What is Christian Mysticism? (Video)

Last week I posted a video about Julian of Norwich which is the first of a series of videos in which I talk about various topics related to the Christian mysticism and contemplative spirituality. Here is the follow-up to that video, where I try to answer the question, "What is Christian Mysticism?" It's based on Karl Rahner's often quoted soundbite that "the Christian of the future will be a mystic or... will not exist."So what is mysticism? It's one of those words that has been used by … [Read more...]

One Step Christians Must Take To Receive the Gift of Illumination

In his wonderful book about the present and future of Christian mysticism, "Arise, My Love...", author William Johnston, SJ tells a charming study about one of his brother Jesuits, Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle, who made an arduous journey to Thailand to meet with a renowned Buddhist teacher called Buddhadasa. Like Johnston, Enomiya-Lassalle was engaged in Buddhist-Catholic dialogue, so a meeting like this would have been significant for his work.After arriving in Bangkok and riding on a rickety old … [Read more...]

Five Ideas that Shape Contemplative Prayer

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Chris Anderson's TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. If your work in any way involves public speaking, I heartily encourage you to give it a listen. Chris is a humble and charming enough speaker in his own right, but fortified with tips and tricks, the do's and don't's, from the best speakers to give talks at TED Conferences over the years, the book provides an excellent survey of what really makes a speech effective.And one … [Read more...]

Who is Julian of Norwich?

Here is a video filmed about a year and a half ago in which I talk about Julian of Norwich, one of the greatest of Christian mystics and the first woman to write a book in the English language, Revelations of Divine Love.Julian lived from late 1342 to probably around 1412. We know very little about her — indeed, we don't even know her real name, for "Julian of Norwich" refers to her parish church, St. Julian's Church in the English town of Norwich. Julian lived as an anchoress — a woman who g … [Read more...]

Seven Important Bible Verses About Silence

Catholics (and other Christians) can be a noisy bunch. I'm always a bit surprised when I visit a church just before Mass and it's filled with chatter. Maybe I'm showing my age here, but I recall as a boy that visiting a church was like visiting a library — it was a place reserved for the utmost silence.Of course, to be fair, nowadays many libraries seem to be pretty chatty places as well.Contemplatives intuitively recognize that silence is the lingua franca of the spiritual life. Silence … [Read more...]

Taqiya, Suspicion, and the Sermon on the Mount (What happened when a Catholic Church invited a Muslim grandmother to visit)

The other night a Muslim woman spoke at my church. Her name is Moina Shaiq, originally from Pakistan, now living in the Bay Area of California. She has a ministry called, simply enough, Meet a Muslim. A mother and grandmother, she has lived in America now almost 40 years.Through "Meet a Muslim" she offers to connect with people of other faiths for dialogue and conversation. She had spoken at the Disciples of Christ Church across the street from our parish, and the minister there recommended h … [Read more...]

Seven Essential Books on the Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

The headwaters of the Christian contemplative and mystical tradition — aside from the Bible, of course — is the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, hermits and early monks and nuns who lived in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine and Syrian in the third and fourth centuries.A literature of stories, parables, wisdom teachings, biographies, and even travelogues grew up around the lives and sayings of the Desert dwellers, giving us valuable insight into early Christian understandings of com … [Read more...]