Cloister of the Heart

The other day I had a wonderful chat with a friend of mine who is a Lay Cistercian and who regularly makes retreats at the monastery where I work. As Lay Cistercians, we have a unique perspective on monastic spirituality and what it can mean for those of us who are not, and not called to be, monks. Lay Cistercians, incidentally, are like Benedictine Oblates, Secular Franciscans, or Third Order Carmelites: people who are not called to the consecrated religious life, but who are nonetheless drawn … [Read more...]

Cloister Talks

Cloister Talks: Learning from My Friends the Monks By Jon M. Sweeney Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009 Review by Carl McColmanMonasteries are archetypal. Even for Protestants who live in a religious milieu that does not include monastic communities, monks and nuns (and their communal way of life) symbolize either strong positive or negative concepts: at worst, they represent religious decadence or hypocrisy, no doubt a lingering after-effect of the hostilities of the reformation era or the … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

A monastery can never be merely an escape from the world. Its very purpose is to enable us to face the problems of the world at their deepest level, that is to say, in relation to God and eternal life. Everything in the monastic life down to the deepest level has to be viewed from this angle. — Bede Griffiths, The Golden String … [Read more...]

In Between the Worlds

Yesterday while working at the Abbey Store I got a surprise: a man came in whom I recognized, but couldn't quite place. We spoke, and he reminded me who he was. I knew him years ago, when I was active in the Atlanta Neopagan community — and he was a Wiccan elder.It turns out he's discovered contemplative Christianity and has fallen in love with it. He spoke enthusiastically about meditating with the monks in the monastery church. I told him that I had become a Catholic in 2005, and he replied, … [Read more...]

Monk Habits for Everyday People

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants By Dennis Okholm Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007 Review by Carl McColmanOkay, so this book has a lame title. But the point of the book is neatly encapsulated in its subtitle: here is an introduction to the spirituality of St. Benedictine, written by a Presbyterian theologian who has a background in both Pentecostalism and the Baptist community. In other words, this isn't some sort of Anglican "we're just like … [Read more...]

The Flaw of Neo-Monasticism

Yesterday I was talking with one of the Cistercian monks with whom I work at the Abbey Store. I mentioned the concept of neo-monasticism to him and he said he had never heard of it. So I told him it was a movement toward new forms of intentional Christian communities, popular especially with young evangelicals. He interrupted me. "Are they celibate?" He asked abruptly. I said that I believed most neo-monastic groups neither required nor forbade celibacy. "Then they're not really monastics," he … [Read more...]

Monastic Evangelicals

Christianity Today has posted an article about the growing interest, particularly among young evangelicals, in various aspects of monastic and liturgical spirituality, including Celtic spirituality. Click here to read it.Dare we  hope that Christian mysticism could be the next arena where evangelicals will go to deepen their faith? … [Read more...]


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