In 1995 Mary Earle was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis. When she was able to return home, she still faced a long recovery. She had to stay in bed most of the time, and eating was difficult some days. The busy life she had always known was gone, and she had to begin again.
Like others who suffer from serious or chronic conditions, Mary Earle found that living with illness can require major adjustments in life. Using St. Benedict's ancient Rule—his way of ordering the life and days of religious communities—Beginning Again teaches readers how to discern a rule of life that helps them with changes in resting and activity levels, with food restrictions, and requirements for medicine or medical treatment. The ancient Benedictine concepts of stability, obedience, and conversion can help anyone living with illness, even those who are dying.
Beginning Again is a practical resource, written for those who know little about St. Benedict and his Rule of Life, with exercises to help readers discover how to live with God at the center of their lives and illnesses. It is useful for those living with illness, and for clergy, counselors, and spiritual directors who care for them.
"Mary Earle, who knows from experience what she is talking about, writes, 'When we live with illness and let it help us establish a new rule of life, we act in faith.' Earle's own re-patterning of her life has risen out of the reality of acute pancreatitis. Her's is no greeting card theology, but a thoughtful crafting of daily life grounded in Christian belief and practice. You do not have to be ill to benefit and grow from reading this remarkable account of a life transformed. If you are ill, the book is a 'must read.'"
—Corinne Ware, Asst. Professor of Ascetical Theology at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, and the author of several books including Saint Benedict on the Freeway
"In this extraordinarily comforting and challenging book, Mary Earle takes the setbacks of chronic illness or disability and reframes them as powerful tools for keeping a rule of life. The ancient Benedictine ways of humility, prayer, and self-knowledge counter the urge to rush, multitask, push and shove one's way into the superficial busyness that so often passes for excellence in the world."
—Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, author of Some Things You Just Have to Live With
"It is a brave thing, indeed, for Earle to title her book Beginning Again. But no title could more adequately express the Benedictine wisdom she derived from her own long, slow recovery. And no title could better convey her sense that a new rule--highly practical and immensely reality based--began to emerge from the illness itself. Mary Earle's writing is clear and compelling, her references to her own experience enlivening without being unduly confessional. And best of all, she closes each chapter with specific suggestions for reflection, in words or images. This is a reassuring and hopeful book to give to anyone searching for a way forward in a dark time."
—Merrill Ware Carrington, M.Div.
"This book is helpful because it is uncompromising in its approach. Yet it focusses on the transformative aspects of an illness and the extent to which the afflicted individual can-through illness- be open to 'the deepest mystery of our faith': that in our difficulties 'God in christ is with us,' (25) encouraging us to hallow those difficulties and live them :in a God-ward direction" (122) so ones's life still can bear fruit."
—Anglican Book Review