Thursday, May 28, 2009

Souls at Rest by Charlotte Ostermann

Souls at Rest is a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of Sabbath for contemporary Catholic readers. The restful, poetic tone of Souls at Rest provides a counterpoint to the speed and noise of today’s world – a cure for its primary woes. The ancient, worldwide understanding of cyclical rest is blended with the formal Jewish Sabbath law, then made intensely new and relevant in the light of the Eucharist. Readers are invited to cultivate interior freedom by designing a contemplative, personal, non-legalistic Sabbath practice. Avoiding a bullet-point, sound-bite style in favor of a layered, conversational approach, Ostermann draws forth a genuine, meditative response from her reading audience. Book discussion groups are sure to appreciate the truly thoughtful questions in the Study Guide. If you think Sabbath is a dry, old, narrow – even over-done – subject, think again. In Souls at Rest we find a Sabbath refreshed by sacramental understanding, shining new light into surprising corners – evangelism, education, poetry, and community, for instance. Even the experienced Sabbath-keeper will find some new insights in Souls at Rest.

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What inspired you to write the book?

Years before I wrote, I encountered Josef Pieper's "Leisure, the Basis of Culture", and began to yearn for the capacity for leisure he describes. Easier said than done, however! Not until 2005, when my family was blessed by an extended sabbatical in Europe, did I experience the deep restedness and wholehearted comprehension of the source of this capacity - the Eucharistic Sabbath. Yes, we were Catholic, and yes, I was prayerful - even involved in a comtemplative Carmelite studies group - yet God apparently needed for me to have nine months of 'be still and quiet and wait on the Lord' before I could fully grasp His message for me! My book is an attempt to give Sabbath back to the Catholic soul, and interest others in the kind of cultural change this makes possible.

What was hardest about writing it?

The process of completely rethinking all my notes and proto-books and homeschool workshop notes and how-to-change-the-world thoughts with Sabbath as the central, unifying core of it all was wonderfully difficult. I say 'wonderfully', because the Holy Spirit seemed to help and guide at every step, inviting me to let my whole being be 'reorganized' by this one theme. We have five kids still at home, and hit the ground running when we returned from Europe, so finding time seems impossible, but God made a 'way where there is no way' (as He says in Isaiah) for this book to happen.

What do you love most about it?

I love the fact that I've seen my own priest respond to it so enthusiastically. He tells people he's a 'convert' to real Sabbath rest, and I've heard it in his preaching and seen it in his much more relaxed demeanor. Also, I love the fact that I still am reading and responding to it - needing its message as much as anyone else, and real-izing it daily more and more.

What do you hope readers will get from it?

Karina, I long for people to get even a hint of what is possible in their interior life - the life of the soul, mind, creativity - if they will enter into the the Sabbath rest of God. The Eucharist is ALL, and Central - the sine qua non - but, as I point out in SAR, it is like a jewel that needs, or is beautified and realized more fully, in the setting of Sabbath.

What's next for you?

I have a 'plethora of projects'! Next on this front is the rest of the Sabbath story. In "Souls at Work" I want to write about the development of interior freedom and the capacity to bear tension - the struggle to work out our salvation that is another facet of the soul at leisure. In "Souls at Play" - the last in this series, I want to discuss the cultivation of desire and imagination, the risks of creativity, and the need for a foundation in truly human leisure to support the promulgation of beauty in arts, relationships, cultural change, and evangelization. There is a taste of each of these next books in SAR. I have two children's books written - beautiful stories that need a publisher/midwife! I'd like to self-publish a collection of my poetry (most already published individually) with essays reflecting and expanding upon them as we do within my "Living Poem Society". I am writing "Sabbath Simplified" for those without the wherewithal to
read/study/question on the level of SAR. I have a fun book going out as a free serial just for the delight of sharing it: Elizabeth of the Epiphany - about a year in the life of Epiphany...a liberative arts university.

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