Life is a Pilgrimage — So Embrace the Journey

Christine Valters Painter is one of the most creative and visionary of spiritual directors with a meaningful online presence. Her website, Abbey of the Arts, functions as a sort of "cyber-cloister," a place of quiet presence and spiritual nurture where participants are invited to encounter God not only through the words and practices of contemplative spirituality, but also — and perhaps more significantly — through creative expression.Paintner understands what Evelyn Underhill declared a cen … [Read more...]

Seven Lessons I’m Learning on the Grief Journey

Today would have been my daughter Rhiannon's 30th birthday. We're calling it her "first birthday in heaven."If you haven't been following the story, here it is in a nutshell: Rhiannon was born (5/19/1985) with polycystic kidney disease which led to other issues, including liver disease, an enlarged spleen, and paralysis following a stroke at age 3. Faced with a short life expectancy, in 2011 she began to experience falling blood counts that led to repeated hospitalizations as her caregivers … [Read more...]

The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Prayer

Like so many folks in the blogosphere, I was fascinated by the story of Leah Libresco, atheist blogger who in 2012  surprised all sorts of folks by converting to Catholicism. I haven't been a regular follower of her blog, either before or after she entered the Church, but the few times I've checked it out her writing struck me as articulate, intelligent and thoughtful.So when Libresco's first book, Arriving at Amen was published, I jumped at the chance to review it. And I'm happy to say t … [Read more...]

When Contemplation Feels Like Dying

"For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).How exactly does this "spiritual dying" fit in with the practice of contemplative spirituality? One reader of this blog is curious about this. In response to my post from a few weeks back (Why is "Mysticism" a Dirty Word), I received the following message on Facebook: Thank you for your thoughts on mysticism's more dubious meanings, my learned friend. I'm afraid I've been shallow in my understanding, based as … [Read more...]

What To Do When Your Prayer Doesn’t Get ‘In The Zone’

A reader named Kevin wrote the following comment to me on Facebook, in response to my recent post Why Is "Mysticism" a Dirty Word. Thanks Carl, interesting points. I was wondering if I could pick your brain on something...when I meditate/contemplate on my breath (I have a semi regular habit) I only seem to get "in the zone" of a peaceful meditative state about 1 session in 10. The rest of the time not much happens. Is this normal? Am I expecting too much? I'm getting a bit … [Read more...]

Why Is “Mysticism” A Dirty Word?

In the introduction to her book Writing the Icon of the Heart, Maggie Ross makes this rather in-your-face claim: The word 'mystic'... has, in my view, become entirely useless. It has acquired nuances of romanticism, exoticism and self-absorption. In addition, far too many studies of 'mysticism' and 'spirituality' are based on a modern and narcissistic notion of 'experience' as self-authenticating that corresponds neither to the way the brain works nor to notions of experience in the ancient and … [Read more...]

What Good is Religion? A Contemplative Perspective

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 list. For the worst, I'd mention Jim Jones (of the People's … [Read more...]


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