June 25, 2020

Ireland is a land shaped by myth, story, and poetry — and her sister countries in the Celtic world, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and so forth, all share in their affinity to eloquence and incantatory language. Names like William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Robert Burns, Dylan Thomas, R.S. Thomas (no relation, I believe) and countless others testify to the enduring place of poetry in the hearts and minds of the Celtic peoples. In traditional Gaelic culture, the bard played a central… Read more

June 18, 2020

A reader named Beth writes: Hi Carl, I started reading “The Big Book of Christian Mysticism” and have a question for you… In chapter 1 you make the point of understanding the text from a Christian perspective which makes the distinction between being identical with God vs. communion with God. That subject has always perplexed me. If the spiritual realm is not material it therefore may not comply to matters of separation. How can we understand that statement given that… Read more

June 15, 2020

Today (June 15) is a day for remembering the passing of Evelyn Underhill, who died on this day in 1941. If you are new to Evelyn Underhill, she was probably the most important writer in the English language for celebrating Christian contemplative and mystical spirituality in her lifetime. From the publication of her magisterial book Mysticism  in 1911, until her death three decades later, she (in the words of Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey) “did more than anyone else… to keep… Read more

May 26, 2020

Today I want to share with you something I co-wrote with my wife, Fran. For our RCIA program, we often begin or end our meeting with an Examen — a prayer practice inspired by the Daily Examen as promoted by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Think of it as a daily “life review,” an examination not only of conscience but even more so of consciousness — consciousness of God’s presence in our lives and of how we both accept that resist that presence…. Read more

May 5, 2020

A reader named Brian writes: Being a Lay Cistercian seems to be an important part of your journey. I’m wondering if becoming an oblate is a next step for me? My spiritual director and I have discussed this off and on for over a year now. While I have an established contemplative practice (e.g., Daily Office, Lectio Divina, Examen, Centering Prayer), he and I agree that “scaffolding” helps keep me intentional, accountable, and engaged with community. How to discern which… Read more

April 20, 2020

In March 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders started to show up at local and state governments across the land, I read somewhere — I don’t remember where — that dolphins had been seen in the canals of Venice. Perhaps it was this tweet: Venice hasn't seen clear canal water in a very long time. Dolphins showing up too. Nature just hit the reset button on us pic.twitter.com/RzqOq8ftCj— Luca De Santis (@yeSaints) March 17, 2020 Other stories were making… Read more

April 14, 2020

It’s been over a month now since the World Health Organization has acknowledged that COVID-19 is a pandemic. As of today (4/13/20), over 22000 Americans and 116,000 people worldwide have died from the virus; and those numbers will certainly rise in the days and months to come. While this is not the plague (which decimated over a third of Europe’s population in one terrible four-year period), it’s far worse than the ordinary flu or even the swine flu. Almost everyone’s… Read more

April 8, 2020

In my book Unteachable Lessons I talk about Kenneth Leech, the Anglican priest who wrote a variety of books on topics related to both contemplative spirituality and the struggle for social justice (if you’re not familiar with Ken Leech, check out Prayer and Prophecy, an anthology of his most essential writings). I only met Ken on a handful of occasions. When I ran the bookstore in Sewanee (the site of an Episcopal seminary), he came in to the store while he was… Read more

March 5, 2020

It’s March, and that means St. Patrick’s Day is just a few days away! This year, instead of (or, in addition to) enjoying a pint of green beer, why don’t you observe St. Patrick’s Day by enrolling in a Celtic spirituality e-course through Spirituality and Practice? These courses are available “on demand” — which means you can sign up, and receive the course materials via e-mail at your convenience. Each course includes a dozen “lessons” that cover informative material about Celtic… Read more

February 21, 2020

A reader writes: Carl, do you think the Catholic Church has more scope to welcome contemplative Christians?  I attend an Anglican church and I’m very high Anglican in my thinking. A friend calls me a secret Catholic.  I’m growing weary of the evangelical fundamentalist direction of the church… I’m a bit lost to be honest. I’m sorry you feel lost, and I think it’s not unusual, especially when someone discovers contemplative spirituality, to feel a bit out of place if… Read more




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