Contemplation and the Lay Cistercian Life

My latest column is now online at Patheos. It’s called Beholding the One Who Beholds Us and, as always, you can access it by following the link.

It’s my most personal column to date. In it I talk about my recent profession of life promises as a Lay Cistercian, and explain how that is related to my sense of being called to a contemplative life — even though, technically speaking, I live a “mixed” life since I aspire to contemplation without formally entering monastic life.

Please take a moment to check it out — and let me know what you think.

Creative Conversation Begins with Contemplative Compassion
Emptiness and Non-Attachment
Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?
Why Trappists Make Great Spiritual Guides
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Mona Pineda


    I loved this so much. I begin my discernment to become a Benedictine oblate at Benet Hill Monastery this summer…and I am often asked, ‘What in the world does that mean?’. This article articulated it for me very well! I’m passing it on to my friends.

    Peace on your journey,


  • Lourdes

    No words, I just love these kind of things. I love contemplative life, I admire contemplative nuns and monks, I love monastic life.

  • Al Jordan

    Loved this article. The title, itself, “Beholding the one who beholds us,” is transporting. This is really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

    Also very much appreciated the clarity and sense of devotion with which you describe your embrace of the Benedictine path.

  • Michael Kennedy

    Congratulations to you and your wife.

    My journey is a stop start affair. In silence in try to go within to pay attention to the Christ within me.

    • Carl McColman

      Thanks, Michael. A point of clarification: my wife stood beside me as my witness; she has not (yet) entered the formal life of a Lay Cistercian. Of course, she’s a better contemplative than I am, so she doesn’t need it as much as I do!

  • Mark

    Carl: Your article gives as eloquent a definition of contemplation as I’ve read in a long time: Beholding the One who beholds us. In her book, “Writing the Icon of the Heart,” Maggie Ross notes how the word “behold” has been expunged from so many modern translations of the Bible, especially in the NT. “Remember that I am with you always even to the end of the ages” just doesn’t convey the same thing as “Behold….”

    • Carl McColman

      Yes Mark, Maggie Ross’s writing about the lost concept of “beholding” — which is also prominent in the writings of the medieval English mystics — has been instrumental in helping me to see (pardon the pun) how essential the concept is to understanding contemplation.