An Accessible Guide to Getting Started in Contemplative and Mystical Spirituality
Answering the Contemplative Call offers an engaging and reassuring invitation for anyone who feels an inner yearning to embrace the deep silence of Christian contemplative spirituality.
The mystical path is not some sort of static experience for the select few, says Carl McColman, rather, it is a living tradition, a rich and many-layered dimension of spirituality that is in large measure a quest to find the mysteries at the heart of the universe, paradoxically nestled within the heart of your own soul.
McColman first introduced readers to Christianity’s lost mystical roots in his popular book, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism. Now he has followed that title up with Answering the Contemplative Call, to show readers how to apply the riches of the mystical tradition to daily living.
This book is organized in three sections:
- “Recognizing the Call,” Explores how each one of us is called to the mystical life, and what that might look like.
- “Preparing for the Journey,” shows what we need to do in response to the contemplative call.
- “Embarking on the Adventure” considers what those first steps on the path might look like.
Along the way McColman quotes from the great mystics of the Christian tradition who have also traveled this path, including Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill and more.
In Answering the Contemplative Call, McColman offers a practice that will help readers come to a place meaning and purpose in their lives.
Praise for Answering the Contemplative Call:
What Frommers, Rick Steves, and Lonely Planet are to travel guides for physical locales, Carl McColman is fast becoming for the spiritual journey. There is so much that recommends this delightful guide — Carl’s own depth of experience, his wonderful ability to bring in apt quotations from the great contemplative saints of history, his ability to be both simple and deep without ever becoming simplistic or murky. As I read, I kept thinking of friends with whom I want to share this treasure — a travel guide to an adventurous journey that will last forever.
Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity
In Answering the Contemplative Call, Carl McColman creates a safe and beautiful space where each of us can come–human as we are–and learn how possible it is to befriend silence and to live in the certain joy of daily intimacy with God. Carl is a wise and gentle guide, and brilliantly well-read, just the sort of kind friend one welcomes to take us further into the mysteries of love, together. This book is for anyone who wishes to pray “validly and deeply,” as Merton said, and Carl reminds us; for anyone who yearns to ‘walk a simple path, routinely meeting the miraculous in the ordinary,’ as C. S. Lewis knew; for anyone living with the deep-seated, undeniable longing that is ‘the most direct route to heaven,’ as The Cloud’s Anonymous wrote; and for twenty-first-century Truth seekers and would-be peacemakers who want to experience how a ‘heart-centered approach’ to reading the Bible can take us into dumiyyah, the ‘quiet waiting’ that Psalm 65:2 describes. It’s a practical book written by someone who walks the very humble, joyful path himself and can teach us to open our hearts to Christ, to awaken in us a sense of wonder, to lead us to a true healing of our own soul wounds, and to grow in each of us a genuine love for those walkers with feet as dusty as our own. Answering the Contemplative Call fulfills its opening invitation with abundant joy: ‘Hey, come along; this promises to be a fun adventure!’
Carmen Acevedo Butcher, PhD, author of Man of Blessing: A Life of St. Benedict
A contemplative seeker will find a mature, sane, reliable guide to that path in these pages. I found it full of the experiential spiritual wisdom found on that path, leading us into ever deeper intimacy with God. He well says that it is a path that belongs to everyone. Any beginner on that path will find much selected wisdom from the great mystics of Christian tradition, along with McColman’s own gifted way of presenting that wisdom in an understandable and inspiring/insightful way for us. More experienced contemplatives will recognize and benefit from re-looking at many dimensions and hopes of their own spiritual journeys in these pages as well. Christian mystical tradition comes alive in both realistic and alluring ways in McColman’s lucid writing. It is an important contribution to the re-awakening and democratization of contemplative tradition in our time; that tradition carries so much of the depth of spiritual practice and awareness so needed in the church and world today.
The Rev. Tilden Edwards, PhD, Founder and Senior Fellow, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation; author of Embracing the Call to Spiritual Depth
Overflowing with jewels of wisdom, Carl McColman’s generous new book, Answering the Contemplative Call, invites us on a journey of love where everyone is welcome and worthy, and it is impossible to get lost. It is a journey that necessarily begins within, and leads ever-deeper inward, to a place of resonant silence. Bountiful quotes from mystics who have walked the path before us provide a series of luminous stepping-stones for own adventure.
Mirabai Starr, author of God of Love
Carl McColman masterfully maps out for the serious spiritual seeker the nature of the mystical experience and outlines a clear and accessible pathway on how to get there.
Kyriacos C. Markides, author of The Mountain of Silence
It is not often that a book is both very practical and very inspiring at the same time. Carl McColman gives you much wise direction and broad understanding of the field of contemplative theory and practice. The need is too great today to waste time relearning what has already been learned—so well. Here is your teacher!
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, author of The Naked Now
There is a sweetness—a candor—a gentleness to McColman’s work that makes him the most desirable of guides into the holy places of the soul. But there is also, as one would expect from such quietness, the enabling authority of one who knows and who, knowing, can wisely tell and share. This is a book to savor and then to treasure.
Phyllis Tickle, author of Emergence Christianity
Who else but Carl McColman could write such a magnificent primer on contemplative spirituality. If you long to journey deeper into the heart of God then this wise, accessible, practical, and engaging book should be on the top of your list. It is a first rate contribution to the conversation about the vital relevance of ancient spiritual practices for contemporary people thirsting for communion with God.
Ian Morgan Cron, author of Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale
This well-written book presents the classic precepts and practices of the Christian contemplative path in a clear and helpful way.
The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, PhD, author of Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening
In this three-part narration of the spiritual journey, Carl McColman, in his own inimitable style, demystifies the mystical and clearly points toward a rich and rewarding life journey to be taken here and now. In his previous writings he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to break into bite sized pieces some really obscure, profound and paradoxical truths. Answering the Contemplative Call continues this approach as he explores the profound but illusive pathway of the mystic. If you find yourself haunted with a hunger “for something more” in life, this book will guide you in this eternal quest.
Ben Campbell Johnson, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary; author of Companions in Contemplation
Answering the Contemplative Call not only offers a clear and compelling invitation to the contemplative life, but it points us toward the ineffable territory of the “pathless path”. While reading this wonderful book I kept remembering that text, “when I am lost I am found”. Carl McColman reminds us that the contemplative journey is the destination. With deep insight and clarity framed by a lighthearted style he invites us to awaken to the Divine Mystery within and all around us. Unambiguously, McColman affirms Christ consciousness as his spiritual anchor while also acknowledging the unity consciousness within other religious and spiritual traditions. A remarkable blend of the universal and particular, Carl McColman’s unique perspective opens the reader to the Christian mystical tradition as a compass to the Holy Presence that pervades our lives—here and now. These fieldnotes on the contemplative journey are so warmly written that the reader will likely hear in the author’s voice, a true spiritual companion. If you have an appetite for spiritual food then here is a table where you will be fed.
Robert V. Thompson, former chairperson of the Parliament of World Religions and author of A Voluptuous God
In a culture that seems to always expect a ‘big-box-store’ religion—with instant fixes and entertainments at our fingertips—Carl reminds us of the crucial nature of the journey in, with, and to Christ. Only when we embark on this deep journey of exploration and wonder can we experience the fullness of intimacy with God. This wonderful book should be chewed and savored within parishes who yearn with the question what might that Something More look like to a people who are truly hungry?
The Rev. Stuart Craig Higginbotham, co-editor of Contemplation and Community: A Gathering of Fresh Voices for a Living Tradition