Page 6, 6th January 1989

6th January 1989
Page 6
Page 6, 6th January 1989 — Through the narrow gate

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Organisations: Catholic Church


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Through the narrow gate

A Time to Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermcir (Penguin, £3.50) Virginia Barton LESS than 100 pages, this little book was first published more than 30 years ago. It is based on letters the author wrote from monasteries and abbeys in France and Turkey to a close friend. Both introductions froM the 1957 and 1982 editions are reprinted here. Even so there is virtually nothing to indicate the profound changes that have taken place in the Catholic Church and the religious life since the book first came out.

Few, if any, monasteries have been totally unaffected by Vatican II, so readers aware of these changes may find the religious life described within somewhat "historical." Leigh Fermor is famous as a writer of travel books, this volume is one of the genre but just misses being much little of the author's

Precious ch more. spiritual life leaks between the lines which is a shann. Even a partial revelation olhla.spiritual odyssey would be quite as fascinating as his travels through Europe or Greece.

In A Time to Keep Silence the style is familiar, a touch flowery but always acute. Buildings, countryside and the inhabitants of St Wandrille, Solesm es and La Grande Treppe are carefully and beautifully described; the scenery

and haunting mood of the Rook Monasteries of Cappadocia are eerily detailed.

The huge impact of the religious life on the casual guest is only equalled by the return to "normal" life after a stay of several weeks. The author arrived at St Wandrille hoping for a quiet place to assemble and write his next book, he left with so much more.

Teasingly, he doesn't altogether reveal what that was.

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