, Scotland).


The author of over 50 books and 700 articles, Sr Joan has won 16 Catholic Press Association awards in the USA.  Considered “one of the most influential religious and social leaders of our time” Sister Joan was Prioress for 12 years of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and is currently co-chair on the UN sponsored Global Peace Initiative of Women.  Her life’s work is a journey towards finding God and inner peace in the midst of today’s turbulent world.  Sister Joan says that when we fail “to see the whole world in one ray of light” as St Benedict did, we imprison ourselves inside our own small selves, without ideas, without experience, and without love.  Once we begin to look at the world as oblates, as God looks at the world, we see every person in it as unique, precious, all absorbing.  People cease to be numbers, stereotypes and races and sexes – they become individuals to us.  Each and every one of them on their twisted, limping way to God.  Life’s major problem, according to Sister Joan, does not lie in choosing between good and evil.  No, life’s real problem lies in choosing good from good.  When values are in conflict always choose the higher one.

Her book, “Grace-filled moments with Sr. Joan” published in 2021 by Twenty-third Publications is an all-new collection of wisdom, for each day of the week, helping the reader to “listen with the ear of the heart,” learning to cultivate happiness and find joy in moderation, while developing a deeper prayer life in our ongoing search for communion with God. “Appreciation for the small goods of life – the taste of warm, fresh bread, the birthday card in the mailbox, the hour of quiet that returns us to ourselves – is itself a spiritual exercise.”

An excellent book – I found particularly poignant her words of pearly wisdom written for the day of my birthday –  “As we grow we learn that ignorance is our greatest internal enemy. But it is writers who make us learners all our lives. They set out to awaken the rest of the world to situations that, without them, we would either ignore or deny.”

Sr Joan reminds us that, as oblates,  we are keepers of a great spiritual tradition, which we must pass on or it will wither and die.  We are companions on the way, carrying our wisdoms, to share with one another, along the spiritual pathway towards greater understanding and meaning in our lives, spreading gospel values and the Rite of St Benedict in everyday life.  For her the “Wisdom we seek with one another can lead us to the truth.  Our needs have to include the needs of others.  We are ambassadors for a vision for the future.”

Book Review

Handmaids of the Lord: Women Deacons in the Catholic Church

Jane Coll, who lives in the North of Scotland, is an oblate of Pluscarden Abbey and a valued member of the UK Oblates team.

Having completed a BA Divinity through the Maryvale Institute, she has now written a book on the role of women in the Church.  The book has been granted an Imprimatur by the author’s bishop.

The following comments on it come from a Benedictine nun who is herself an author:

“Jane Coll’s book is an important contribution to the debate over the role of women in the Church. It is a ‘must read’ for many reasons –

● It is loyal to Church teachings

● It takes an academic approach, avoiding personal, emotional bias

● It presents a doctrinally sound argument from Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium for retaining the all-male priesthood

● It explores in-depth the possibilities of reintroducing the order of deaconesses in the Church of the third millennium;

● It takes up the challenge of Pope Francis to investigate further the role of women in the Church”.

Handmaids of the Lord:  Women Deacons in the Catholic Church’ is published by Gracewing and can be purchased through their web page,, bookshops or on Amazon.


Life with St. Benedict’ by Richard Frost (Bible Reading Fellowship)

ISBN: 9 78057 468130

Richard Frost is a Reader in the Church of England and an oblate of the Benedictine community at Alton Abbey in Hampshire. His recent book provides reflections on the daily readings from the Holy Rule and is prefaced by an excellent short introduction to Benedictine Spirituality and a useful glossary.

The subtitle to this volume is ‘The Rule re-imagined for everyday living’ and that is exactly what the author has achieved in his reflections on each daily reading from the Holy Rule, which explore relationships, the workplace, our own church and our attitudes and actions towards others in a modern context. The reflections also include searching questions for the reader to think about and there is also a short prayer at the end of each section.

He also provides an opportunity for the reader to work through the 150 psalms in order over the four months of reading the Holy Rule.

Overall this is an excellent introduction to the Holy Rule and the author bridges the gap between a 1,500 years old spiritual document and modern lives. It helps the reader to get into the habit of trying to apply St Benedict’s teaching to their own life, that process of daily reflection which is so essential to our progress on the Benedictine way. It is therefore an ideal volume for the novice oblate and all who are beginning the Oblate life. I certainly wish Richard Frost’s book was available when I took my own first steps towards becoming an oblate. It is also an ideal volume for the busy oblate of whatever experience!

The book is available from Christian bookshops and BRF. Richard writes a blog at and is available to lead Quiet Days based on the themes of the book.


Our Father: A Biblical Meditation on the Lord’s Prayer by Sister Claire Waddelove OSB (Gracewing, 2020)

As Lent begins we naturally think about renewing our spiritual lives. Where better to begin than with the prayer that our Lord himself taught us? The “Our Father” should be the prayer par excellence of Christians, but how many of us, through routine or distraction, say it without paying much attention to the meaning of the words? A fine new book by a Benedictine nun of St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight can provide excellent help.
Sister Claire looks at each phrase of the prayer through the lens of the whole of Scripture, showing how all the Old Testament points to and is fulfilled in Christ. She explains how a great part of Christian doctrine is implied in the Lord’s Prayer, as well as direction for Christian living and a piercing examination of conscience.
In guiding us wisely through each clause of the prayer, she provides rich and nourishing theology, supported by quotations from (among others) the Fathers of the Church, monastic writers, St John Henry Newman and Pope Benedict. Despite the author’s learning, the book is accessible and engaging. She writes that, when all else fails, the prayer of desperation, “Lord, I’m helpless; please do something,” is always answered. Her advice on dealing with temptation is detailed and practical.
Sister Claire also presents all the demands inherent in the “Our Father”, reminding us, for example, that indifference towards others is a sign that we do not love God, and that sins of omission will be judged severely. In this way her book can be an excellent preparation for the sacrament of confession.
This is an outstanding book that is best read slowly and meditatively, in the monastic tradition of lectio divina. Sister Claire has done us a great service by writing it. It deserves a wide readership.

John Hayes
Oblate of Prinknash

By kind permission and with thanks to Douai Abbey

Abbot Hugh Gilbert OSBUnfolding the Mystery: Monastic Conferences on the Liturgical YearGracewing Publishing, ISBN 9780852440933This book was listed in The Tablet’s ‘Books of the Year’.
Abbot Hugh Gilbert OSBLiving the Mystery: Monastic Markers on the Christian WayGracewing Publishing ISBN 9780852446928
Trisha DayInside the School of Charity: Lessons from the MonasteryLay Cistercian, Iowa, USA
Michael Casey OCSO & David Tomlins OCSOIntroducing Benedict’s Rule: A Program of Formation. This book is available solely
Rev Dr Nicholas BuxtonTantalus and the Pelican: Exploring Monastic Spirituality Today.ISBN: 1847061117
Peta Dunstan The Labour of Obdience – The Benedictines of Pershore, Nashdom & Elmore – A co-publication with the Anglo-Catholic History Society, Canterbury Press. ISBN: 1853119741
The Oblate Life ISBN978-1-853111-883-8
The Benedictine Handbook ISBN 1-85311-499-5
Patrick Barry OSBSt Benedict & Christianity in England ISBN 0-85244-338-2
Patrick Barry OSB & othersWisdom from the Monastery. The Rule of St Benedict for Everyday LivingISBN 1-85311-684-X
Jean-Francois Baudoz OSBWith Christ. The Gospel under the Guidance of St BenedictISBN 0-8146-1828-6
Luke Bell OSBA Deep and Subtle Joy, Life at Quarr AbbeyISBN 0-85244-676-4
Robert BensonA Good Life: Benedict’s Guide to Everyday JoyISBN 1-55725-356-0
Aquinata Bockmann OSBPerspectives on the Rule of St BenedictISBN 0-8146-3041-3
Carol BonomoHumble Pie. St Benedict’s Ladder of HumilityISBN 0-8192-1960-6
Carmen Acevedo ButcherLife of St Benedict. Man of BlessingISBN 1-55725-485-0
Michael Casey OCSOTruthful Living: St Benedict’s Teaching on HumilityISBN 0-85244-503-2
Michael CaseyStrangers to the City: A Voice from the MonasteryISBN 1-55725-460-5
John Chapman OSBSpiritual LettersISBN 0-86012-334-0
Joan Chittister OSBThe Rule of Benedict: Insights for the AgesISBN 0-8245-2503-5
Lonni Collins Pratt &Daniel Homan OSBBenedict’s Way ISBN 0-8294-1787-7
Lonni Collins Pratt &Daniel Homan OSBRadical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of LoveISBN 1-55725-309-9
Elizabeth CranhamHeart Whispers: Benedictine Values for Today0-86347-398-9
Eric DeanSt Benedict for the LaityISBN 0-8146-1595-3
Pierre-Francois de Bethune OSBBy Faith & Hospitality. The Monastic Tradition as a model for Interrelious EncounterISBN 0-85244-548-2
Mayeul de Dreuille OSBFrom East to West: A History of MonasticismISBN 0-85244-464-8
Mayeul de Dreuille OSBSeeking the Absolute: The Founders of MonasticismISBN 0-85244-469-0
Wil DerkseThe Rule for Beginners: Spirituality for Daily LIfeISBN 0-8146-2802-8
Adalbert de VogueReading St Benedict. Reflections on the RuleISBN 0-87907-651-8
Adalbert de VogueThe Rule of St Benedict. Doctrinal and Spiritual CommentaryISBN 0-87907-854-5
Esther de WaalA Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on the Rule of St BenedictISBN 0-8264-9090-5
Esther de WaalLiving with Contradiction: Introduction to the Spirituality of St BenedictISBN 1-85311-179-1
Esther de WaalSeeking God: The Way of St BenedictISBN 1-85311-346-8
Esther de WaalThe Way of Simplicity: The Cistercian TraditionISBN 0-232-52264-2
Vena Eastwood Benedict Rules – OK!ISBN 0-85244-680-2
Mary C EarleBeginning Again. Benedictine Wisdom for Living and IllnessISBN 0-8192-1965-7
ed David Hugh FarmerBenedict’s DisciplesISBN 0-85244-274-2
Hugh Feiss OSBEssential Monastic WisdomISBN 0-06-062483-3
ed Laurence Freeman OSBMonasteries without Walls. The Spiritual Letters of John MainISBN 1-85311-737-4
St Gregory the GreatLife & Miracles of St BenedictISBN 0-8146-0321-1
Anselm GrunBenedict of Nursia: His Message for TodayISBN 0-8146-2910-5
ed Patrick Hart OCSOA Monastic Vision for the 21st Century – Where do we go from here?ISBN 13 978-0-87907-057-1
ed Patrick Hart OCSOThomas Merton Monk. A Monastic TributeISBN 13 0-87907-752-2
ed Patrick HenryBenedict’s DharmaISBN 0 8264-6193-X
Albert Holtz OSB& Lynne MuirPilgrim Road. A Benedictine Journey through LentISBN 0-8192-2251-0
Verna A Holyhead SGS& Lynne MuirThe Gift of St BenedictISBN 1-8759-3892-3
Katherine HowardPraying with BenedictISBN 0-88489-379-0
Denis Huerre OSBLetters to My Brothers & SistersISBN 0-8146-2241-0
Cardinal Basil Hume OSBSearching for GodISBN 0-932506-92-5
Cardinal Basil Hume OSBIn Praise of BenedictISBN 0-85244-379-X
Christopher JamisonFinding Sanctuary – Monastic Steps for Everyday LivingISBN-10 0 297 85132 2
Christopher JamisonFinding Happiness – Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling LifeISBN 978 0 297 85277 3
Terrence Kardong OSBThe BenedictinesISBN 1-907271-92-8
Terrence G KardongDay by Day with Saint BenedictISBN 0-8146-3042-1
ed Linda Kilzer OSB& Roberta BondiBenedict in the World: Portraits of Monastic OblatesISBN 0-8146-2571-1
Francis KlineLovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the ChurchISBN 0-8146-2428-6
Dwight LongeneckerSt Benedict & St ThereseISBN 0-85244-521-0
Dwight LongeneckerListen My Son: St Benedict for FathersISBN 0-85244-463-X
Anthony Marett-Crosby OSBThe Foundations of Christian EnglandISBN 0-85244-434-6
Thomas MertonBasic Principles of Monastic SpiritualityISBN 0-87243-222-X
Dom Augustine MorrisOblates: Life with St BenedictISBN0-9519354-0-2
Kathleen NorrisThe Cloister WalkISBN 0-7459-4198-2
Kathleen NorrisAmazing GraceISBN 0-7459-4200-8
Guy-Marie Oury OSBA Monastic Pilgrimage: Following in the Steps of St BenedictISBN 1-879007-28-2
M Basil PenningtonEngaging the World with MertonISBN 0-55725-438-9
M Basil PenningtonThomas Merton, My BrotherISBN 0-904287-53-X
Dom Jean Prou OSBWalled About with God. The History and Spirituality of enclosure for cloistered nunsISBN 13 0-85344-645-4
David RobinsonThe Family CloisterISBN 0-8245-2503-5
Auguistine Roberts OCSOCentered on Christ. A Guide to Monastic ProfessionISBN 13 978-0-87907-074-8
ed Geoffrey Scott OSBDouai 1903 – Woolhampton 2003 – A Centenary HistoryISBN 0-900704-43-8
Geoffrey Scott OSBGothic Rage Undone: English Monks in the Age of EnlightenmentISBN 0-9502759-9-9
Frances ShawOsbern’s Life of AlfegeISBN 0-85439-574-1
Rachel M SrubasOblation: Meditations on St Benedict’s RuleISBN 0-940147-14-9
Julian Stead OSBSt Benedict: A Rule for BeginnersISBN 1-56548-098-8
Columba Stewart OSBPrayer & Community: The Benedictine TraditionISBN 0-23252-240-5
ed Laura Swan OSBThe Benedictine TraditionISBN 0-8146-1914-8
Brian C. TaylorSpirituality for Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St BenedictISBN 0-8146-1757-3
Mark Tierney OSB Bl Columba MarmionISBN 1-85607-305-X
Ambrose Tinsley OSBPAX: The Benedictine WayISBN 1-85607-121-9
Ambrose Tinsley OSBPAX: Carried by the Current. A Benedictine PerspectiveISBN 1-85607-458-7
Jane TomaineSt Benedict’s Toolbox. The Nuts & Bolts of Everyday Benedictine LivingISBN 0-8192-2152-X
Br Benedict TvedtenHow to be a Monastic and not Leave your Ordinary Job: An Invitation to Oblate LifeISBN 0-1-55725-449-4
Br Benedict TvedtenThe View from a MonasteryISBN 0-1-55725-477-X
Norvene Vest OblOSBPreferring Christ: A devotional Commentary & Workbook on the Rule of St BenedictISBN 0-8192-1991-6
Norvene Vest OblOSBFriend of the Soul: A Benedictine Spirituality of WorkISBN 1-56101-138-X
Norvene Vest OblOSBNo Moment Too Small: Rhythms of Silence, Prayer and Holy ReadingISBN 1-56101-092-8
Norvene Vest OblOSBDesiring Life: Benedict on Wisdom and the Good LifeISBN 1-56101-182-7
Norvene Vest OblOSBBenedict: Stories of the Great SaintISBN 0-940147-43-2
Robert WaldronWalking with Kathleen Norris: A Contemplative JourneyISBN 0-8091-4470-9
ed Hannah Ward & Jennifer WildThe Monastic Way Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary LivingISBN 1-85311-757-9
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