Maybe Benedictine Brother Benet Tvedten didn't intend this cleverly titled book to be an "instruction manual." But when an author gives an invitation, normally he or she will also provide at least some direction on how to follow that invitation -- if not a road map. Unfortunately, this book fails to deliver on either count.
This is unfortunate because, otherwise, it has much to recommend: an enjoyable bit of the history of St. Benedict and his spiritual approach, including how he formulated his Rule; a collection of anecdotes about Benedictines, both vowed and oblates, which show them as ordinary human beings; and even a few laughs along the way. And, although at times the narrative seems disorganized -- repetitive of some aspects of the Rule, giving others only glancing attention -- this book presents Benedictine spirituality as an attractive, practical and refreshingly simple approach in today's frequently confusing spiritual landscape.
But what Brother Benet doesn't explain, except in the most oblique and "sideways" fashion, is how to begin to follow that path. Like a bewildered pilgrim in a labyrinth, he walks all the way around it: he describes the medal given to a new oblate upon profession; he describes the profession ceremony; he goes into great detail about what is expected from an oblate once professed. But after all the background, history and feel-good statistics cited about the growing numbers of oblates and why oblation is a valuable and worthwhile way of life, he ends the book without giving the reader a clue as to what comes next.
So, if one feels the "nudge" of the Lord while reading this book, what's the first step? Pick up the phone and call the nearest Benedictine abbey? Present oneself at the Benedictines' door? Go to one's parish priest and ask for a contact name? Brother Benet never tells us. It's not because he lacks opportunity; he just fails to do so, for reasons as mysterious as they are frustrating.
Readers who already have a grasp of Benedictine spirituality, or who are already oblates, will enjoy this book as a supplement to their path. But readers looking for how to "get there from here" should skip this book and look elsewhere for better direction. This book will tell them why they want to be Benedictines (over and over!), but, contrary to the implied promise of the cover, it won't tell them how.
Janet Butler is a book project editor at Our Sunday Visitor.