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The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock

The Hardest Thing to Do

by Penelope Wilcock

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This is book 4 of The Hawk and the Dove series. I believe this is my favorite, so far. While I miss Father Peregrine, I enjoyed reading about the new abbot and the problem he encounters right away, having to deal with a difficult man who has been encountered once before in a previous book. I liked the way the chapters were laid out also, one chapter for each day of Lent. One of the things I enjoyed in this book was the feeling of what goes on daily at the monastery. I "felt" the setting more in this book than the others. The message is strong, as Wilcock does in all of these books. ( )
  hobbitprincess | Jun 9, 2016 |
Title: The Hardest Thing to Do (The Hawk & The Dove Volume 4)
Author: Penelope Wilcock
Pages: 256
Year: 2015
Publisher: Lion Fiction
The brothers of St. Alcuin’s are back in this fourth book, preparing for the new abbot’s return. Brother John is now the Abbot and has returned after a year’s training in Cambridge to take up the position of leader of St. Alcuin’s. He doesn’t feel up to the task of filling Father Peregrine’s shoes. As he begins his service, he is overwhelmed with the details and never-ending duties of his office. He still has the heart of a healer and sometimes wonders if he has made the right decision is becoming abbot.
In addition to all his new responsibilities, an enemy of Father Peregrine’s shows up at the doorstep of the monastery seeking admittance. This throws the brotherhood into division as to how to proceed with this newcomer in their midst. Some want to refuse him admittance while others plead to show mercy and the love of Christ to him. Can the brothers come to a uniform decision or will this be a splinter that continues to fester until the infection spreads unchecked.
I would recommend reading the series in order from the beginning before reading this fourth book. I have enjoyed this series tremendously. The writing evokes emotions and touches the heart. I can’t imagine having less in common with monks in medieval England, but their emotional and spiritual struggles ring true to me in this day and age. The author writes with great depth and has researched well her topic. I feel as if I’m right there in the monastery with the monks, living life with them daily. Readers will see humor in some characters, legalism in some and great compassion and mercy by showing the love of Christ in others. This series is definitely on my “keeper” shelf and I hope it will be on your shelf as well!
My rating is 5 stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” ( )
  lcjohnson1988 | Oct 22, 2015 |
Each successive book that I read in Penelope Wilcock’s series, The Hawk And The Dove, is my favorite. The quiet, yet powerful books that detail 14th century monastic life are truly treasures. In the fourth book of the series, The Hardest Thing to Do, the community is turned on its head when a hated and hateful Augustinian prior arrives seeking sanctuary. The brothers find that often the hardest thing to do is the most critical.

The community of St. Alcuin is in a transition period. As they enter the Lenten season, they await the return of Brother John, the former infirmarian who will take over as abbott. Winter still has a hold over northern England, but the promise of Spring is a whisper of hope to their souls. The deprivation and denial of Lent also brings forth spiritual fruit and growth. Abbott John is soon tested in his new obedience when faced with the turmoil that erupts following Father William’s arrival.

The phrase the hardest thing to do is repeated throughout this book. The monks face it when trying to live in peace in a community with diverse attitudes and temperaments. They find it in mundane activities as well as in the spiritual realm. There is an underlying theme of forgiveness and mercy that is well-suited to the season of Lent and the monk’s preparations for the Easter feast. I love how Wilcock takes the unfamiliar lives of 14th century monks and makes them relevant for modern day believers. The book reinforces the message of community in Scripture — the truth that we are of one body and every member is important no matter his role. I also liked that forgiveness is depicted in a realistic way — a hard thing for those who must give it as well as for those who receive. Beloved characters from previous books make an appearance as well as new who add to the diversity and vitality of the monastery of St. Alcuin.

It is not necessary to have read the first 3 books in the series to enjoy The Hardest Thing to Do, but I would recommend that you do. The series is wonderful; you need the full experience. You can check out my reviews of the first 3 books HERE.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.) ( )
  vintagebeckie | Oct 22, 2015 |
Penelope Wilcock writes another rich Historical novel about the brothers who live in Saint Alcuin's abbey. One of the characters in "The Hardest Thing to Do" is Prior William. He first appears in the novel titled "The Wounds of God." In that novel, I hated the way Prior William acted toward Abbot Peregrine at Saint Dunstan's monastery.

In The Hardest Thing to Do, Prior William experiences a fire. He arrives at Saint Alcuin's looking for help from Abbot John and the brothers. Although Father Peregrine has died, there is still a deep feeling of love for him among the community. I especially liked reading about the brothers' fight among themselves about whether to make this helpless once cruel brother leave the monastery or let him stay there after his wounds are healed.

While reading I realized again how difficult it is to forgive and give mercy to those people who hurt us. It is indeed very hard for these men to forgive and forget. I also became better acquainted with The Lenten season.

There is a new brother whom I really like, Brother Conradus. He struggles to find his gift or talent. I really could relate to his struggles. I love The Hawk & The Dove Series. I can't wait to read the next one. Each book sheds light on the fact that no one is perfect. goodreads.com/author/show/88448.Penelope_Wilcock/blog
  Tea58 | Oct 19, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was re-reading The Peacemaker by Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries when I received Penelope Wilcock’s new book, The Hardest Thing To Do, in the mail. What a lovely (and convicting) serendipity! Ms. Wilcock’s new installment in the saga of the monks of St. Alcuin’s Abbey is a long time in coming. The original trilogy of books about St. Alcuin’s and Father Peregrine its abbot began with The Hawk and the Dove and continued in The Wounds of God and The Long Fall. These three books were published by Crossway in the early 1990’s.

Now we have a fourth book in the series, twenty years later, and it lives up to the fine standard set by the other three. In The Hardest Thing To Do, St. Alcuin’s has a new abbott, Father John, but the brothers are still serving each other and the same Lord, still living quiet, peaceable lives, still striving to practice the rule of St. Benedict in a fallen world. And of course, as is the way of this world, the brothers have a new challenge when they must decide what to do with a human “wolf” who has come into the sheepfold and who threatens to spoil both their peace and their way of life.

In The Hardest Thing To Do, Ms. Wilcock has dropped the framing story that she used in at least the first book of The Hawk and the Dove trilogy. In that first book, a mother was telling stories about the abbey of St. Alcuin’s to her daughters who were experiencing some of the same growing pains as the monks. The part of the novels that is most memorable, however, is the story of the monks themselves, so it was a good move to drop the frame and concentrate on the abbey.

I was concerned that this sequel, twenty years later, might not live up to the quality and depth of the first three books in the series, but I needn’t have worried. Ms. Wilcock, a Methodist minister, has a fine grasp of human foibles and sin and peace-making and the cost of following Christ in our interpersonal relationships. The book is about radical, costly forgiveness, and it doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties of such a choice to forgive our enemies. Forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of real hurt truly are the hardest things to do.

Asking for forgiveness:

I am filled with terror lest you turn me away. I long for the beautiful Gospel that has always puzzled me, but that I know has a beacon in the life of this house. For the forgiveness and gentleness I have found, I should like the chance to show my gratitude. For the hurt and anger I have caused, I should like time to try and make amends. And I have glimpsed the face of Christ here. Before that glimpse dims and is smutched and bleared by the sordid life of the world, I should like to try if I might to touch for myself the vision of that fair loveliness. . . compassion . . . faith . . . peace.

I would pray that all of us could be enabled to do the hard work of forgiving and asking and receiving forgiveness because it’s the only way to true heart peace ( )
  sherryearly | Mar 18, 2015 |
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I had not heard of or read the previous books in the Hawk and Dove series. It did not take long to figure out what was going on and allow myself to be swept away into the life of monks in a 14th Century. I found myself pleasantly surprised. The characters quickly became real and the overall plot and tone was very sweet and heartwarming.
added by Adixon1982 | editThe Book (Apr 8, 2011)
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"For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes. How many are the days of thy servant?" Psalm 119:83-84 King James Version
"What we need is people who are capable of loving; of not taking sides, so that they can embrace the whole of reality as a mother hen embraces all her chicks with two fully spread wings." Thich Nhat Hanh
"The word of God is very near to you, already in your mouths and inyour hearts; you have only to carry it out." paraphrase of Deuteronomy 30:14; Romans 10:8
"Reconciliation can be initiated in an instant. It's also a process." Alice Wilcock
"All life is but a wandering to find home." Samuel Beckett
For Father Tom Cullinan who is quite unforgettable, whom I love dearly, who bound my Bible for the ridiculous sum of 10 pounds, whom I respect profoundly, whose house is full of loving-kindnes, whose wisdom and gentleness humble me, who cares for the earth and serves Christ most faithfully, whose flint has struck my flint at times, who lives in the most beautiful simplicity, whose experimental soup whizzer--made with razor blades and a coat hanger attached to his drill--was a total failure, whom I rever absolutely, whose bicycle is the oldest I have ever seen, who sees almost every imaginable thing differently from the way I see it, whose face and house and friends and voice and chapel and garden are lodged in my memory for ever.
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Brother Thomas sat impassively in his stall in the choir: he felt irritated nevertheless.
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The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. A peaceful monastery is enjoying its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation. But can they really trust Prior William?

In her fourth book in the series, Penelope Wilcock wrestles with the difficulties of forgiveness and the cautions of building trust. Taking the form of journal entries, her story will delight the imaginations of readers captivated by a time and place far distant from our current world. Her timeless themes, however, will challenge our prejudices today as we, along with her characters, are forced to ask ourselves, “What is the hardest thing to do?”
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