“Does anyone read Thomas Merton any more?”

Yesterday I received a review copy of a beautiful new book: The Selected Essays of Thomas Merton, edited by Patrick F. O'Connell. This newly published anthology from Orbis Books includes thirty-three essays on a wide range of topics. I am confident that anyone who loves Merton, poetry, or contemplation will find much to savor here. Merely glancing at the table of contents is enough to make this reader practically salivate: with topics ranging from St. John of the Cross to Gandhi, from Boris … [Read more...]

Writing the Icon of the Heart

Writing the Icon of the Heart: In Silence Beholding By Maggie Ross Abingdon, UK: Bible Reading Fellowship, 2011Almost twenty years ago I read Maggie Ross's wonderful book on the theology of priesthood, Pillars of Flame: Power, Priesthood and Spiritual Maturity. Not only was it a valuable book in helping me to affirm my ministry as a lay Christian, but it also struck me as one of the most lyrical and eloquent statements of Christian spirituality in general that I had ever read. Yes, that is … [Read more...]

Soundings in the Christian Mystical Tradition

Soundings in the Christian Mystical TraditionBy Harvey D. EganCollegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2010Harvey Egan is one of the big names in the academic study of Christian mysticism; he is the editor of one of the best anthologies of Christian mystical writings, and has penned insightful studies into the work of Jesuit mystics like Ignatius of Loyola and Karl Rahner. But this most recent offering of his may be one of the most useful books for anyone wishing to learn more about the great … [Read more...]

Falling Upward

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life By Richard Rohr San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011Richard Rohr's newest book unpacks a simple, and yet profoundly important, idea: that the goals and purpose of the spiritual life evolve over the lifespan; in other words, what is important and necessary in the first half of life might actually impede our spiritual calling in the second half. While even a cursory knowledge of developmental psychology can make this idea seem like mere … [Read more...]

Into the Silent Land

Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation By Martin Laird Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006 Review by Carl McColmanHere is one of the loveliest, most poetic, and most useful books on the practice of mature Christian prayer that I have ever read.First of all, what this book is not. It is not a comprehensive guide to Christian spirituality, or even to Christian prayer. The author does not bother discussing the sacramental or liturgical life of the church, or … [Read more...]

Knowing Just Enough to Be Dangerous

When I reviewed William Riordan's Divine Light yesterday, I spoke in general terms about how I felt the book did a good job at offering a positive view of the ancient theologian Denys (or Pseudo-Dionysius) the Areopagite, who has been dismissed by many Christians because he is clearly not a New Testament author, as he claims to be.I didn't get into the nuances of Riordan's treatment of Neo-Platonism, because, frankly, that's not my area of expertise.Last night a commenter pointed out a … [Read more...]

Divine Light

Divine Light: The Theology of Denys the Areopagite By William Riordan San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008 Review by Carl McColmanTo fully grasp the beauty and complexity (and some would say, the challenge) of Christian mysticism, sooner or later you will contend with the elusive sixth-century figure known variously as Denys, Dionysius, or Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite. We don't know his real name. In his own writings, he passes himself off as a figure briefly mentioned in the New Testament … [Read more...]


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