Sister Joan Chittister and the Way of Paradox

A mature spiritual life embraces paradox. And paradox lies at the heart of Sister Joan Chittister's newest book, Between the Dark and the Daylight. The subtitle of the book is "Embracing the Contradictions of Life" but I think paradox would be a better word here. As physicist Niels Bohr put it, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” It is profound truths which Chittister explores in this book, and for th … [Read more...]

Following the Ancient Path Today


If you're anything like me, the first thing you'll notice about The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today is how beautifully designed the book is. The dust jacket features a fifteenth century fresco by Giovanni Pietro da Cemmo, of Saints Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and Jerome. It is simultaneously elegant and inviting. The book itself presents a polite and at times engaging story in which a popular Catholic musician tells the story of his own spiritual … [Read more...]

Do Contemplatives Need Bible Software?

Exegetical Guide for Psalm 65:1, which shows how the word "silence" is ignored in the NRSV translation. The Hebrew original reads "Silence is praise to you, O God," but  the anemic NRSV translation renders the verse is "Praise is due to you, O God."

Is the Bible a textbook, or a legal code, or a love letter?I suppose one could argue that it is all three. But it seems that, for much of Christian history, our theologians have tended to lock themselves away in an ivory tower, reading the Bible like a textbook, while church authorities (and their secular counterparts) have too often seen the book as merely a juridical text, meant to enforce morality and good order. Lost in the shuffle is the Bible as an amazing love story, full of poetry … [Read more...]

Mainline Neo-Monasticism?


Elaine A. Heath is a true friend of contemplation.She recognizes the vital importance of bringing contemplative prayer and mystical spirituality not only into the local church, but into the hearts of the clergy and other ministerial leaders in the church. As a seminary professor (she teaches Christian Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas) and Methodist elder, she understands the crisis that mainline churches are facing in our time; while as a student of the contemplative tr … [Read more...]

Three Wonderful New Julian of Norwich Books


I'm not sure why the fall of 2013 belongs to Julian of Norwich (except to the extent that any time is a good time for reading and reflecting on Julian's wisdom). What I do know is that three wonderful books about Julian have been, or soon will be, published this season. If you're already a Julian nut (yes, that's a pun) like me, rejoice, for these are all worthy books to add to your library. If you have not yet discovered Julian — the medieval anchoress (solitary) who experienced a series of v … [Read more...]

The Silences of the Lamb (of God)


Speaking (or writing) about silence is an enterprise embedded in paradox; every word represents a departure from, an obstacle to, the subject at hand. Oxford don Diarmaid MacCulloch (who created a splash with his Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years) begins this improbable task of recounting the story of Christian silence by appealing to a dog who did not bark in a Sherlock Holmes story. The great detective discerns a clue in the animal's silence (a dog that does not bark is a dog who … [Read more...]

Meditation with Liquid Mind

As a general rule, I believe that meditation or contemplative prayer are best practiced in silence — which means no TV blaring in the background, no MP3 player churning out sound, no computer or stereo making noise within earshot. Even using a so-called white noise machine is, to me, at best a necessary evil: perhaps required to mask the normal distracting sounds of children playing or whatever else might be happening in an adjacent room or apartment: but far less desirable than the pure absence … [Read more...]