The Cloister Walk
Kathleen Norris
February 3, 2021

“…in the deep silence…”

φωτισμός – (photismos) come to light

The following observations are on Kathleen Norris’ reflections on All Saints and All Souls Days and the Feast of Gertrude the Great. All of which fall in early November.


  1. Norris reflects, “we pray for the ‘faithfully departed,’ but out of habit I add ‘and the unfaithful,’ or, as one of the eucharistic prayers puts it, ‘those whose faith is known to you alone,’ those whose stories are a messy, long departure.

* “…those whose faith is known to you alone…” a phrase which we don’t hear very often in church with the advent of the 1979 Prayer Book, but the phrase serves as a reminder. God is the sole judge of a person’s faith; not even the person in question can judge their faithfulness or unfaithfulness.
* God alone sets the standard for faith, and because God knows all about us from the beginning, God knows the depth of our faith. We are unable to be objective on ourselves, or more importantly, of others.

  1. A monk offered this observation from Catholic Church history, “church history for a long time was a largely cosmetic process, which, if you were remarkably stupid, could be edifying.”

Ironically, “the Liturgy of the Hours is, at root, a symbolic act, an emulation of and a joining with the choirs in heaven who sing the praise of God unceasingly.”

* On the one hand, our practice is often judged as superficial or of little consequence, especially from the outside world. Sadly, once the symbolic action at the root of our profession becomes rote it might become superficial.
* Often, naysayers claim that the practice of the faith can be viewed as a for of “if I believe it enough, or if I say it enough, it will happen and be real.” The difficulty is that some have let the ritual become rote so much that our faith can have an almost magical aura.
* While or faith can be rooted in symbolism, e.g., the Liturgy of the Hours is symbolic of our joining with the choirs in heaven, the symbolism should not be the end, rather it should be the way we return to our roots.
* Part of the myth of Christianity is that faith is (or can be) one size fits all. Yet, the practiced reality is “one size fits none” with regard to our faith. Not that there aren’t practices that are good examples, but that faith grows and transforms with practice.

Bottom line: only God is an objective judge of faith and practice.