Presbyterian minister Karen E. Sloan chronicles her experiences in California for one year. Wanting to improve her prayer life and desiring help, she discovered the ancient prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office, in the course of her research.
Sloan tells of her prayer life and of life during her college days, sharing how she decided to go to a Catholic church in San Francisco while visitng friends to discover what the Liturgy of the Hours was all about (the Presbyterian Church does not have this practice, as far as this reviewer knows). The church she went to turned out to be staffed by the Dominican order and housed the novitiate for that particular province. Novitiate is a one-year period during which men or women learn about the religious life according to the particular order they have joined; each order has its own particular charisms and history. Sloan just happened to start her experience with the Liturgy of the Hours in a church staffed by Dominicans, and as well as relating her experience of this prayer method, she also introduces the men she encountered.
She had talks and visits with some Dominicans themselves. She tells her story of meeting one particular Dominican who happened to have become a novice the day she began her experiment. She continued to meet with him off and on throughout the year, with all proper propriety. When she went to Los Angeles to pursue graduate studies and become a Presbyterian minister, she located a Catholic church staffed by Dominicans and joined them for prayers. It happened that the Dominican novices visited the parishes that the province staffed, so the novice and his classmates whom Sloan met in San Francisco came to Los Angeles.
Sloan presents some of the history of the Dominicans from a non-Catholic point of view and a similar viewpoint on the Liturgy of the Hours. She discovered that they are filled with a lot of scripture, especially the Psalms, and it took her time to discern how the various offices of the Liturgy of the Hours are done. She shows what the Dominican habit looks like with illustrations and explains what each part of the habit means. She describes the importance of the habit as a sign of being separated from the world for Jesus’ sake. She also presents an interview she had with a nun of a new religious order, the Sisters of Life in New York. She includes as an appendix the Rule of St. Augustine, which is what the Dominicans follow.
What is the value of this book to a Catholic? It shows Catholics what an Evangelical Christian minister saw in the Dominicans and in the practice of the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the official prayer of the Church. Many Catholics would experience the Dominicans or the Liturgy of the Hours the same way as Sloan, so she presents them with an objective point of view.
Sloan’s year ended with her getting a job as a chaplain at Wuinnipiac University in Connecticut where she works with a Dominican priest. She has kept up her practice of praying the Liturgy of the Hours and leads others in this practice.
What is the value of this book to a non-Catholic? Sloan shows that Catholics really read and pray the Bible, demonstrating that the official prayer of the Church is made up mainly from the Bible. She presents the Catholic Church’s prayer as it truly is and not some kind of mumbo-jumbo collection of made-up words. Her presentation of the Dominican order from a non-Catholic view is pretty accurate as far as this Benedictine reviewer knows. She also includes her encounters with Benedictines when she went to the Abbey for a retreat.
This book is highly recommended to Catholics and non-Catholics who want to learn something about the Dominicans and the Liturgy of the Hours.