About ten years ago I had a conversation with an elderly Trappist monk about the book I was writing — a book on Christian mysticism. Hearing that it was intended to introduce mysticism to the general public, he scoffed. “Not everyone is called to be a mystic,” he objected. “But doesn’t God want us to be in union with him?” I replied. “Well, yes,” he admitted, “we are all called to holiness but not all to mysticism.” I disagreed with him, and I’m… Read more

The heart of Christian spirituality is the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. This is the ancient wisdom teaching that God is one God, in three persons: Father/Creator, Son/Redeemer, and Spirit/Sanctifier. We call ourselves “Christians” because we follow the 2nd Person of the Trinity: Jesus, the Christ. But it would be just as accurate — some might say even more accurate — to call ourselves Trinitarians, the people of faith in this Triune God. The Trinity is controversial: Jews and Muslims reject… Read more

Today’s guest post is by Kevin M. Johnson, one of the co-hosts of the Encountering Silence Podcast. I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus had a true insight into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher; for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder. — Plato, Theaetetus Recently, I have publically identified myself as a “recovering academic.” I have quickly grown fond of using this label. While I love to teach at the… Read more

The other day I received this message from a reader who contacted me via Facebook… I was intrigued by your recent post about the dangers of relying on experience. I fully agree with you, not least because I believe I have had experiences of God but I managed to turn them into idols every time, chasing after them and trying to conjure them up at my bidding. I am now at a point where my contemplation focuses on the sacred… Read more

Several months ago, in response to a reader’s question, I posted an article to this blog called How Should a Christian Respond When a Friend Becomes Interested in Witchcraft and Magic? The response to this post has been positive, even from readers who identify themselves as Wiccan or Neopagan. One such reader posted this follow-up question to me on Facebook: As a follow-up, I’d like to see what your thoughts are on this: what is it about paganism that scares… Read more

A reader of this blog wrote this question to me recently: Hi Carl, just wondering if I could pick your brain? My experience of contemplation is that a little success — a “good,” peaceful session — can actually be problematic for future meditations. The problem for me is that I end up trying to repeat the good meditation in the future sittings, not accepting the present moment. I find that a peaceful meditation can thus put me back months in my practice!… Read more

A reader of my blog writes: “Christian Contemplative prayer gets a lot of bad press, as you are well aware. Many say there is no Biblical support for it whatsoever. Can you please give me your take on this.” Thanks for the question. The word contemplation, like the words mystic, mystical, mysticism and even spirituality, never appear in the Bible. Some folks might see this as reason enough to dismiss these topics as “unchristian.” But we know that language naturally… Read more

Note: Today’s post, by guest contributor Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, is an excerpt from his new book, Bruised and Wounded: Struggling to Understand Suicide. This may seem to be a difficult topic for the Advent season, but as anyone knows who has been touched by suicide (or even by the sudden death of a loved one, under any circumstances), loss and grief can be particularly acute during this time of year. So I’m honored to offer you Fr. Rolheiser’s thoughts on a… Read more

The great medieval mystic Julian of Norwich is renowned for her theological optimism (“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”) as well as for her willingness to color outside the gendered lines (“As truly as God is our father, so too is God our mother”). She certainly demonstrated a clear contemplative sensibility (“The fullness of joy is to behold God in all”) — so it surprises me that more people… Read more

In his book Peace Be With You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World, Orthodox Christian author David Carlson explores how contemplative spirituality might offer a way of responding to the ever-present danger of terrorism and war in today’s world. Haunted by the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Carlson devoted a sabbatical to visiting a variety of both Orthodox and Catholic monasteries throughout North America, interviewing nuns, monks, and other spiritual seekers about how to discern a truly Christian response to… Read more

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