Emptiness and Non-Attachment

Last week I wrote about the difference between how Catholics understand meditation and contemplation, based on material found in the Catholic Catechism. A reader left the following comment on that post: We rest in God. But we do not empty our minds. We are always in communication with God. Prayer is focusing on God and we praise him for who He is, we intercede for others, and we put our requests to Him. We align our wills with His in prayer. Never do we make our minds a 'spiritual vacuum' for … [Read more...]

Talking about “Befriending Silence”

Earlier today I joined Deborah Arca, one of the editors of Patheos, for a Skype conversation about my new book, Befriending Silence. We talked about Cistercian spirituality and how it can be a blessings for everyone, even monks and nuns.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0vImOYGirU … [Read more...]

Seven Ways the Mystics Inspire Us Today

One of my favorite quotations comes from Karl Rahner: "The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist."It's a prophetic statement, from a man who died in 1984. When paired with the demographic realities of the last 30 years (Americans who identify as Christian comprised 85% of the population in 1985, but only 70% of the population today, while the so-called "nones" — people without religious affiliation — grew from 8% in '85 to 16% today), it's fair to say that Rahner's "fut … [Read more...]

What to Say to the Nay-Sayers: Talking About Contemplation With Its Critics

If you are active in a church or other faith community, and you are drawn to (or practicing) silent prayer, if you talk about it with others you will likely, sooner or later, hear somebody say something along these lines:"Isn't meditation Buddhist? Or Hindu? Christians don't need to do that sort of thing.""Sitting in silence? It's just a waste of time. We are called to be serving others, not avoiding them.""Contemplation and mysticism aren't in the Bible. Therefore, they aren't for … [Read more...]

Mindfulness and Contemplation

Recently a reader left the following comment on this blog:I have been reading and tried to practice the way of a contemplative life although poorly I believe. But my hunger for anything on the topic of contemplation continues. Recently I have also been enticed into “mindfulness” practices. Now what or how do you relation contemplation and Mindfulness? They’re beginning to sound that there is a correlation? Thank you!Thanks for your comment. First of all, we are all "poor" when it comes to con … [Read more...]

Principles for Contemplative Spirituality (Part One)

A couple of years ago Rob Bell wrote a book with the title What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I haven't read the book, but I love the title. So I suppose this blog post could be called "What we talk about when we talk about contemplation."If that seems funny to you, I admit I'm being ironic. Why talk about something that takes us — or at least invites us — to a place beyond language, beyond words, beyond grammar? But as silent as contemplation is, the reality of being human is that we … [Read more...]

Letter and Spirit: Thoughts and Silence?

In his sermon On Conversion, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux quotes Acts 26:24, only he paraphrases it like this: "Too much thinking has made you mad!"Whenever I see a verse like this rendered in an unusual or thought-provoking way, I like to check out the original Greek or Hebrew, even though I'm strictly an amateur when it comes to Biblical languages.These words were spoken by Festus, who is criticizing Paul when the saint is addressing Agrippa. Festus says, in G … [Read more...]