Like many women of her generation and vocation (she is a college professor), Hampl is at odds with her Catholic upbringing. She is frustrated with the pronouncements from the Vatican, such as the official church positions on marriage, abortion, and homosexuality. However, she is intrigued by the silent, prayer-based contemplation of the nuns. Can one engage in the private, spiritual aspects of Catholicism without compromising morals? Thinking about privacy and spirituality leads Hampl to the concepts of prayer and time.
The title of her book, Virgin Time, refers to the monk Thomas Merton’s awareness that outside of the human world of time, there is the time between moments, such as the moment between night and day, or the moment that was the original beginning of time. This is virgin time. It is time without forward motion, or time that is paradoxically timeless, a state simply known as being.
An implicit suggestion in the narrative is that practicing prayer, contemplation, and silence may be a way to experience virgin time. For Hampl, poetry is also a natural result, and its creation is linked to contemplation. The book covers many examples of how Catholics approach prayer. Some make it their life’s work; others approach it as personal and private; stories of Saint Francis claim that he sighed and groaned while praying. She disputes the notion that prayer is akin to surrender, explaining instead that prayer can be the stimulus...
(The entire section is 418 words.)