Book Review: Radical Spirit

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

radical spirit

There are few books I will pick up and not finish, but I admit this was one of them. Radical Spirit:  12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister was too academic, too theological, to be an enjoyable read. Unlike her Between the Dark and the Daylight, which I enjoyed thoroughly, this book felt like slogging through a theological text written for someone following the “Rules of Benedict.”  Which, of course, it is. The entire book is based on the principles of Saint Benedict. 

Rated #1 in Self-Help for Catholics right now on Amazon, I am sure there are Catholic readers who will get a lot out of reading this book, but I was not one of them, and that surprises me, considering the description:
Feeling burnt-out from life, strung-out from social media, and put out by a society that always wants more from you? Beloved nun and social activist Joan Chittister, who appeared on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, offers a practical, character-building, and inspirational guide to help you take control of your emotional life and redirect your spiritual destiny.

Yes, I have felt burnt-out, strung-out from social media. I’m always searching for chracter-building, inspirational guidance. So, what went wrong in my attempt to read this book?

Granted, it might be that I am just not in the mood to draw on the “little known, ancient teachings of the saints” (from the book’s description) Maybe I couldn’t identify with the examples she used to illustrate her points. Maybe it was the constant references to the monastic life.

Whatever it was, I skimmed through the last half of the book, searching for little nuggets of wisdom. Apparently, the main points of the entire book can be discovered on page 205, as she summed up St Benedict’s Twelve Steps of Humility in today’s language, in simplistic language I wished she had used throughout the rest of the book:

  1. Recognize that God is God.
  2. Know that God’s will is best for you.
  3. Seek direction from wisdom figures.
  4. Endure the pains of development and do not give up.
  5. Acknowledge faults and strip away the masks.
  6. Be content with less than the best.
  7. Let go of a false sense of self.
  8. Preserve tradition and learn from the community.
  9. Listen.
  10. Never ridicule anyone or anything.
  11. Speak kindly.
  12. Be serence, stay calm.

Now, that’s advice I can say Amen to. If only Chittister had written the rest of her book in that manner.

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