A Memoir with a Message

As part of the Patheos Book Club, I've recently read Operating on Faith: A Painfully True Love Story by Matt Weber. Weber is the author of Fearing the Stigmata, about his search as a young Catholic for a "culturally relevant faith;" he also hosts a CatholicTV show and plenty of his videos can be found on Youtube. Like other young Catholic authors, Weber is known for using humor and whimsy to illustrate how the timeless truths of Catholicism still matter in our postmodern … [Read more...]

John Cassian: The Leap Year Contemplative

February 29 is the feast day of St. John Cassian — who, in addition to being a "leap year saint" is also one of the most important early contemplatives in the Christian tradition.Cassian (ca. 360-435) brought monasticism — and, therefore, contemplative spirituality — from the deserts of the Middle East to Western Europe. His birthplace is uncertain, but by the 380s he was living in a monastery in Bethlehem; subsequently he left that location to travel the deserts of Egypt, where he and his sp … [Read more...]

Is America No Longer a “Christian Nation”?

Norman Wirzba, who teaches Christian theology at Duke Divinity School, has written a sobering article in which, based on the kind of rhetoric that we see during our presidential campaign this year, he declares that "Christian America" has come to an end.What makes a nation, or a people, or a land, "Christian" is not the number of churches we have or the popularity of Christian culture. A "Christian nation" is marked by its commitment to Godly values such as love, mercy, forgiveness, c … [Read more...]

Faith, Doubt and Perseverance

A couple of years ago, Bart Ehrman's book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee caused a bit of a ruckus among conservative Christians. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who admits to being a post-Christian agnostic, has been controversial in many corners of the church for some time now; indeed, five evangelical scholars published a book critiquing How Jesus Became God with the appropriate if unimaginative title How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Je … [Read more...]

The 2016 Presidential Candidate Prayer Challenge: Are You In?

As a blogger, I tend to avoid politics like it's radioactive. Not because I don't have political views (I do, and they're rather strong), but because of my conviction that contemplative prayer is for everyone — not just people who hold the same political views as I do. Unfortunately, the way the Internet echo-chamber works, far too many readers tend only to read writers with whom we agree (and ignore, or argue with, those with whom we don't). Since my goal is to promote silent prayer, if I star … [Read more...]

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...]


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