Contemplation and the Lay Cistercian Life

My latest column is now online at Patheos. It's called Beholding the One Who Beholds Us and, as always, you can access it by following the link.It's my most personal column to date. In it I talk about my recent profession of life promises as a Lay Cistercian, and explain how that is related to my sense of being called to a contemplative life — even though, technically speaking, I live a "mixed" life since I aspire to contemplation without formally entering monastic life.Please take a m … [Read more...]

Simplicity and Prayer

In the simple promises for the junior lay associates (Lay Cistercians) of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, we promise, among other things, to live "life in simplicity and prayer." I love that juxtaposition. Prayer and simplicity go together so beautifully, it seems to me, that one of the best ways to cultivate in our hearts the space for prayer is by allowing things to be simple. I don't mean simple in the sense of not very smart, but simple in the sense of what Taoists call wu-wei, or "going … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

The problem of mysticism is to endow the mind and will of man with a supernatural experience of God as He is in Himself and, ultimately, to transform a human soul into God by a union of love. This is something that no human agency can perform or merit or even conceive by itself. This work can be done only by the direct intervention of God. Nevertheless, we can dispose ourselves for mystical union, with the help of ordinary grace and the practice of the virtues. We have just seen that, for St. … [Read more...]

Concerning Merton, Spiritual Direction, and Lighting Candles

  I'm continuing the conversation with noted author and Anglican solitary Maggie Ross. If you're just joining the party now, read Maggie Ross on Scholarship and the Contemplative Life and Maggie Ross's Response to get the story thus far. What follows below is my response to her comments, as posted on my blog yesterday. ***** Dear Maggie,Once again I must say thank you — this time for leaving such a detailed and thoughtful response to my questions. I know you say you are o … [Read more...]

Chapters 17 and 18

A reader writes, in response to last Monday's post: can you please comment on chapter17 and 18 of the cloud of unknowing as i think very relevant to this discussion. it is certainly an ungoing struggle with myself as within my own mind there is ongoing dialogue between active and contemplative life the author of the cloud seems to reject the idea that the two forms can exist in one s life and i would definately agree………after one receives spiritual direction to authenticate the yearning of the spi … [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...]

Mary and Martha Revisited

A friend of mine wrote me this note:I struggle at times to see the point of non-mystic relationships with our Abba. I don't want to judge but it feels as if mystics connect with God and all else is religion. Even as I prepare to go to a contemporary church service where many enjoy the worship and talking, I would rather just be somewhere quiet with my Source and Lover of my soul.You've written somewhere on your website about the connection between mystics / contemplatives and INFP's. Do we … [Read more...]


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