Practical Mysticism & Abba (New York: Vintage Books, 2003)

Two of Evelyn Underhill’s shorter works are collected in one beautiful paperback edition. Practical Mysticism I consider to be one of her most acessible and important books, a gentle affirmation of how the mystical life is for everyone, not just saints or monks or nuns — and the steps that we “normal people” can take to begin to cultivate prayer, meditation, recollection and contemplation in our life. It’s beautifully written, easy to understand yet in no way “dumbed down,” and just as relevant today as when it was published in 1914. Many inexpensive editions of Practical Mysticism (both print and ebook) are available, but I like this particular one because it also includes a lesser-known gem: Abba, a series of meditations on the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer), originally published the year before Underhill’s death. These two short works span Underhill’s career, so together they provide a rich introduciton to one of our most under-appreciated 20th century mystics.

“The Process of Being in Relationship with God”

Some Notes from an Old Class on Prayer


Okay: to summarize… Spirituality: the process of being in relationship with God. Belief and Wonder: the mental and emotional qualities of being open to the possibility of Divine presence in our lives. Culture, Ikons, Teachings/Tradition/Scripture: the stuff in our lives that carry the news of God to us; the evidence we have of God’s presence […]

I love the Ignatius House “Days of Reflection,” they’re like mini-retreats in the middle of the week. I hope you’ll join me in August for a special day of reflection when we will explore together the wisdom of St. Bernard of Clairvaux on one of my favorite topics: the love of God. Our day together will combine reflections with time for silence, sharing, a simple but tasty meal, and the chance to enjoy the lovely grounds of Ignatius House. See you there.

Date: August 17, 2016
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Event: Exploring the Love of God With St. Bernard of Clairvaux — Ignatius House Day of Reflection
Sponsor: Ignatius House
Venue: Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center
Location: 6700 Riverside Dr NW
Atlanta, GA 30328
Registration: Click here to register.

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I love this class through Emory University’s Continuing Education: an exploration of the challenges and joys of inspirational nonfiction writing. It’s appropriate for all types of inspirational writing (regardless of your faith tradition) and can work both for those seeking publication and those who simply wish to improve their writing for their own joy.

Date: March 2, 2016—March 30, 2016
Time: 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Event: Inspirational Nonfiction Writing
Sponsor: Emory Continuing Education
Venue: Emory Continuing Education
Location: 6 Executive Park Drive NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
Registration: Click here to register.

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


Grace Revisited: Epiphanies from a Trappist Monk (ACTA Publications: Chicago, 2011)

This anthology of short narrative nonfiction writings celebrates finding God (and meaning) in the ordinary. The author is a gifted writer and storyteller, who looks at his journey first as a parish priest, then as a mid-life Cistercian novice, and finds along with way an assortment of people, places and events that help him reflect on everyday kindnesses, life’s foibles and joys, and how grace (and wonder) shows up in the most down-to-earth and unexpected ways. “Life is grace revisited over and over, a wondrous, mysterious gift that began in the primordial soup and continues until the Creator calls us all home,” he writes. Most of these beautifully crafted vignettes and short stories are not pious in any overt religious sense, but still shimmer with a keenly expressed spiritual insight.

Relational Contemplation

Christian Mysticism is More Than Just the Flight of the Alone to the Alone

Medieval image of Neoplatonic philosophers Plotinus and Porphyry (public domain).

The Christian faith stands on the recognition that God is Love. Therefore, love is the heart of all spirituality, including contemplative prayer. We are called not just to be contemplatives — we are called to be relational contemplatives. Writing in the third century, the Neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus had this to say about mysticism: This is the life of gods […]

One of my fellow Lay Cistercians recently alerted me to the fact that there are a number of videos online produced by the Trappistine nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Iowa. So I’ll be sharing many of them with you in the months to come. Here’s one now: several of the sisters discuss the topic of “monastic practices.” It’s not very long, but filled with wisdom: so enjoy.


I’ll be leading a retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA on the weekend of February 19-21. The theme for the retreat will be “Creating Your Personal Rule of Life.” Hope to see you there!

Date: February 19, 2016—February 21, 2016
Event: "Creating Your Personal Rule of Life" Retreat
Topic: Personal Rule of Life
Sponsor: Monastery of the Holy Spirit
Venue: Monastery of the Holy Spirit Guesthouse
(770) 760-0959
Location: 2625 Highway 212 SW
Conyers, GA 30094
More Info: Click here for more information.

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

Interview with Carl McColman on Befriending Silence: Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality

Colette Lafia recently interviewed me — we discussed Befriending Silence and the blessings of Cistercian spirituality — and the interview has now been published on her website. Click here to read it.

Colette, incidentally, is herself the author of a wonderful book shaped by Cistercian spirituality: Seeking Surrender: How My Friendship with a Trappist Monk Taught Me to Trust and Embrace Life.

From the Romantic movement onward, … the mystical impulse was cut loose from ascetical discipline, ecclesial life and supervision or direction, and now focused on precisely the most distracting and “paranormal” phenomena rather than on the union with God or theosis or that perfect reign of justice and peace that had been the tradition’s terminal images for the journey. The culture came down with a good case of Zen sickness — loving enlightenment rather than the light, or, in Christian terms, desiring religious experience rather than God — from which it has not yet recovered. There are some hopeful countervailing trends at present… but this is the culture we have inhabited for nearly two hundred years.

Is Contemplation Dangerous?

If a tool is powerful, handle it with respect

Is contemplation the key to happiness, or a path to holiness? (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Is contemplation dangerous? Some people think so. This past weekend I read a book that has given me some food for thought on this subject. The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? is by Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm, two psychologists in England who study the idea that practices like yoga or mindfulness meditation have observable health benefits. They […]

Islands like Iona or Lindisfarne are renowned the world over as holy places of Great Britain. But there are other, lesser known, “holy isles” there, and one of them is Caldey Island in Wales, which is home to a Cistercian monastery and has had a monastic presence for over 1000 years.

This lovely 35-minute video provides deeply contemplative footage filmed on Caldey, with narration derived from prayers and meditations from The Book of Silent Prayer. It is both a prayerful and deeply meditative journey into the beauty of nature in this holy place.


Day by Day These Things We Pray (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2010)

It’s not often that a Mennonite pastor proclaims such a powerful and persuasive case for the Daily Office, but Arthur Boers has done just that in this enjoyable, accessible reflection on the spirituality of fixed-liturgical prayer and its value for Christians. This book is written by a Mennonite for Mennonites, so some of the language and assumptions driving the book may not be shared by all Christians. But as a Catholic, I find the book both inspiring and informative, and would recommend it to Christians of all denominations as a tool to help explain both the logic and the beauty of daily recited prayer.

On Thursday, January 21, 2016, I’ll return to The Soul-Directed Life with Janet Conner. We’ll be discussing my latest book, Befriending Silence, along with thoughts in response to this question: “How can I open to possibility?”

Mark your calendar to listen in!

If you miss it, the show will be archived in The Soul-Directed Life‘s webpage, so you can catch it later.

Date: January 21, 2016
Time: 02:00-03:00 pm
Appearance: The Soul-Directed Life
Outlet: Unity Online Radio
Location: Online
Format: Radio