A friend on Facebook a few weeks back asked me what is the relationship between mysticism and separatism. Put another way: does the mystical life inherently involve a quest for separation — from the world, the flesh, the body, basically from all that is “not-God”? In other words, does our quest for union with God necessarily imply withdrawing from anything and everything that threatens to hold us back from God? Certainly mystical traditions from around the world — not just… Read more

Check out this insightful, evocative quotation from Barbara A. Holme’s wonderful book Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices in the Black Church: Those who study contemplation have assumed that the difference between European and Africana approaches to contemplation is the presence or lack of silence … We tend to presume that one must create silent spaces for contemplation. It is as if we have drawn the spiritual veil around contemplative activity, seeking to distance prayerful and reflective practices from the noise of the… Read more

A Jesuit priest, a Trappist monk, and a Tibetan buddhist walked into a bar. (No, this is not a joke). A sign above the bar said, “Free drinks to everyone in your party, if you can all agree on a definition of the word “contemplation.” Two hours later, the Buddhist and the two Catholics were very thirsty — and still arguing. Contemplation is one of those words that, frankly, means different things to different people. Even religious people can’t figure… Read more

Last week I attended a book signing here in Atlanta, in which Jon Sweeney promoted his new biography, Phyllis Tickle: A Life. I’ve known Jon for years — we share a love for Cistercian spirituality and he edited my book The Lion, the Mouse and the Dawn Treader. But I wasn’t there just for Jon — I’m also very much a Phyllis Tickle fan, and relished hearing stories about the woman I’ve called “the merry doyenne of the ’emerging church’ movement.” Phyllis… Read more

What is the difference between centering prayer and Ignatian spirituality? To answer this question, let’s consider the difference between meditation and contemplation — or, perhaps we could say, the difference between a beautiful painting and the expansive wall on which it is hung. A reader of this blog recently posted this on Facebook: As I work with people interested in Centering Pray I also find an interest in Jesuit Spirituality. Could you do a short compare and contrast, or at… Read more

Richard Rohr — author of numerous books on the contemplative dimension of spirituality, including Everything Belongs and The Naked Now — is the guest on our latest episode of the Encountering Silence podcast. Cassidy, Kevin and I recorded a Skype conversation with Fr. Richard earlier this month, where he joined us from his hermitage in New Mexico, to reflect with us on the relationship between silence and contemplation, between contemplation and action, the importance of Thomas Merton in his own spiritual development, and the… Read more

There are still a few openings in the class I’m teaching in Manhattan on April 22, 2018. If you live in or near New York, I hope I’ll see you there. The class is called Be Still and Know: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Christian Contemplation and Meditation. Click on the title to learn more or to register. It runs on Sunday, April 22, from 9:30 AM to 4 PM, at the New York Open Center on 30th Street. Of… Read more

I have spent the last several days simply devouring Richard Rohr’s newest book, Essential Teachings on Love. It’s the latest volume of Orbis Books’s wonderful “Modern Spiritual Masters” series. As a compendium of writings spanning pretty much the entirety of Rohr’s career, this book is an excellent introduction to the key contours of his ideas and teaching. But it’s not just a book for people who are new to Richard. Since it is arranged chronologically, with ample commentary provided by the… Read more

I created this video using photographs that Fran and I took in Norwich, along with a few book covers and a wonderful photo of the stained glass of Julian in Norwich Cathedral, used by permission of the photographer. It’s just a brief little introduction to who Julian is, and why she matters. Less than 3 minutes long. Hope you enjoy it. And please, share it far and wide! The books that are featured in the video are two of my… Read more

Here is the final installment of my Lenten series on Lectio Divina I’m calling  Lectio Divina Diligens. Click on the link to read about this idea, if you’re not familiar with it. March 25 brings Lent to a close with Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of Holy Week. This week let’s reflect on the first reading, found in Isaiah 50:4-7. Lectio — reading 4 The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to answer the weary a… Read more

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