The Tyranny of Labels

Several folks have pointed out to me that my response to critical comments left on this blog lately has, to put it bluntly, lacked humility. I've allowed myself to get into a place of defensiveness, and that has colored both my blogging and my commenting. To such an observation, I fear I can only say nolo contendere. At least one person has declared that he will no longer be reading this blog. I'm sorry he feels he needs to go, but I understand why he's been disappointed here. I'm  sorry that my … [Read more...]

Forty-Two Inches

Gareth Higgins (the man who is bringing us the Wild Goose Festival) stayed at our  house earlier this week. He was in town for the the 2010 Emergent Village Theological Conversation. Yesterday morning before leaving, he teased me a bit. Noting that we have in our otherwise rather modestly appointed home a 42" flat screen television, he asked me how a "hippie Christian" like me could have such a blatantly materialistic object.Without thinking, I became defensive, and I'm afraid to say, rather … [Read more...]

Consistency

I've been praying — and thinking — a lot about consistency lately.I struggle with self-sabotage issues. I make a commitment, and then back away from it. I commit to spending an hour a day in silent contemplation, and then I over commit my life so that I just never seem to find the time for that half hour in the evening. I want to deepen my immersion in silence — both external and internal — except that, well, my behavior doesn't seem to match my intention.The traditional virtue that applies t … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

Those who are perfectly humble lack nothing, physically or spiritually, because God is all abundance. — The Cloud of Unknowing, Carmen Butcher translation … [Read more...]

Advice for a Beginner

A reader posted these questions to my blog this morning: As a novice to Contemplative Prayer I guess I should take the introduction pace . Any suggestions ? Also, Carl, do you consider Henri Nouwen a mystic? I'll answer your second question first. I certainly have the sense of Henri Nouwen as a contemplative, based on what I know of him and his work. As you may have surmised if you've poked around this blog very much, though, I tend to be reticent about applying the word "mystic" to people … [Read more...]

Humility and Love

I had a chat with my friend Paco yesterday. Paco is a Lay Cistercian and shares my love of the contemplative life. He was my "angel" (my mentor/ "big brother") during my novitiate as a Lay Cistercian, so we've become pretty good friends. I asked Paco to read the unedited manuscript of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and he stopped by my office yesterday to tell me he had finished it. His main criticism of the book is that he felt I did not stress humility enough. "You mention it," he said, … [Read more...]

“An enlightened power of reason and a love common to all”

John Ruusbroec (1293-1381) is one of the greatest of the Christian mystics. His masterpiece, The Spiritual Espousals (sometimes translated as The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage) in my opinion belongs on the short list of "must read" classics of western mysticism.Here is just a taste of the poetic breadth of his wisdom. At one point in the book he writes about the various gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in Isaiah 11. One of these gifts, Understanding, can be seen as comprising … [Read more...]


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