Instructions on Prayer from a Trappist Monk

Brother Elias Offers Wisdom on Silence, Compassion, and Inner Transformation

“I’m speechless,” remarked Brother Elias Marechal, OCSO, after a congregation of several hundred young evangelicals vigorously applauded his visit to their worship service last month. But then he quipped, “We don’t talk in the monastery much.” Grace Fellowship in Athens, GA (home of the University of Georgia) recently invited this deeply contemplative Trappist monk to come and speak […]

Know Who You Are: When God Gazes At You, Who Does God See?

A Contemplative Approach to Self-Awareness


In Delphi, in ancient Greece, at a famous pagan temple these words were carved above the entrance: γνῶθι σεαυτόν (Gnothi Seauton), which in English means “Know Yourself.” It’s a universal spiritual principle, not just something the Greeks thought up. For example, in 12-Step Programs, the first step to recovery involves admitting to yourself that addiction has made your […]

Books for Beginning the Spiritual Journey

Recommended Reading for Anyone Working Work a Spiritual Director

Tools Matter

Here is a list of several books I recommend for spiritual seekers — especially those who are working with a spiritual director or companion. When I recently posted a list of books for spiritual directors, I suppose it only made sense that someone would send along this request: @carlmccolman Thanks for putting this list together! […]

The Mystical Body

Contemplative Spirituality Is More Than Just a 'Head Trip'


How do we embody the contemplative life? And how does the contemplative life make a difference in our bodies (both as individuals and collectively)? Fran and I had dinner the other night with a charming couple named Ray and Lee. We had met Ray a few weeks earlier when I spoke at a UU Church […]

What is Contemplation?

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


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 […]

Charismatic Mysticism

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


“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 […]

Do Contemplatives Need the Church?

And while we're at it: does the Church need contemplatives?


A post on this blog received the following comment yesterday: Having been with the Catholic Church and seminary trained for all my 71 years of life . I am naturally contemplative . But I do now believe practising formal meditation/contemplation is false . Aren’t we missing the point if we try and set time aside […]

Is There a “Contemplative” Personality Type?

Introverts, Extroverts, and the Prayer of Silence

Is there a "contemplative" personality type?

I once heard Richard Rohr tell a charming story of giving a retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Thomas Merton lived. Rohr was surprised to find that not all the monks particularly cared for Merton. When he asked about this, one of the brothers said, “Merton told us we weren’t contemplatives, we were just introverts!” It’s […]

Five Essential Dimensions of Christian Prayer

Deepen Your Intimacy with God through Each of these Ways of Praying


I talk a lot about silent prayer in this blog, which is understandable considering that my focus is on contemplative prayer, which the Catholic Catechism describes as “wordless prayer.” As important as silence is to contemplative and mystical forms of prayer, it’s only one of five essential dimensions of Christian prayer. In this post I look at […]

Seven Blessings of Silent Prayer

Why Contemplation Matters — For All People of Faith


Silent prayer — contemplative prayer, what the Catholic Catechism calls “wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God’s greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration” — is an important element of a mature Christian spirituality. The Bible instructs us to “be still and know… God” (Psalm 46:10), and even promises us that “silence […]

“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 […]

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 […]

How to Find a Contemplative-Friendly Church

Hint: Inquire Within

A Church is more than just a building...

Spirituality is all about love, and love only exists in relationship. Therefore, spirituality is healthiest when it is expressed in a communal way. For better or worse, this means — at least for followers of Jesus Christ and the Christian contemplative/mystical path — finding some sort of church or other faith community. That’s not always easy. […]

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 […]

What to Say to the Nay-Sayers: Talking About Contemplation With Its Critics

Often, remaining silent is better than getting into a pointless debate.

If you are active in a church or other faith community, and you are drawn to (or practicing) silent prayer, if you talk about it with others you will likely, sooner or later, hear somebody say something along these lines: “Isn’t meditation Buddhist? Or Hindu? Christians don’t need to do that sort of thing.” “Sitting […]