Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives

Tibetan Buddhists have a series of spiritual exercises that are seen as foundational to their spiritual practice: a sort of "spiritual boot camp." They are called ngöndro or in English, "preliminary practices."The aspirant who wishes to attain enlightenment begins with these preliminary exercises, which include a series of 100,000 prostrations and a variety of chants designed to purify the individual of impediments such as jealousy, attachment, or delusion. According to Thubten Chodron, "The … [Read more...]

Busting the “Goody Two Shoes” Stereotype of Saints

One of the perks of being a Patheos blogger is the opportunity to review books for the Patheos Book Club. It's a good program: the publisher provides Patheos with a carton of books, which are then distributed among the bloggers; our job is the read the books and write an honest response. Several of the book reviews I've posted here over the last few years have been part of this program.Obviously the idea is to review books that are consistent with your blog's overall focus. It wouldn't make … [Read more...]

Is Mysticism Genetic?

A reader of this blog named Chris writes: I have been studying the German medieval mystics and I am strangely drawn to them. My ancestry is strongly German and my historical spiritual roots are there. Does God encode us with a certain kind of spiritual mystical DNA? I can't help but wonder if Christian mysticism runs in my family and ancenstry? Chris, thank you for your question. For me it immediately brings to mind the Star Wars myth, where Luke Skywalker learns that his strength in The Force … [Read more...]

Pentecost and Ecstasy

A reader of my blog named Paul emailed me the following question: I realize this is a difficult question to answer because of its lack of specificity, however any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.  The Pentecostal experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, is it the same thing as experiencing the ecstasy of God? Thanks for your question, even though it does indeed lack specificity! It's a huge question, and I doubt that I can do it justice. So here are just a few thoughts, and I h … [Read more...]

Emptiness and Non-Attachment

Last week I wrote about the difference between how Catholics understand meditation and contemplation, based on material found in the Catholic Catechism. A reader left the following comment on that post: We rest in God. But we do not empty our minds. We are always in communication with God. Prayer is focusing on God and we praise him for who He is, we intercede for others, and we put our requests to Him. We align our wills with His in prayer. Never do we make our minds a 'spiritual vacuum' for … [Read more...]

Catholic Meditation and Contemplative Prayer: What’s the Difference?

A reader of my blog wrote to me and asked this question: What do you see is the difference between Catholic meditation and contemplative prayer?  It's a great question, made complicated by the fact that words like meditation and contemplation can be used in a variety of ways, especially in society at large.For example, many people may associate "meditation" with eastern or secular practices such as zen or mindfulness meditation, exercises that are primarily a form of self-knowledge or self- … [Read more...]

Entering the Year of Mercy: Are You Willing to Take the “Rahner Challenge”?

So today is the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council.It's also the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis. Which is a wonderful way to honor Vatican II — a year devoted not only to seeking God's mercy, but to reflecting on how the Body of Christ can be mercy, can bring mercy to a world that seems increasingly fraught by violence, fear, and injustice.What does it mean to be God's mercy, to bring's God mercy to a world where mass sho … [Read more...]


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