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.


The Cloud of Unknowing and Related Treatises (Exeter, Devon: Catholic Records Press, 1982)

This is a hard book to locate, but it’s well worth tracking down. I first learned of its existence when I saw a copy tucked away in a monastery library, and it took me several months of searching online for a used copy, since it apparently has been out of print for years. But I found my copy, and hopefully you’ll find yours as well. Phyllis Hodgson edited all the Middle English manuscripts associated with The Cloud of Unknowing — an anonymously written manual of instruction in contemplative prayer, probably penned by a Carthusian monk as a work of spiritual direction for a younger novice. Six other, much shorter, treatises are generally believed to be written (or translated) by the same author. The Early English Text Society published the Hodgson editions in two volumes, but those books are themselves hard to find; this edition from Catholic Records Press is the only book I know of that gathers all seven treatises attributed to the Cloud author, in Middle English, in one volume. So it is a wonderful book both for personal devotion and for research.

Because He is in the little house of our being, we will learn to control our minds, to gather our thoughts to silence, and to crown them with peace, just as we learn to control our voices and to move softly when a child is asleep in the house of brick and mortar.

Caryll Houselander
The Reed of God (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1944), p. 100

Please Fill Out My Reader Survey!

Keep calm and take the survey. Thank you.

Please fill out my reader’s survey — and help me to make this a better blog. I’m asking for this information (collected anonymously) to give me a better sense of this blog’s readers, which in turn will help me as I continue to create new content for the blog. I invite everyone to participate, whether you are a […]

Five Ways You Can Enjoy a Deeper Personal Prayer Life


“We need to deepen our own personal prayer lives.” — The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, S.L.D., Archbishop of Atlanta Recently the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta published a Pastoral Plan, the result of much prayer, conversation and discernment. In the words of the Archbishop, it’s a plan “that will guide our Archdiocese for the next five years.” You […]

This is a treat — a brief video filmed a few years back at the Julian of Norwich center and shrine in Norwich, England. Includes commentary from Pauline Lovelock, whom I assume is associated with the Julian Centre. Footage of the reconstructed church and cell where Julian lived and prayed makes this video well worth the four minutes you’ll spend watching it.


The Cloister Walk (New York: Riverhead Books, 1997)

I think one could make the case that The Cloister Walk was the single most important and influential book since Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, published half a century earlier, in terms of introducing the spirituality and life of monks and monasteries to a mainstream audience. But whereas Merton’s confessional story recounts his own journey of response to a monastic vocation, Norris — a woman, and a married Presbyterian at that — tells the story more of an outsider’s appreciation, although as a Benedictine Oblate she gets about as close to the world of the cloister as a non-monk can. Like Merton, Norris is a poet, and so she brings literary beauty and elegant eloquence to her writing; making this book a delight to read. And while she clearly loves the monks and their centuries-old way of life, she is also not afraid to ask hard questions and express her own doubts and sense of disconnection, which gives this book a sense of honesty and candor that more self-consciously pious works sometimes lack.

I’m excited to announce my first online course through Columbia Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning. Dr. Israel Galindo and I will be co-instructing “Life is a Sacred Story: Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future with Sacred Journaling” beginning on September 14. This four-week course will offer insight and encouragement for anyone wishing to begin or deepen a journaling practice with a specifically spiritual focus. Like all the programs I offer through CTS, this is open to the general public, but it also provides credit for those who are pursuing a Certificate in Spiritual Formation.

Date: September 14, 2015—October 9, 2015
Event: Life is a Sacred Story (Online Course)
Topic: Spiritual Journaling
Sponsor: Center for Lifelong Learning, Columbia Theological Seminary
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

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In one of my visits to Rome, at a Mass, a fairly young man came up to me and said: ‘Father, it is nice to meet you, but I don’t believe in anything! I don’t have the gift of faith!’ He understood that faith is a gift. ‘I don’t have the gift of faith! What do you have to say to me?’ ‘Don’t be discouraged. God loves you. Let yourself be gazed upon by him! Nothing else.’ And this is the same thing I would say to you: let yourself be gazed at by the Lord!

Pope Francis
The Church of Mercy (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014), p. 16

Father Richard Rohr speaking on Stillness (among other things) at Norwich Cathedral in the UK.


The Writings of Julian of Norwich (University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2006)

Julian of Norwich was not only a great mystic, but also a great writer, dancing along the frontier between poetry and prose as she eloquently gave voice to her sixteen showings (visions) and her years of theological reflection in response to them. She wrote a brief treatise shortly after receiving her showings, and a longer, more mature text some twenty years after the fact, describing the same events in her life but with a more nuanced description of their meaning. Because she was a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer (writing in Middle English), Julian’s work is often translated for contemporary readers, but it is only in meeting her words in the language she herself would have used that we can appreciate the full beauty of her voice. Several editions of Julian’s work in the original Middle English are available, but this one from Penn State is far and away my favorite. Not only is it a beautifully designed book, with comprehensive notes to help unlock the mysteries of fourteenth-century vocabulary, but it also contains an in-depth foreword describing the various manuscripts that exist of Julian’s writings, and the challenges that face both scholars and students as we seek to encounter Julian’s words as she wrote them. Best of all, this edition includes both the short and long versions of her text, allowing readers insight into how Julian’s own thought evolved in her lifetime.