Often the most troubled aspect of the spiritual life is the violence people feel has been inflicted on them by the narrowness or rigidity of a religious tradition. Worse, many suffer from a deep oppression of the spirit, having been taught that God is the source of a punishing absolute truth. This wound of being alienated from God’s truth, a truth that we mortals are destined to never perfect, seeps into the ground of consciousness, creating a loneliness of heart that no material good can assuage. Yet how different this view of God is from those who have intimately touched the divine embrace! Those, like the mystics, who have come face-to-face with the divine presence do not encounter a finality, but a radical openness that transforms the core of being and one’s orientation to all of creation.

Beverly J. Lanzetta
The Other Side of Nothingness (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2001), p. vii.

The Mystery of Christ in You: The Mystical Vision of Saint Paul (Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 1998)

This is a short little book — 135 pages — but it very clearly spells out the mystical theology embedded in the New Testament letters of Saint Paul. An excellent corrective to the common (but erroneous) idea that “mysticism isn’t in the Bible.” In fact, mysticism is in the Bible the way love is in God — it’s inherent, but centuries of left-brained approaches to reading and interpreting Scripture has meant that, for most people, the mystical theology of the New Testament is hidden in plain sight. Jesuit author George Maloney looks at Paul’s theology of the Body, of Mystery, and of the Holy Spirit to weave together a wonderful introduction not only to the mystical thought of the Apostle, but of Christianity altogether.

I’ll be leading a day retreat at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in Fayetteville, GA, on Saturday, November 14, 2015. Our topic will be the “Jubilee Year of Mercy.” During our time together, we will reflect on the nature of God’s mercy, on how to deepen our prayer life, and practical ways we can live in response to God’s call to be a “people of mercy.”

Date: November 14, 2015
Time: 09:00 a.m.-03:15 p.m.
Event: Embracing the Jubilee Year of Mercy
Topic: Jubilee Year of Mercy
Sponsor: St. Gabriel's Catholic Church
Venue: St. Gabriel's Catholic Church
Location: 152 Antioch Road
Fayetteville, GA 30215

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Is God humble?

Humble derives from the Latin humus, “earth.” To be humble is to be earthed in reality. God is grounded in what truly is, at an infinite level of truth. Because humility is part of the divine image, when we grow in that value increasingly, we reflect God’s humility. We see things as they are, from within the vastness of our Creator.

Elias Marechal
Tears of an Innocent God (New York: Paulist Press, 2015), p. 144
Into the Region of Awe

Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C. S. Lewis (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005)

This is a delightful book. Mysticism is not a topic generally associated with C. S. Lewis, who even claimed in one of his later books that he was not a mystic and never would attempt to be one! But Professor Downing does a wonderful job of showing that this was just Lewis’s humility speaking, and in fact there is a strong vein of mystical wisdom and insight coursing through his writings, especially his fiction. Lewis loved reading the writings of the great mystics, corresponded with Evelyn Underhill, and described his own conversion as moving “into the region of awe.” Like they say, “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…” What I find particularly lovely about this book is Downing’s down-to-earth but spot-on description of what Christian mysticism is. If you’d like a case study of ordinary mysticism, this is it. And if you love C. S. Lewis’s fiction, this book will open your eyes to an entirely new way of thinking about the spiritual writing of this beloved author.

I am honored and excited to be traveling to Jacksonville, FL to facilitate a Laity and Clergy Spiritual Retreat for the Episcopal Bishop of Florida’s Institute for Ministry and Leadership. We will be explore the riches of Christian spirituality from England, including the wisdom of mystics like Julian of Norwich and The Cloud of Unknowing, and reflect on how the wisdom of the past can help us grow closer to God today. Everyone is welcome.

Date: November 20, 2015—November 21, 2015
Event: Laity and Clergy Spiritual Retreat
Sponsor: The Bishop's Institute for Ministry and Leadership
Venue: The Episcopal Center at Camp Weed
Location: 11057 Camp Weed Place
Live Oak, FL 32060
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

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Pope Francis praised Thomas Merton before Congress last month. Come join me as I lead a retreat celebrating the spiritual wisdom of this amazing monk.

I’m 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.

Hope to see you there! Click here to for information or to register: www.rockhilloratory.net/events/event/thomas-merton

Date: October 16, 2015—October 17, 2015
Event: Thomas Merton Retreat at the Oratory, Rock Hill SC
Topic: Thomas Merton
Sponsor: The Oratory Center for Spirituality
(803) 327-2097
Venue: The Rock Hill Oratory
(803) 327-2097
Location: 434 Charlotte Ave
Rock Hill, SC 29730
Registration: Click here to register.

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Prayer is not so much something one does as something one is.

William Harmless
Mystics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), Kindle Location 2183

Sr. Mary Core, OSB completes her four-part series on the monastic promises with this reflection on fidelity to the monastic way of life — in Latin, conversatio morum.



True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1980)

Kenneth Leech was one of the most important theologians of our time, not least because he was a living embodiment of the great maxim of the 4th century contemplative Evagrius Ponticus: “The one who prays is a theologian; the one who is a theologian, prays.” So the best way to teach the living Christian tradition is not to engage in arcane speculation about the nature of God — but rather to initiate one into prayer, which means a living, life-changing relationship with God. And that’s what Leech invites us into with this accessible book that considers prayer from all angles. Leech was a contemplative, and so True Prayer acknowledges the importance of contemplation (“Creative silence is a necessary part of prayer,” he remarks at one point), but it also presents prayer in a very grounded, real-world manner, considering how prayer impacts our interpersonal, social, and political lives. Ultimately, though, prayer always takes us back to God. “To pray is to open oneself to the possibility of sainthood, to the possibility of becoming set on fire by the Spirit,” warns Leech. This book may well be the match that lights the fire.

I’ll giving a public talk/discussion on the topic of “The Church in the 21st Century” at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Calhoun, GA on Sunday, October 18. Drawing on the work of Karl Rahner, Phyllis Tickle, and others, this will be a hope-filled but honest consideration of how Christianity as an institution is changing — and how individual Christians have an opportunity for both personal and social transformation in its midst. Whenever I give this talk I’m always moved by the depth of insight and faith that people bring to this discussion. Please join us and be part of the conversation!

Date: October 18, 2015
Time: 05:00-07:00 p.m.
Event: "The Once and Future Christian" — St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Calhoun, GA
Topic: Christianity in the 21st Century
Venue: St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
(706) 629-1056
Location: 224 Tramell Street
Calhoun, Georgia 30701
More Info: Click here for more information.

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Since the sixteenth century, especially in those cultures secretly influenced by Cartesian dualism, there has been a tendency to consider the spiritual life entirely as a matter of interior feelings, states, and actions. The disembodied spirituality that resulted often concentrated excessively on the conscious experience of  individuals and neglected not only the deeper stirrings of the human spirit but also the everyday role played by sacramental practice, good works, and community life. The spiritual life was considered almost as a private affair between oneself and God, and meditation became a means of exercising control over one’s life rather than a channel by which one could open oneself to be surprised by God… Traditional monastic life, on the contrary, emphasized the importance of arriving at a harmony of body and soul, both working together toward the same goal. A monk prayed and a monk worked; it was expected that the bodily work he did for the support of the community would be permeated by prayer.

Michael Casey
The Road to Eternal Life (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011), pp. 142-3

Nine Ways to Foster a Contemplative Church

Christianity Needs to Affirm Silent Prayer at the Congregational Level

Contemplation belongs in the neighborhood church

If you are the pastor of a church or parish, this post is for you. If you are not the pastor but are a member of a congregation, consider sharing this post with your pastor, especially if he or she is interested in silent prayer. Karl Rahner, the renowned 20th century Jesuit theologian, once wrote […]

Continuing with Sr. Mary Core, OSB’s introduction to the three Benedictine monastic promises. Today she reflects on obedience. Much gentle wisdom here.