Thoughts are to contemplative silence like a monstrance is to the Host

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplation like this: A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God's greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love. I emphasized "wordless prayer" because that is often what people struggle with the most. Critics of contemplation attack it because they see it as "emptying the mind" which they think makes it too similar to eastern meditation (which is an … [Read more...]

Instructions on Prayer from a Trappist Monk

"I'm speechless," remarked Brother Elias Marechal, OCSO, after a congregation of several hundred young evangelicals vigorously applauded his visit to their worship service last month. But then he quipped, "We don't talk in the monastery much."Grace Fellowship in Athens, GA (home of the University of Georgia) recently invited this deeply contemplative Trappist monk to come and speak to the congregation, comprised mostly of students. Grace's pastor, John Raymond, has for the past decade re … [Read more...]

Five Essential Dimensions of Christian Prayer

I talk a lot about silent prayer in this blog, which is understandable considering that my focus is on contemplative prayer, which the Catholic Catechism describes as "wordless prayer." As important as silence is to contemplative and mystical forms of prayer, it's only one of five essential dimensions of Christian prayer. In this post I look at all of these dimensions of prayer: what they are, why they matter, and how to cultivate all the essential ways of praying in your daily spiritual pra … [Read more...]

Seven Blessings of Silent Prayer

Silent prayer — contemplative prayer, what the Catholic Catechism calls "wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God's greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration" — is an important element of a mature Christian spirituality. The Bible instructs us to "be still and know... God" (Psalm 46:10), and even promises us that "silence is praise" (Psalm 65:1, translated literally).I thought it might be helpful to reflect on the many ways that contemplation brings blessing into our l … [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...]

Catholic Meditation and Contemplative Prayer: What’s the Difference?

A reader of my blog wrote to me and asked this question: What do you see is the difference between Catholic meditation and contemplative prayer?  It's a great question, made complicated by the fact that words like meditation and contemplation can be used in a variety of ways, especially in society at large.For example, many people may associate "meditation" with eastern or secular practices such as zen or mindfulness meditation, exercises that are primarily a form of self-knowledge or self- … [Read more...]

Nine Ways to Foster a Contemplative Church

If you are the pastor of a church or parish, this post is for you. If you are not the pastor but are a member of a congregation, consider sharing this post with your pastor, especially if he or she is interested in silent prayer.Karl Rahner, the renowned 20th century Jesuit theologian, once wrote "the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist." I interpret this to mean that Christians need more than just moral guidance and instruction in the proper way to think about God, … [Read more...]