I simply love this story of two desert fathers, which Thomas Merton recounts in his book The Wisdom of the Desert: There were two elders living together in a cell, and they had never had so much as one quarrel with one another. One therefore said to the other: Come on, let us have at least one quarrel, like other men. The other said: I don’t know how to start a quarrel. The first said: I will take this brick… Read more

Bloggers on Patheos have been asked to reflect on the question “What Good is Religion?” this month. I figured it might be worth pondering from a contemplative perspective. When I was a young man I was fond of saying that religion brought out the best in people and it brought out the worst in people. For the best, I’d cite Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Dorothy Day as exemplars. Nowadays I might add Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis to the… Read more

If you are engaged in a serious and sustained practice of silent prayer and contemplative spirituality, then you need to be a very somber, sober, and serious person, for the mystical life is no laughing matter. . . . April Fool! I was inspired to write about this topic not only because today is April 1, but also because of what is arguably the single most problematic topic in the Rule of Saint Benedict — laughter. Consider these tidbits: Do not say foolish things… Read more

In my travels I hear a lot from people who get discouraged regarding silent prayer. Some folks tell me their minds race too much when they try to pray in silence. Others tell me they’re so busy, they just can’t seem to find the time to pray. Still others talk about how they get bored during their silent time, or fidgety, or overwhelmed with a feeling that they’re not making progress. My friends, it’s easy to get discouraged when embracing a… Read more

Sometimes I get asked “Where is contemplation in the Bible?” One obvious answer to this question is Psalm 131. It’s a short Psalm, only three verses. Here it is in its entirety from the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (but every translation works): O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like… Read more

When I met the Anglican writer Kenneth Leech, who is one of my heroes, he told me a funny but sad story. I mentioned to him that one of my favorite books of his was The Eye of the Storm: Spiritual Resources for the Pursuit of Justice. I loved it (and still do) because it is an eloquent statement of why Christian spirituality necessarily includes a commitment to making the world a more peaceful and just place. He explained to… Read more

One of my favorite contemplative authors from the early twentieth century — Evelyn Underhill — corresponded with another favorite author, C. S. Lewis. Underhill (1875-1941) was the leading English author on Christian mysticism in her day. Lewis (1898-1963) became renowned especially for his imaginative spiritual fiction. Several of her letters to him are preserved in The Letters of Evelyn Underhill, published shortly after her death in 1941. We learn from the letters that Lewis sent her at least two of his books,… Read more

Hi. My name is Carl and I’m a Facebook addict. (“Hi, Carl!”) This past weekend, against my better judgment, I got into an unpleasant debate in a Facebook group with a young person whom I do not know. No need to go into details here — let’s just say that by the end, nobody was edified. Much of my weekend got swallowed up in a back-and-forth conversation that generated much more heat than light. I’m embarrassed that I allowed myself… Read more

I am troubled by the idea that it’s harder to be a child today than it was when I was young. Is that just my personal angst, the anxiety of someone moving rapidly through midlife? Or is there some truth to my worrisome intuition? Well, consider the following sobering statements, all culled from recent articles on respectable news websites. It is reported that one in three children is the victim of bullying at school, and with a growing number of young people online… Read more

God is an ocean of silence, mercy and love. Let’s go swimming. pic.twitter.com/GMbPdqWK57 — Carl McColman (@CarlMcColman) March 6, 2015 Read more

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