Frater Urban Hannon on Abbot Chapman

A while back, I wrote something for First Things about a book called Spiritual Letters by Abbot John Chapman. Reading Spiritual Letters was very helpful to me, and I was happy to have the chance to write on it.

I learned of Spiritual Letters through the recommendation of Frater Urban Hannon, formerly Michael Hannon. Frater Urban is now in formation with the Norbertines at St. Michael’s Abbey in California, and he discovered Chapman after his entrance there.

As it happens, Frater Urban was recently in New York, and did a First Things podcast, in which you get a chance to hear him discourse on Chapman. My review traces to, and was informed by, him, and he’s much more worth attending to than I am. The relevant part starts twenty minutes in. Here’s an extract I transcribed from the audio:

“So Chapman’s account would be that we need to live by something much higher than our experience…The Christian life is very much a life of I don’t get it, I don’t feel it. I feel awful, or I feel great, whatever. I feel whatever I feel. That doesn’t seem to answer to what I know to be true most days. Ok. You’re not going to feel it. This is exactly what Christ told us at the Resurrection—after the Resurrection. ‘Blessed are those who do not see and believe.’ And we will see, but not yet.”

Read Chapman—though I’ve since learned not everyone feels enthusiasm for Spiritual Letters, a reality to which a saying of Chapman’s own seems relevant: “pray as you can, not as you can’t.”


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