Advance Praise for “Befriending Silence”

Befriending Silence

What do Brian McLaren, Fr. Daniel Horan OFM, Fr. Michael Casey OCSO, Br. Patrick Hart OCSO, and Phyllis Tickle have in common? They’ve all endorsed Befriending Silence. Brian McLaren praises Befriending Silence as “a great gift to all who hunger for meaning, mystery, peace, hope, and God.” Fr. Daniel Horan calls the book “an accessible and enlightening introduction […]

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:

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.


Mystics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

This wonderful book explores the question “what is mysticism?” through the life stories and teachings of nine mystics: seven from the Christian tradition (including Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Merton), plus Rumi (Sufism) and Dōgen (Zen). So the book is anchored in the Christian contemplative path, but has a nice interspiritual dimension as well. Emerging out of Fr. Harmless’s experience as a college professor, he had done a marvelous job at balancing scholarship and accessibility in creating this book, which is a delight to read and packed with insight. He successfully demonstrates that, far from being a monolithic type of “experience,” mysticism actually comes in many shapes and sizes, although all its varieties are linked together by an intentional commitment to nurturing the soul (and, for theists, nurturing intimacy with God).

I’ll be returning to Ignatius House in northwest Atlanta on October 26 for a day of reflection in honor of Saint Teresa of Ávila. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Saint Teresa’s birth, and so this day will be a time for us to ponder some of her profound spiritual teachings and reflect on how her wisdom can bring light to our lives, here in the twenty-first century.

Date: October 26, 2015
Time: 09:00 a.m.—03:00 p.m.
Event: Teresa of Ávila Day of Reflection
Venue: Ignatius House
Location: 6700 Riverside Drive NW
Atlanta, GA 30328
Registration: Click here to register.

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It is not enough for a tree to be blessed with leaves, branches, trunk, and shoots. It must have roots.
To be human, it is not enough to feel, think, remember, dream, and imagine. We must have roots; a silence that reaches down into the silence of God, the Origin of Faith.

Elias Marechal
Tears of An Innocent God (New York: Paulist Press, 2015), p. 16.

Thirteen Characteristics of Healthy Spirituality

Kenneth Leech's Manifesto for a Renewed Spirituality is More Relevant Than Ever

True God

Following the passing of Anglican contemplative theologian Kenneth Leech, I’ve been revisiting several of his books. In the back of his book True God: An Exploration in Spiritual Theology is Leech’s manifesto “Toward a Renewed Spirituality.” It’s an important statement that deserves wide consideration. Ken offers thirteen points that he considers essential for the ongoing […]

In part two of this four part series, Sr. Mary Core, OSB offers a brief reflection on the monastic promise of stability, the first of three essential Benedictine promises.

In the School of Contemplation

In the School of Contemplation (Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications, 2015)

André Louf was the abbot of a Trappist Cistercian monastery in France for nearly thirty-five years; he is the author of several modern spiritual classics, including The Cistercian Way and Teach Us to Pray. In 2004 a French edition of this book was published, pulling together a variety of Dom André’s talks and monastic conferences on topics such as community, obedience, ecumenism, the Psalms and the Liturgy, and (of course) contemplation and the contemplative life. In “Spiritual Experience” the author gently describes how our contemporary obsession with experience needs to be grounded in discernment, prayer, and witness. The twelve chapters offer a wonderful insight into monastic formation as it takes place in our time, and invites the reader to be formed by this wisdom as we each seek our own life given to contemplation.