The Cloister Walk

The Cloister Walk

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9781573225847
  • 416 Pages
  • Riverhead Books
  • Adult



“Vivid, compelling… An embrace of moral and spiritual contemplation.” –The New York Times

“A remarkable piece of writing. If read with humility and attention, Kathleen Norris’s book becomes lectio divina, or holy reading.” –The Boston Globe

From the iconic author of Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, a spiritual journey that brings joy to the meanings of love, grace and faith. 

Why would a married woman with a thoroughly Protestant background and often more doubt than faith be drawn to the ancient practice of monasticism, to a community of celibate men whose days are centered on a rigid schedule of prayer, work, and scripture? This is the question that poet Kathleen Norris asks us as, somewhat to her own surprise, she found herself on two extended residencies at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota.

Part record of her time among the Benedictines, part meditation on various aspects of monastic life, The Cloister Walk demonstrates, from the rare perspective of someone who is both an insider and outsider, how immersion in the cloistered world– its liturgy, its ritual, its sense of community– can impart meaning to everyday events and deepen our secular lives. In this stirring and lyrical work, the monastery, often considered archaic or otherworldly, becomes immediate, accessible, and relevant to us, no matter what our faith may be.

The Cloister Walk

The Cloister Walk

Written by: Kathleen Norris


Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award – winner
Books for a Better Life Book Award – winner


“In The Cloister Walk, persisting in [Norris’s] wonderfully idiosyncratic ways, she gives us the result of an ‘immersion into a liturgical world’… She is one of hisotyr’s writing pilgrims but also a contemporary American one, boldly willing to forsake any number of cultural fads, trends, and preoccupations in favor of this ‘walk,’ this searching expedition within herself.” –The New York Times Book Review

“Norris continues to write plainspoken meditations that expand the purview of non-fiction… She writes about religion with the imagination of a poet… In reading Norris, one comse to feel like a spiritual collaborate and, when one’s spirit fails, like a spiritual rebel.” –Chicago Tribune 

“With her lucid, luminous prose, hardheaded logic, and far-reaching metaphors, Norris has brought us the cloister at its most alive.” –San Francisco Chronicle 

The Cloister Walk is a new opportunity to discover a remarkable writer with a huge, wise heart… you want to share this great discovery, giving her work as a gift– or you simply shove a copy in the face of a friend, saying, ‘Read this.'” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Norris presents ample proof that holy people don’t have to be starchy… If you learn anything from The Cloister Walk, it’s that monks are people too. They gossip, crack jokes, fall asleep in church, suffer through depression and doubt like the rest of us…. Perhaps there’s hope for spiritual life outside the cloister after all.” –Newsday

Table of Contents



September 3: Gregory the Great

St. John’s Abbey Liturgy Schedule

The Rule and Me

September 17: Hildegard of Bingen

September 29: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Archangels

The Difference

September 30: Jerome

October 1: Thérèse of the Child Jesus

October 2: Guardian Angels

Jeremiah as Writer: The Necessary Other

November 1 and 2: All Saints, All Souls

November 16: Gertrude the Great

Exile, Homeland, and Negative Capability

New York City: The Trappist Connection

Los Angeles: The O Antiphons


The Christmas Music

January 2: Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus


The Paradox of the Psalms

Baptism of the Lord: A Tale of Intimacy

January 10: Gregory of Nyssa

February 2: Candlemas/Presentation of the Lord

Celibate Passion

February 10: Scholastica

Good Old Sin






New Melleray Abbey Liturgy Schedule

Chicago: Religion in America

The War on Metaphor

March 18: Mechtild of Magdeburg

April 2: Mary of Egypt

Saved by a Rockette: Easters I Have Known

Triduum: The Three Days

Triduum Notes

Cinderella in Kalamazoo

The Virgin Martyrs: Between “Point Vierge” and the “Usual Spring”

Minneapolis: Cocktails with Simon Tugwell

May 15: Emily Dickinson

Maria Goretti: Cipher or Saint?



Road Trip

Places and Displacement: Rattlesnakes in Cyberspace

Learning to Love: Benedictine Women on Celibacy and Relationship

The Cloister Walk

The Garden

The Church and the Sermon

June 9: Ephrem the Syrian

Small Town Sunday Morning

At Last, Her Laundry’s Done

Dreaming of Trees

Monks and Women

July 11: Benedict’s Cave

A Glorious Robe

Women and the Habit: A Not-so-glorious Dilemma

The Gregorian Brain



Monastic Park

August 28: Augustine

The Lands of Sunrise and Sunset

The Nursing Home on Sunday Afternoon

One Man’s Life

“It’s a Sweet Life”

Coming and Going: Monastic Rituals

“The Rest of the Community”

“The Only City in America”