One Step Christians Must Take To Receive the Gift of Illumination

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 rickety old … [Read more...]

Seven Important Bible Verses About Silence

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.Contemplatives intuitively recognize that silence is the lingua franca of the spiritual life. Silence … [Read more...]

The Fear of the Lord and the Love of God

As a young man growing up in the American south, I heard the phrase "God fearing" a lot. As in, "He's a God fearing man."I think it comes from Psalm 111:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," or its near corollary, Proverbs 1:7: "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."So someone who is "God fearing" is someone, presumably, with wisdom or knowledge: who knows better than to sin, or for that matter to do anything that would offend the Almighty.It's not really … [Read more...]

What to Say to the Nay-Sayers: Talking About Contemplation With Its Critics

If you are active in a church or other faith community, and you are drawn to (or practicing) silent prayer, if you talk about it with others you will likely, sooner or later, hear somebody say something along these lines:"Isn't meditation Buddhist? Or Hindu? Christians don't need to do that sort of thing.""Sitting in silence? It's just a waste of time. We are called to be serving others, not avoiding them.""Contemplation and mysticism aren't in the Bible. Therefore, they aren't for … [Read more...]

Psalm 131: Humility, Silence and Hope

Sometimes I get asked "Where is contemplation in the Bible?"One obvious answer to this question is Psalm 131.It's a short Psalm, only three verses. Here it is in its entirety from the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (but every translation works):O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,my eyes are not raised too high;I do not occupy myself with thingstoo great and too marvelous for me.But I have calmed and quieted my soul,like a child quieted at its mother’s br … [Read more...]

The Hidden Tradition of Christian Mysticism

Karl Rahner, one of the most renowned Christian theologians of the twentieth century, once famously remarked that "the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all."For people whose experience of Christianity is, often, little more than a religion invested in obedience and in patriarchal morality, this seems to be a bold statement. After all, mysticism implies not legalistic religion, but living spirituality —  heart-felt intimacy with God, centered on a miraculous and jo … [Read more...]

Lectio Divina Every Day

"Love for Jesus is fed by constant meditation on the Gospels." — Michael Casey, OCSOA prominent pastor who hosts an Internet podcast once interviewed me for his show, and at the close of our conversation asked me, "What is the one book you would recommend to readers as the most essential title to read, for the purpose of understanding Christian mysticism?"Without batting an eye I said, "The Bible, of course." I don't think that was the answer he was expecting!But it's true. If you ha … [Read more...]