I consumed Mark Plaiss’ book No End to the Search in two days. Since I am a lay associate of New Melleray and Our Lady of the Mississpi Abbey’s I was eager to see how his experience of monasticism and mine compared. Mark writes as if he has a Go Pro on and he is just narrating what he is seeing and experiencing. If you want to explore this unique calling you will be rewarded in this book. The monks and nuns of these two monasteries have welcomed me into their worlds as best as anyone can welcome someone into their homes. Down through almost 40 years I have soaked up their wisdom and basked in their love. My goal continues to be to take the best of this experience into my life and let that season my relationships. Years ago Abbot General Dom Bernardo encouraged all Abbots and Abbesses to enter more deeply into dialogue with people like Mark and me. Out of this request grew a formal recognition by the Cistercian order to people attached to monasteries the world over. If you want to taste why we do this Mark will serve up a delightful menu, along with reflections on how this penetrates his daily life (and mine), so carve out some quiet time and sink into the quiet with No End to the Search.
The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation by Thomas Merton.
Some of the pearls found in this work of Merton written just before he left for Asia where he died. The best estimation of when that was seems to be sometime in September 1959.
One of the strange laws of the contemplative life is that in it you do not sit down and solve problems: you bear with them until they somehow solve themselves. Pg.2 The contemplative life is primarily a life of unity. A contemplative is one who has transcended divisions to teach a unity beyond division. Pg. 147 The contemplative is not one who directs a magic spiritual intuition upon other objects, but one who, being perfectly unified in himself and recollected in the center of his own humility, enters into contact with reality by an immediacy that forgets the division between subject and object. Pg. 151.
It seem fitting that I finished it around 3:15, this Good Friday afternoon. Thank you Thomas
Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert have collaborated in “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective” to add to the many efforts to introduce this time tested source of wisdom. I have learned painfully that I am in danger of making my worst mistakes when I was operating out of my “strengths”. The Enneagram helps to life up this issue in a way that helps bring to consciousness this danger. Then forewarned can truly be forearmed. The material is presented in a conversational manner making it easy to assimilate. If you don’t know much about this method of reflection this book would be a good place to start.
Denis Edwards wrote a book back in 1991 that began the effort to bring together the current information on so many fronts. Religion, spirituality, science, eschatology,and the search for meaning in an age that is rapidly expanding just as is the universe itself. This invites the reader to open their minds to possibilities undreamed of before, and at the same time taking us into areas that threaten our footing in ‘accepted’ ways of being in the world.
Many many years ago in an effort to make Teilhard de Chardin’s Phenomenon of Man accessible this film strip was created called Survival. I have used this teaching tool for over 40 years and it makes it easy to introduce the work of this great man to those looking for a God big enough to worship. I invite you to taste and see how marvelous God’s process of creation is.
Matarasso, Pauline Ed. The Cistercian World. Penguin Books. London. 1993. Monastic writings of the twelfth century. The abbot of New Melleray Abbey asked each of us associates to read this in order to become more familiar with the foundation of the order. I found the chapter on spiritual friendship by Alfred of Rievaulx the most timely for anyone of any age. The lyrical description of Clairvaux was a treat by an unknown author towards the end of the book.
In her book, Fresh Bread, Sr. Joyce Rupp takes you through the year with scriptures recommended for daily reflection. Each month has a theme that can awaken a quiet time of meditation and is designed for those whose lives are busy but need a method to integrate their experiences with their faith. Written in 1985, but timeless in content, I recommend this to those wanting to bring a focus to their days.
Radical Hospitality, invites you into the heart of reality. In many ways, by way of reflection gained from deep listening and the sharing of stories, the authors Homan & Collins have created a book that deserves “a deep read”. They rediscover the ancient art of welcoming the stranger as a bearer of gifts, not a source of danger. It will awaken you to a new way of being in the world.
If you only have time for one book this year please consider Richard Rohr’s newest book Immortal Diamond. This is a work that is so approachable you will find yourself saying “yes, yes” on almost every page. As the back cover says “This book is the ripe ftuit of a life couragously and honestly lived. Such profound wisdom conveyed with such elegant simplicity!” It will also make a wonder filled gift for some special in your life.
Gerald G. May has pondered the mystery of The Dark Night of the Soul leaning on John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. Using his skills as a gifted phychiatrist he explores the connection between darkness and spiritual growth. This is a well grounded look at this profound question.
Once again, Sr. Joan Chittister, give us a gift in The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. This is a book for many audiences. If you want to understand what the elders in your life are standing under – this book is for you. If you are entering into that period called the “golden years” it is a treasure chest of insights. This is the fruit of a life fully reflected on and now cherished.
This book is a dialogue between Christoph Quarch and Willigis Jager. In a question and answer format they explore the timeless reality of experiencing the transcendent in human life. This dialogue will be useful for all those who say that they are spiritual but not religious. It will also help you live in the NOW with a new appreciation of each moment as containing the presence of God in your life.
If you ever have that “something missing” feeling, and a longing for what that missing reality might be, you will profit from reading The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser. The simple and straightforward language of this book invites a cup of something and a quiet corner to appreciate its great gifts.
The Ethiopian Tattoo Shop by Edward Hays Stories supposedly told by a tattoo artist to distract the client from the discomfort of the process of getting a tattoo. These parables have meanings for those on a spiritual quest.
Journeys on the Edge: The Celtic Tradition By Thomas O’Loughlin brings us a look at what has been called Celtic spirituality. He looks at original sources of the first millennium, which can help us understand much of what we inherited from these early Irish ancestors in faith.
Gold in your Memories by Macrina Wiederkehr, Ave Maria Press in Notre Dame, IN. 1998, will be a deep mine for those who want to dig for the gold in their own memories. Macrina is someone who can put you in touch with the spiritual energy that resides within you to empower you to make new memories every day you live. She shares my belief that we are all a work in process and our lives are a tapestry of memories. I invite you to taste one of her haiku poems: “A tiny gold leaf / offers a silent sermon / from a barren branch.”
The Road Less Traveled & Beyond by M. Scott Peck. NY. Simon & Schuster. 1997.
As anxiety becomes more intense, it is an opportunity for spiritual growth. “Scotty” lets us in on his spiritual growth in this book. I recommend reading the last chapter first, as it will give you the fruit of this authors reflection on his growth experiences. For those who have read other books by Peck, this one will tie all the earlier books together. In times like ours today, where we feel disoriented by so many rapid changes, a book like this will encourage you to go with God’s process of bringing you into your maturing as well.