Cloister of the Heart

The other day I had a wonderful chat with a friend of mine who is a Lay Cistercian and who regularly makes retreats at the monastery where I work. As Lay Cistercians, we have a unique perspective on monastic spirituality and what it can mean for those of us who are not, and not called to be, monks. Lay Cistercians, incidentally, are like Benedictine Oblates, Secular Franciscans, or Third Order Carmelites: people who are not called to the consecrated religious life, but who are nonetheless drawn … [Read more...]

Concerning Rest, Rest-less-ness and Formation

Here are the final questions from my friend's questionnaire, on issues related to Sabbath, rest, restlessness (or, "rest-less-ness"), and formation. Although she is writing specifically about how these issues impact those in Christian ministry, I believe the issues raised are germane to us all. If you want to see my responses to the first two sets of questions, look here and here.Questions concerning FormationWhat do you hear, when Jesus says: "Come to me, all you who labor and are … [Read more...]

Concerning Human Rest-Less-Ness

Here are my replies to my friend’s questionnaire: the second part, which deals with the topic of Human “Rest-less-ness.”What robs you of peace? What gets in the way of your resting? What makes you feel restless? What is it that we “lack” when we are “rest-less”? My own compulsions, probably more than anything else. My tendency to compulsive behavior not only keeps me busy (often with tasks that do not in themselves truly nurture my soul), but also introduces a sense of anxiety: if I don't do t … [Read more...]

Concerning Human Rest

Last week I posted a series of questions from a friend of mine who is writing her dissertation on the theology of rest and the role that rest plays in the life of Christian ministers. Now, for my answers to her first set of questions:What gives you rest? What do you find restful? When we say “beautiful,” we mean “full of beauty;” then, what are we “full of” when we are restful? What does it mean to call something restful? For me, rest is all about unstructured time. It's an opportunity to live … [Read more...]

On Learning a Musical Instrument as a Metaphor for Contemplative Practice

I'm a beginner with the bass guitar. I bought an inexpensive Ibanez bass the January before last and took about four months of lessons, but then stopped as I got more involved in writing my book on Christian mysticism. Now, over a year later, the book is on my editor's desk and I've resumed working with the bass. Thanks to a rather lucrative freelancing job I had earlier this year, I've upgraded my gear and am now learning with a Rickenbacker bass (I am not worthy to be playing such a wonderful … [Read more...]

Christianity, Islam & Buddhism (or, Two Conversations)

I had two conversations yesterday with two different people. While on the surface they seem to be entirely different conversations concerning different matters, on reflection I see that they are two aspects of the same discourse. They both involved the question of how Christianity (and individual Christians) ought to be relating to other religious traditions (and the practitioners of those traditions). Here's what happened:First, someone forwarded to my wife an alarmist video about projected … [Read more...]

Cloister Talks

Cloister Talks: Learning from My Friends the Monks By Jon M. Sweeney Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009 Review by Carl McColmanMonasteries are archetypal. Even for Protestants who live in a religious milieu that does not include monastic communities, monks and nuns (and their communal way of life) symbolize either strong positive or negative concepts: at worst, they represent religious decadence or hypocrisy, no doubt a lingering after-effect of the hostilities of the reformation era or the … [Read more...]