Benedict of Nursia

Today is the feast day of Benedict of Nursia in both the Catholic and Anglican liturgies. Benedict who lived in the late fifth and early sixth centuries (i.e. 1500 years ago) is regarded as a father of western monasticism. While we know very little about his life, we do know that he was educated in Rome, abandoned urban life to live as a hermit in a cave some 40 miles or so from Rome (at that time, quite a distance). Eventuallly a community grew up around the hermit, and so he organized these … [Read more...]

Adolescent and Adult Faith

The following quotation comes from a newspaper clipping that I got from a friend who got it from a friend who got it from a friend... the best I could find out is that the article originally appeared in the Catholic Times of Montreal. The author, Daniel Cere, is writing about a recent appearance by Franciscan author/speaker Richard Rohr at a local Jesuit spirituality center."In his presentation, Rohr paints a sharp contrast between two forms or stages of faith.  One form he … [Read more...]

Do It Every Day

Perhaps the single most important piece of advice I ever got about writing came to me by accident. It was 10 or 11 years ago, and I was working as the tradebook manager for the Georgia State University Bookstore in downtown Atlanta. The tradebook department in a college bookstore is basically the general book (as opposed to textbook) section. My duties included selling books in the back of the room whenever an author or other dignitary spoke on campus. This particular night, the popular novelist … [Read more...]


One of the salient characteristics of true mysticism is its ineffability. In other words, part of what puts the "mystic" into "mysticism" is the impossibility to truly capture the mystical experience, mystical perception, or mystical truth, within the impoverished limitations of language. Mysticism is, by definition, trans-lingual, just as it also trans-rational and trans-logical.Why, then, have mystics down the ages sought to capture their experience in writing? From the desert fathers and … [Read more...]

Gregory of Nyssa, the most mystical of the Cappadocian Fathers

As I said yesterday, when I realized that Evagrius Ponticus was a student of one of the Cappadocian Fathers, I decided that I should read the Cappadocian Father Gregory of Nyssa before Evagrius, rather than the other way around. So that's what I'm doing, and here, therefore, is an introduction to Gregory.First, who are the Cappadocians? They were a fourth century monastic community which produced three towering figures of Christian theology and mysticism: Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus, … [Read more...]

101 Mystics: Gregory of Nyssa before Evagrius Ponticus

I don't know how many of you out there in blog-land are actually reading along with me on the 101 mystics, but just in case someone is... I had set up my chronological list of mystics with Evagrius Ponticus coming before Gregory of Nyssa. But in researching Evagrius, I've realized that he was a student of the Cappadocian Father Gregory of Naziansus — and Gregory of Nyssa was also a Cappadocian. So I went back to my notes and realized that Gregory was in fact 10 years older than Evagrius, and so … [Read more...]

The Desert Fathers on the Next Step

"Lot went to Joseph and said, 'Abba, as far as I can, I keep a moderate rule, with a little fasting, and prayer, and meditation, and quiet: and as far as I can I try to cleanse my heart of evil thoughts. What else should I do?' Then the hermit stood up and spread out his hands to heaven, and his finger shone like ten flames of fire, and he said, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'" —from The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks … [Read more...]