Monk Habits for Everyday People

Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants

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"As a knowledgeable pastor and theologian, Dennis Okholm . . . offers a fresh perspective on what attracts Protestants to monasteries. . . . This memoir, gentle in tone and often humorous, is nonetheless full of challenges to Protestant comfort zones."--Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk (from the foreword)

When Dennis Okholm began exploring the roots of contemporary Benedictine monasticism, he quickly found that St. Benedict has as much to offer Protestants as he does Roman Catholics. In Monk Habits for Everyday People, Okholm--a professor who was raised as a Pentecostal and a Baptist--uses his profound experience with Benedictine spirituality to show how it can enrich the lives and prayer practices of Protestants.

Okholm unpacks the Rule of St. Benedict--a practical guide for living the Christian faith and cultivating Christian virtue--by reflecting on aspects of spirituality such as listening, poverty, obedience, humility, hospitality, stability, and balance. His insights are invaluable to contemporary Christians, who, Okholm observes, have become consumers of religion rather than cultivators of a spiritual life. Readers will emerge not only with the desire to use the habits of monks to enhance their discipleship but also with the tools to start them on the journey.

Candid and engaging, Monk Habits for Everyday People is a valuable guide for Protestants seeking an accessible introduction to this classical resource for spiritual growth.


"Today, in any Benedictine guest house, one will encounter laypeople and clergy from a wide range of denominations. . . . Given this great diversity, the monastery choir and guest quarters become in effect ad-hoc ecumenical assemblies where Christians can enjoy what they have in common--the psalms, the gospels, and the Lord's Prayer--and not worry too much about what divides them. As a knowledgeable pastor and theologian, Dennis Okholm proves an excellent guide to this phenomenon, offering a fresh perspective on what attracts Protestants to monasteries. He demonstrates that it is not just another case of Americans shopping around for their spirituality, but a genuine reclaiming of the taproot of Christianity, a reconnecting with a religious tradition and way of life that predates all of the schisms in Christendom. His afterword, a reflection on the Protestant reformers and their original objections to monasticism, is particularly valuable. This memoir, gentle in tone and often humorous, is nonetheless full of challenges to Protestant comfort zones. . . . It is especially important that we now hear from Dennis Okholm, who reminds us that for all Christians, good spiritual habits are good for our spiritual health; that 'scripture is the original rule'; and that Christ is the point of it all, our true beginning and our end."--Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk (from the foreword)

"Twenty years in the making, Dennis Okholm's Monk Habits is the perfect introduction to Benedictine spirituality for the earnest Protestant believer. In taking us on his own journey, he invites us to discover Benedict of Nursia and Benedict's myriad faithful followers over fifteen centuries. This represents an important bridge between evangelicalism and Catholicism. Highly recommended."--Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

"The practices of Benedictine monasticism have several times brought revitalization and spiritual focus back to the worldwide church at large. In this informative and irenic book, Dennis Okholm explains how the 'rule' of Benedict did the same for him personally as an evangelical professor and Presbyterian minister. The book's winsome portrait of the Benedictines--and, through their monastic practices, of Christ--makes for a spiritual feast. The historically minded will also benefit from Okholm's careful discussion of why more Protestants should pay greater heed to the Benedictine life."--Mark A. Noll, coauthor of Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Catholicism

The Author

  1. Dennis L. Okholm

    Dennis L. Okholm

    Dennis Okholm (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. He speaks frequently in church and youth group settings and is a canon theologian for the Diocese of...

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"Readers might not think that poverty, chastity and obedience would be attractive to the common Protestant, but Okholm . . . will make them think twice. Although he is a Presbyterian, Okholm is comfortable with Catholicism and realistic about the benefits and burdens of both denominations. He finds in Benedictine monasticism a helpful path to holiness, and he avoids idealizing or romanticizing the monastic life. This is why his work succeeds as a guide for the common Christian. Okholm is wise to point out that St. Benedict's Rule, the text upon which his vision of monastic life is built, is both challenging and down-to-earth. The author invites readers to integrate some monastic practices into their daily lives and stresses that this does not involve cloistering themselves--these practices are both ordinary and sacred. He also provides an excellent example for Catholics and Protestants alike to dig deeply into the Christian tradition and find how both can spiritually benefit from the other. . . . This is a fascinating and, considering its brevity, surprisingly detailed overview that readers should not pass up."--Publishers Weekly

"In this brief but striking book, theology professor Okholm . . . finds and celebrates the values of humility, hospitality, stability, and balance. Most of all, perhaps, and most instructive for Catholics as well as his primary evangelical audience, he sees the power of monasticism, even now, to transform the world. . . . For most collections."--Graham Christian, Library Journal

"Okholm has conducted classes on Benedictine spirituality at various colleges that have been successful eye-openers for his students. This book is a fruit of that experience and of his lived experience as a Benedictine oblate. This reviewer is a Benedictine monk who can say that Okholm has done a great job of explaining Benedictinism and its spirituality. This book is highly recommended to Protestants and Catholics curious about Benedictines and their spirituality. It is also recommended to Protestant oblates."--Br. Benet Exton, OSB,

"[A] small but enlightening book. . . . [Okholm's] thorough historical research is detailed in several pages of footnotes, yet humor and contemporary comparisons make the seven 'rules' he discusses seem not only practical and desirable, but also obtainable. . . . This book brings an oasis of the calm and peace Jesus offers. It could also be a transformational group study, cultivating a community that reflects God's everyday presence more clearly."--Terri Carter, Presbyterians Today

"[A] fascinating new book. . . . The main text is only 99 pages, but it packs a spiritual wallop."--David Crumm,

"Okholm, an evangelical theologian who has researched and practices Benedictine spirituality, reveals the richness of this ancient Catholic tradition and makes its teachings and practices available to all protestant readers."--Ecumenism

"[Okholm's] questions and answers throughout the book stem from a practiced faith, a properly catholic education apart from his awareness of Benedict's Rule, and a worthy Benedictine balance of the two as he applies both to the experiences of his life. . . . He draws on Benedict's Rule, and many of the authoritative writings on the Rule. Logically he also brings in writings by authors Protestants would know well. These citations strengthen Okholm's stance regarding the merits of Benedictine spirituality today; they also highlight and reinforce the areas all Christians have in common. Okholm has a readable style, and he melds the quoted passages with stories drawn, and lessons learned, from his own life. . . . The book is blessed with some fine notes. There is a brief section with suggestions for practicing Benedictine Spirituality, and another with a list of suggested readings. The latter is a sampling, not an exhaustive list; but it provides a worthy source for anyone interested in pursuing this subject. . . . His book succeeds in showing Protestants that Benedictines are a lived and living reminder of this quest, this journey where all Christians are being drawn into a community of disciples of Christ, all meant to be formed in Christ's image."--Phyllis K. Thompson, Benedictines

"Part memoir, part reflection, the book recounts the author's own introduction to and developing relationship with Benedictine practice and spirituality and, in so doing, offers an invitation and apologia to his Protestant brethren who have been bred to be wary of such religious communities. . . . This book should serve as good introduction to monastic practice for those who have never had the personal experience. I think the author himself would admit that he is not an expert on the subject, but one who has experienced something in [the] Benedictine Abbey that he wishes to open up to and share with others who might not be likely to go looking for the same experience themselves. Because of this, the book can be recommended for its intended audience, Evangelicals who have had little to no contact with monasticism."--Everyday Liturgy

"This is a good book to introduce someone not just to the thinking of St Benedict but to the path he taught. . . . Okholm writes with experience and substance. He has taken on board the central wisdom of the saint. But although he delves deep, Okholm never comes over as 'precious.' Wise, yes; precious, no. Indeed, he writes in a straight-forward, down-to-earth, easy-to-read, chatty, sometimes even jaunty, style. . . . Okholm is clearly familiar with the practical out-working of the Rule [of Benedict]. . . . Although an introductory book, this is no superficial study. From my own experience of the religious life and my encounter with Benedictine communities, I should judge it a reliable guide. Though itself introductory, it includes a good section for further more substantial reading."--John Armson, Reviews in Religion and Theology

"Okholm achieves the goal his title suggests: to challenge Protestants to give a fresh consideration to the benefits of Benedictine Spirituality. . . . The author is passionate for the reader to understand the richness and history of Benedict's Rule, which he aptly points out is thoroughly grounded in Scripture. . . . Throughout each chapter, he references a portion of the Rule and offers Scriptural support for the particular theme. The practical application is helpful when he describes how Benedictine communities put the rule or theme into practice. Okholm is a thorough researcher. Each chapter provides a very impressive bibliography and several practical, personal examples from the author. . . . Okholm does a good job of introducing the monastic language to his readers that might not be familiar with the Catholic terminology. . . . He does an excellent job of providing readers the resources to learn more about Benedictine monasticism. The suggested reading list is not merely a basic bibliography, it comes complete with the author's brief commentary on each book--guiding the reader to the resource they need. His chapter notes are full of additional resources and information on Benedictine monasticism. Okholm's balanced view and insights on each page are valuable not just for Protestants, but all contemporary Christians caught up in the modernity of our culture."--Joannah M. Saddler, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care

"One comes to a deeper understanding and appreciation of one's own religious tradition by listening to another voice. This came to mind as I read this little book on Benedictine spirituality for Protestants. As a Roman Catholic Benedictine monk I was able to see my own tradition from another perspective. . . . Hearing these traditional monastic virtues as explained to a Protestant audience gave a fresh articulation of my own spiritual base. . . . The book concludes with a suggested reading list and suggestions for practicing Benedictine spirituality that could be most helpful in introducing Oblates and other interested seekers in this rich monastic tradition."--Timothy J. Joyce, OSB, American Benedictine Review