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A name in the news

I have been reading the recently-published and well-publicised book by Catherine Coldstream about her time in a Carmelite monastery - which she eventually left. On the face of it, this belongs to a very small but significant genre of autobiographies written by people about their life in an institution of the Church. Karen Armstrong is someone who has made a name for herself in the media on the strength of her accounts of her life in a monastery experience and why she left it. I do like to accept the challenge of such individuals and understand their criticism. But in fact the first part of Catherine Coldstream's book contains the most lyrical and moving account of life in a Carmelite monastery from the inside that I have ever encountered. I haven't yet reached the end, but it's clear that the community suffered acutely from internal stresses. I am involved with a Secular Community that has fallen into a similar situation, and these examples teach me how difficult it is even for persons devoted to a life of discipleship to sustain a community life over the long term.

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