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How To Be A Monk and a Journalist Reflect on Living & Dying, Purpose & Prayer, Forgiveness & Friendship

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How To Be
A Monk and a Journalist Reflect on Living & Dying, Purpose & Prayer, Forgiveness & Friendship
$14.41 - $16.11
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This book is a dialogue between two spiritual seekers—one a Trappist monk and the other a married professional woman.

How to Be is two people “stuttering to articulate life’s universal questions from diverse contexts and perspectives.” Brother Paul writes as one steeped in silence and the daily rhythms of the ancient prayer practices of monasticism. Judith Valente writes as a professional woman attempting to bring a sense of prayer and contemplation to a scattered life in the secular world.

Valente uses the story of her interview with Brother Paul for a PBS documentary as a jumping-off point: When asked the purpose of the Trappist life in the modern world, he said that it is “to show you don’t need a purpose.” The purpose of life, he said, is life: “You’re to live your life.”

How to Be offers a window into two people living their lives on purpose (or not) and struggling to come to terms with the big issues everyone faces: faith, mortality, mystery, prayer, work. It is a book that provides insight and inspiration for those walking the spiritual path—particularly for those interested in the contemplative path.

Format: Paperback book
Product code: AP970340
Dimensions: 5½" x 8½"
Length: 208 pages
ACTA Publications
ISBN: 9781642970340
1-2 copies $16.11 each
3-5 copies $15.26 each
6+ copies $14.41 each
Written by Judith Valente and Paul Quenon, OCSO


This small book brought me joy and solace at a difficult time — what more may I say? Such a pleasure to read the correspondence of two thoughtful, perceptive people about what really matters. This small book demonstrates again that letters are among the most important literary forms.
Fenton Johnson, author of At the Center of Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life


Judith Valente is an award-winning journalist. She reported for PBS TV’s Religion & Ethics News Weekly. At Chicago Public Radio, she was a special correspondent on faith and culture. She was a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, and twice was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. At an Illinois NPR affiliate, she was a senior correspondent for investigative reporting. Valente is the author most recently of How to Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community. She contributes to US Catholic and National Catholic Reporter. Valente is a Benedictine oblate and presenter on contemplation and Benedictine life. She lives in central Illinois. Learn more at

Brother Paul Quenon, OCSO, entered the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in1958 at the age of 17. Thomas Merton was his novice master and spiritual director. Quenon is the author of 9 collections of poetry. His memoir, In Praise of the Useless Life, was praised by Sue Monk Kidd, Pico Iyer, and Kathleen Norris.