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

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 communal expression of faith but they simply find returning to… Read more

Why do Mystics Love the Church?

For a long time now, I’ve been fascinated by people who self-define as “spiritual but not religious” (or “spiritually independent,” or “none” or some variation thereof) — in other words, people who see the Church or “institutional religion” as overly legalistic, spiritually stifling, hidebound, more concerned with enforcing morality than seeking enlightenment. I don’t speak out of judgment, for at times in my life, I’ve been there myself. Part of what fascinates me is how many SBNR folks, despite their dislike… Read more

A Candlemas Meditation

Today is the feast of the Presentation, traditionally known as Candlemas. It’s a time when churches would hold lovely candlelight processions (they still do that at the Trappist monastery here in Georgia) and candles would be blessed on this day. It’s a feast day to commemorate the day when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem. The old prophets Anna and Simeon encountered the baby, and Simeon, who had been promised that he would live to see… Read more

Andrew Garfield and Stephen Colbert talk about Silence, Jesuits and Humility…

Are you as eager to see Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of Shusako Endo’s Silence as I am? Not sure when I’ll get to see it, but hopefully soon! In the meantime, check out this fascinating interview that aired on “the Late Show” the other night, Stephen Colbert interviewing Andrew Garfield about the movie. They talk about Jesuit spirituality, the Ignatian exercises, the relationship between silence and spirituality, the Jesuit charism of “finding God in all things,” and even the importance of… Read more

“Constantly Seek His Face”

Today’s Mass Readings (Hebrews 2:14–18, Psalm 105:1–9, and Mark 1:29–39) offer an interesting insight into the role of prayer in the life of faith. The Gospel reading, from the first chapter of Mark, gives us several stories of healing and exorcism in rapid succession. But there is a sentence right in the middle of the reading, that is very humble and unassuming, but I think it is so important for us to reflect on. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went… Read more

Encountering Jesus through Questions in the Gospels

Saint Teresa of Ávila, one of the greatest of Christian mystics, understood clearly that the height of mystical spirituality, at least for Christians, must be grounded in the humble humanity of Jesus Christ. In chapter 22 of her Autobiography, she writes, I see clearly… that if we are to please God, and if He is to give us His great graces, everything must pass through the hands of His most Sacred Humanity, in whom His Majesty said that He is well… Read more

How to Think About Angels

Here is a wonderful description of angels from the anonymous Syrian monk who is now called “Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.” The angel is an image of God… … a manifestation of the hidden light… … a mirror, pure, bright, untarnished, unspotted, receiving, if one may say so, the full loveliness of the divine goodness and purely enlightening within itself as far as possible the goodness of the silence in the inner sanctuaries. This is from the treatise The Divine Names, as translated by… Read more

Seven Ideas for a Contemplative New Year’s Resolution

Happy new year! ‘Tis the season for making a resolution for a positive change in our lives. It’s easy to get cynical about new year’s resolutions (how many of us join the gym in January, only to cancel our membership by March?), but I think we need to keep a positive attitude. Better to make a resolution and at least attempt to improve ourselves, than just not to bother at all. I think the best approach to a new year’s resolution is to… Read more

A Christian Mystics Bibliography

In my books The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints and Sages, I suggest a number of books that anyone interested in learning more about Christian mysticism might enjoy. On this page I’ve gathered together those books (and a few audio recordings). For good measure, I’ve thrown in a few other important titles, and will continue to add useful books to this page as they come to my attention. I believe this list represents a comprehensive library of Christian mysticism… Read more

St. Teresa’s Advice for Dealing With People Who Cannot or Will Not Engage in Christian Contemplation

Some things never change. Here’s a little quote from Teresa of Ávila’s classic book about prayer, The Way of Perfection: Let us now return to speak of those souls I have mentioned who cannot practise recollection or tie down their minds to mental prayer or make a meditation. We must not talk to them of either of those two things— they will not hear of them; as a matter of fact, there are a great many people who seem terrified… Read more

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