Remembering (and Praying with) Evelyn Underhill

Today (June 15, 2016) marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of Evelyn Underhill, the Anglo-Catholic writer who probably did more than anyone else in the first half of the twentieth century to promote Christian mysticism as a spiritual path for everyone, not just priests or saints, monks or nuns. In this way she anticipated the Second Vatican Council and its affirmation of a "universal call to holiness." Underhill is best remembered for her landmark book Mysticism: A Study in the … [Read more...]

Who’s Who Among the Christian Mystics…

My friends, I'm happy to announce my forthcoming book, due in October 2016.Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints and Sages is a companion volume to The Big Book of Christian Mysticism. I originally envisioned including a section in that book that would serve as a sort of who’s who of mysticism, with entries for all the major figures that gave biographical informa-tion, key teachings or ideas, and a representative quote or two. For a variety of reasons, that never came to pass, and so The Big B … [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...]

Happy St. Hildegard’s Day!

One of the most colorful and remarkable of mystics, of any age, is the irrepressible twelfth century Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Today (September 17) is her feast day.Hildegard was a Renaissance woman who lived several centuries before the Renaissance: not only was she a mystic and visionary, but she was also an accomplished musician, an artist (or, at least, an art director), a preacher, an herbalist, a prophet, and a respected leader in the church of her day. She lived at a … [Read more...]

Why Is “Mysticism” A Dirty Word?

In the introduction to her book Writing the Icon of the Heart, Maggie Ross makes this rather in-your-face claim: The word 'mystic'... has, in my view, become entirely useless. It has acquired nuances of romanticism, exoticism and self-absorption. In addition, far too many studies of 'mysticism' and 'spirituality' are based on a modern and narcissistic notion of 'experience' as self-authenticating that corresponds neither to the way the brain works nor to notions of experience in the ancient and … [Read more...]

Meet the Newest Doctor of the Church: Saint Gregory of Narek

Vatican Radio announced earlier this week that Pope Francis has declared a tenth century Armenian saint and mystic, Saint Gregory of Narek (Grigor Narekatsi), a Doctor of the Universal Church.St. Gregory of Narek is the first new Doctor of the Church appointed by Pope Francis. The last saints to be given this title were Sts. Hildegard of Bingen and Juan of Avila, conferred by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. Before that, the last Doctor of the Church was St. Thérèse of Lisieux, declared by Pope Jo … [Read more...]

Seven Essential Thomas Merton Books

Today is the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton's birth.To celebrate this day here is a list of seven books I would recommend to anyone who wants a grounding in Merton's life and wisdom, without having to read all of his many books. With over seventy titles to his name, it can be daunting to approach his work, especially for the first time. I hope this list will help readers to find the key themes and insights of his body of work; and even if you are a long-standing fan of Merton, maybe … [Read more...]