The Rule, the Discipline, and Spiritual Growth

Saint Benedict, author of the mostly widely used rule in western Christianity

I bet if I took a poll, almost everyone who reads my blog would agree with this statement: “I want to grow spiritually.” Readers of spiritual blogs want to grow in their faith and practice the way that readers of marketing blogs want to expand their business, or the readers of investment blogs want to […]

This is a gem — a brief video of the Irish poet, theologian and mystic John O’Donohue speaks briefly on the role of blessing in Celtic spirituality, and then shares his own Celtic blessing, Beannacht, originally written for his mother. Enjoy.


Passing from Self to God: A Cistercian Retreat (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2006)

I was assigned to read this book in the final year of my five-year formation as a Lay Cistercian. So it’s not what I would call a “beginner’s” book on Cistercian spirituality, but rather a rich and nuanced study of the spirituality of this particular tradition, drawing deeply and heavily from the writings of the Cistercian fathers, authors like Bernard of Clairvaux, William of St. Thierry, and Aelred of Rievaulx. Its theme — “Passing from Self to God” — represents a core principle of Cistercian spirituality: that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and so we are called to restore the Divine likeness within us, by turning away from the many attachments of the self to the luminous simplicity of intimacy with God. The book stands on its own as a spiritual masterpiece, but for those seeking insight into the Cistercian tradition, it also functions as a window into that medieval world.

I’ll be one of several presenters at Columbia Theological Seminary’s wonderful “Spirituality Immersion Experience.” Over the course of four days you’ll join a group of fellow seekers to pray together, reflect on the great spiritual themes of the Bible and Christian history, and explore how those themes inform and illuminate your own sacred story. It’s a fabulous program, and I’m honored and thrilled to be associated with it. If you’d like to pursue CTS’s Certificate in Spiritual Formation, this is the first class to take.

Date: October 8, 2015—October 11, 2015
Event: Immersion Experience: Invitation to a Deeper Spiritual Life
Topic: Spiritual Formation
Sponsor: Columbia Theological Seminary Center for Lifelong Learning
Venue: Columbia Theological Seminary
Location: Decatur, GA
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

To invite me to speak to your community, click here.

It’s difficult if not impossible to feel anger and joy simultaneously. If you think your angry feelings are especially precious and important, then think about one of the happiest moments of your life. Now ask yourself, How many minutes of that period of peace or jubilation would I be willing to trade in for feeling frustration and irritation instead?

David D. Burns, MD
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (New York: Avon Books, 1999), p. 195

Better to Light a Candle (of Silence) than to Curse the Darkness (of Language)

If a picture is worth 1000 words, how many words is silence worth?

Does language always limit the way we talk about, think about, or even pray to, God? This question has been on my mind for the past few days. This past weekend I attended a service at a nearby Episcopal Church. The liturgy came from Enriching Our Worship, a contemporary, inclusive language resource approved for use in […]

Here is the man who is probably the most renowned living scholar on Christian mysticism, at least in America — Bernard McGinn — speaking on one of the greatest of Christian mystics, Meister Eckhart.


Prayer (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2006)

First published in 1967 in India, Prayer is a short (120 pages) but substantial exploration of its topic, in the light of its author’s lifetime of exploration which crossed the boundaries between east and west. Born in Brittany in 1910 and christened Henri Le Saux, the author became a Benedictine monk and moved to India where he prayed alongside great Christians (Bede Griffiths) and Hindus (Ramana Maharshi) and took a new name, which means “Bliss of the Anointed Lord.” Like all great interfaith encounters, the spirituality of Prayer is not a mishmash but rather a deeply Christian book, deeply informed by the nondual wisdom of Vedanta. This particular translation is based on an expanded French edition which was published in 1971, two years before the author’s death.

I’ll be one of the host/presenters at the first Interfaith Symposium sponsored by Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, GA. The event explores questions about how to embody faith and mindful practice in today’s world, within an interfaith context.

Date: October 23, 2015—October 24, 2015
Event: Mindful Faith & Practice Interfaith Symposium
Topic: Mindfulness
Venue: Grace Episcopal Church
Location: 422 Brenau Avenue
Gainesville, GA 30501
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

To invite me to speak to your community, click here.

In order to be capable of mercy, therefore, we must first of all dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God. This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us. In this way, it will be possible to contemplate God’s mercy and adopt it as our lifestyle.

Pope Francis
Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy) (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2015), Paragraph #13

What Do Contemplatives Want? (or, Results from My Reader Survey)

First a disclaimer about my headline. I’m answering this question (What do contemplatives want?) based on the results from my 2015 readers’ poll. If you aren’t interested in the survey results, scroll to the bottom of the post to see my conclusions. All the blogging gurus suggest that professional bloggers should survey their readers once a year […]


The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross (Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1991)

If you are going to study the great Christian mystics and contemplatives you need to read St. John of the Cross. It’s not always easy reading, but it is insightful, edifying, and luminous. St. John of the Cross is perhaps the greatest of the “negative” or apophatic mystics, and his beautiful poetry and discerning prose reveal the importance of a trusting spirituality that transcends mere experiences or emotionalism in its singular longing for union with the Divine Beloved. This one volume collects all of his poetry, as well as both minor and major works (including his masterpiece, The Dark Night of the Soul) into one book, superbly translated and edited by Carmelite scholars Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez.

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