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...]

Wasting Time with God

Yesterday one of the older monks had to pick up a printing job, and so he needed a ride into town to the print shop. He could have asked a novice or a monastic guest to drive him in, but he chose me. I was delighted at the thought of spending an hour with this monk, whose loving personality and palpable holiness I have admired for a long time. It turned out to be almost two hours — the print shop was further away that I realized. Little did I know how the conversation would go. I'm not sure if h … [Read more...]

A Contemplative Curriculum?

I've written in this blog several times recently about what a contemplative practice group might look like, and hopefully I'll be involved in setting up at least one such group in the near future. But in a conversation with a clergy friend last night, he asked me what it would look like to have a fully-formed curriculum of classes, workshops, retreats, etc., all designed to support individuals and communities in the quest to grow toward deeper intimacy and union with Christ?Wow. What a sweet … [Read more...]

Intercessory Contemplation

This thought came to me yesterday. We Christians understand spirituality and mysticism in communal ways: we are knit into the Body of Christ, our mandate is to love one another, we are to "be Christ" for each other, and so forth. For this reason, intercessory prayer — praying on behalf of others — is an important part of Christian spirituality. Indeed, in Catholicism it is customary to make offerings to the church to have masses said for the intentions of those we love.Meditation and con … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

The important thing in contemplation is not enjoyment, not pleasure, not happiness, not peace, but the transcendent experience of reality and truth in the act of a supreme and liberated spiritual love. The important thing in contemplation is not gratification and rest, but awareness, life, creativity, and freedom. — Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience … [Read more...]

Four Dimensions of Christian Spirituality for Our Time

About a month ago I wrote this: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how my spiritual identity is shaped by the contemplative tradition (as exemplified by the Lay-Cistercian community where I am in formation), my Celtic heritage (of which I have written several books and which continues to inform much of my self-understanding as a Christian), my love for mysticism (primarily Christian mysticism, but extending into all the wisdom streams of the world) and the emergent conversation ( … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

Broadly speaking, then, we can say that there are three kinds of contemplation: one is philosophical and its peak-point is a metaphysical experience of being; the second has for its object Christian dogmas the inner meaning of which it savors with the light of faith; the third is a high form of union with God, conferred gratuitously upon His intimate friends. A consideration of these three kinds of contemplation helps us to understand the traditional relationship between reason, dogma, and … [Read more...]