The Mystical Body

How do we embody the contemplative life? And how does the contemplative life make a difference in our bodies (both as individuals and collectively)?Fran and I had dinner the other night with a charming couple named Ray and Lee. We had met Ray a few weeks earlier when I spoke at a UU Church here in Atlanta; like so many spiritual seekers of our time, Ray has been a wanderer, setting forth from his conservative Protestant upbringing to explore eastern spiritual paths such as Tibetan Buddhism … [Read more...]

Remembering the Three Dimensions of Prayer at Every Mass

Do you know why Catholics make three small crosses with their thumb — on their forehead, their lips, and their hearts — at every Mass when the Gospel reading is announced?Here is insight into this practice from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults: At Mass when the reading of the Gospel begins, we place the sign of the Cross on our foreheads, lips, and hearts and pray, “May the Lord be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.” Lips, minds, and hearts—these symbolize three kin … [Read more...]

Joyful Sanctity

What is the relationship between holiness and joy?A reader named Gordon writes, in response to my concerns about how "experience" can be misunderstood in a spiritual context:I agree with you that experience is not there for entertainment. But given my background in a very dreary fundamentalist religious upbringing, I always find the word "holy" very off-putting. It connotes too much the grey, dreary community of believers in the movie Babette's Feast that meet weekly for dreary worship. … [Read more...]

St. Benedict and the Prosperity Gospel

This past Tuesday night my wife and I went with some 19,000 other folks to hear Hillsong United, the Australia praise band famous for their song "Oceans," which is the closest thing I've ever heard to an actual contemplative piece of contemporary Christian music. It was quite the extravaganza: over two hours of praise music, the songs punctuated by earnest mini-sermons from the various band members on the necessity of forming or reaffirming an intimate relationship with Jesus, who loves us and wa … [Read more...]

Recommended Reading for Spiritual Accompaniment

Spiritual direction, also known as spiritual accompaniment, is an essential ministry for anyone seeking to embrace contemplative Christianity. Not only is it a vital and beautiful ministry to receive, but many find meaning and value in providing this kind of soul friendship and guidance to others.Recently a reader of this blog wrote to me and asked, "Do you have a list of books you recommend that discuss spiritual direction?" It has been over twenty years since my own formation as a sp … [Read more...]

The Place of Joy in Christian Spirituality

What is the relationship between prayer and joy? If we enjoy our prayer, does that mean we are avoiding the hard work of spirituality (which, at least in Christian terms, is meant to make us holy, not to entertain us)?I had an interesting little exchange on Facebook the other day, when a reader, who is a priest of the Church of England, took exception to the headline of my post from last year, called Five Ways You Can Enjoy a Deeper Personal Prayer Life.Reacting simply to that post's … [Read more...]

Reviving an old page from my first blog

Reading books about the spiritual life can be a substitute for actually devoting time each day to prayer. So if you have to choose between prayer and reading, make prayer your priority. Nevertheless, one of the best ways to nurture an ongoing prayer practice is to devote some time each day to reading nurturing and inspiring books — including books by and about the great Christian mystics.In 2007 (hard to believe it's been almost a decade), I set up my first Wordpress blog (Wordpress is one o … [Read more...]