Concerning Merton, Spiritual Direction, and Lighting Candles

  I'm continuing the conversation with noted author and Anglican solitary Maggie Ross. If you're just joining the party now, read Maggie Ross on Scholarship and the Contemplative Life and Maggie Ross's Response to get the story thus far. What follows below is my response to her comments, as posted on my blog yesterday. ***** Dear Maggie,Once again I must say thank you — this time for leaving such a detailed and thoughtful response to my questions. I know you say you are o … [Read more...]

Maggie Ross’s Response

Here's what Maggie Ross posted on her blog, in response to the questions I posed to her yesterday.First, for those just joining the conversation, here is what I wrote to her: Dear Maggie Ross,First of all, I'm honored even to be mentioned in your blog. I read Pillars of Flame years ago and was impressed by its eloquence, the force of its argument, and its spiritual depth. I still consult both appendices regularly.Now, as to my unlikely appearance in your blog: I'm humbled by your … [Read more...]

Maggie Ross on Scholarship and the Contemplative Life

I am honored, although also humbled, to have been mentioned in the blog of Anglican solitary Maggie Ross, author of a truly wonderful book on the spirituality of priesthood, Pillars of Flame. Ross is taking me to task for recommending Carmen Butcher's translation of The Cloud of Unknowing. Although she is gracious in the tone of her criticism, her overall message is that anyone who seeks to learn from the great contemplatives of the past must be careful in his or her scholarship, or else the … [Read more...]

A Novice and His Master…

Readers of my blog may find this interesting: the story of Randy De Trinis, who explored monastic life at Gethsemani Abbey in the 1950s under the spiritual guidance of Thomas Merton. Although he did not stay at the monastery, his memoir reveals what an impact Merton had on his young life.In his own words: This is an article by Randy De Trinis originally published in The Merton Seasonal, a quarterly of The International Thomas Merton Society. It is a memoir of my life especially focused on my … [Read more...]

“Ordinary Mysticism”

A quote from The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: Mysticism can best be understood in an egalitarian and inclusive way... you don’t have to have supernatural experiences in order to be a mystic; therefore, everyone is called, if not to a life of extraordinary phenomena, then at least to the “ordinary mysticism” of the contemplative life. At the monastery this weekend, one of the monks asked me if I could explain this term "ordinary mysticism." Since it is in quotation marks in the book, I should … [Read more...]

Concerning Theology, Straw, and Basic Kindness

In New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton made this acerbic, but I think on-the-mark, comment: "Beware of the contemplative who says that theology is all straw before he has ever bothered to read any." Historically, theology and mysticism were not two separate disciplines, but rather two sides of the same coin. Theology, or "God-talk," sought to express what in contemplation comes to us as ineffable mysteries. Why bother, you might ask, to attempt to speak of what cannot be put into words? Like the … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

The important thing in contemplation is not enjoyment, not pleasure, not happiness, not peace, but the transcendent experience of reality and truth in the act of a supreme and liberated spiritual love. The important thing in contemplation is not gratification and rest, but awareness, life, creativity, and freedom. — Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience … [Read more...]


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