A couple of years ago Rob Bell wrote a book with the title What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I haven’t read the book, but I love the title. So I suppose this blog post could be called “What we talk about when we talk about contemplation.” If that seems funny to […]
“Silence is what you already have, right now… but you need to let it in.”
No words can convey how much I am looking forward to this film. It is due to be released toward the end of 2015. Needless to say, I’ll be talking it up once it’s available.
This book is an interesting interfaith experiment — in which four Buddhists (Norman Fischer, Joseph Goldstein, Judith Simmer-Brown and Yifa) reflect on the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict. For Christians, this is an interesting way to see how one of our foundational contemplative texts can be seen by practitioners of other wisdom traditions. While on occasion I found myself arguing with the various writers on one point or another, for the most part Benedict’s Dharma is a respectful, yet honest, contribution to interspiritual dialogue. It also includes an inclusive-language translation of Rule by Patrick Barry, OSB, and commentary from Christian monastics Mary Margaret Funk and David Steindl-Rast.
Christianity and Eastern Meditation: A Creative Synthesis
This five week course (September 9 through October 14, no class on September 23, Yom Kippur) explores how eastern meditation may be integrated into a Christian practice of prayer and contemplation. This is not about “blending” east and west, but about respecting the unique qualities of different traditions, as the best foundation for true interspirituality. While the class will be taught from a Christian perspective, people of all faith traditions (or none) are welcome to participate. Hope to see you there!
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In silence we learn that prayer is less about what we do than about what God is doing; it is something we receive. It engages us in the process of redemption and sanctification by which God brings us to glory, to our full stature as his children in Christ.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview author and contemplative artist Christine Valters Paintner of the Abbey of the Arts. We talked about contemplative spirituality, pilgrimage, and her latest book, The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within. The book celebrates the spirituality of pilgrimage by identifying eight essential practices that can […]
Parker Palmer, perhaps one of the most important living Quaker writers (or, for that matter, one of the most important living contemplative writers of any identity) addresses the 2015 graduating class of Naropa University. With grace and humor, he offers six soulful suggestions for their lives, quoting figures as diverse as Diane Ackerman and Saint Benedict along the way. This is nineteen minutes of gently quiet inspiration. Watch it and be edified.
The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius can be difficult reading, even in contemporary English translation. Ignatius originally wrote the exercises as notes for a retreat, and so it reads as a kind of outline, which, in fact, it is. Add to that the normal challenges involved in reading a text almost five hundred years old and composed in a foreign culture, and it’s easy to see why this text, mystical classic though it is, may be challenging for 21st-century Americans. Enter David L. Fleming, whose Draw Me Into Your Friendship is a Godsend: on facing pages is a literal translation of the Spiritual Exercises, along with a “contemporary reading” — part commentary, part paraphrase, part imaginative rendering into a voice for our time. The result is a book that works both for study and devotional reading, unlocking the treasures of Ignatius and revealing his spiritual genius.
There is no use trying to conceal how difficult it is to find time for private prayer in the congested schedules under which most modern people live. But at bottom it is not a question of finding time, it is a question of the depth of the sense of need and of the desire. Busy lovers find time to write letters to one another, often find time for long letters, although what really matters is not the length of the letter any more than it is the length of the prayer. In this life we find the time that is necessary for what we believe to be important.
In his sermon On Conversion, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux quotes Acts 26:24, only he paraphrases it like this: “Too much thinking has made you mad!” Whenever I see a verse like this rendered in an unusual or thought-provoking way, I like to check out the original Greek or Hebrew, even though I’m strictly an amateur when […]
One of my favorite living writers — the Jesuit author James Martin — talks about Thomas Merton and the influence that Merton’s life and books had on his own spiritual journey. The video provides a nice overview of Merton’s work and insight into how spiritual writing can make a difference in a reader’s life.
The Complete Cloud of Unknowingisn’t really “complete” — the author of The Cloud of Unknowing is associated with seven medieval texts, only two of which appear in this volume. But those two, The Cloud of Unknowing and The Letter of Privy Counsel, are certainly the most important works by this unknown author, two classics of medieval Christian contemplative spirituality, essential for anyone seeking to deepen their relationship with God through the practice of silent prayer. They are rich texts, full of nuanced wisdom that often gets lost in modern translations. Father John–Julian has captured the beauty, humor and literary elegance of the original versions, but also has supplemented his translation with detailed notes that convey the subtle spiritual insight that makes these works required reading.