How to Cultivate Your “Contemplative Ecosystem”

Recently I had a wonderful conversation with Kevin Johnson, who contributes to the Inner Room blog here at Patheos. Kevin shares my deep conviction that contemplative practice forms an essential aspect of mature Christian discipleship.Among other things, we talked about how contemplative practice needs a supportive "ecosystem" so that meaningful attentiveness to God's deep silence can truly occur.So what is a contemplative ecosystem? Well, like any other ecosystem: it's a habitat, an e … [Read more...]

What is Contemplation? (Video)

So what is contemplation?In this video I talk about contemplation, beginning with the definition found in the glossary to the Catholic Catechism: A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God's greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love.It may not be the best definition out there, but there's a lot to work with here. Contemplation is...wordless — it's not something you can think. It's b … [Read more...]

Five Ideas that Shape Contemplative Prayer

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Chris Anderson's TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. If your work in any way involves public speaking, I heartily encourage you to give it a listen. Chris is a humble and charming enough speaker in his own right, but fortified with tips and tricks, the do's and don't's, from the best speakers to give talks at TED Conferences over the years, the book provides an excellent survey of what really makes a speech effective.And one … [Read more...]

Seven Important Bible Verses About Silence

Catholics (and other Christians) can be a noisy bunch. I'm always a bit surprised when I visit a church just before Mass and it's filled with chatter. Maybe I'm showing my age here, but I recall as a boy that visiting a church was like visiting a library — it was a place reserved for the utmost silence.Of course, to be fair, nowadays many libraries seem to be pretty chatty places as well.Contemplatives intuitively recognize that silence is the lingua franca of the spiritual life. Silence … [Read more...]

St. Teresa’s Advice for Dealing With People Who Cannot or Will Not Engage in Christian Contemplation

Some things never change.Here's a little quote from Teresa of Ávila's classic book about prayer, The Way of Perfection: Let us now return to speak of those souls I have mentioned who cannot practise recollection or tie down their minds to mental prayer or make a meditation. We must not talk to them of either of those two things— they will not hear of them; as a matter of fact, there are a great many people who seem terrified at the very name of contemplation or mental prayer. The next time … [Read more...]

Instructions on Prayer from a Trappist Monk

"I'm speechless," remarked Brother Elias Marechal, OCSO, after a congregation of several hundred young evangelicals vigorously applauded his visit to their worship service last month. But then he quipped, "We don't talk in the monastery much."Grace Fellowship in Athens, GA (home of the University of Georgia) recently invited this deeply contemplative Trappist monk to come and speak to the congregation, comprised mostly of students. Grace's pastor, John Raymond, has for the past decade re … [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...]