It really is interesting the books one rereads and to ask oneself, why this one? Why theses. I have many I want to re-read, but these I have re-read at least six times. So what is it that draws me.
My first read of trilogy, The Hawk and the Dove, by Penelope Wilcock, began during lent of 2002, my second reading 2005, then 2008 till I have read it 6-7 times. Till my last read in 2019 when I discovered an additional six books. These books are fiction and for me a story for Lent.
Maybe the series call to some deep desire to hear the deeper story, or to be told a story not just for the history, but for the wisdom that can be accessed from another’s experience. But, the first two books are of a mother telling her teenage daughter stories of the monastic life that is a part of their history. Frequently these are told on the walk home from Compline or Evening Prayer, sometimes they take place in the candle lit room as the mother is calming the younger children into sleep. Always a time that seems to be a very peaceful time. But, each story, each chapter, holds a lesson about loving the other, understanding others, having compassion for others, and the ordinary daily exchange that happens when living in close proximity with others that few of us can escape. There are profound lessons in confession and forgiveness, suffering and gentleness, community and loneliness. These are the stories of transformation and hope.
I love that the setting for the books is centuries old, takes place in a monastery, that there is a rhythm to their lives and seem to have nothing in common with most of my life. I am safe…it’s not about me. I can enter this story unafraid and with abandon. I will not have to be vulnerable. I will not have to try to figure out some puzzle or deeper meaning. But, as my heart opens to the characters, I find myself hiding in them, being seen by others. I’m as needy as the newest novice, and at times without mercy like the strict and exacting novice master. I find that I am broken and frequently limp along, but that I have the capacity to listen like the abbot, and also to tend like the brother who tends those who are infirm. I’m very like the brother who is in charge of the kitchen…grumpy and bossy. And I am really no different from the brother who finds the courage to do the hard things.
The author has what I consider a trustworthy understanding of the sacred and of humanity. She tells these stories with authenticity…maybe from experience. I want to absorb the wisdom of these collective stories about a compassionate community. The stories caught me while I was escaping into a fictional world. They made me want to turn around and return to enter them in a deeper way and explore the truths that are so loving and compassionate. These stories allow me to look at myself more lovingly and with a longer view. Maybe I need to read them again.