Monday, 4 June 2007

An Infinity of Little Hours

I promised Esther a review of this book by Nancy Klein Maguire. Well, what can I say? It was the sort of book that, once I finished it, I wanted to start all over again to pick up any details I might have missed. It was also the sort of book that makes me feel torn between wanting to keep it for myself and wanting to pass it on and let someone else enjoy it. It is now in the possession of my sister-in-law's father, and I'm in the market for another copy!

What makes it such a great book? Well, it's a fascinating account of a way of life of which I previously knew nothing. It doesn't disguise the hardships or the strangeness of the Carthusian life, but it is written with a loving reverence for their traditions by someone who seems to feel a genuine rapport with the people whose lives and thoughts she describes. She really gets into their skin and explains both their pleasures and their pain with affection and understanding.

The Carthusian life pre-Vatican II was a life which few could tolerate, and of the five novices whose lives the book follows, only one remained in the monastery - but all felt that the Carthusian experience shaped their lives. A book which could have become a condemnation of a way of life that churned people up and spat them out is instead an exploration of where they succeeded, what they hoped to get out of the life, what they actually did get out of it, and why four of them ended up being unable to stay.

The author spent several years researching the book, and it eventually came out the year after Philip Groning's film 'Into Great Silence'. I am now very keen to see this film, which was recently reviewed (and equally highly recommended) by Dad With Noisy Kids.


Esther said...

Thank you NewHouse. I really want to read this book and see the movie!

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

I need to ask you a question totally off-topic.

When you were in China, Peoples Republic Of, did you go to Mass and or did you witness Mass and or do you know what Mass, Novus Ordo or Latin that either the govt controlled Patriotic church or the underground church uses?


newhousenewjob said...

I went to Mass every week, celebrated by Archbishop Li (see the posts I put up in early March). I was asked not to go to any Masses of the underground church, purely because a foreigner attracts so much attention that it would have become too crowded with curious onlookers for the genuine believers to be able to attend Mass in the relatively small rooms that they had to use. However, although the church I went to was part of the patriotic church, Archbishop Li was recognised by Rome, and the Mass was completely faithful to the Roman rite - Novus Ordo, usually in Chinese and very rarely in Latin (but with the priest facing the altar for the first couple of years I was there). I still have the Missal that I used while there.

Mr. Nobody. said...

Okay, well, on another blog someone asked the question whether or not the patriotic Church used the latin rite or not, the poster seemed to think they did (strangely enough) so I was wondering if you knew.

newhousenewjob said...

I can only speak for the church I attended in Xi'an - the Mass was celebrated in Chinese, the format was totally familiar to me as someone who grew up with Novus Ordo, we had two readings, a psalm and a gospel, and the congregation participated actively in all the same responses that we do in the West. The only time we used Latin was occasionally for special feasts such as Christmas or Easter, when the Credo might be sung in Latin. Other times the Chinese words were sung, sometimes to the Missa de Angelis tune.