Contemplative Fail

solitudeA few years ago, I decided to become more contemplative.

By nature, I am an action-oriented person (I frequently overuse the word “overwhelmed” and yet refuse to stop plowing forward). My husband and I work for a Christian non-profit with core central values of contemplation and activism. As we live and work in a diverse, chaotic, lovely neighborhood, we have been encouraged to regularly find time to be alone—to refresh and recharge in a culture of frenzy and productivity.

So two years ago, we tried it. We secured babysitting for our daughter and booked a twenty-four hour retreat at a nearby Catholic retreat center.

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Girl Meets God in the Classroom, Part 1

girlmeetsgodI had used Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God once before in class, an honors freshman colloquium on the theme of metamorphosis of body, heart, mind, and spirit. On the first or second day of discussing the book, comments made by a few students surprised, stunned, and, ultimately, silenced me.

“I wasn’t raised with any religion,” one student said, “so I can’t relate at all to this book.” A couple other students agreed.

We had barely begun exploring the text. We hadn’t gotten to looking at Winner’s experience and understanding of God, who, if not the main character, is one of the book’s two main characters. That’s how I had intended to discuss God—as a character, the same way we’d discuss a fictional character.

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Thomas Merton: Contemplative Outlaw

On December 10, 1968, Thomas Merton stepped out of the shower in his Bangkok hotel room, reached to adjust the speed of a fan, and was fatally electrocuted.

In many ways, Merton foresaw his own death. And though he could never have imagined it exactly, it was filled with the kind of intent irony and poetry that his life as a contemplative monk/author/peace activist embodied.

As a Trappist monk, he was, by definition and order, cloistered. According to the Rule of Benedict, he was to avoid idle speech, and to live by the work of his hands. But as is well known, Merton struggled to stay silent and disengaged from the world. [Read more...]


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