Books for Beginning the Spiritual Journey

Here is a list of several books I recommend for spiritual seekers — especially those who are working with a spiritual director or companion.When I recently posted a list of books for spiritual directors, I suppose it only made sense that someone would send along this request:https://twitter.com/professorasher/status/765294144998834180Thank you, Seth. I'm assuming that this list of books for directees would be aimed at persons who are relatively new to intentional contemplative s … [Read more...]

Contemplation and Conflict

I simply love this story of two desert fathers, which Thomas Merton recounts in his book The Wisdom of the Desert:There were two elders living together in a cell, and they had never had so much as one quarrel with one another. One therefore said to the other: Come on, let us have at least one quarrel, like other men. The other said: I don't know how to start a quarrel. The first said: I will take this brick and place it here between us. Then I will say: It is mine. After that you will say: It … [Read more...]

The Dazzling Darkness

"There is in God (some say)A deep, but dazzling darkness"— Henry Vaughan“Truly, you are a God who hides himself,O God of Israel, the Savior.”— Isaiah 45:15“Your brightness is my darkness. I know nothing of You and, by myself, I cannot even imagine how to go about knowing You. If I imagine You, I am mistaken. If I understand You, I am deluded. If I am conscious and certain I know You, I am crazy. The darkness is enough.”— Thomas Merton,Prayer Before Midnight Mass,Christmas 1941 … [Read more...]

Seven Essential Thomas Merton Books

Today is the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton's birth.To celebrate this day here is a list of seven books I would recommend to anyone who wants a grounding in Merton's life and wisdom, without having to read all of his many books. With over seventy titles to his name, it can be daunting to approach his work, especially for the first time. I hope this list will help readers to find the key themes and insights of his body of work; and even if you are a long-standing fan of Merton, maybe … [Read more...]

Christian Mystics to Celebrate in 2015

2015 is something of a red-letter year for Christian contemplatives.This is the 100th anniversary of the birth year of Thomas Merton, who was born on January 31, 1915. Merton lived until 1968, and in his short life wrote over fifty books, published both before and after his accidental death at age 53. Merton entered the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in 1941, and became world-renowned after his spiritual memoir, The Seven Storey Mountain, became a surprise bestseller in 1948. Merton is a … [Read more...]

Interfaith-Friendly Christianity?

Jesus, following the law of his people, instructed his followers to "love your neighbor as yourself."But then he upped the ante by telling the story of the good Samaritan — in his society, the Samaritans were the social outcasts. Yet here was a parable in which the social outcast was a better neighbor to a man in need than the community and religious leaders who didn't want to get involved.The message is simple: Our neighbors are not just the people who look like us, act like us, or en … [Read more...]

“That God’s Love Might Live in Us” — A Few Lovely Words from Thomas Merton

I've been re-reading Thomas Merton's The Waters of Siloe for a class I'm teaching at the monastery. It's basically Merton's history of the Cistercian order, but it's also full of his insights into Cistercian spirituality (and monastic spirituality in general). I especially love the book because it devotes several pages to the founding of the monastery in Georgia, including a wonderful photograph of the monks sitting in front of the old barn where they lived when they first came to the … [Read more...]