What To Do When Your Prayer Doesn’t Get ‘In The Zone’

Front Gate, Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers GA

A reader named Kevin wrote the following comment to me on Facebook, in response to my recent post Why Is "Mysticism" a Dirty Word. Thanks Carl, interesting points. I was wondering if I could pick your brain on something...when I meditate/contemplate on my breath (I have a semi regular habit) I only seem to get "in the zone" of a peaceful meditative state about 1 session in 10. The rest of the time not much happens. Is this normal? Am I expecting too much? I'm getting a bit … [Read more...]

Why Is “Mysticism” A Dirty Word?

Andrew Louth is one of numerous scholars who criticize "mysticism" as a controversial or useless category.

In the introduction to her book Writing the Icon of the Heart, Maggie Ross makes this rather in-your-face claim: The word 'mystic'... has, in my view, become entirely useless. It has acquired nuances of romanticism, exoticism and self-absorption. In addition, far too many studies of 'mysticism' and 'spirituality' are based on a modern and narcissistic notion of 'experience' as self-authenticating that corresponds neither to the way the brain works nor to notions of experience in the ancient and … [Read more...]

What Good is Religion? A Contemplative Perspective

Religion gives us far more than just beautiful buildings (Holy Spirit Abbey photographed by Haven Sweet; used with permission of the photographer)

Bloggers on Patheos have been asked to reflect on the question "What Good is Religion?" this month. I figured it might be worth pondering from a contemplative perspective.When I was a young man I was fond of saying that religion brought out the best in people and it brought out the worst in people. For the best, I'd cite Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Dorothy Day as exemplars. Nowadays I might add Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis to the list. For the worst, I'd mention Jim Jones (of the People's … [Read more...]

Rocking Justice & Spirituality: Like the Two Movements of the Breath

TEOTS

When I met the Anglican writer Kenneth Leech, who is one of my heroes, he told me a funny but sad story.I mentioned to him that one of my favorite books of his was The Eye of the Storm: Spiritual Resources for the Pursuit of Justice. I loved it (and still do) because it is an eloquent statement of why Christian spirituality necessarily includes a commitment to making the world a more peaceful and just place. He explained to me how he was inspired to write the book.At some point in the … [Read more...]

Social Media… and Silence

Facebook_logo(2)

Hi. My name is Carl and I'm a Facebook addict.("Hi, Carl!")This past weekend, against my better judgment, I got into an unpleasant debate in a Facebook group with a young person whom I do not know. No need to go into details here — let's just say that by the end, nobody was edified. Much of my weekend got swallowed up in a back-and-forth conversation that generated much more heat than light. I'm embarrassed that I allowed myself to get so thoroughly triggered, and that I kept going back f … [Read more...]

Sister Joan Chittister and the Way of Paradox

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0804140944/earthmystic

A mature spiritual life embraces paradox. And paradox lies at the heart of Sister Joan Chittister's newest book, Between the Dark and the Daylight. The subtitle of the book is "Embracing the Contradictions of Life" but I think paradox would be a better word here. As physicist Niels Bohr put it, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” It is profound truths which Chittister explores in this book, and for th … [Read more...]

Meet the Newest Doctor of the Church: Saint Gregory of Narek

Armenian manuscript of 1173

Vatican Radio announced earlier this week that Pope Francis has declared a tenth century Armenian saint and mystic, Saint Gregory of Narek (Grigor Narekatsi), a Doctor of the Universal Church.St. Gregory of Narek is the first new Doctor of the Church appointed by Pope Francis. The last saints to be given this title were Sts. Hildegard of Bingen and Juan of Avila, conferred by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. Before that, the last Doctor of the Church was St. Thérèse of Lisieux, declared by Pope Jo … [Read more...]


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