Here is a set of slides I created for an introduction to the Christian practice of contemplation, especially in terms of silence and silent prayer. Contemplative, silent prayer is for everyone, and this slide show explains what it is, why it matters, who should do it, how to do it, and resources for further reading and exploration.

In all types of infused prayer there are degrees of intensity, more and less, ebb and flow. There are dry, dark yearnings; slow and gentle enkindlings of love; ecstatic absorptions and delights; experiences of refreshment, peace, pain, light and insights. Being in love with God is never boring.

Thomas Dubay
Fire Within (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), p. 60

The Last Instructions of Christ to His Disciples

Gold mosaic from Neamt Monastery, Romania

In the first chapter of The Acts of the Apostles, Jesus gives his disciples their last instructions before his ascension into heaven (Acts 1:6-12). The first chapter of Acts is one of the easiest chapters in the New Testament to gloss over. After all, the real action of Acts begins with the second chapter, which […]

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The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything (New York: HarperOne, 2012)

This delightful book, by one of my favorite contemporary authors, demystifies the world of Ignatian (Jesuit) spirituality by showing how it can be applied to real-world living. James Martin is a master at taking historical spiritual theology and illustrating its timeless value by using down-to-earth stories from his own life as well as the lives of many of his Jesuit brothers. He is an honest writer who skillfully presents some difficult ideas in a way that is accessible and meaningful. This book covers Ignatian approaches to faith in God, prayer, discernment, relationships and vocation. When I read it, I concurrently read Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises and I think Martin does a superb job at showing how this sixteenth century spirituality remains vital and relevant today — not just for Jesuits, but for everybody.

Five years ago today the movie Of Gods and Men premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie went on to become a blockbuster hit in France and is justifiably considered a modern classic. James Martin, SJ called it “the greatest film I’ve ever seen on faith.” I agree with him. I’ve seen this movie many times and I still can’t get through the trailer without crying. Watch the trailer and then go buy the movie (yes, buy it; you’ll want to watch it more than once).

Seeking Silence (with the Inner Room’s Kevin Johnson)

"Lost in the Cosmos" Blog, Patheos
May 12, 2015

Here’s a wonderful, in-depth interview with an honest-to-God contemplative theologian, Kevin Johnson, who is the founding director of The Inner Room, a Catholic lay association devoted to Christian contemplation and continuing theological education with an emphasis on works of compassionate service in the world. Kevin is the real deal, and shares with me a deep commitment to Jesus Christ along with a genuine interest in learning of the contemplative wisdom from other traditions, particularly Buddhism, but in a way that respects the distinctions and uniqueness of both paths. After you read this wonderful interview, be sure to follow him on Twitter at @johnsoxo.

For one moment you forget the self and its desires and its rights; you gave a scrap of your life away, and in return you get this incredible candle in the heart for a moment.
What if the candle never went out, but spread and strengthened and filled your whole consciousness forever? What new and miraculous life might you hope to get, if you ever managed to throw your life away entirely?
That is what Christ told us to try for — the full blaze of God’s love, inexpressible delight of soul and body, joy beyond all joys. That is what we were put into the world to find; and the world itself, seen clearly, exists primarily to help us to find it, as a hothouse to nurse our growing spirits along until they are strong enough for the unimaginable outdoors we call heaven.

Joy Davidman
Smoke on the Mountain (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), p. 130

Contemplation and the Ocean of Presence

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Here’s a little video I filmed last month at the Gulf Coast. It’s only about 45 seconds long and consists of the sunset and the surf. I offer it to you as a little moment of serenity. Please enjoy. I know some people might find a little video like this boring. Compared to Hollywood culture or Madison […]

Advance Praise for “Befriending Silence”

Befriending Silence

What do Brian McLaren, Fr. Daniel Horan OFM, Fr. Michael Casey OCSO, Br. Patrick Hart OCSO, and Phyllis Tickle have in common? They’ve all endorsed Befriending Silence. Brian McLaren praises Befriending Silence as “a great gift to all who hunger for meaning, mystery, peace, hope, and God.” Fr. Daniel Horan calls the book “an accessible and enlightening introduction […]

Here’s a treat: an interview from the Indianapolis Public Library of Sr. Mary Margaret Funk who has written several wonderful books about the contemplative life. Sr. Mary discusses her work, in the context of her life as a Benedictine sister and as a participant in monastic interreligious dialogue.

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The Rule of Saint Benedict: Latin & English (Trabuco Canyon, CA: Source Books, 1997)

The obvious editions of The Rule of Saint Benedict for both research and devotional use, featuring both the Latin text and a serviceable English translation, are either the RB1980 edition, edited by Timothy Fry, or Terence Kardong’s Benedict’s Rule: A Translation and Commentary. Yes, I own them both and I would suggest anyone serious about living the Rule (whether inside or outside the cloister) will sooner or later want both of these books. However (you knew this was coming!), as a contemplative, I believe both Fry and Kardong provide an overly cautious translation of the Prologue verse 9. From the Latin “et apertis oculis nostris ad deificum lumen,” the RB1980 gives us “Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God” and Kardong, “Let us open our eyes to the divine light.” But Luke Dysinger offers a more literal translation (notice he retains the word “et”): “And let us open our eyes to the deifying light.” It may be a subtle difference, but I consider it an important one: we need to regain a theology of deification, and one way to do that is to reclaim how our ancestral Christians wrote about this key aspect of the spiritual life. So for this reason alone, I suggest you need this translation of the Rule as well. Unfortunately it’s out of print, but inexpensive used copies seem easy to find. Grab one now before they become scarce.

Thomas Merton Exhibit at Pitts Theology Library

Pitts Theology Library
March 9 - May 15, 2015
Exhibit Catalog (downloadable as a PDF)

Exhibit Catalog (downloadable as a PDF)

Here’s a treat: follow this link to see the exhibit catalog for a wonderful Thomas Merton exhibit currently on display at the Pitts Theology Library of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, here in Atlanta. The exhibit runs through May 15, and the library is open to the public, so if you’re in the area, by all means go. Lots of rare photographs and rare books on display, one of Merton’s diaries; an original watercolor painting by his father, and a special treat: several videos interviewing Fr. Matthew Torpey, OCSO, a Trappist monk of Conyers, GA, who knew Merton (the videos are on Youtube, so you can see them by clicking here). The main page of the exhibit, with text describing it, can be found by clicking here.

Trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8: 26). But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly… It is true that this trust in the unseen can cause us to feel disoriented: it is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. I myself have frequently experienced this. Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide, and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!

Pope Francis
The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) (New York: Image, 2013), p. 188-9

Contemplative Leadership with Saints Benedict and Ignatius of Loyola

Saints Benedict and Ignatius of Loyola, Contemplative Leaders

In recent months I have become very interested in the topic of leadership. Which might seem silly, since I do not manage people, or lead a congregation, or hold a military command position. But I’ve come to recognize that “leadership” is a topic that has broad implications, broader than just our job descriptions. And for […]

I love this video from 1996 in which a young woman attempts to interview Raimon Panikkar, who was truly a living mystic. Notice how he rapidly takes control of the conversation and essentially begins to offer the young woman spiritual direction — gently, kindly, and with good humor. Watch his body language — his radiant smile, his sparkling eyes, even how he “hops” when he makes a point. Simply brilliant.