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The Abbot’s Shoes Seeking a Contemplative Life

The Abbot’s Shoes: Seeking a Contemplative Life by Peter Robertson (Kindle $2).

This is Peter Robertson’s story, set in New Zealand. He joined the Cistercians in New Zealand at Kopua Monastery, in the early ’70s was when I first started going to the monastery (I am now a Cistercian Associate of Kopua). Vividly descriptive, it paints a picture of a time when Cistercians were riding on the wave of Thomas Merton, and the time of Charismatic Renewal. I will not spoil the story – I love the way Peter writes, questions form in the reader’s mind which are only answered little by little as the story unfolds.

There are a couple of photos, but this is not a history book. I cannot distance myself (I know the monks he mentions; I know what the abbey looks like) to see whether the descriptions give a clear image to those who haven’t been there. Certainly the descriptions, to me, seem wonderful impressionist paintings.

Peter mentions many of my favourites: Carthusians, Thomas Merton, Charles de Foucauld

This book is only available digitally (Kindle). I wonder if it might be possible to use one of those systems where one orders the book and it is then printed off and sent to you (that is how, for example, The Bible Through the Seasons is published). I also wonder if some who do not use a Kindle (or Kindle app) would read it as a PDF. Or even straight on the web as a part of Peter’s website (he also has a facebook page and twitter profile).

[Updated: I have received this note from the author:
the little book does have a “portal” at:
that gives people the opportunity to download via ways other that just kindle]

I only found one shortcoming – the book is liberally littered with wonderful quotes with numbers connected to end notes. (On my kindle app at least) it can be very difficult to check where a quote is from. Not a big deal – might the notes have been better at the end of each chapter?

As I said, I do not want to spoil the story – but let me say that this is not just a book about Cistercian life (wonderful as it is for that – and I regularly think there should be more history/biographical books of life and church around and before this time). This is a book encouraging (facilitating?) contemplative life in everyday, ordinary life. Peter regularly uses the phrase “live to pray” – this can be as true for us outside monastic walls as within.

I encourage you to read this book. It isn’t long (in some ways it is a string of brief, connected essays). I couldn’t put it down.

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3 thoughts on “The Abbot’s Shoes Seeking a Contemplative Life”

    1. I didn’t spend much time trying to make sense of it, Claudia – it is how I received it. Blessings.

      [Updated – the author has sent me a correction and it has been fixed in the post above now]

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