Monday, August 6, 2012

Flunking Sainthood ... Sunday, A Day Late

Flunking Sainthood is Jana Riess' recounting of her "year-long quest to become more saintly by tackling twelve spiritual practices, including fasting, fixed-hour prayer, gratitude, Sabbath-keeping, the Jesus Prayer, and generosity. Although she begins with great plans for success ("Really, how hard could that be? she asks blithely at the start of her saint-making year) she finds to her growing humiliation that she is failing - not just at some practices, but at every single one. What emerges is a vulnerable story of the quest for perfection and the reality of failure...."   (taken from the back cover)

  It seemed appropriate that I should read Chapter Seven, Unorthodox Sabbath yesterday. For this chapter the author choose to follow the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath tradition (no driving, no use of electricity, no cooking...) and her companion during this month is Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) who wrote The Sabbath (1951).

I no longer keep the Sabbath of my childhood, Then my Sunday's were memorable for their once a week uniqueness. My father who worked every other day of the week now walked me to Sunday School in the early morning quiet. Dinner was at noon, afternoons were spent at my grandparents and Maryland Blue Laws meant that everyone was taking a scheduled time out.

As I continued to read today I came across Jana's own closing reflections of her "attempts at sainthood" and how the practice of spiritual practice forever changed her. Jana didn't fail.

There is a lot to like about this book. It is highly readable and well-intended. Often I found myself lost in memories of my own life. The unexpected gift is that Jana's journey opened wide the door for these thoughts and reflections. I hadn't expected this. I'd like to think I learned something about myself from reading Flunking Sainthood and how I might better organize my own spiritual learning in the near future ... and perhaps better prepare for my Sabbath keeping.

Note: This is a library book. My own is on order.

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