Monastic Life from the Inside

Recently I have read two wonderful books that offer a glimpse into the life of a Trappist monk and Trappistine nun. Both books are autobiographical, yet imbued with a deep and rich spirituality. Both of the authors entered the cloister before Vatican II, went on to become an abbot or abbess of their respective communities, and are still alive today. Taken together, these books celebrate the down-to-earth simplicity and beauty of monastic life as lived in our time — and for those of us who are n … [Read more...]

Finding Faith in Midlife

Talk about a trip down memory lane.Richard Cole's Catholic By Choice: Why I Embraced the Faith, Joined the Church, and Embarked On the Adventure of a Lifetime (Loyola Press) recounts the story of how the author, at midlife, suddenly embraced the Catholic faith, even though he had spent most of his adult life looking down on religiously devout people as somehow mentally or emotionally deficient. Raised a mainline Protestant, like so many members of his (my) generation, Cole never gave the … [Read more...]

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, and today I want to celebrate two such persons in particular.I could have called this blog post "A Tale of Two Walters," for both of these men share that same slightly nerdy first name. Both are the subjects of recently published books: a biography of one; a memoir by the other. Each of these men died in 2012, and both were not only renowned, but controversial, for their commitment to social justice and progressive theology. Finally, both embodied a deep and … [Read more...]

Spirituality for the Second Half of Life… and Beyond

It's been almost three years now since the release of Richard Rohr's Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. But in that short time, it seems that this book has already become something of a minor classic, thanks to its insightful consideration of how the spiritual blessings, challenges, and concerns of people in the "second half of life" differ markedly from those in the first half. The first half is typically about building one's life: establishing identity, discerning and … [Read more...]

The Silence of the Heart

In its very last paragraph, Norris J. Chumley describes Be Still and Know, his new book on contemplative silence (hesychia), as a "research study." And therein lies what is both wonderful and frustrating about this book.First, the frustration: the book reads like someone's PhD dissertation. While Chumley provides a concise historical survey of the development of hesychasm, or the practice of meditative silence through the Orthodox Jesus Prayer (Prayer of the Heart), and follows up the … [Read more...]

Seven Books I Hope to Read in 2014

Are you looking for a book or two to read, on the topics of contemplation or mysticism?I thought I'd offer a twist on the typical blog post where books get reviewed. Here is a list of seven books I hope to read, ideally sometime this year. Some of these books are brand new, others a few years old, others older still. They all touch on contemplative prayer, the Christian mystery, and/or interspirituality, in some form or fashion. A disclaimer: copies of three of these seven books were s … [Read more...]

Keeping Spirituality Grounded

One of the pitfalls of contemplative practice is that we can easily get stuck in our heads. Combing through the Bible or other books for lectio divina, investing time to daily prayer and meditation, and nurturing our faith through study or devotional reading — these are all fine pursuits, but, especially when combined with the kind of white collar work so common in western society, they can result in a spirituality that is abstract, overly mental, and divorced from the messy realities of li … [Read more...]


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