In the Introduction to Cloister and Community, Mary Jo Weaver describes the evolution of her plan for the book, originally intended as a short architectural history of the Carmelite monastery in Indianapolis. Weaver soon realized that she would have to include the story of Teresa of Avila and her reform movement, as well as the stories of those who have lived in the community in Indiana. She describes the result as "a tapestry," in which various threads have been woven together to bring the monastery and its residents into a new millennium.
Over the centuries since Teresa and the decades since the founding of this particular monastery, the meaning of the vows, especially poverty, of enclosure, and of religious life itself have also evolved. Today, the Carmelites of Indianapolis even have their own website, www.praythenews.com, which allows visitors to learn about contemplative prayer, to meet the sisters, and to get a glimpse into their daily lives.
Weaver uses the six stages in the building and modification of the monastery as the framework for her six chapters. In each, she weaves together details of the project, facets of Teresa's life and reform, and stories of the sisters in Indiana. This is, for the most part, quite effective. Her work supports her observation that the "community that began in 1932 as a group living in a sacred space apart from the world has changed over time into a community that sees the world itself as a sacred space."
As a liturgical historian and feminist writer, I found the later chapters, where Weaver traces the influence of Teilhard de Chardin, the anticipation of and then changes flowing from Vatican II, and the contemporary life of the sisters intriguing. But she also provides valuable information about, and references in her footnotes for, the developments in the early centuries of Western Christianity that led to the cloistering of women religious.
[One small observation of my own: with pages that measure 7-1/2"x11" and a very tight binding, this is a book that is challenging to hold and read.]