Do Contemplatives Need the Church?

A post on this blog received the following comment yesterday:Having been with the Catholic Church and seminary trained for all my 71 years of life . I am naturally contemplative . But I do now believe practising formal meditation/contemplation is false . Aren’t we missing the point if we try and set time aside for contemplation?Surely if we are made in Gods image we are already suffused with Gods holy grace and we are divinised, so if we are living in Christ what’s the point in pretending to … [Read more...]

Dear Pope Francis… (or as they say in Ireland, A Phápa Proinsias, a chara…)

Did you know that when Pope Francis was a little boy, he wanted to be a butcher when he grew up?Or that, as a young man, his favorite dance was the tango?These are just two of many delightful surprises found in Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World, newly published by Loyola Press. Children from Jesuit schools around the world were invited to write a brief letter to the pope, asking him one question, and drawing a picture to accompany their … [Read more...]

Three Approaches to Prayer When the Dry Times Come

A friend of mine posed the following question recently on Facebook:You may have written about this before but how about dry times in prayer? What to do? Does it really mean anything? Can we have an impact on it or do we patiently wait it out?The fancy term here is "aridity." I suspect anyone who has attempted a sustained, daily (or at least regular) practice of prayer encounters this sooner or later. A sense of dryness, as if our prayers are parched. If we pray with words (whether our own or … [Read more...]

In Pursuit of Silence: A Quiet Movie with Much to Say

"Silence is where we speak something deeper than our words...""Silence returns us to what is real."These are two of many jewels of insight spoken over the course of In Pursuit of Silence, a luminous and vitally important movie, which, as far as I am concerned, everyone needs to see.In 2014 I interviewed the film's director Patrick Shen (read the interview here), and now I have had the privilege to screen the film ahead of its North American debut later this month at the SXSW Festival … [Read more...]

Is There a “Contemplative” Personality Type?

I once heard Richard Rohr tell a charming story of giving a retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Thomas Merton lived. Rohr was surprised to find that not all the monks particularly cared for Merton. When he asked about this, one of the brothers said, "Merton told us we weren't contemplatives, we were just introverts!"It's a sweet story and the audience chuckled when we heard it, but it does point to an interesting question: what connection is there between personality type and prayer ty … [Read more...]

A Memoir with a Message

As part of the Patheos Book Club, I've recently read Operating on Faith: A Painfully True Love Story by Matt Weber. Weber is the author of Fearing the Stigmata, about his search as a young Catholic for a "culturally relevant faith;" he also hosts a CatholicTV show and plenty of his videos can be found on Youtube. Like other young Catholic authors, Weber is known for using humor and whimsy to illustrate how the timeless truths of Catholicism still matter in our postmodern … [Read more...]

John Cassian: The Leap Year Contemplative

February 29 is the feast day of St. John Cassian — who, in addition to being a "leap year saint" is also one of the most important early contemplatives in the Christian tradition.Cassian (ca. 360-435) brought monasticism — and, therefore, contemplative spirituality — from the deserts of the Middle East to Western Europe. His birthplace is uncertain, but by the 380s he was living in a monastery in Bethlehem; subsequently he left that location to travel the deserts of Egypt, where he and his sp … [Read more...]