Advent Retreat (My Last Retreat for 2017)

Friends, the last retreat I’ll be directing for 2017 will take place on December 15-17 at the Ignatius House Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA. It’s an Advent retreat, and the theme is Preparing for the Silent Night. This will be an intimate retreat, with an emphasis on finding a moment for rest and renewal in the midst of what is often a far-too busy time of year. Take a sacred pause and remember the beauty of Advent — embrace the… Read more

What Can We Learn from that Foolish St. Francis?

Today’s guest contributor is Jon M. Sweeney, author of  The Saint Francis Holy Fool Prayer Book. Read Jon’s previous post on Saint Francis here: What Do Gene Kelly and St. Francis Have in Common? What a Fool Francis Was. When Francis of Assisi acted like a fool 800 years ago, they called him pazzo. That’s Italian for crazy. So we can’t avoid terms like “crazy” and “dumb” – words that make us understandably uncomfortable – when talking about holy fools. See my previous post,… Read more

If You Could Capture Contemplation on a DVD, It Might Be a Lot Like This…

One of my favorite movies is finally becoming available on blu-ray and DVD: In Pursuit of Silence. If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I’m in love with this film. If you’re new to my blog, you can read my review of the movie from back in the spring of 2016, when it was making the film festival circuit: In Pursuit of Silence: A Quiet Movie With Much to Say Basically, this movie matters because… Read more

What do Gene Kelly and St. Francis have in common?

Today’s post is by a guest contributor: Jon M. Sweeney, author of numerous books including The Saint Francis Holy Fool Prayer Book. I’ll always remember the day I decided to introduce my daughter to one of my favorite movies, Singing in the Rain. We sat and watched it together on the couch. She didn’t wiggle much and laughed at the right places. But then we got to the title song and dance number and there was Gene Kelly, blissfully enjoying a rainstorm…. Read more

How to Find a Mystical Teacher, Part Two

This post is a sequel to my post from last week called How to Find a Mystical Teacher. The person who originally wrote to me, responding to that post, in which I argued for the importance of embedding our quest for mystical training with engagement in a community of faith. She wrote: I do attend a local church.  After a long search, I have found a church home in the Episcopalian Church (ECUSA).  And, I do study the Bible.  I… Read more

How to Find a Mystical Teacher

A reader sent me this message the other day: I am loving your book, Christian Mystics, as I read it. I, myself, am tending to that life, and I have tried to find another, experienced Christian mystic from whom I can receive guidance. But, so far, I’ve only found two, a monk and a nun. I tried to contact the monk, but it turns out he is totally withdrawn to a life of prayer and meditation and doesn’t give guidance such… Read more

Six Books on Christian Spirituality (and the Order in Which to Read Them)

It’s always a little awkward to write about my own books. But today’s post is in response to a reader of my blog who asked me this question: Carl, Is there an order in which you would recommend reading your books? Is there a flow? Thanks for asking. I’m only going to address the books I’ve written or edited since becoming a Catholic — there are five in print now, and a sixth one is coming out next spring. They… Read more

On Discerning the Meaning of Spiritual Experience

A reader of my blog writes: How do you know if a certain spiritual experience is God-inspired, ego-driven, or tricks of the devil. How do you discern the meaning of such an experience? Can you give me some clues? This is the kind of thing that a number of mystics struggled with — including some of the greatest spiritual teachers of the Christian tradition, luminaries like St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and St. Teresa of Ávila…. Read more

Some thoughts on Non-Dualism (East and West) and Single-Mindedness

A reader on Facebook recently asked me: How do Eastern and Western non dualism differ? So here’s my reply… It’s a great question and I’m not sure anyone can truly answer it. Not only are there profound cultural, philosophical, and theological differences between eastern and western wisdom traditions, but also subtle but real differences in the ways that meditation is taught and practiced. Finally, even if someone tries to master both “eastern” and “western” approaches to contemplation, the person’s personality,… Read more

Five Elements of a Daily Contemplative Practice — and Four Principles for Cultivating Your Practice

Recently a reader of this blog posted this question: Just curious Carl — what does your typical schedule look like? How do you put it all together? I think the larger question here is how can anyone — not just me — cultivate a daily contemplative practice. So I’ll answer the question, but then I want to reflect on the question of a regular practice in general. Forgive me for humbly declining to directly answer your question. If I describe my practice, some… Read more

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