Contemplation and Grieving

A reader named Monika wrote the following comment and left it on one of my blog posts:I recently lost my husband of 49 years to a sudden brain tumor. I sold our home and cafe for economic reasons. I always wanted to live in quiet contemplation when the right time came. I think that it is here and I have nothing but grief blocking any inner peace I am looking for. Where do I start?All your posts seem so moving and joyful.ThanksThank you, Monika, for your comment. I am so sorry to hear ab … [Read more...]

Contemplation and Conflict

I simply love this story of two desert fathers, which Thomas Merton recounts in his book The Wisdom of the Desert:There were two elders living together in a cell, and they had never had so much as one quarrel with one another. One therefore said to the other: Come on, let us have at least one quarrel, like other men. The other said: I don't know how to start a quarrel. The first said: I will take this brick and place it here between us. Then I will say: It is mine. After that you will say: It … [Read more...]

The Dazzling Darkness

"There is in God (some say)A deep, but dazzling darkness"— Henry Vaughan“Truly, you are a God who hides himself,O God of Israel, the Savior.”— Isaiah 45:15“Your brightness is my darkness. I know nothing of You and, by myself, I cannot even imagine how to go about knowing You. If I imagine You, I am mistaken. If I understand You, I am deluded. If I am conscious and certain I know You, I am crazy. The darkness is enough.”— Thomas Merton,Prayer Before Midnight Mass,Christmas 1941 … [Read more...]

Concerning Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Xenophobia

Contemplative spirituality is a spirituality in which, in the words of Richard Rohr, "everything belongs." It's a spirituality of inclusion, rather than exclusion. It seeks to build bridges rather than walls. To me, this is part of the towering beauty of contemplation. But we live in a world where not everyone sees things the same way, and contemplation, like anything else, has its critics. Generally speaking, my experience shows that the critics of Christian contemplation reject it for two … [Read more...]

Sometimes When I Sit in Silence…

Contemplative prayer — the prayer of sitting in silence, waiting in faith and trust on God — needs to be a daily practice. There are a number of reasons for this, but today I'd like to look at something I experience in my own prayer. I have to eat a little bit of humble pie to write this, because I'm admitting how poor I am at praying. But the truth is the truth. I need to pray in silence every day because, well, most days my silent prayer is not all that silent. Futhermore (and this is actually … [Read more...]

Why Contemplation is Revolutionary (Part One)

In yesterday's post (The Archbishop and the Community Theologian) I quoted two renowned living contemplatives — emeritus Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and author/community theologian Kenneth Leech — both speaking of the communal and social implications of contemplative prayer.Naysayers, stand aside. Contemplative prayer is not about navel-gazing or self-absorbed "spiritual experiences." Indeed, anyone who explores contemplation only out of a desire for mystical experience or per … [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...]