Three Essential Elements of Christian Conversion

Shutterstock What is Christian conversion? In other words, what does it mean to truly respond to the love and call of God? Is following Christ merely a commitment to learn about Jesus, what he said and what he taught? Or is there a deeper dimension: how does following Christ make a real difference in our lives? To answer these questions, I’d like to share some thoughts on conversion that come from William Johnston’s lovely book “Arise, My Love…”:... Read more

It’s Not Too Late to Select Your Lenten Reading!

In chapter 48 of his Rule for Monasteries, St. Benedict instructs monks to read a book during Lent. During the days of Lent, they should be free in the morning to read until the third hour… each one is to receive a book from the library, and is to read the whole of it straight through.  These books are to be distributed at the beginning of Lent. What’s good for monks is good for the rest of us too. So in addition... Read more

What is Christian Mysticism? (Video)

Last week I posted a video about Julian of Norwich which is the first of a series of videos in which I talk about various topics related to the Christian mysticism and contemplative spirituality. Here is the follow-up to that video, where I try to answer the question, “What is Christian Mysticism?” It’s based on Karl Rahner’s often quoted soundbite that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or… will not exist.” So what is mysticism? It’s one... Read more

One Step Christians Must Take To Receive the Gift of Illumination

Image courtesy Shutterstock In his wonderful book about the present and future of Christian mysticism, “Arise, My Love…”, author William Johnston, SJ tells a charming study about one of his brother Jesuits, Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle, who made an arduous journey to Thailand to meet with a renowned Buddhist teacher called Buddhadasa. Like Johnston, Enomiya-Lassalle was engaged in Buddhist-Catholic dialogue, so a meeting like this would have been significant for his work. After arriving in Bangkok and riding on a... Read more

Five Ideas that Shape Contemplative Prayer

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Chris Anderson’s TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. If your work in any way involves public speaking, I heartily encourage you to give it a listen. Chris is a humble and charming enough speaker in his own right, but fortified with tips and tricks, the do’s and don’t’s, from the best speakers to give talks at TED Conferences over the years, the book provides an excellent survey of what really... Read more

Who is Julian of Norwich?

Here is a video filmed about a year and a half ago in which I talk about Julian of Norwich, one of the greatest of Christian mystics and the first woman to write a book in the English language, Revelations of Divine Love. Julian lived from late 1342 to probably around 1412. We know very little about her — indeed, we don’t even know her real name, for “Julian of Norwich” refers to her parish church, St. Julian’s Church in... Read more

Seven Important Bible Verses About Silence

“Silence is praise.” Catholics (and other Christians) can be a noisy bunch. I’m always a bit surprised when I visit a church just before Mass and it’s filled with chatter. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but I recall as a boy that visiting a church was like visiting a library — it was a place reserved for the utmost silence. Of course, to be fair, nowadays many libraries seem to be pretty chatty places as well.... Read more

Taqiya, Suspicion, and the Sermon on the Mount (What happened when a Catholic Church invited a Muslim grandmother to visit)

The other night a Muslim woman spoke at my church. Her name is Moina Shaiq, originally from Pakistan, now living in the Bay Area of California. She has a ministry called, simply enough, Meet a Muslim. A mother and grandmother, she has lived in America now almost 40 years. Through “Meet a Muslim” she offers to connect with people of other faiths for dialogue and conversation. She had spoken at the Disciples of Christ Church across the street from our parish, and the... Read more

Seven Essential Books on the Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

A Monastery in the Egyptian Desert The headwaters of the Christian contemplative and mystical tradition — aside from the Bible, of course — is the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, hermits and early monks and nuns who lived in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine and Syrian in the third and fourth centuries. A literature of stories, parables, wisdom teachings, biographies, and even travelogues grew up around the lives and sayings of the Desert dwellers,... Read more

Seven Tips for Returning to Church (After Being Away for Awhile)

The door is always open… Have you been away from parish life for a while, but now feel like returning?  You’re not alone. Every now and then I hear from someone who, because they are interested in mysticism or contemplation, decide to participate in their neighborhood parish or congregation. Problem is, they left church many years ago (perhaps as a teenager or young adult) and now, deeply interested in the spiritual life, they recognize that they need a... Read more