But just as we cannot drive a car by constantly looking in the rearview mirror, so memory can only be made holy when it directs us to what’s in front of us — a future filled with hope and new beginnings.
A reader named Monika wrote the following comment and left it on one of my blog posts: I recently lost my husband of 49 years to a sudden brain tumor. I sold our home and cafe for economic reasons. I always wanted to live in quiet contemplation when the right time came. I think that it is […]
Here’s a treat I found on Youtube: a video interview of Trappist monk and author Michael Casey, apparently recorded in 2007 for a Flemish or possibly Dutch program (I’m not sure where it was originally broadcast). The interviewer is a Flemish priest, Erik Galle. The opening credits and voiceover of the video are in Dutch, and the interview features Dutch subtitles, but the interviewer and of course Casey himself speak English.
Brother Patrick Hart, OCSO, who was Thomas Merton’s last secretary, praised Michael Casey for writing “with clarity and grace.” Nowhere is this more evident than when he writes about The Rule of Saint Benedict, and in The Road to Eternal Life he offers an in-depth commentary of arguably the most important part of the Rule, the prologue. Moving through the prologue’s fifty verses one at a time, Casey provides a rich commentary, seasoned by his long life not only as a monk but a writer and novice master. The commentary on verse 40, where Casey reflects on how Cartesian dualism has crippled the way meditation is understood in the west, is alone worth the price of the book. If you want a beautifully-written explication of a how a sixth-century monastic document remains spiritually vital and relevant in our time, look no further than this book.
In Buddhist history the word silence corresponds to right view: seeing impermanence, the truth that everything is appearing, disappearing, and changing from moment to moment. Impermanence is not something you see objectively—it is something you taste directly. Then impermanence makes you silent, because impermanence is very quiet. That silence connects you with a deep sense of human value.
Silence is not just being silent. You are silent, but simultaneously there are many words, many explanations, and many representations there. Dynamic actions, both physical and mental, are there. In other words, silence is something deep and also very active. In Japanese the word for this silence is mokurai. Moku means “silence” and rai means “thunder.” So silence is quiet, but there is an enormous voice like thunder there.
I simply love this story of two desert fathers, which Thomas Merton recounts in his book The Wisdom of the Desert: There were two elders living together in a cell, and they had never had so much as one quarrel with one another. One therefore said to the other: Come on, let us have at […]
Here’s the second of two videos featuring Trappist monk Fr. Matthew Kelty reminiscing about his friend and brother monk, Thomas Merton.
Here’s the cover of my forthcoming book on Lay Cistercian spirituality. I hope you like it as much as I do (I can brag on it since I’m not the designer). The photograph depicts a 12th century Cistercian Church at L’abbaye du Thoronet in the Provence region of France. Please let me know what you think of the cover, and share this image with all your friends.
This is a “Save the Date” post, because the Oratory won’t publish their fall calendar until this summer — but I wanted to let the readers of my blog know in advance about this very special event.
I’ll be returning to one of my favorite venues — the Rock Hill Oratory, not far from Charlotte NC — on October 16 and 17, 2015 to celebrate the centennial year for Thomas Merton with a Friday evening/Saturday day retreat. Here’s a description of both programs (you can register for either one separately, or for both):
Friday Evening: Climbing the Seven Storey Mountain with Thomas Merton — 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton, arguably the most famous Catholic author of the twentieth century. Merton was a man of contradictions ~ a mystic and a prophet for social justice and reform, a devout Catholic deeply engaged in interfaith dialogue, a celebrity author living the life of an austere monk. This program will introduce (or re-introduce) you to Merton, his most important writings, and how the silent world of the Trappist monastery formed the mind and heart of this larger-than-life figure. We’ll also begin to reflect on how Merton’s spirituality can nourish our own — a question that will carry over into Saturday’s program.
Saturday Day of Reflection: The Three Epiphanies of Thomas Merton — This program will combine reflections, time for silence/journaling, and optional group discussion as we reflect on how the legacy of Thomas Merton can illuminate and inspire our spiritual journey’s today. Merton is famous for three different “epiphanies” or mystical experiences, none of which happened in the monastery and only one of which happened in church. As we reflect on Merton’s epiphanies, we can find invitations to deepen our own life of faith and response to the Love of God.
Check back here, or at the Oratory’s website, after July 1, we should have registration details published by then. Hope to see you in Rock Hill this fall.
October 16, 2015—October 17, 2015
Thomas Merton Retreat at the Oratory, Rock Hill SC
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The Sacred Gazeby Susan R. Pitchford (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014)
The Sacred Gaze is more than just an insightful overview of the relationship between healing and spirituality: it is a splendid general introduction to contemplative prayer. Susan R. Pitchford understands that contemplation is, at heart, about beholding — a revolutionary way of viewing life, love, and God. Authenticity, healing, and kenosis (emptying) are at the heart of contemplative beholding, and Pitchford explores each of these key elements in turn. With humility and grace, she explains the beauty and power of contemplative seeing, and how praying in this way can help you to become the authentic person God has created you to be.
Join me at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA this July for a retreat on the spirituality of the great Spanish mystic Teresa of Ávila (in honor of her 500th birthday this year). Here’s a description of the retreat from the Monastery’s website:
The Carmelite nun Teresa of Ávila — saint, mystic, and doctor of the church — is one of the greatest teachers of Christian prayer. Her guidance speaks to men and women, laypeople and monastics, beginners and proficients. In this retreat, we will explore Teresa’s rich and beautiful insights on how to grow closer to God through prayer, with practical instructions on how to apply her wisdom to our lives today. Suggested donation for the weekend retreat is $250, which includes room, board and programming.
What is even more compelling is that the contemporary Church, in her liturgy, in Vatican II and in the new canon law repeatedly takes it for granted that “contemplation”, “mystical treasures”, an “abundance of contemplation”, “the experience of divine things” and “an assiduous union with God in prayer” are meant for each and every person in the Church.
Thomas Dubay Fire Within
(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), p. 3
If you are engaged in a serious and sustained practice of silent prayer and contemplative spirituality, then you need to be a very somber, sober, and serious person, for the mystical life is no laughing matter. . . . April Fool! I was inspired to write about this topic not only because today is April 1, […]
2015 is not only the centennial of Thomas Merton, but of one of his brother monks, Matthew Kelty, who died in 2011 at the age of 95. Kelty was not as well known as Merton of course, but he wrote several books, including Flute Solo about his years living the life of a hermit. He was Merton’s confessor for a number of years. In this video, the first of two filmed in 2003, we hear Fr. Matthew reminisce about his brother monk.