“Constantly Seek His Face”

Today’s Mass Readings (Hebrews 2:14–18, Psalm 105:1–9, and Mark 1:29–39) offer an interesting insight into the role of prayer in the life of faith.The Gospel reading, from the first chapter of Mark, gives us several stories of healing and exorcism in rapid succession. But there is a sentence right in the middle of the reading, that is very humble and unassuming, but I think it is so important for us to reflect on. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where … [Read more...]

The Flicker of the Screen

For if there is no dark night of the soul anymore that isn’t lit with the flicker of the screen, then there is no morning of hopefulness either.The above quotation comes from a fascinating, and I believe vitally important, article by Andrew Sullivan, called I Used to Be A Human Being. Originally published in New York magazine, it's long for an internet article (7000 words) — but read it anyway. Take the time. Savor the beautiful language, the keen insight, but most important of all, it's vital … [Read more...]

Remembering the Three Dimensions of Prayer at Every Mass

Do you know why Catholics make three small crosses with their thumb — on their forehead, their lips, and their hearts — at every Mass when the Gospel reading is announced?Here is insight into this practice from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults: At Mass when the reading of the Gospel begins, we place the sign of the Cross on our foreheads, lips, and hearts and pray, “May the Lord be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.” Lips, minds, and hearts—these symbolize three kin … [Read more...]

The Place of Joy in Christian Spirituality

What is the relationship between prayer and joy? If we enjoy our prayer, does that mean we are avoiding the hard work of spirituality (which, at least in Christian terms, is meant to make us holy, not to entertain us)?I had an interesting little exchange on Facebook the other day, when a reader, who is a priest of the Church of England, took exception to the headline of my post from last year, called Five Ways You Can Enjoy a Deeper Personal Prayer Life.Reacting simply to that post's … [Read more...]

Do Contemplatives Need the Church?

A post on this blog received the following comment yesterday:Having been with the Catholic Church and seminary trained for all my 71 years of life . I am naturally contemplative . But I do now believe practising formal meditation/contemplation is false . Aren’t we missing the point if we try and set time aside for contemplation?Surely if we are made in Gods image we are already suffused with Gods holy grace and we are divinised, so if we are living in Christ what’s the point in pretending to … [Read more...]

Three Approaches to Prayer When the Dry Times Come

A friend of mine posed the following question recently on Facebook:You may have written about this before but how about dry times in prayer? What to do? Does it really mean anything? Can we have an impact on it or do we patiently wait it out?The fancy term here is "aridity." I suspect anyone who has attempted a sustained, daily (or at least regular) practice of prayer encounters this sooner or later. A sense of dryness, as if our prayers are parched. If we pray with words (whether our own or … [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...]