I came very close to not finishing this book. I blew it off for weeks because I was afraid it would hit too close to home. When I finally started, not only was it no where near home, it was like she was speaking another language. Joan Chittister would probably appreciate this analogy: The first half of the book went like waves. One page I wouldn’t understand what she wrote (Is this even English?!?!) and then the next would make perfect sense and I would find myself in some agreement with her.
Once I toughed through the first half, the second half went smoother, but there were still plenty of things that bugged me. Here are my three main complaints:
- Her writing throughout the book was at times completely opaque. It really drives me nuts when some readers consider this incomprehensible crap poetic. It’s not just Joan Chittister, there are plenty of popular writers in the same category and it just fascinates me. Yes, poetry is nice, but the written word still needs to be clear. Sometimes it seems as if too few readers and writers understand this.
- Sr. Chittister is a Benedictine sister, but she doesn’t mention Jesus until 80 pages into this 170 page book. She mentions Jesus a total of 3 times and each of the three times is very impersonal. This isn’t how a Bride of Christ should think, much less write. I could understand this decision if she wants to make her book accessible to people of other traditions. However, you can speak of your own tradition in a way that promotes dialogue without completely watering it down. Dialogue requires two things: 1) an openness to the other and 2) an understanding, respect, and devotion for your own tradition. Those two things are not, believe it or not, contradictory. You can be orthodox and still engage in fruitful dialogue.
- On a related note, the fact she very clearly dissents from the Church on several issues really concerns me. Thank God she doesn’t call herself Sr. Joan Chittister on the cover. I had some sympathy for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious before I read this book. My spiritual director was part of this group and my experiences with her were generally positive. Now, I can completely understand why Rome was so concerned.
Now that I got all of that off my chest: I can appreciate her intelligence. You should never throw the baby out with the bathwater, and there are some gems of wisdom in this book. There is certainly food for thought and lessons to take with you when you finish. The truth in the book is spoken with gentleness and humor.
I just wish she was more faithful to her own tradition and that she would not sacrifice so much clarity in the name of poetry.
I recommend this book with one huge caveat: Do Not Take Her As Representative of the Roman Catholic Church.
Thank you, Image Books, for the opportunity to read this book. Between the Dark and the Daylight is available now. I was given this opportunity in exchange for an honest review. I am doing this through the Blogging for Books program. Any body who loves to read and loves to blog needs to join!