Why I Still Recommend Verbum Software for Catholics… and for all Contemplatives

Two years ago this week, I wrote a glowing review of a Bible Software program called Verbum. Click here to read that review. Among other things, I said... I use Verbum every day. I repeat: every day. It’s not perfect, but it’s far and away the best Bible software I’ve ever come across. Twenty-four months later, and I'm still using this software every day.Not only do I consider Verbum an essential tool for my work as a Catholic writer, speaker, and catechist, but as a student of the contemp … [Read more...]

“You Wrote Books About Paganism?!?”

The late Kenneth Leech used to tell the story about giving a lecture at a seminary in America on the topic of race relations, and afterwards a seminarian seemed surprised to learn that he was the "same Kenneth Leech" who wrote books on spirituality. Apparently, the mind of this seminarian couldn't equate a social-justice Christian with a contemplative-prayer Christian.But yes, Leech-the-expert-on-racism and Leech-the-expert-on-mysticism were one and the same.I often have a similar c … [Read more...]

St. Benedict and the Prosperity Gospel

This past Tuesday night my wife and I went with some 19,000 other folks to hear Hillsong United, the Australia praise band famous for their song "Oceans," which is the closest thing I've ever heard to an actual contemplative piece of contemporary Christian music. It was quite the extravaganza: over two hours of praise music, the songs punctuated by earnest mini-sermons from the various band members on the necessity of forming or reaffirming an intimate relationship with Jesus, who loves us and wa … [Read more...]

St. Athanasius on the Nature of Angels

The Life of St Antony of the Desert, written by the fourth century Bishop of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, contains this charming passage in which the author explains a little bit about the nature of angels. What I love about this passage is, while he is not trying to make a point about how contemplative the angels are (and how their presence in our lives helps up to be more contemplative), that is nevertheless pretty much the gist of what he's saying. The holy angels are friendly and calm in … [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...]

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...]

Pentecost and Ecstasy

A reader of my blog named Paul emailed me the following question: I realize this is a difficult question to answer because of its lack of specificity, however any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.  The Pentecostal experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, is it the same thing as experiencing the ecstasy of God? Thanks for your question, even though it does indeed lack specificity! It's a huge question, and I doubt that I can do it justice. So here are just a few thoughts, and I h … [Read more...]