Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Visit a Monastery - in a Book!

Those of you who follow my blog regularly know that I am an Orthodox Christian. I like to share books and little tidbits about my faith when I can in my blog posts because there are lots of folks in America who don't know much about the Orthodox Church.

And this is one of those posts. I'm excited about a new children's book by Melinda Johnson, (the second in a series - hope there are more to come, Ancient Faith Publishing!) 

Melinda's newest book, The Barn & the Book again centers around characters from her first story Shepherding Sam: a dog named Saucer, who happens to live at a monastery, and a boy named Sam.

With Advent and Christmas fast approaching, The Barn & the Book is a perfect reading choice for ages 7-12. 

Sam wants to know if the monastery farm animals (especially Saucer!) will talk at midnight on Christmas Eve...should he spend the night in the barn?  And Sister Ana has been given the task of having her Sunday school students write a story about the monastery for a book that will soon be published for the anniversary of the monastic community.  Grace and Macrina volunteer right away. 

But doubts and insecurities, frustrations, and competitive spirits rise - and not just among the kids!

The Barn & the Book is a story about the traps we build when we try to see in the dark.  We tumble into trouble and confusion on our own, but God can steer us clear of our traps and shine His kindly light into our darkness.

Monasteries are great places for families to visit!  My daughter and her children just visited the Monastery of the Transfiguration (a women's monastery) in Ellwood City, PA on their drive back from New York to Michigan.  There was much to see and inspiration to be had (a new icon being installed!), services to attend, and walks to take.

If you saw my blog post about the book To Live Again, the memoirs of Mother Alexandra, a Romanian-Princess-turned-Nun, you'll be interested to know that the Monastery of the Transfiguration was founded by her in 1967!

The current Abbess is Mother Christophora.  In 2012 she celebrated her 25th year as Abbess.  She made some interesting observations about how the experience of visiting monasteries abroad affected her.  I wanted to include some of her thoughts...

In Europe, one of the refreshing things that we have noticed when we have traveled—we always travel two or three sisters at a time on a trip like that—they are just so natural. They are not so insecure, always looking at the neighbor. The nuns there are very simple, very happy in life. The monastic life is just life, and that is what we have to strive to find. If somebody comes here and says, “Oh, the nuns are so normal!” I always say, “That is the biggest compliment you can give us.” Jesus Christ, being truly human, was normal—in a healthy way. And that is how we would like to be. Emotionally and spiritually, we get a little “Oh, is this or that right? How many times do we have to do this? How far do you bow when you bow?” So it was refreshing to see their monastic life lived simply and so naturally. 

Mother Alexandra was a Romanian princess, part of a royal family that has a centuries-long history. After she had to leave her country, she raised her children and then got to fulfill her dream to become a nun. She was living in America but she went to France to become a nun. She saw our country was very rich materially but very poor spiritually, and she wanted America to have an Orthodox monastery. This was her gift; this was what she did. She gave America an Orthodox monastery, because she knew that it would add to life here. But she did not give America a Romanian Orthodox monastery or a Russian Orthodox monastery or a Greek Orthodox monastery. She gave America an Orthodox monastery for Americans. 

 In the 1960s when very little English was used in Orthodox churches, she was determined that everything would be in English from day one, that American women of all backgrounds would feel welcome here. I think her dream is being realized and has been realized. She saw that you do not have to be—and we all know this, but it still bears repeating—Greek or Russian or Ukrainian or Serbian to be Orthodox. America needs Orthodoxy. She knew that. We can also, as Americans, be comfortable in the Orthodox Church in our own way. Here we have enjoyed discovering that—like watching petals of a flower open as we live out our monastic life as Americans in this Orthodox monastery.

Want to visit an Orthodox Monastery?  Some, like The Monastery of the Transfiguration mentioned above, have guest quarters.  Here is a list of several Orthodox Monasteries in the U.S.

And stay tuned!  I'll be giving away The Barn & the Book and a new board book from Ancient Faith Publishing soon!


  1. oh fun! thanks for letting us know about these books! I've been to many monasteries but not yet this one; if God so grants one day I will!

  2. I, too, hope to visit this one someday! And Holy Assumption in Calistoga, up by Napa. Mother Melania is wonderful - and she's written several children's books!