I love books but, unless it grabs my attention right away, the book ends up on the shelf. I purchased this book for Lent a few years ago and could not put it down! Written by a Roman Catholic monk, this book is his year long journal while visiting the Coptic monasteries in Egypt. The experience, viewed through the lens of his western, Roman Catholic eyes, opens up the world of tremendous Eastern faith. Among the tales he relates is his visit to a Coptic Church in Cairo where the Blessed Mother is supposedly appearing. Because he has come from the desert monasteries to this church, people begin to line up for a blessing, very late at night. Within the span of a few minutes, the church is suddenly packed by Coptic christians who want his blessing. Meanwhile, from outside the church, word comes of an apparition of the Blessed Mother over the church. Fr. Gruber wants to be a witness but the crowds inside the church continue to press him for his blessing. Then there is the story of the octogenarian Coptic monk who has been asked by the abbot of a monastery to accompany the "visitor" to a mountain cave in the desert. This coincides with a heat wave where thermometers burst as the heat rises above their limit of 130 degrees. The accompanying monk chants hymns of praise along the route they follow through the hot sands of the desert. At one point Fr. Gruber looks back and sees red footprints only to realize that they have been formed by his bloody feet in the hot sand.
From his welcome to the first monastery and the monastic lifestyle that begins with prayers at 3 am that continue through liturgy, until 9 am - all done while standing in a cloud of incense to his final departure from Egypt and the tug at his heart to remain, the reader is exposed to an extraordinary faith tradition dating back to the Holy Family's time spent in Egypt.
I could not put the book down and decided to reread it again this year for Lent. Much as one does with a fine delicacy, I indulge myself by spreading the book out over the course of 40 days, when it could be read in the span of only one. Should you have any doubts, I can assure you that this book will add new life to your faith.
You’ve convinced me...and I’m ordering it now!
Thanks again. ;-)