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.

Celtic Monks Observed Three Lents Each Year — Perhaps We Should Too

When we think of Celtic spirituality in our day, we might think of nature mysticism, or of poetry and storytelling, or even of a holistic spirituality that embodies the best of both paganism and Christianity. But what we often forget is how important monasteries were to the ancient Celts.St. Brigid was the abbess of a great monastery. So was St. Kevin, and St. Brendan, and St. Columcille. The sites we think of as great Celtic Holy Sites: Kildare, Glendalough, Clonmacnoise, Skellig Michael, … [Read more...]

What is the relationship between Christian prayer and meditation?

A reader named Bill wrote to me recently and asked this question: How does a church pray as a group? Is there a place in the church for intercession and supplication? Should a congregation pray as a group? There is very little interest in prayer or teaching on prayer in the church I attend, although great interest in meditation and contemplation. This appears to be a contradiction in terms but sadly it is not. I’m just confused. Should not the Church be a “house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13)? Shou … [Read more...]

Mystery of the Missing Silence

To you, silence is praise, O God in Zion: and unto You shall the vow be fulfilled. ~ Psalm 65; Stone/Artscroll TranslationEveryone knows that nuances and shades of meaning get lost in translation. This is why Muslims insist on praying and reading the Quran in Arabic, and why up until about forty years ago, the Catholic mass was always prayed in Latin. Even the most artful and scholarly of translators will face countless challenges when attempting to render idioms, metaphors, puns, and words … [Read more...]

Wisdom and the Wild Goose — Coming to the Mountains of North Carolina this July

Friends, I'd like to invite you to join me at a special event called "Wisdom Camp" which takes place in western North Carolina this coming July 13 — the first day of the 2017 Wild Goose Festival.For that matter, I'd like to invite you to the Wild Goose Festival as well. Let me tell you about both events.Wisdom Camp asks the question "Is there a higher, deeper, or more joyful way to pursue the healing of our world?" So many of us give generously to working for healing, justice, re … [Read more...]

“Even the Depths of God” — A Brief Meditation

Here are two verses from the New Testament for your consideration.First: For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. — I Corinthians 2:10 And: Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. — Romans 5:5 Please join with me in reflecting on these two verses.First, the Holy Spirit of God is a gift, given to us. This is hardly controversial: Jesus  himself breathed on his disc … [Read more...]

Holy Wells: “Icons” of Celtic Spirituality

In my last post I made several references to Holy Wells as thin places. From the Chalice Well in western England, to Tobernault in northwest Ireland, to countless wells throughout the Celtic lands dedicated to St. Brigid or other much loved saints — Holy Wells (water sources that serve as places of prayer and veneration) are icons of the Celtic spirit.There is no “standard” Holy Well — they come in many forms. Some are wells are in the traditional sense, complete with round walls surrounding … [Read more...]

Thin Places: Are they Celtic, pre-Celtic, or Universal?

I first heard of the notion of Thin Places the first time I visited Glendalough, the ancient monastery nestled in a glacial valley south of Dublin. We were there on a crisp October day, the forest filled with hardwoods dancing with autumn colors. Even as I stood in the carpark after first arriving, I could sense something special about the place; and when our tourguide told us about “thin places,” my eyes danced with the gleam of recognition.“Glendalough is a thin place,” he said. “What i … [Read more...]