Joyful Sanctity

If you think holiness is dreary, remember that melancholy is not a fruit of the Spirit!

Happiness and simplicity often go together....

What is the relationship between holiness and joy? A reader named Gordon writes, in response to my concerns about how “experience” can be misunderstood in a spiritual context: I agree with you that experience is not there for entertainment. But given my background in a very dreary fundamentalist religious upbringing, I always find the word […]

I love Holy Cross Monastery in New York, and am happy to be returning there on Labor Day weekend.

Our retreat theme will be “Praying with the English Mystics: Wisdom for Today from Julian of Norwich and The Cloud of Unknowing.”

The retreat is open to the public. Come and enjoy the beautiful grounds, the serenity of the river, the ethereal music of the monks’ prayer, and our shared reflection on the mystical spirituality of the middle ages.

Date: September 2, 2016—September 4, 2016
Event: Praying with the English Mystics: Wisdom for Today from Julian of Norwich and The Cloud of Unknowing
Topic: Praying with the English Mystics
Sponsor: Holy Cross Monastery
(845) 384-6660
Venue: Holy Cross Monastery
(845) 384-6660
Location: 1615 Route 9W
West Park, NY 12493
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

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

Before I can say “God Himself is mine,” I have to let go of everything but God himself. The familiar picture I may have of God is not God himself, and I will have to leave that image behind in the desert. God as he is in himself is wholly Other than I can imagine him, is transcendent Mystery. Likewise, my experience of God, whether in prayer or in my brothers and sisters, is not God himself. And so I will have to let go of my familiar forms of praying and experiencing God as I journey through the desert. I can learn to trust him whom I do not name or experience, trust him because I love him.

Charles Cummings OCSO
Spirituality and the Desert Experience (Denville, NJ: DImension Books, 1978), p. 118.

Recommended Reading for Spiritual Accompaniment

Books for the Ministry of Spiritual Direction and Soul Friendship

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Spiritual direction, also known as spiritual accompaniment, is an essential ministry for anyone seeking to embrace contemplative Christianity. Not only is it a vital and beautiful ministry to receive, but many find meaning and value in providing this kind of soul friendship and guidance to others. Recently a reader of this blog wrote to me and asked, “Do […]

The Place of Joy in Christian Spirituality

Is it Okay to Enjoy a Deeper Prayer Life?

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What is the relationship between prayer and joy? If we enjoy our prayer, does that mean we are avoiding the hard work of spirituality (which, at least in Christian terms, is meant to make us holy, not to entertain us)? I had an interesting little exchange on Facebook the other day, when a reader, who […]

Reviving an old page from my first blog

Warning: If you love spiritual books, this could be hazardous to your wallet...

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Reading books about the spiritual life can be a substitute for actually devoting time each day to prayer. So if you have to choose between prayer and reading, make prayer your priority. Nevertheless, one of the best ways to nurture an ongoing prayer practice is to devote some time each day to reading nurturing and […]

Contemplation and Peace

A Few Thoughts for Our Troubled Times

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A Facebook friend shared with me that she has been “thinking about contemplative prayer as a resource for peacemaking or for community building.” Especially given the horrors in Orlando this past weekend, perhaps this is something we all need to be thinking about. Is contemplative prayer a meaningful tool for fostering reconciliation? Can it foster peace […]

I love being part of the Spirituality Immersion Experience that is offered about twice a year through Columbia Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning. As usual, I’ll present two talks on the history of Christian spirituality, focussing on the monastic tradition and on spirituality since the Reformation. But the program is much more than just me! If you’d like a nourishing program combining prayer, journaling, small group conversation, and insight into the riches of Biblical and Christian spirituality, then I hope you’ll come to this program. I look forward to seeing you there.

Date: August 4, 2016—August 7, 2016
Event: Spiritual Immersion Experience
Sponsor: Columbia Theological Seminary
Venue: Columbia Theological Seminary
Location: Decatur, GA
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

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

What is Contemplation?

It's Hard to Put a Wordless Spiritual Practice Into Words

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What is contemplation? Unfortunately, answering this question is tricky — for contemplation is like some other words in the English language, such as love or success or happiness.  In other words, different people use it to mean different things. Recently a reader named Daniel sent me this message: I’ve been gradually learning about contemplative spirituality for a couple of years now.  Throughout this […]

Georgia Author of the Year!

"Befriending Silence" wins in the Inspirational/Religious Category

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This past Saturday evening I received a lovely honor. The Georgia Writers’ Association selected me as a “Georgia Author of the Year” in the Inspirational/Religious category for Befriending Silence. The Georgia Author of the Year Awards is the oldest literary awards ceremony in the southeastern United States, started by the Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists in […]

The spiritual life is not a set of exercises appended to our ordinary routine. It is a complete reordering of our values and our prioirities and our lives. Spirituality is not just a matter of joining the closest religious community or parish committee or faith-sharing group. Spirituality is that depth of soul that changes our lives and focuses our efforts and leads us to see the world differently than we ever did before.

Joan Chittister
The Rule of Benedict (New York: Crossroad, 2010), p. 247.

Charismatic Mysticism

What is the Relationship Between Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Contemplative Prayer?

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“Do Gifts of the Spirit, especially those like tongues, have any connection with mysticism? Historically, theologically, experientially, in connection with the Divine… If so, in what way, and if not, why not?” A few months back, I asked folks on Facebook if they had any questions they would like me to address on my blog. Here is […]

This summer I will be a guest speaker at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Marietta, GA. My topic: “Sacred Questions, Unknowing Answers: On Forging a Postmodern Faith.”

Date: July 17, 2016
Time: 9:45-10:45 a.m.
Event: Sacred Questions, Unknowing Answers
Topic: Sacred Questions, Unknowing Answers: Some Thoughts on Forging a Postmodern Spirituality
Venue: Emerson UU Congregation
Location: 4010 Canton Road
Marietta, GA 30066
Public: Public

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

Religion, or conscious, intimate contact with God, must not only dominate, but must penetrate and permeate all your living. That means you are not only to worship while at work, but your work itself must be worship; you are not to go from play to prayer or from prayer to play, but your play itself must be a form of prayer; you are to sleep, and sleep soundly, but all the while your heart is to be watching; and when you are awake, you are to be wide awake to the God you are adoring with your entire being.

Fr. M. Raymond OCSO
Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2000), Kindle locations 589-593.

Mystagogy: the Heart of Spiritual Formation

Catechesis as a Template for the Contemplative Life

Mystagogy: The contemplative equivalent of the caterpillar-to-butterfly process

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults — the Catholic process by which adults enter the Church — suggests that there are four stages or steps in the process of Christian initiation. These steps — evangelization, catechesis, initiation, and mystagogy — not only define the journey of general formation in the life of Christ (in other words, “becoming […]