Dear Pope Francis… (or as they say in Ireland, A Phápa Proinsias, a chara…)

Did you know that when Pope Francis was a little boy, he wanted to be a butcher when he grew up?Or that, as a young man, his favorite dance was the tango?These are just two of many delightful surprises found in Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World, newly published by Loyola Press. Children from Jesuit schools around the world were invited to write a brief letter to the pope, asking him one question, and drawing a picture to accompany their … [Read more...]

The 2016 Presidential Candidate Prayer Challenge: Are You In?

As a blogger, I tend to avoid politics like it's radioactive. Not because I don't have political views (I do, and they're rather strong), but because of my conviction that contemplative prayer is for everyone — not just people who hold the same political views as I do. Unfortunately, the way the Internet echo-chamber works, far too many readers tend only to read writers with whom we agree (and ignore, or argue with, those with whom we don't). Since my goal is to promote silent prayer, if I star … [Read more...]

Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives

Tibetan Buddhists have a series of spiritual exercises that are seen as foundational to their spiritual practice: a sort of "spiritual boot camp." They are called ngöndro or in English, "preliminary practices."The aspirant who wishes to attain enlightenment begins with these preliminary exercises, which include a series of 100,000 prostrations and a variety of chants designed to purify the individual of impediments such as jealousy, attachment, or delusion. According to Thubten Chodron, "The … [Read more...]

Why Trappists Make Great Spiritual Guides

If you want access to a living Catholic contemplative tradition, look to the Trappists.In the past few weeks I've read three books that demonstrate the wisdom of Trappist monks. Two of the books are new, and one is an overlooked gem from twenty years ago. One of the titles is written by a monk; the others by laypersons who share how the friendship and guidance of monks helped them in periods of transition in their own spiritual journey.First up is Seeking Surrender: How My Friendship … [Read more...]

The Contemplative Story of Dear Prudence

I love the Beatles, and like many Beatles fans, I think The White Album is one of their great masterpieces. And one of the best songs on The White Album is, without question, "Dear Prudence."But did you know that the song was influenced by the music of the Gypsies, Transcendental Meditation, and the daughter (and sister) of Hollywood celebrities?"Dear Prudence" was written in early 1968, when the Beatles were in India, while John and George were studying Transcendental Meditation with th … [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...]

“That God’s Love Might Live in Us” — A Few Lovely Words from Thomas Merton

I've been re-reading Thomas Merton's The Waters of Siloe for a class I'm teaching at the monastery. It's basically Merton's history of the Cistercian order, but it's also full of his insights into Cistercian spirituality (and monastic spirituality in general). I especially love the book because it devotes several pages to the founding of the monastery in Georgia, including a wonderful photograph of the monks sitting in front of the old barn where they lived when they first came to the … [Read more...]


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