Remembering the Three Dimensions of Prayer at Every Mass

Do you know why Catholics make three small crosses with their thumb — on their forehead, their lips, and their hearts — at every Mass when the Gospel reading is announced?Here is insight into this practice from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults: At Mass when the reading of the Gospel begins, we place the sign of the Cross on our foreheads, lips, and hearts and pray, “May the Lord be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.” Lips, minds, and hearts—these symbolize three kin … [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...]

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...]

Rehabilitating Catholicism?

Rodney Stark is a Protestant historian who teaches at a prominent Baptist university. He's not exactly the kind of academic one might expect to write a book defending Catholicism from the prejudicial myths that have dogged the faith over the past few generations. Yet that is exactly what he has done with Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History. Written for the general public rather than for scholars, it is an engaging and at times eye-opening read, and I think it has s … [Read more...]

Remembering the Monks of Tibhirine

May 31, 2016 marks a grim anniversary in the history of the Cistercian Order. It's been twenty years since the assassination of seven Trappist monks of Notre Dame de Atlas Abbey in Tibhirine, Algeria. The monks, who had been kidnapped by insurgents two months earlier, were probably killed on May 21; their remains were recovered ten days later — on May 31. The circumstances surrounding their death — and who was responsible — remains clouded in mystery.The Martyrs of Atlas, as they have come to … [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...]