I am rereading Lying Awake by Mark Salzman for our Boxed Lunch Book Club* at church this week, and I forgot how wonderful it is. I am equally baffled this time as in my last reading at the intimacy with which this author portrays a cloistered group of nuns. First of all he is a man and secondly, they are cloistered. As in shut out from the rest of the world. Which is sounding pretty good right about now. But the cloistered life is certainly not without its struggles, and the ones that make up the life of Sister John of the Cross are beautifully wrought in this book. Though the story is in third person, the thoughts and prayers of Sister John are blocked and written in italics, interrupting the rest of the text. You can hear her thinking and praying, and the effect is powerful. Even in the middle of conversations, you are aware of her choice to bless someone with her prayers. Again, the author’s ability to both tell the story and be inside the head of a woman’s daily thoughts is amazing. Sometimes the italics are the prayers of the entire cloister, the reading of the daily offices or the writings of Sister John. In every case though, it seems to me that these words are the prayers of the saints, and that the rest of the world is depending on them. As I read them, I feel like I am riding on these undulating words, being swept up into the divine. I have been taking baby steps this fall towards incorporating just a couple of the seven daily offices into my life since reading In Constant Prayer this summer, and this story reminded me afresh of the power of allowing the The Divine Hours to interrupt the regular activities of life. Reading them or saying them or singing them can make the most mundane of moments sacred or the most harried of days peaceful.
*Our monthly Boxed Lunch Book Club meets this Thursday, November 6 at Fellowship North from 12-1pm. All are welcome.