Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: Everyday Saints

Dear Students and Friends,

One of our students, Staci, offers this review and insights into the book, "Everyday Saints," by Archimandrite Tikhon. The book sounds perfect for encouragement during the Lenten season, as I'm sure you'll agree. Thank you, Staci, for allowing me to print your review.

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Everyday Saints is a collection of stories of monks and other people that Archimandrite Tikhon has known throughout his life.  He begins with the story of his own conversion to Orthodoxy (being raised in the Soviet Union he did not have religion or a knowledge of God in the early part of his life).  The stories are about the monks at the monastery (Pskov Caves Monastery in Pechory, Russia) and other people that Archimandrite Tikhon has encountered in his life.  Some of the stories are really poignant, others are quite funny, and all are wonderful examples and lessons on Orthodox Christianity and the presence of God in our lives. 

This has been one of the most impactful books I have read.  I can’t wait to read it again.  This book teaches lessons through the lives of the monks about how to be more spiritual, how to be more selfless, how to be more connected with God.  One of the strongest themes in the book was that there are no coincidences.  The hand of God is constantly in our lives, and we don’t always pay attention to that, but things would go better for us if we did.  There are lots of examples in the book of people deciding what is best for themselves and then having LOTS of reminders about what they would be better off doing instead.  I am hardly able to put into decent words how much of a blessing it is to read this book.  This is one of the best books I have read.

I don’t know that I found any of it difficult to understand.  The book itself is very relatable.  With all monastic stories, the hardest thing to understand or apply is total obedience to God and giving up our own whims and desires.  The book does not make this sound crazy though; in fact, we see the monks struggle with so much of their own humanity--and these are people that the rest of us would say totally are on track with being close to God--that they seem to be struggling even more than any of the rest of us.  It is a reminder of the constant struggle, but the great reward. 

Here is a random-ish list of what will stay with me:

The monks--throughout this book I feel like I got to know them personally.  I cried when some of them died. I miss them now that I am done reading the book.  Archimandrite Tikhon creates them so fully for us, through little stories here and there, that it is as though I know them personally. 

The monks as warriors--My dad always taught me that this life is a battle waged against evil in the world.  The battle is won through God, and God knows how it all plays out, but we have to fight the battle.  Fr. Tikhon constantly refers to the monks as warriors for our spiritual salvation, fighting ina  true war against evil. 

The vast forgiveness the monks demonstrate--people spit on them, steal from them, persecute them, deny their religions freedom, you name it.  And through it all they demonstrate forgiveness (although not in a Polly Anna way--they get mad too!) and they pray and turn things over to God.  And God delivers.

Prayer--the monks pray all the time.  When things go wrong, they pray, and they get help.  When things go right, they are thankful.  There is no end to the importance of prayer. 

The vastness of Russia--this may not seem important because it’s not part of the spiritual elements of the book, but it just is so interesting such a large and endless place.

The oppression of the Communists--We just have no idea.  It is amazing to me what these poor people had to endure for all of those years.  Horrid.

Listen to God--the messages are there, and apparently if we stop overriding them with what WE think is right, we will hear them and actually get somewhere in our lives.

I could go on...

I loved this book.  I am so thankful I got to read it.  I am loaning it to my mom, and then I want to read it again.  I miss it already. There is a website for the book too:  http://www.everyday-saints.com/. What a great book!

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