Roman Catholics: Renewal for the Cloister

To the secular mind, the vision of monks and nuns living silently and praying ceaselessly behind cloister walls has always seemed, at best, a kind of regrettable eccentricity—harmless enough, but useless too. Yet the Roman Catholic Church, and such Protestant sympathizers as the Monks of Taizé in France, have insisted that the contemplative life is a special and noble vocation. The fathers of Vatican II declared in a 1965 decree that "communities that are entirely dedicated to contemplation are a glory of the church and a wellspring of heavenly graces." While some adaptation to modern life might be in order,...

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