Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, and today I want to celebrate two such persons in particular. I could have called this blog post “A Tale of Two Walters,” for both of these men share that same slightly nerdy first name. Both are the subjects of recently published books: a biography of one; a memoir by the other. Each of these men died in 2012, and both were not only renowned, but controversial, for their commitment to social justice and progressive theology…. Read more

Spirituality for the Second Half of Life… and Beyond

It’s been almost three years now since the release of Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. But in that short time, it seems that this book has already become something of a minor classic, thanks to its insightful consideration of how the spiritual blessings, challenges, and concerns of people in the “second half of life” differ markedly from those in the first half. The first half is typically about building one’s life: establishing identity,… Read more

The Silence of the Heart

In its very last paragraph, Norris J. Chumley describes Be Still and Know, his new book on contemplative silence (hesychia), as a “research study.” And therein lies what is both wonderful and frustrating about this book. First, the frustration: the book reads like someone’s PhD dissertation. While Chumley provides a concise historical survey of the development of hesychasm, or the practice of meditative silence through the Orthodox Jesus Prayer (Prayer of the Heart), and follows up the history lesson with… Read more

The Choices We Make Determine Who We Are

This morning I was reading St. John of the Cross, and came across this passage. An act of virtue produces and fosters in the soul mildness, peace, comfort, light, purity, and strength, just as an inordinate appetite brings about torment, fatigue, weariness, blindness, and weakness. Through the practice of one virtue all the virtues grow, and similarly, through an increase of one vice, all the vices and their effects grow. —John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, I.10.5… Read more

Concerning Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Xenophobia

Contemplative spirituality is a spirituality in which, in the words of Richard Rohr, “everything belongs.” It’s a spirituality of inclusion, rather than exclusion. It seeks to build bridges rather than walls. To me, this is part of the towering beauty of contemplation. But we live in a world where not everyone sees things the same way, and contemplation, like anything else, has its critics. Generally speaking, my experience shows that the critics of Christian contemplation reject it for two reasons:… Read more

Sometimes When I Sit in Silence…

Contemplative prayer — the prayer of sitting in silence, waiting in faith and trust on God — needs to be a daily practice. There are a number of reasons for this, but today I’d like to look at something I experience in my own prayer. I have to eat a little bit of humble pie to write this, because I’m admitting how poor I am at praying. But the truth is the truth. I need to pray in silence every… Read more

Seven Books I Hope to Read in 2014

Are you looking for a book or two to read, on the topics of contemplation or mysticism? I thought I’d offer a twist on the typical blog post where books get reviewed. Here is a list of seven books I hope to read, ideally sometime this year. Some of these books are brand new, others a few years old, others older still. They all touch on contemplative prayer, the Christian mystery, and/or interspirituality, in some form or fashion. A disclaimer: copies of… Read more

Requiem for a Trappist Monk

Rest in peace, Father Luke Kot. Father Luke died tonight, at the age of 102. Father Luke was the last surviving of twenty Trappist monks who, almost seventy years ago, left Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky to take the midnight train to Georgia, arriving on a rainy day in Atlanta in March 1944 — the Feast of St. Benedict — to move into a makeshift cloister in a barn on an old plantation some thirty miles southeast of the city. From… Read more

Preparing for the Silent Night (Conclusion)

Okay, I’m loving The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander so much that I have to give you one more quote for this Advent season. Only Our Lady has ever lived all the aspects of phases and moments of Christ completely. In some He is newly born. In some He is a child. In some He is homeless. In some He is ignored, unrecognized, mocked, betrayed. In some He is hungry; in some He is naked; in some He is helpless… He… Read more

Preparing for the Silent Night (Part Two)

This is the second of a series of Advent reflections. To read the first part, follow this link: Preparing for the Silent Night (Part One). In part one of this series we considered the following quotation from The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander. Because He is in the little house of our being, we will learn to control our minds, to gather our thoughts to silence, and to crown them with peace, just as we learn to control our voices and… Read more

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