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Atchison Blue

Atchison Blue

A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith 

Author: Judith Valente

Price: $15.95

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches

ISBN: 978-1-933495-58-3

Imprint: Sorin Books

On-sale date: September 9, 2013

More Personal Growth, Spirituality, Women's Spirituality


Winner of a 2014 Catholic Press Award: Spirituality—Soft Cover (First Place). 

In this meditative spiritual memoir, Judith Valente, celebrated PBS religion journalist and celebrated poet, invites readers along on her transformative pilgrimages to Mount St. Scholastica monastery in Atchison, Kansas. The Benedictine sisters who invited Valente presented her with a view of monastic life and wisdom that brought spiritual healing to her fast-paced life—and promises to do the same for her readers.

The first time Judith Valente arrived at Mount St. Scholastica monastery, she came prepared to teach a course on poetry and the soul. Instead, she found herself the student, taking lessons from the Benedictine sisters in the healing nature of silence, how to cultivate habits of mindful living, and the freeing reality that conversion is a lifelong process.

With the heart of a poet and the eye of a journalist, Valente tells how her many visits and interviews with the Benedictine sisters forced her to confront aspects of her own life that needed healing—a journey that will invite readers to healing of their own. A beautiful and heartfelt work that crosses The Cloister Walk with Tuesdays with Morrie, Atchison Blue will resonate with readers of Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Mary Gordon, and Anne Lamott.


"Honest and deeply reflective."

"This honest and deeply reflective book, which implicitly critiques the myths of success by which so many live and are haunted, deserves a wide audience."

Publishers Weekly

"A generous book."

“This is a generous book about an exceptionally generous community of women. Valente allows the reader to feel the warmth of Benedictine hospitality. It is a powerful thing to be accepted as we are, with all our faults and troubles, by people who are willing to listen. Valente is a good storyteller, and fortunately for us these women are willing to share their stories and insights from their daily encounters with scripture, pruning grape vines, human rights issues, the aging process and death, and the trials and joys of communal living.”

Kathleen Norris
Author of The Cloister Walk

“Seldom is ‘spiritual’ reading so readable as it is here!"

“Seldom is ‘spiritual’ reading so readable as it is here! Judith Valente makes her own liminal experience in a monastery attractive, real, and profound for all of us. There will be very few who would not find her journey helpful to their own.”

Richard Rohr, O.F.M.
Center for Action and Contemplation
Albuquerque, New Mexico

"An inspiring guide."

“In Atchison Blue, poet and reporter Judith Valente has created a beautiful portrait of the Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Kansas, and the silence, simplicity, and joy of their lives. She sharpens her descriptions by contrasting them with the demands on her own life—the anger, jealousy, and overwork that spill out as she tries to do everything expected of a modern woman.

Valente’s challenges are those of all the rest of us, of course, so Atchison Blue becomes not only a lovely story about Benedictine sisters but an inspiring guide for everyone’s struggle to find eternal silence in the midst of everyday noise.”

Bob Abernethy
Anchor of Religion & Ethics News Weekly

"I joyfully applaud this book.”

“Many people yearn for a more contemplative life. Here is the story of a busy professional who found a way to put flesh on that yearning. In the soft light of the Atchison-blue windows and in the presence of a praying community, Judith Valente discovered the medicine of deep listening. Her story, both inspiring and humorous, has the potential to stir up the embers of your own yearning. I joyfully applaud this book.”

Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B.
Author of Seven Sacred Pauses

"I found this account quite moving and heartily recommend it."

“'Atchison blue' refers to the special color of the windows of the chapel of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, Kansas. Judith Valente spent many weeks with these sisters in recent years, trying to understand the Benedictine life. Usually I am not too impressed with these kinds of journalistic peeks at monastic life, finding them either too romantic or too cynical. But this account is different. Valente got to know these sisters really well by spending a long time with them. She seems to have glimpsed the inner life of this remarkable community. But Valente is more than a typical journalist. At least in this account, she opens herself to our examination, revealing aspects of her spiritual life that she finds seriously deficient. I found this account quite moving and heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the spiritual life more deeply.”

Terrence G. Kardong, O.S.B.
Author of Benedict’s Rule: A Translation and Commentary

"Compelling in its honesty, overflowing with grace."

“Not only does Judith Valente capture the simple beauty and serenity of monastic life without idealizing a thing, but she also makes a powerful case for the necessity of Benedictine wisdom in our time. Compelling in its honesty, overflowing with grace, Atchison Blue is a marvelous addition to the spiritual writing genre made famous by Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Kathleen Norris.”

Paula Huston
Author of A Season of Mystery

"I could not put this book down.”

“Highly personal, yet quintessentially universal, Judith Valente's spiritual quest in Atchison Blue is absolutely riveting. Memorable not just for her journey, but also for how she writes of it—with the beautiful detailing of a poet and the keen exactitude of a journalist—the narrative reverberates in the mind and indelibly permeates the soul. The gentle and courageous stories she relates impart great wisdom and great joy. I felt I was in the presence of both purity and grace and could not put this book down.”

Susan Hahn
Author of The Six Granddaughters of Cecil Slaughter

"It may just change you.”

“In her spiritual memoir, Atchison Blue, Judith Valente does something rare. By revealing her flawed spiritual quest, she allows us to connect more deeply with our own. Nuns, silence, family feuds, and death change Valente, allowing her ‘conversion of life’ to whisper eternal secrets that nudge us toward our own conversations. Atchison Blue will uplift you, challenge you, and even make you laugh. But most of all, it may just change you.”

Edward Beck
Author of God Underneath

"A joy to go along for the ride.”

“With a journalistic eye and the heart of a poet, Judith Valente leads us on a journey of exploration as she traverses the Midwestern terrain and the terrain of marriage, stepchildren, and new roles in life. It's a joy to go along for the ride.”

Susan Baller-Shepard
Editor of

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Judith Valente on WTTW's 30 Good Minutes