Thoughts are to contemplative silence like a monstrance is to the Host

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplation like this: A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God's greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love. I emphasized "wordless prayer" because that is often what people struggle with the most. Critics of contemplation attack it because they see it as "emptying the mind" which they think makes it too similar to eastern meditation (which is an … [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...]

In Pursuit of Silence: A Quiet Movie with Much to Say

"Silence is where we speak something deeper than our words...""Silence returns us to what is real."These are two of many jewels of insight spoken over the course of In Pursuit of Silence, a luminous and vitally important movie, which, as far as I am concerned, everyone needs to see.In 2014 I interviewed the film's director Patrick Shen (read the interview here), and now I have had the privilege to screen the film ahead of its North American debut later this month at the SXSW Festival … [Read more...]

Books and a Film: All About Silence

I would love to attend the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin next month — if for no other reason than to be at the North American premiere of the movie In Pursuit of Silence. Here's the latest trailer for this "meditative film about our relationship with sound and the impact of noise on our lives."http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDTxstUyrM8So if you live in or near Austin, or are attending SXSW, go see this movie (they haven't announced time and location yet, so keep an eye on the … [Read more...]

What Are We Afraid Of?

I've been reading Bill Bryson's charming and delightful book on the English language, The Mother Tongue, and ran across this delicious tidbit:English speakers dread silence. We are all familiar with the uncomfortable feeling that overcomes us when a conversation palls. Studies have shown that when a pause reaches four seconds, one or more of the conversationalists will invariably blurt something — a fatuous comment on the weather, a startled cry of "Gosh, is that the time?" — rather than let th … [Read more...]

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...]