Atchison Blue, by Judith Valente

Judith Valente’s memoir takes its title from the distinctive color of the stained-glass windows in the chapel of Mount St. Scholastica, a community of Benedictine sisters in Atchison, Kansas. Time, strong light and relentless wind have transformed the original, conventionally bright color of the glass to a striking clear blue-gray reminiscent of the sea. It is said to be found nowhere else.

Atchison blue is an apt metaphor for the general wisdom of monastic life and the specific way it is lived out in one particular place, as well as for Valente’s own transformation, over time, by the light of the Gospels and the lives of the sisters.

When Valente first came to Mount St. Scholastica, she was a religion news correspondent for PBS television and a prize-winning poet. She intended only, as part of her own packed schedule of professional obligations, to lead a weekend retreat for other busy professionals. But under the clear gaze of those blue windows, she was suddenly aware of her own deep exhaustion and confusion, of her need for “silence, a spiritual home, and a living faith.”