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Between the Dark and the Daylight

Embracing the Contradictions of Life

Author(s): Joan Chittister

ISBN13: 9780804140942

ISBN10: 0804140944

Publisher: Image (24 Feb. 2015)

Extent: 176 pages

Binding: Hardcover

Size: 14.6 x 1.9 x 21.8 cm

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  • “There is a part of the soul that stirs at night, in the dark and soundless times of day, when our defenses are down and our daylight distractions no longer serve to protect us from ourselves,” writes beloved author, Joan Chittister. “It’s then, in the still of life, when we least expect it, that questions emerge from the damp murkiness of our inner underworld…These questions do not call for the discovery of data; they call for the contemplation of possibility.”


    In words as wise as they are inspiring, Between the Dark and the Daylight explores the concerns of modern life, of the overworked mind and hurting heart. These are the paradoxical—and often frustrating—moments when our lives feel at odds with everything around us. 


    Only by embracing the contradictions, Chittister contends, may we live well amid stress, withstand emotional storms, and satisfy our yearnings for something transcendent and real. By delving into the chaos, this book guides us through the questions that seemed easier to avoid and enlightens what has been out of focus.


    With her signature elegance, wit, and spirit, the bestselling author of The Gift of Years and Following the Path opens our eyes and hearts in these times of confusion. With simple and poignant meditations, Between the Dark and the Daylight reveals how we can better understand ourselves, one another, and God.

  • Joan Chittister


    Joan Chittister is an internationally known author and lecturer, and the executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality. She serves as cochair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the UN, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders. Her books include The Gift of Years, The Monastery of the Heart, and Uncommon Gratitude (with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams). She is past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and was prioress of her community, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, for twelve years.



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    One of the most well-known and trusted contemporary spiritual authors has tackled a significant topic that will speak to seekers of all faiths. Benedictine nun Chittister (The Gift of Years) posits that contradictions, paradoxes, and ambiguities all play an important role in the life of the spirit, although it is not always apparent. Since the dawn of humanity people have sought peace and contentment. But the same obstacles that plagued humanity thousands of years ago are still wreaking havoc on human psyches and spirits. How to navigate the treacherous waters of the unknown and the seemingly nonsensical? It is in darkness, chaos, and insecurity, the author insists, that people find the most spiritual fruit. Risk is an important factor in any life, because security is a mirage. Personal and professional achievements are fleeting, and being certain about anything in life will only lead to disappointment. Chittister’s beautifully crafted short reflections are salve for the soul and an antidote to the apathy, depression, and obsession with material goods that beset so many.

    -Publishers Weekly

    Here, at last, is a book for those ready to make peace with the unsolvable riddles of present-day life. Why are we so lonely in a world of so little privacy? Why do we work so hard for control we can never achieve? Whether the problem that keeps you up at night is how to find safety in a world that is always changing or how to deal with guilt in a life that is far from perfect, Sister Joan has good news for you: these are the questions that make you human, and can make you more joyously human if you choose.

    -Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Learning to Walk in the Dark


    The great spiritual writers knew that truth can be found most often in paradoxes and contradictions. To find light you must go through darkness. To seek knowledge you must admit that you know little. To live you must die to self. Joan Chittister’s new book explores the meaning of some of the most profound spiritual paradoxes and, in the process, helps the reader find her or his way to new life. Sister Joan has long been one of my favorite spiritual writers, and with this new book she has given us more of her trademark common sense, insight and wisdom.

    -James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage.


    As always, Joan has put her finger and her pen to the right and needed words. She well describes those liminal spaces wherein human beings best grow and become their best selves. She could never describe them so well if she had not walked through them herself.

    -Richard Rohr, OFM, Founder of Center for Action and Contemplation and author of Falling Upward


    This little tome is an alarm clock for the spiritual journey. It wakes the reader up to the fact that our life journey is unique for each of us, yet we are twined together in the presence of God in every moment. Joan brings her years of faithful monasticism to open up the painful contradictions of our time: Wake up! The time is NOW!

    -Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK, author of A Nun on the Bus


    Joan Chittister has written what promises to be a spiritual classic–a guide for those of us who have ever spent sleepless nights wrestling with our own frustrations, fear of the unknown and pain of loss and separation. Through the wisdom of a woman who has experienced all of these, we learn how doubt can lead to greater clarity, hopelessness to new life and solitude to deeper connection. In short, how the paradoxes that confound life can transform it. This the most poetic writing yet from a woman who is a modern prophet.

    -Judith Valente, author of Atchison Blue and correspondent for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS-TV


    This book could be life-changing for many. Joan Chittister highlights the paradoxes and contradictions of life, things that we experience as obstacles, as life-denying, such as loss, confusion, doubt, failure, emptiness, exhaustion, and shows convincingly—the strength of the book lies here—how each one offers an opportunity for fuller growth. Turning the pages we maybe perceive how much of our life we fail to live, how many opportunities we waste. It is my hope that this book will reach a vast number of people experiencing the pain and splendour of being human. They will be enlightened and comforted.

    -Ruth Burrows, OCD, author of Essence of Prayer  


    In a one-word nutshell, life is best defined as a conundrum. Every high flees the hot pursuit of a low; certainties emerge from the shadows of doubt; endings are invitations to new beginnings. In this beautiful book, Joan Chittister focuses her discerning eye upon these conundrums. Turning the pages is like turning a kaleidoscope of insight because it helps us to see, admire, and appreciate the infinite colors and shapes of life. At times, Between the Dark and the Daylight sparkles with ageless wisdom; at other times it glows like the quiet embers of a best friend’s advice. This is a book to which you will return over and over and, each time you do, you will discover new treasures of optimism.

    -Maura Poston Zagrans, author of Camerado, I Give You My Hand


    Chittister has earned her place as one of the illuminators of our age.

    -Chicago Tribune  


    Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister reveals her passion as a meaning-maker who keeps on asking the right questions and sharing her grace-filled epiphanies with us.

    -Spirituality and Practice  


    It is profound truths which Chittister explores in this book, and for the most she does so superbly.

    -Carl McColman, A Contemplative Faith


    Joan Chittister’s Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life is a hymn to spiritual stature.

    -Bruce Epperly, Living a Holy Adventure  


    [This book] is a powerful, modern proclamation of the potential and possibilities for present day seekers for living a wise, good, compassionate, just, balanced life in communion with God and humanity.

    -Chuck Queen, Faith Forward



    Q. What is your hope or goal for this book? 
    I am hoping to generate good conversations about the unseen elements of life that often affect our decisions more than they should.  It’s a matter of helping people think through all the dimensions of life as we deal with the rest of it. 
    To put it another way: Life is made up of context as well as content. These things—the social environment, out attitudes, our goals, our sense of self—all affect the way we come to our decisions and why. The purpose of this book is to bring those things to consciousness so we can come to understand why we think what we think as we go through life.
    It’s an attempt to make the invisible parts of life visible to us in ways that free us to operate at our best. 


    Q. What made you decide to write about this topic? 
    I think this topic helps to take the sense of aloneness out of life. Everyone deals with each of these things like what it means to be part of the crowd, for instance. The question is when is the crowd helpful—and when not. What part of being in a crowd is more harmful than good. Discussions like that alone make the discussion of particular issues both more real and more honest.
    Life is a series of paradoxes—contradictions that are as true as they are false—that confront us all our lives. The point is to look at each of them from every perspective and bend them to our strengths, not simply surrender to the pitfalls they present us with.


    Q. In the introduction you write, “Whatever it is that we harbor in the soul throughout the nights of our lives is what we will live out during the hours of the day.” How do we focus our souls during the nights so that we can live with purpose and stability during the days? 
    In the first place, we have to focus on the attitudes we bring to every challenge in life. We have to ask whether or not we have examined each of them thoroughly or only with prejudice.
    We have to grow beyond our fears in order to become our best and strongest selves. But to do that we need to look them in the eye, up close and personal. Then, we can concentrate on the issues we’re dealing with and not be distracted by elements of life that have not real bearing on the issue itself. 


    Q. You talk about this premise that the spiritual life begins within the heart of a person and so “when the storms within recede, the world around us will still and stabilize as well.” What a great visualization! Can you offer a few practical tips for settling our inner storms? 
    By admitting our fears and prejudices to ourselves we make room for other ways of thinking. Then we no longer get up in the morning geared for battle.
    Fear and prejudice end when we can admit each of them, examine each of them with others, and understand the value and weakness of each position. Once we do that, we will be capable of talking out other difficult things together, too.
    Q. If you could choose one message from the book to really drive home to your readers, what would it be? 
    A culture in transition is a culture of prejudices, of polarized populations, of ideas cemented in fear. It’s time to examine all of them in the light so that we can all move on together,  open to new ideas, full of courage and understanding of people who think other than we do.

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Between the Dark and the Daylight