Item description for Voices of Silence: Lives of the Trappists Today by Frank Bianco...
Overview Journalist Bianco, who has lived among Trappist monks in the U.S. and France, reports on the rigors, routines, and rituals of the monks' daily lives. Bianco recounts how he sang psalms in choir, ate vegetarian at the monastic table, slept under the communal roof, and worked every day. New monks speak openly of their past and the conflicting calls of solitude and solidarity. Photographs.
Publishers Description A blend of case history, anecdote, history, and spiritual quest, this intimate and fascinating look at the world's oldest and most reclusive monastic order provides a rare understanding of day-to-day Trappist existence.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.9" Width: 5.2" Height: 0.6" Weight: 0.55 lbs.
Release Date Jul 1, 1992
ISBN 0385424302 ISBN13 9780385424301
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Reviews - What do customers think about Voices of Silence: Lives of the Trappists Today?
An View of Trappist Life Jul 2, 2005
VOICES OF SILENCE: THE LIVES OF TRAPPISTS TODAY could best be described as three stories melding into one. It tells the story of Trappist monks and gives a brief history of the order. It deals specifically with the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky and the people who inhabit this fascinating place. The third strain of the story is that of the author Frank Bianco, a journalist struggling with faith after a major tragedy in his life and how his personal contact with the Trappists in general and the monks of Gethsemani in particular helped him begin to cope with the enormity of loss in his life and the importance of faith.
Bianco does give us a history per se, but intersperses his observations of the monks as well as his personal feelings throughout the book. It's an easy read with short penetrating chapters. At some points it reads like a novel, particularly when he writes about the monks who had the greatest impact on his life: Brother Gabriel, the young monk who is in the process of discerning, Dom Timothy MacDonald, or Mac as he is called in the book, the lovable Brother Saul, and perhaps the monk who challenged and inspired him most, the irascible Fr. Bede.
The book is both unapologetic and reverential. We see the monks as people striving to grow closer to God who are also people with flaws and idiosyncrasies. We do not meet "cute" monks who are a caricature of religious life. Rather we meet people who live a vastly different life than most people in our modern world, yet have the ability to speak to the core of our humanity.
Perhaps the reason this book was enjoyable to me was due to the fact I recently returned from a visit to Gethsemani Abbey where many of the monks in this book live (or at least once lived). I saw the monks "up close and personal" so to speak, and had the opportunity to observe the monks in action. In many ways this book confirmed what I saw upon visiting and serves as a reminder of the powerful spiritual witness of Trappist monks in our world today.
Real View of Trappist Life ? Oct 21, 2003
If one wants a balanced and realistic view of monastic life and history, three recent books are highly recommended- "Cloister Walk" by Kathleen Norris, "Grace is Everywhere" by James Behrens, and, "Trappist: Living in the Land of Desire" - the companion book to the PBS documentary "Trappist" (WVTI Charlotte Public Television, 1997.
I've been regularly going on retreats to a Trappist monastery since 1988, - I purchased Mr. Bianco's book when it first came out, ( at the Abbey gift shop as a matter of fact ), and was rather surprised and perplexed by his tone and view throughout.
If you want the straight story with no spin, look at the above selections.
Very Fine Book Aug 6, 2003
This was a very fine book, very moving. It was sad, actually, to have finished reading the book as I thought I was putting away a good friend. The book was informative enough in teaching readers about the Trappist way of life---yet revealed the Trappists to be very real individuals. For those looking for scandal, they are in for disappointment. The humanity of these fine men is amazing. And, do not forget to read Mr. Bianco's introduction as it reveals the heart and soul of the man and what he learns about God and himself in his time with the Trappists.
One of the better studies of contemporary monasticism Feb 9, 2001
The author, a semi-practicing Catholic dealing with the death of his youngest son, entered into the life of the Trappist monks in several monasteries. From that experience, he gives us a mixture of monastic history, of lives of selected (composite) monks discerning their calling and growth, and a picture of the issues confronting the religious community as they grapple with the issues raised by Vatican II.
The resulting book stresses several points:
Monk are human with the same foibles as the non-vowed Catholic population.
That a major component of what sets monks apart is the stability of their lives and the community in which those lives are lived; this results in an environment where confronting oneself and one's masks is inevitable.
That balance of work, play and prayer is essential to fostering wholeness.
That the monk's life is nearly a universal human activity and that much of what formerly distinguished the professed religious life is now adopted/adapted by dedicated laity.
That God truly works in mysterious ways - exemplified by the author's changed understanding of God as he finally confronts his son's death.
The genius of the book is that it achieves the list given above primarily through the narrative of human experience within the monastic community. Where more abstract theology/history is provided, it is generally within the context of conversation with individual monks presenting their individual experience and belief.
With the narrative, there are individuals that the reader comes to care about - the crusty, rigid Br. Bede, the Texas ranch boy Mac, the novice Gabriel ... Through these and many others, the reader catches glimpses of themselves and their own needs. In this sense, the lives of the monks as presented, serve as a mirror nudging the reader to examine themselves as the monks are examining themselves.
Food for the Journey Jan 3, 2001
I recommend this book to those who find themselves on a spiritual journey. Having glanced at other reviews of the text, I agree that it is less a general introduction to the Trappist way of life and more of a documentary of the author's personal exploration of their spirituality. This exploration is in the context of the loss of his son; the tragedy is actually the impetus for his spiritual quest. In that sense, I believe readers that are similarly engaged will find the book much, much more meaningful and accessable than those who may be reading out of detached academic interest.
More than anything, I think the book provides a great insight into the charism of the Trappists Mr. Bianco lived with, and for anyone considering spending some time "off grid", it sheds a lot of light on the potential experience. If you are on the journey, or perhaps more accurately, engaged in the battle, I think this book will help.