Exploring Monastic Spirituality (Video)

What is monastic spirituality? Is it just for monks and nuns? Or can it make a difference in the lives of others? This video shares with you a few insights that I have garnered from about a decade of studying with, praying alongside, and learning from a community of Trappist monks who live near my home in Georgia. The Trappists (Cistercians of the Strict Observance) live an ancient monastic life that is, in the words of their constitution, “wholly ordered… Read more

Ten Books for Learning the Basics of Christian Contemplation

A reader of this blog sent me an email recently that said in part: I have to confess I have not yet read any of your books. But I love your writing and would like to learn more about Christian spirituality. Can you recommend several of your books, and perhaps suggest the order to read them?  Anything else you’d recommend (books, online, etc) would be great too. I’m glad this reader asked for other recommendations besides just my books — but this… Read more

Talking to Christine Valters Paintner about the Wisdom of the Body

My friend and colleague Christine Valters Paintner has recently released a book called The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women. I think the question of how do we cultivate a more truly embodied spirituality — including an embodied contemplation — is very important for our time, so I think this book has the potential to be truly healing and affirming for many women. The publisher sent me an advance copy and even though I’m not a woman, I still read… Read more

A Closer Look at the Scrutinies: How an Ancient Rite Remains Relevant Today

On the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent, Catholic Churches with aducts preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil will perform three successive rites called “the Scrutinies.” These rites, with roots dating back to the early Church, are part of a larger process called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. If you’re not familiar with these rites, they might feel like an unnecessary add-on to the Sunday Mass. But oneeds you understand the history and the theology behind the… Read more

Why Silence Matters (Video)

Silence is the heart of the spiritual life, and especially of the Christian contemplative life. Fostering inner silence is a key to entering into the prayer of generous self-giving to the often-hidden but always present reality of the God who is here. Elsewhere I have written about how sacred scripture commends silence to us. In the video above I mention the words of noted spiritual author Thomas Keating, who in his book Invitation to Love said “Silence is God’s first language;… Read more

How to Cultivate Your “Contemplative Ecosystem”

Recently I had a wonderful conversation with Kevin Johnson, who contributes to the Inner Room blog here at Patheos. Kevin shares my deep conviction that contemplative practice forms an essential aspect of mature Christian discipleship. Among other things, we talked about how contemplative practice needs a supportive “ecosystem” so that meaningful attentiveness to God’s deep silence can truly occur. So what is a contemplative ecosystem? Well, like any other ecosystem: it’s a habitat, an environment. Any living organism needs a friendly, supportive,… Read more

What is Contemplation? (Video)

[youtube width=”500″ height=”405″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8FZvnzwu2w[/youtube] So what is contemplation? In this video I talk about contemplation, beginning with the definition found in the glossary to the Catholic Catechism: A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God’s greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love. It may not be the best definition out there, but there’s a lot to work with here. Contemplation is… wordless… Read more

Sharing Your Faith with Someone Who is “Spiritual But Not Religious”

This post may get me in trouble with a few folks. Well, so be it. I make no apologies for my conviction that mysticism — at least, Christian mysticism — is meant to be a communal experience. For Christians, the spiritual life consists not only in loving God, but also in loving our neighbors as ourselves (and we even are instructed to love our enemies). The pagan philosopher Plotinus described mysticism as “the flight of the alone to the Alone” — which makes… Read more

A Prayer for Observing a Holy Lent

Let us pray… God, we ask for your blessing during this Holy Season of Lent. Give us the grace of your presence, your inspiration, and your call to a renewed life grounded in you. Lord, be with us, and hear our prayer. Help us to empty our lives of that which is not truly necessary. Give us the gift of hungering for you, of thirsting for your justice, of desiring your presence in our hearts and our lives. Bless our… Read more

Why Evelyn Underhill Remains Required Reading After Over 100 Years

A Book for All Time: Why Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism Still Matters For pretty much my entire adult life, if anyone would ask me who my favorite authors are, without hesitation I would say Evelyn Underhill and Thomas Merton. To me, the work of Evelyn Underhill represents the call for the revival of mysticism in our time, while Merton anchored the call to mysticism in the urgent political and social concerns that shape life in America over the last fifty years… Read more