Happy St. Hildegard’s Day!

A Feather on the Breath of God

One of the most colorful and remarkable of mystics, of any age, is the irrepressible twelfth century Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Today (September 17) is her feast day.Hildegard was a Renaissance woman who lived several centuries before the Renaissance: not only was she a mystic and visionary, but she was also an accomplished musician, an artist (or, at least, an art director), a preacher, an herbalist, a prophet, and a respected leader in the church of her day. She lived at a … [Read more...]

Spiritual Orientation

My latest column has been published on Patheos. It's called Four Compass Points for the Spiritual Life.It grew out of an idea I have for this website (www.anamchara.com). It seems to me that there are four key dimensions to the spiritual life, no matter whether we are beginners or seasoned practitioners. And while I wrote the Patheos column specifically with "beginners" (of all ages) in mind, in truth one of the paradoxes of the spiritual life is that the further we travel on the journey, … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

In modern Western society, many people turn away from the Christianity of their formative years because they find its truths smothered under an unreal kind of religiosity. They see that the people in the churches are not changing and becoming better, but rather are comforting themselves and each other in their unregenerate state. They find that the spirit of the Western churches is, at its core, little different from that of the world around them. Having removed from Christianity the Cross of … [Read more...]

A Novice and His Master…

Readers of my blog may find this interesting: the story of Randy De Trinis, who explored monastic life at Gethsemani Abbey in the 1950s under the spiritual guidance of Thomas Merton. Although he did not stay at the monastery, his memoir reveals what an impact Merton had on his young life.In his own words: This is an article by Randy De Trinis originally published in The Merton Seasonal, a quarterly of The International Thomas Merton Society. It is a memoir of my life especially focused on my … [Read more...]

Fast Food Mysticism?

Consider these two interesting quotes. This one comes from Simon, who commented on my essay The Hidden Tradition of Christian Mysticism: One of the dangers of Centering Prayer, as I see it, is that contemplation is being served up as some sort of fast food. MacContemplation, so to speak! And this, from Ali at Meadowsweet & Myrrh, reflecting on the Northern Ireland retreat: What is the connection between silent contemplation and peace? Is there one? ... so far the lesson of this week … [Read more...]

Chants from the Benedictine Monks of Rostrevor

When I was in Northern Ireland, I stayed at a retreat center in Rostrevor, in County Down. Just four miles down the road is Holy Cross Monastery, which according to its website is the first new Benedictine monastery in Ireland since the twelfth century! It was established in 1998, and currently is home to six monks. I attended lauds there one morning, and mass on Sunday; nearly all the locals who spoke of the monastery mentioned that the monks sang beautifully, and indeed they were … [Read more...]

The meaning and purpose (and types) of prayer

A reader named Steven responded to my Wasting Time with God post by writing, in part: Carl, the terms "prayer," "contemplation," "meditation,"  "non-discursive contemplation," have been used in this conversation. I would very much like to understand how you would distinguish between them. Furthermore, I am trying to come to a deeper appreciation of the meaning and purpose of prayer. Forgive me for not getting too detailed in my response here, for two reasons: 1. it's late, and I want to get to … [Read more...]


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