Hi, there. Maggie Shaw here, proud owner of Eregendal and author.
As a lifelong lover of reading, each month I choose one of my favourite books – and tell you all about it.
For August’s Book of the Month I have chosen Finding Happiness – A Monk’s Guide to a Fulfilling Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison (2008, Paperback 2020). Father Christopher is the former Abbot of the Benedictine monastery Worth in Sussex which featured in two BBC television documentaries: The Monastery (2005) and The Monastery Revisited (2006). He was also part of the team that created the website alone together as a resource during the pandemic.
This thought-provoking guidebook uses the teachings of Cassian and the Desert Fathers, Stoicism, psychology, psychiatry, the 12-step recovery program and the Rule of St Benedict, to assess modern understandings of what happiness means and why pursuing it makes it so elusive for many people. He recasts the Seven Deadly Sins as Eight Thoughts: acedia (spiritual boredom), gluttony, lust, greed, anger, sadness, vanity and pride. To find happiness, he suggests we learn to control our inner thinking and develop the corresponding Eight Virtues: spiritual awareness, moderation, chaste love (in its broadest sense, for instance as loyalty to our partner), generosity, gentleness, gladness, magnanimity and humility. While we can never achieve these to perfection, it is enough for us to aim for consistency, as it is much harder to practice the Eight Virtues than resist the Eight Thoughts.
I found this book very easy to read. It explained with simple clarity a lot of deep concepts in philosophy and religion and applied them in ways that can work for us all, not just those who live in a monastery. The stories and illustrations from real life showed that this book was written from a lifetime of experience. The writing style overflowed with the great compassion and depth of its author.
I came away from the book thinking Father Christopher was someone I would really love to meet. I find myself often remembering his analysis of the problems of modern society as I work with people needing support. It is a book I will refer to again and again. It is also one I would like to give away to others, particularly those who have found modern life dissatisfying and who are seeking to find an answer to that emptiness within.
So, there we have it, August’s Book of the Month! Be sure to check back in September as I’ll be revealing another must read…