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...]

Seven Tips for Returning to Church (After Being Away for Awhile)

Have you been away from parish life for a while, but now feel like returning?  You're not alone.Every now and then I hear from someone who, because they are interested in mysticism or contemplation, decide to participate in their neighborhood parish or congregation. Problem is, they left church many years ago (perhaps as a teenager or young adult) and now, deeply interested in the spiritual life, they recognize that they need a communal expression of faith but they simply find returning to ch … [Read more...]

Why do Mystics Love the Church?

For a long time now, I've been fascinated by people who self-define as "spiritual but not religious" (or "spiritually independent," or "none" or some variation thereof) — in other words, people who see the Church or "institutional religion" as overly legalistic, spiritually stifling, hidebound, more concerned with enforcing morality than seeking enlightenment. I don't speak out of judgment, for at times in my life, I've been there myself.Part of what fascinates me is how many SBNR folks, de … [Read more...]