Union with God is not something we acquire by a technique but the grounding truth of our lives that engenders the very search for God. Because God is the ground of our being, the relationship between creature and Creator is such that, by sheer grace, separation is not possible. God does not know how to be absent. The fact that most of us experience throughout most of our lives a sense of absence or distance from God is the great illusion that we are caught up in; it is the human condition… when the mind is brought to stillness, and all our strategies of acquisition have dropped, a deeper truth presents itself: we are and always have been one with God and we are all one in God.

Martin Laird
Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 15-16

My Forthcoming Book on Cistercian Spirituality

Abbot Francis Michael of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Photo by James Behrens, OCSO

Dear friends, I’m excited to announce the title and subject of my forthcoming book. In July 2013 I began a conversation with an editor associated with Ave Maria Press about writing a book grounded in Cistercian spirituality. If you’re not familiar with it, this is the spirituality of Cistercian monks and nuns — including mystics like Thomas […]

Contemplation can never be seen as the outcome of a process. It remains a gift from God that is not automatically associated with particular human acts. It is given in God’s time not as a “reward” for work well done, but as an energizing component with the total context of life.

Michael Casey
Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina (Liguori, MO: Liguori/Triumph, 1996), 59
Finding the Monk Within

Finding the Monk Within (Mahwah, NJ: HiddenSpring, 2008)

This book surveys the rise of Christian monasticism from its origin in Egypt to the early years of the Cistercian order. But it’s not a dry history book, it’s written as a spiritual journey to help laypeople to connect with the “inner monk” — that part of each of us which seeks silence, solitude, and a contemplative relationship with God.

I’ll be teaching Introduction to Christian Mysticism through Emory University Continuing Education this summer. For more information, click here.

Date: July 28, 2015—August 25, 2015
Time: 07:00-09:00 p.m.
Event: Introduction to Christian Mysticism
Topic: Christian Mysticism
Sponsor: Emory Continuing Education
404.727.6000
Venue: Emory Continuing Education
404.727.6000
Location: 12 Executive Park Drive NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

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

When the soul reaches out in love to anything, a certain change takes place in it by which it is transmuted into the object loved; it does not become of the same nature as that object, but by its affection it is conformed to what it loves.

William of St Thierry
On Contemplating God; Prayer; Meditations (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1970), 106
The Cistercian Way

The Cistercian Way (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1983)

When I entered formation as a Lay Cistercian novice in 2007, this was the first book my fellow novitiates and I were assigned to read. It remains one of my favorite books on Cistercian spirituality, and while it is written for monks, it has plenty to offer for any spiritual seeker, cloistered or not. I found the chapter on asceticism to be particularly illuminating, and the chapter on Mary helped this former Protestant to make sense of her place in the Cistercian world.

You know how sometimes one stands on a sea shore and looks at a distant coast line, dimly seen through haze without detail, giving only a mysterious assurance of a great country really there—a Presence. And yet that quiet, dream-like outline is the outline of a real world, richly living, full of colour, beauty, detail, beyond our focus—not alien, since the Ocean of Spirit washes its shores and ours too. So the Mystery of God is seen by our dim sight, like a dream on the mind’s horizon, but really no abstraction, no colourless negation, but a world of unimaginable richness, wide spaces, great rivers, mighty ranges of mountains, lying beyond our range, stretching away and away into the far horizon of His Eternal Life.

Evelyn Underhill
The Mount of Purification (London: Longmans, Green and Co., Ltd., 1960), 68-9
Inside the School of Charity

Inside the School of Charity (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2009)

This wonderful book offers a glimpse into Cistercian life through the author’s participation in a three month “monastic guest” program with the Trappistine nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey. It’s a rare look inside a monastery from a layperson’s perspective, and reflects on how Cistercian wisdom offers those of us who are not called to be monks and nuns plenty of spiritual guidance relevant to life outside the cloister.

North Decatur Presbyterian Church invited me to lead a three week series on the life, writings, and spiritual meaning of Thomas Merton. The class is on Sunday mornings between services, and is open to the public.

Date: April 12, 2015—April 26, 2015
Time: 09:30-10:30 a.m.
Event: Exploring Thomas Merton
Topic: Thomas Merton
Sponsor: North Decatur Presbyterian Church
(404) 636-1429
Venue: North Decatur Presbyterian Church
(404) 636-1429
Location: 611 Medlock Road
Decatur, GA 30033

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

Hope for the Flowers

Hope for the Flowers (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1972)

Here’s a classic from over forty years ago, filled with a kind of hippiefied idealism and lots of love. Catholic author Trina Paulus tells a charming story for children (of all ages) about two caterpillars, “Stripe” and “Yellow” and their adventures culminating in their transformation into lovely butterflies, bringing hope for the flowers. The Christian message is hard to miss, but this book is written in a way that anyone can enjoy it.

Be sure to check out my interview with Trina Paulus from 1997.

Through Emory Continuing Education, I’ll be offering a five week course on “Inspirational Writing” — for people of all faith or wisdom traditions, for anyone who wishes to write nonfiction or fiction that will inspire others.

Date: April 22, 2015—May 20, 2015
Time: 07:00-09:00 p.m.
Event: Inspirational Writing
Topic: Writing
Sponsor: Emory Continuing Education
Venue: Emory Continuing Education
Location: 12 Executive Park Drive
Atlanta, GA
Registration: Click here to register.

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

What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another — doubtless very different — St. Benedict.

Alasdair MacIntyre
After Virtue (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 263