Together and Apart

A Memoir of the Religious Life

Ellen Stephen, OSH

Oct/2008, 147 Pages, Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9780819223159



In an easy, conversational style, the author, a nun for over forty years, gives readers the facts and fictions of the monastic life: how the choice is made; what lies behind the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; the nuts and bolts of monastic calling; what monks and nuns do all day; how they support themselves; and why they live as they do.

Brushing away the stereotypes of sainthood, she provides an enlightening glimpse into a vibrant female subculture that is richly diverse, faith-filled, and often supremely rewarding.

Ellen Stephen is a nun of the order of St. Helena in the Episcopal Church for over forty years. Co-author of Vessel of Peace and an experienced spiritual director, she travels extensively as a speaker about the religious life, and serves as a consultant for religious communities and other groups. She lives in the convent in Vails Gate, New York.

“Generously shares a lifetime's observations of the challenges and tensions, beauty and balance of monastic life. This rare look inside the dedicated life is a gift to the church and to the reader.” –Suzanne Guthrie, author of Grace’s Window

"In the 1960s Stephen (Order of St. Helena) gave up the trappings of urban life to become an Episcopal nun. Forty years later, she recounts her spiritual journey within the context of an order in transition. While the impact of Vatican II on Catholic religious is well documented, that turbulent era's influence on Anglican is less familiar. Writing that 'coming together and drawing apart are two main characteristics of the religious life,' Stephen gives us an unsentimental but loving glimpse of what it's like to make a lifetime commitment to seeking God. The familiar topics of spiritual memoir are embedded in discussions of the purposes and practices of such and unconventional lifestyle. Balancing prayer and work; keeping the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; and living with companions one did not choose all draw her attention. Characterizing herself as a 'truth-seeker," Stephen is clear about some areas of her life and reticent about others. These reflections don't fall into the mainstream of spiritual writing, and are perhaps of most interest to those curious about contemporary life in a women's religious community."—Publishers Weekly

“Sister Ellen Stephen has weaved a coherent and fluent exploration of religious life with a moving narrative of her own personal journey. This is a warm and thoughtful piece of writing for both the specialist and the general reader, and a significant achievement.” – Peta Dunstan, Faculty of Divinity St Edmund's College, Cambridge

“I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to gain an appreciation for not only the theology and spirituality of religious life, but also for the experience of how this life is lived today.” – Mark Francis, CSV, Superior General, Clerics of St. Viator

“With consummate grace and generous humility, she offers herself to the spiritual seeker in a way that inspires hope for true and holy relationship. Reading her memoir is itself an experience of the real thing--a gift of community.” – Stephen Bauman, author of Simple Truths: on Values, Civility and Our Common Good

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