Embracing Solitude

Bernadette Flanagan and Beverly Lanzetta “Embracing Solitude: Women and New Monasticism” [Resource Publications, 2013]
“Embracing Solitude” focuses on the interior turn of monasticism and scans the Christian tradition for women who have made this turn in various epochs and circumstances. New Monasticism is a movement assuming diverse forms in response to the turn to classical spiritual sources for guidance about living spiritual commitment with integrity and authenticity today. Genuine spiritual seeking requires the cultivation of an inner disposition to return to the room of the heart. The lessons explored in this book from women spiritual entrepreneurs across the centuries will benefit contemporary New Monastics–both women and men. The accounts will inspire, challenge, and guide those who follow in the footsteps of the renowned spiritual innovators profiled here. “In this inspiring new work, Bernadette Flanagan seeks not merely to uncover forgotten stories of women’s spirituality and prophetic voices, but to probe the reasons for tradition’s lack of attention to transformative solitude, intentionally chosen. From the desert of fourth-century Africa to the woods of contemporary America, women’s choice of solitude offers new landscapes of the sacred–in ordinary life, in new forms of community, and in exploring mystical processes of inner transformation. A rich gift indeed for all who seek the divine.” –Mary Grey, University of Winchester “This speaks to the deepest longings of spiritual seekers today. It answers many of their questions, places them in a historical context, and, most of all, encourages them on their pilgrimage into the heart of God through a mysticism embodied in a shared spiritual solitude, which can be maintained in the midst of the ordinary and the everyday. Just as Christian seekers moved from the city to the desert in the third century, now the move is back to finding contemplative solitude in the midst of the commerce of the city.” –From the Foreword by June Boyce-Tillman, University of Winchester “Bernadette Flanagan opens up rich pathways of exploration and discovery into different practices of solitude, monasticism, and contemplation. Drawing on a wide range of examples, with a special emphasis on women’s spirituality, this book is a wise and welcome guide for those seeking solitude within and beyond the clamor of modern life.” –Tina Beattie, Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton
Embracing solitude authors
Noirin Ní Riain with author Bernadette Flanagan PhD at the launch of the book

“Bernadette introduces us to five legendary women who have much to teach us in our quest of this temenos of seclusion. Her choice of the number five is significant because the number five, known in ancient Celtic mythology, the Coicead, is the number of possibility, of creativity and a spiritual temenos. Indeed this number five also embraces the five-fold structure of the book and the five years which the author spent meticulously weaving this text. So we now meet five women who well knew, who were geniuses at embracing heart-solitude.
The first spiritual seeker we meet here is Syncletica, a fourth century North African desert Amma or mother, and here’s how she describled her struggle to draw closer to God: and it’s a good, albeit painful analogy:
“For those who are making their way to God, there is at first great struggle and effort, but then indescribable joy. For just as those who wish to kindle a fire are at first choked with smoke, suffer watery eyes and in this way achieve their purpose…so we too must kindle the divine fire within us with tears and effort” (p.53).
The next searcher is 5th century “máthair díseart”, Moninne or Darerca, who because of her insights, intuitions and education was known as “Doctissima Abbatissa”.
St-Mary of Oignies
Then we meet the 12th century Dutch beguine, Mary of Oignies. Her life experience tells us that paying attention to our dreams is one key that unlocks a door into that inner monastery of the heart.
Angela Merici, a 16th century girl also responded to a vision and established the Ursuline Order in 1535 writing a Regola or Rule for the sisters. A pragmatic woman, one of her advices or counsels to her superiors was: “love all your daughters equally and do not show preference for one more than another, because they are all God’s children and you have no idea of what He wishes to make of them” (p. 89).
Finally, Bernadette welcomes Nano Nagle, the 18th century Ballygriffin social activist, Lady of the Lantern as she was known and of course founder of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Presentations as affectionately label them.
Having introduced us to five embracers and narrations of Solitude fulfilled, Bernadette goes on here to write an outstanding résumé of contemporary expressions of Women who have fulfilled this solitude.
Then, the final layer of this book is a marvellous eleven page article by Beverly Lanzetta who, like Bernadette, is a convener of many monastic initiatives and interfaith dialogues.”
Bernadette Flanagan is Director of Research at All Hallows College (Dublin City University) and the Director of New Monasticisms Ireland – http://www.newmonasticismsireland.org. In 2008, She completed her doctorate in spirituality at the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy, Dublin. Since that time she has become an Associate Professor in Spirituality and led the development of MA and professional doctoral studies in spirituality in Ireland. She has consulted to a wide range of organisations in Ireland and overseas on dimensions of spiritual education, spiritual care and spiritual practice in such fields as healthcare, education, relational wellbeing, aging; addiction and leadership.

Dr Flanagan’s other works include:
Spiritual Capital
“Spiritual Capital” (with Michael O’Sullivan)[Ashgate, 2012]
“Spiritual Capital seeks to re-focus discussion on core social values, on individuals’ value systems and the internal dynamics that impel human beings to live by truth, goodness and love. This book defines, refines and disseminates the concept of spiritual capital. Contributions by practitioner-scholars in applied spirituality, who have practical experience of spiritual capital at work in diverse human situations, provide accounts of concrete expressions of spiritual capital and create an interdisciplinary discussion between spirituality practitioners, artists, ecologists, sociologists and others on the frontiers of change in contemporary culture.”
Bloosmbury Pastoral Care
“The Bloomsbury Guide to Pastoral Care” (as editor with Sharon Thornton)[Bloomsbury Academic, 2014]
“’The Bloomsbury Guide to Pastoral Care’ provides a framework for reflection on pastoral care practice and identifies frontier learning from the new and challenging practical contexts which are important in pastoral care research today. In this collection of essays from leading practitioner-scholars, Bernadette Flanagan and Sharon Thornton set out core principles underpinning professional identity and the practice of pastoral care in rapidly changing social settings. Such pastoral challenges as, developing compassionate and effective companioning to those who have suffered trauma, torture, catastrophic events, social disintegration, the moral wounds of war and cultural dislocation are treated with insight and deep care. The new frontiers of pastoral care in more familiar circumstances such as family, health settings where patients facing life-challenging medical events and multi-cultural communities are also explored.
With contributions from Kevin Egan, Michael O’Sullivan SJ, Rita Nakashima Brock and Julia Prinz VDMF, ‘The Bloomsbury Guide to Pastoral Care’ is an essential reference for the theory and practice of pastoral care.”
“Lamplighters: Exploring Spirituality in New Contexts” (with David Kelly) [Veritas Publications, 2004]
“Today the importance of spirituality is being rediscovered. Both inside and outside the structures of organized religion there is an ever-growing interest in the subject. Ireland. The articles in Lamplighters are prepared by trained professionals, who have the skills to bring spirituality into diverse social contexts. These articles provide the reader with an introduction to the theological and biblical background to contemporary issues in spirituality. The psychological ramifications of issues are examined from a variety of theoretical perspectives and there is a strong emphasis on exploring issues for spirituality today such as suffering, aesthetic experience, ecological consciousness and gender roles. The voices of those suffering from mental illness, immigrants and victims of violence are presented in their own right.”
Wit wisdom seeking
“With Wisdom Seeking God: The Academic Study of Spirituality” (Studies in Spirituality Supplements) (with U. Agnew and G. Heylin) [Peeters, 2008]
“The distinctiveness of this volume is its European texture derived from papers delivered at the first European Spirituality Conference held at Milltown Institute, Dublin, Ireland in June 2004. Its aim is to extend the horizons of understanding of the discipline of Spirituality as it is being mapped by some of the most experienced voices in the field. The idea for the conference drew inspiration from the work of the US founded Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, whose recent President, Dr Stephanie Paulsell, delivered the keynote address. Among the features of this three-part publication is an exploration of methodologies for the study of Christian spirituality, interdisciplinary conversations with scholars from varied fields of scholarship and topics which demonstrate how Spirituality is applied in a variety of situations and locations. Along with the well-known voices of Philip Sheldrake, Kees Waaijman, Dominique Salin SJ and Leif Gunner Engedal, a number of prominent Irish voices in the field of spirituality are given an international forum for the first time.”

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