1. Kristin Ohlson discovers the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration’s
church on Christmas Day, a day she says is “always ribboned with
loneliness and impossible yearning and melancholy.” Why was she drawn to
the church on this particular day? Do you find yourself more drawn to
faith on such days? To community?
2. Ohlson says that in the past, she considered faith “a kind of
sickness, something that allowed the soothing delusion of divine power.”
Have you ever felt this way about faith? Do you know anyone who does?
Did you or they change—and if so, what was the impetus?
3. Ohlson says that when she first entered St. Paul Shrine—the Poor
Clares’ church—that “nothing inside met my expectations.” Do you think
it was this gap between expectation and experience that allowed her to
open up to faith? Has this ever happened to you?
4. When Ohlson sees Father Senan walk through the church in his
Franciscan robes after Mass, she was as delighted “as if I’d
time-traveled into the Middle Ages and was face to face with Friar
Tuck.” How much do you think the trappings of faith—the robes, the
statues, the candles, the rituals, and so on—appealed to Ohlson? How do
they affect your own spiritual life?
5. In her letter asking the Poor Clares if they’d let her write about
them, Ohlson tells them that her interest is, in part, personal: that
she has a wistfulness for faith and wants to learn about it from those
who never left it behind in the first place. Do you agree with her that
there are many people who have this same wistfulness for faith? Why do
you think some people remain believers all their lives and others fall
away, at least for a while?
6. When one of Ohlson’s friends tells her that she’s “so good” for
going to Mass every Sunday, Ohlson says that she actually wants to
go—that somehow, “the act of going had created the desire to go.” How
have spiritual observances developed into habits for you? Do you think
these habits are more meaningful when they are freely chosen, as in
Ohlson’s case, or when they’re dictated by a church, synagogue or
mosque? What do you think helps people incorporate faith into their
7. The Poor Clares pray for Ohlson’s mother, and she recovers from a
devastating illness. Ohlson isn’t comfortable labeling this as a
miracle, even though the Poor Clares are. What do you think? What do you
think a miracle is?
8. While she was writing the book, Ohlson says that she encountered
many misunderstandings about the life of a cloistered, contemplative
nun. What do you think would be the hardest thing about this kind of
life? What would be the best part? Did your view change after you read
Stalking the Divine?
9. One of the Poor Clares tells Ohlson that for her, faith often
means just going through the motions—meaning that she often doesn’t feel
close to God, even though she has chosen this most-intense form of
religious life. Do you think many people lead a life of faith without
feeling close to God? What sustains their faith when they don’t have
10. Ohlson writes that Clare of Assisi – the original Poor
Clare—begged a series of popes for the gift of poverty. In our society,
people rarely think of poverty as a gift! Do you think Clare’s ideals
make much sense for this day and age?
11. At the end of the book, Mother James tells Ohlson that prayer
helps maintain the balance between good and evil in the world. What do
you think prayer does, if anything? How do you define it?
12. Ohlson clearly doesn’t agree with all the teachings of the
Catholic Church, yet she seems to feel at home at St. Paul Shrine
anyway. Do you think many believers have similar disagreements with some
of the positions and beliefs of their church, synagogue or mosque, yet
decide that that is where they belong? Can the spiritual core at the
heart of their chosen faith somehow transcend those disagreements?
13. One of the nuns tells Ohlson that when she was young, she used to
try so hard to be good but then realized that, “God didn’t need my
goodness—he wanted my love.” If you’re a believer, what do you think God
wants of you?
14. Ohlson often uses humor as she discusses her struggle to
understand faith. Do you think this is a mark of her continuing
discomfort with faith, or is it part of an effort to make faith less
15. If Ohlson had not stumbled upon the Poor Clares, do you think she
would have eventually found faith anyway? Is coming to faith a matter of
fate for certain people, or is there a large element of chance involved?
Or does it only seem like chance? Was she stalking the divine, or was
the divine stalking her?
16. Or—do you wonder if Ohlson did, in fact, find faith? Where do you
think she tells you that she did—or not? Does the book have the kind of
climax—the satisfying aha!—that you expected? Or is this not the kind of
thing that you expect from a memoir?
17. What do you find most appealing about Ohlson's voice as a writer?
Which aspects of her character do you most and least identify with?