How to Deal with Catholics Who Disapprove of Centering Prayer


A reader of this blog named Pawel writes: Hi Carl, What would be your advice for someone returning to Catholic faith through a practice like Centering Prayer (having been immersed in Eastern traditions for many years), but coming up against objections when trying to start with the “basics”? For example, I was looking for a good Bible study and came across The New Adventure Bible and...

Catholic Spirituality versus the Institutional Church: Navigating the Choppy Waters


A friend on Instagram wrote this to me recently: Hello, Carl! I have become so drawn to the Catholic Church and I don’t know what to do. I am an LGBTQ+ Christian, and I have to admit, the sexual-abuse scandals in the RCC plus their stance on female clergy and birth control REALLY hold me back from going forth and becoming Catholic. And yet… I cannot seem to shake the desire to become...

How do I choose a contemplative lay order? And do I have to be Catholic to do so?


A reader recently wrote to me: Dear Carl, I grew up as a Protestant, but as I’ve journeyed into Contemplative Christianity over the last while I’ve become more amenable to Roman Catholicism. I have been wondering about lay orders and how to connect with the contemplative tradition through a lay order. I was wondering if you could shed some light on which lay orders there are (main ones) and what...

What’s the Best Church for Contemplative Christians?


A reader writes: Carl, do you think the Catholic Church has more scope to welcome contemplative Christians?  I attend an Anglican church and I’m very high Anglican in my thinking. A friend calls me a secret Catholic.  I’m growing weary of the evangelical fundamentalist direction of the church… I’m a bit lost to be honest. I’m sorry you feel lost, and I think...

Why Experience Is Not the Foundation of (All) Spirituality


I’ve been reading a book by William A. Barry, a Jesuit priest who is an authority on spiritual direction. The book, Finding God in All Things, is a companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. If you’re not familiar with it, the Spiritual Exercises are the foundation of Ignatian (Jesuit) spirituality, which emphasizes fostering a loving, intimate relationship with God as the...

How Should A Christian Respond When a Friend Becomes Interested in Witchcraft and Magic?


As long-standing readers of this blog know, I have not always been a Catholic; I embraced Catholicism in 2004 after a Protestant upbringing and then about a seven-year stint in which I followed a neopagan spiritual path. Indeed, I wrote a number of books about paganism, a fact I discussed in an earlier blog post, You Wrote Books About Paganism? These days, my work as a writer is primarily geared...

“You Wrote Books About Paganism?!?”


The late Kenneth Leech used to tell the story about giving a lecture at a seminary in America on the topic of race relations, and afterwards a seminarian seemed surprised to learn that he was the “same Kenneth Leech” who wrote books on spirituality. Apparently, the mind of this seminarian couldn’t equate a social-justice Christian with a contemplative-prayer Christian. But yes...

Thoughts are to Contemplative Silence like a Monstrance is to the Host


The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplation like this: A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God’s greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love. I emphasized “wordless prayer” because that is often what people struggle with the most. Critics of contemplation attack it...

John Cassian: The Leap Year Contemplative


February 29 is the feast day of St. John Cassian — who, in addition to being a “leap year saint” is also one of the most important early contemplatives in the Christian tradition. Cassian (ca. 360-435) brought monasticism — and, therefore, contemplative spirituality — from the deserts of the Middle East to Western Europe. His birthplace is uncertain, but by the 380s he was living in a...

Seven Blessings of Silent Prayer


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 is...

The Contemplative Story of Dear Prudence


I love the Beatles, and like many Beatles fans, I think The White Album is one of their great masterpieces. And one of the best songs on The White Album is, without question, “Dear Prudence.” But did you know that the song was influenced by the music of the Gypsies, Transcendental Meditation, and the daughter (and sister) of Hollywood celebrities? “Dear Prudence” was...

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