The core of my being, the most treasured part of my existence, is a contemplative life— a life lived in awareness of the divine. The challenge of maintaining this awareness is to sit openhanded to receive all that comes. It is not possible to hold on to one thought, memory, or idea and continue the contemplative journey. It requires a willingness to live this moment as keenly as possible, always aware of the many dimensions of now. Staying openhanded, treasuring but not grasping, is critical to the contemplative stance.

Sr. Simone Campbell
A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community (New York: HarperCollins, 2014), p. xiii.

Christian Proficiency (London: S. P. C. K., 1959)

Martin Thornton stands alongside Kenneth Leech and Evelyn Underhill (at least, in my opinion) as one of the three most important Anglican Catholic writers of the twentieth century. In this book originally published in 1959, his language (like Underhill’s) can sound dated — he uses terminology like “mental prayer,” “recollection” and “colloquy” — but the warmth of his pastoral voice, the evident love for Christian spirituality, and the homespun, down-to-earth character of his writing, all combine to make this general survey of spirituality for the practicing Christian truly a delight. In calling the book Christian Proficiency Thornton points out that his intended readers are not the absolute beginners in the inner life, nor the experts — but rather those who seek a mature, adult spirituality, acknowledging the constraints that family life and career will place on the ordinary seeker. Nevertheless, Thornton points out that such elements as meditation, spiritual direction/accompaniment, and forming/following a rule of life, are all important and accessible elements of a committed life of faith. In the end, he succeeds in communicating to readers that an ordinary life of spiritual practice is truly extraordinary when suffused with the love of God.

Books and a Film: All About Silence

Explore the Heart of Contemplation With These Titles


I would love to attend the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin next month — if for no other reason than to be at the North American premiere of the movie In Pursuit of Silence. Here’s the latest trailer for this “meditative film about our relationship with sound and the impact of noise on our lives.” […]

Give yourself the gift of a mid-week retreat day! On April 20 I’ll be back at Ignatius House in Atlanta leading a “Day of Reflection” on the spiritual wisdom of Julian of Norwich. Our today together will include three conferences on the teachings of Julian, with plenty of time for silence, reflection, prayer, and enjoying the beautiful grounds of Ignatius House. Hope to see you there.

Date: April 20, 2016
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Event: Julian of Norwich Day of Reflection
Topic: Julian of Norwich
Sponsor: Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center
Venue: Ignatius House
Location: 6700 Riverside Drive NW
Atlanta, GA 30328
Registration: Click here to register.

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

Here’s the latest trailer for the upcoming movie “In Pursuit of Silence” which will have its North American premiere at the South by Southwest festival in Austin.


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.

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

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.