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In the School of Prophets

The Formation of Thomas Merton's Prophetic Spirituality

Ephrem Arcement, OSB

The distinctive prophetic quality of Thomas Merton's spirituality, shaped by figures ranging from the Hebrew prophets to Thich Nhat Hanh, emerges from this fresh examination of the works Merton read, responded to, and celebrated in his own writing.In the School of Prophets examines the final decade of Merton's life, mainly through the lens of his journals and letters, and helps to fill a gap in contemporary Merton studies. William Blake and various Latin American poets; novelists Boris Pasternak, Albert Camus, and William Faulkner; existentialists Søren Kierkegaard and Gabriel Marcel; monks of the Egyptian desert; and Bernard of Clairvaux number among those who helped shape Merton's prophetic consciousness, leading him to reexamine what it means to be both a human being and a contemplative monk of the twentieth century.Ephrem Arcement, OSB, is a monk of St. Joseph Abbey in Louisiana. He earned his PhD in spirituality from The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, and currently teaches courses in Scripture and spirituality at St. Joseph Seminary College. His first book, Intimacy in Prayer: Wisdom from Bernard of Clairvaux, appeared in 2013.

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Lectio Matters

Before the Burning Bush

Mary Margaret Funk, OSB

Lectio divina is a way of praying by sustained immersion into a revelatory text. While Scripture is the classic place of encounter with God, the text could also be the book of life or the book of nature. In Lectio Matters, respected spiritual guide Meg Funk accompanies the reader in exploring the various levels of lectio divina as taught by the ancient church writers and by sharing her own long experience. By means of this wisdom both ancient and new, lectio divina can become our burning bush, a real encounter with the living God, in which we take off our sandals and bow our brow to the ground. Mary Margaret Funk is a Benedictine nun of Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, Indiana. From 1994 through 2004, she served as executive director of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, which fosters dialogue among monastics of the world's religions. In addition to the volumes of the Matters Series, she is the author of Islam Is…: An Experience of Dialogue and Devotion and Into the Depths: A Journey of Loss and Vocation.

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Reclaiming Humility

Four Studies in the Monastic Tradition

Jane Foulcher

Does humility have a place in contemporary life? Were Enlightenment thinkers wrong to reject humility as a "monkish virtue" (Hume) arising from a "slave morality" (Nietzsche)? Australian theologian Jane Foulcher recovers the counter-cultural reading of humility that marked early Christianity and examines its trajectory at key junctures in the development of Western monasticism. Humility emerges not as a moral virtue achieved by human effort but as a way opened by grace-as a divine "climate" (Christian de Chergé) that we are invited to inhabit.From fourth-century Egypt to twentieth-century Algeria, via Saint Benedict and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Dr. Foulcher's compelling analysis of theology and practice challenges the church to reclaim Christian humility as essential to its life and witness today.Jane Foulcher is an Anglican priest on the theology faculty of Charles Sturt University, Canberra, Australia.

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The Road to Eternal Life

Reflections on the Prologue of Benedict's Rule

Michael Casey, OCSO

In the Prologue of his Rule, St. Benedict maps out the road that leads to heaven; he lays the foundation for life in a community that seeks God. The themes that are present throughout the Rule—obedience, humility, prayer, fear of the Lord, eternal life—are grounded in the Prologue. By reflecting on the Prologue one verse at a time, Michael Casey, OCSO, delves into the richness of meaning that can be found in Benedict's words. These reflections, first given as talks and made available on his community's web site, build a bridge between the sixth-century text and twenty-first-century Christians. In The Road to Eternal Life, Casey invites readers to reflect on the Prologue in light of their own experiences, to seek "the road that leads to salvation." Michael Casey, OCSO, has been a monk of Tarrawarra Abbey (Australia) since 1960. After completing a degree in Scripture at Leuven, he received his doctorate from Melbourne College of Divinity for a study of desire for God in the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux. For the past decades he has been engaged in exploring different aspects of monastic spirituality, writing, and giving conferences throughout the English-speaking monastic world. His books include Strangers to the City (Paraclete Press, 2005), A Guide to Living in the Truth (Liguori, 2001), and Sacred Reading (Liguori, 1996).

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Saint Benedict for Boomers

Wisdom for the Next Stage of Life

Christine M. Fletcher

Saint Benedict for Boomers is based on the idea that no one can retire from being a Christian; we are to love God and our neighbor throughout our life. And it recognizes that aging presents us with change, loss, and death, as well as new growth and opportunities for deep gladness and peace. The Christian vocation is valid when we are healthy and strong and when we are weak and sick. Taking Saint Benedict of Nursia as a guide, Christine Fletcher insists that those in the autumn of their lives still have much to contribute to society and to those around them, even when they are ill and dependent. Benedict's wisdom is perennial, and it remains helpful to those who negotiate new challenges in living well, preserving bodily health, discerning purpose in new stages of living, deepening faith, and ultimately, facing sickness and death.Christine M. Fletcher is associate professor of theology at Benedictine University and an oblate of St. Procopius Abbey, Lisle, Illinois. She is the author of 24/7 Christian: The Secular Vocation of the Laity, published by Liturgical Press.

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Faith beyond Belief

Spirituality for Our Times; A Conversation

David Steindl-Rast and Anselm Grün; Edited by Johannes Kaup; Translated by Linda M. Maloney; Foreword by Martin E. Marty

A personal, surprising, and heart-warming book wherein two spiritual masters of our time advance the central questions of life and faith."Brother David Steindl-Rast and Father Anselm Grün are figures of hope, people who by the power of their example can offer an orientation in a world that has become too complex to comprehend. The spirituality they radiate is an everyday thing that is nevertheless both profound and vivid. . . . "Our conversations, on which this book is based, could be read as a 'crash course' in Christian spirituality. This book will be an inspiration and an aid to spiritual life for many people of our time, whether they are believers or not." Johannes KaupFrom the IntroductionDavid Steindl-Rast, OSB, is a monk of Mount Saviour Monastery in Elmira, New York. He has written and lectured extensively and was one of the first Roman Catholics to be involved in Buddhist-Christian dialogue. He is the cofounder of gratefulness.org.Anselm Grün, OSB, is a monk of the Benedictine abbey of Münsterschwarzach, Germany, where he has been cellarer since 1977. He is the author of many books, lectures, and courses on themes of spiritual life.Johannes Kaup has worked at the Austrian public radio corporation since 1990 and has received several awards as producer of programs on faith and life. He has authored five books.

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The Radical Christian Life

A Year with Saint Benedict

Joan Chittister, OSB

Very little in this world stays fresh and life-giving for 1,500 years. But when that happens we should ask ourselves why and what that had to do with us. In this book, The Radical Christian Life: A Year with Saint Benedict, Joan Chittister encourages us to look at that question. In an introductory essay she examines how the insights and values of the sixth-century visionary Saint Benedict can illuminate today's search for a meaningful life. Then she leads us through the year, reflecting on twelve stories from Benedict's life, anecdotes that give us glimpses into his soul. More than that, she draws from these stories daily thoughts for the development of our own spiritual lives in this day and age. Joan Chittister, OSB, is a Benedictine sister and international lecturer who has been a leading voice in spirituality for more than thirty years. She has authored over forty books, most recently Uncommon Gratitude and The Monastery of the Heart, part of a program she is helping to develop to enable lay groups to live Benedictine spirituality in a contemporary way.

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Befriending Our Desires

Third Edition

Philip Sheldrake

Desire is at the heart of what it is to be human. The power of desire, while embodied and sensuous, is God-given and the key to all human spirituality. Humanity is blessed with a deep longing that is infinite in extent and can only ultimately be satisfied in God. Befriending Our Desires portrays the intimate connection between desire and the spiritual journey. Drawing on Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, Christian spiritual classics (with some reference to Buddhist spirituality), poetry, and other literature, plus personal and pastoral experience, Philip Sheldrake explores the role of desire in relation to God, prayer, sexuality, making choices, and responding to change.Philip Sheldrake has taught, spoken, and written extensively about Christian spirituality and spirituality more generally. Over the years he has been involved in spiritual accompaniment and in workshops for professional groups interested in spirituality as well as being a leader in the academic field of spirituality. He is senior research fellow at Westcott House Cambridge Theological Federation and director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Spirituality at Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas.

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The Taste of Silence

How I Came to Be at Home with Myself

Bieke Vandekerckhove; Translated by Rudolf Van Puymbroeck

At the youthful age of nineteen Bieke Vandekerckhove was diagnosed with ALS (a degenerative neurological disease, aka Lou Gehrig's disease). Unexpectedly, three years later her disease went into remission and, even though partially paralyzed, she lived with ALS for more than twenty years. In twenty-seven short chapters, written at various points in her life, the author shares her search for meaning and strength. Much to her own surprise, she found both in the stillness of contemplation, in the richness of silence. The practice of Benedictine spirituality and Zen meditation became, as she says, the two lungs through which she breathes. Along the way of her painful but illuminating journey, she shares insights learned from artists of all stripes, whether poets, painters, sculptors, or moviemakers, and from great contemplatives and thinkers. The result is a work that offers a deep trove of spiritual wisdom for every reader, whether afflicted with debilitating illness or in perfect health. This book won the Best Spiritual Book 2011 award in the author's home country of Belgium.Bieke Vandekerckhove (born 1969) lived in Kuurne, Belgium. In 1988, when she was a psychology major at the University of Leuven, she was diagnosed with ALS and became paralyzed from the pelvis up. With round-the-clock help from husband Bart Verhulst and various assistants, she led an active life of teaching, counseling, and writing for, among others, Volzin and Tertio. Until recently she regularly conducted Zen meetings and retreats at the Benedictine Sint-Andries Abbey in Zevenkerken, Belgium. In 2014 Bieke Vandekerckhove received formal transmission as Zen Master (Ch'an Ssu) in the Chinese Ch'an tradition from internationally known Zen Master Prof. Ton Lathouwers, himself the Dharma-Successor of Ch'an Master Teh Cheng, longtime head of the Guang Hua Ch'an School in China. On the occasion, she received the name Xia Fan Zhi Guang, meaning "Light of Kenosis." Bieke passed away in her home, early in the evening on September 7, 2015.

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Finding Sanctuary

Monastic Steps for Everyday Life

Abbot Christopher Jamison

In Finding Sanctuary Abbot Christopher Jamison, host of the BBC television series The Monastery, suggests the teachings of St. Benedict are a tool for everyday life—for those who are religious and for those simply searching for spiritual guidance. The Monastery involved five non-monks living the monastic life for forty days while TV cameras tracked their progress. The sight of monks responding thoughtfully and helpfully to ordinary people's struggles was a surprise to millions of viewers who had presumed that monks were out of touch. St. Benedict wrote his Rule for monastic living 1,500 years ago when he was abbot of Monte Cassino, the monastery that sits atop an inspiring mountain to the East of Rome. The name, The Rule of St. Benedict, often misleads people into thinking that Benedict wrote a book of rules. In fact, he wrote insights for Christian living, with practical suggestions for daily practice. The insights still guide people today and many of the rules have been adapted to local conditions as Benedict requested. In every generation monastics integrate modern realities and the wisdom of the Rule in a new fusion. That fusion is the spiritual energy enabling monasteries to be places of sanctuary today as they have been for centuries. And that sanctuary can be recreated in the hearts of people of good will. This book explains how St. Benedict's wisdom can be applied to busy modern lives, and how sanctuary, peace, and insight can be achieved by people living inside and outside of monasteries. Visit the Finding Sanctuary website, which offers further steps for finding sanctuary in your life. Christopher Jamison is abbot of Worth Abbey, a Benedictine monastery near London. He was the host of the surprise hit BBC documentary series The Monastery.

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Just Prayer

A Book of Hours for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers

Alison M. Benders

Just Prayer is a four-week prayer cycle for morning and evening readings to support Christians who "hunger and thirst for justice." Patterned on the ancient monastic Hours, it offers psalms, intercessions, and reflections fashioned to strengthen a personal commitment to justice. The weekly themes are: recognizing God's command that we act justly; lamenting suffering and injustice in our world; repenting our failures and renewing our commitment to justice; and, finally, celebrating God's promise of justice lived as a new heaven and new earth. Weekly reflections encourage personal transformation by emphasizing the connection between justice action and peaceful communities. Created with parishes, youth groups, mission trip participants, and social justice organizations in mind, Just Prayer supports hands-on service work in local communities. By repeating and building upon the prayer sequences in Just Prayer, we can conform our hearts more fully to Christ's living message of compassion and justice for the least among us. The print edition features a soft, leather-like cover and a durable ribbon for convenient daily prayer. Alison M. Benders is associate dean at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. Prior to her career in higher education, she worked as an antitrust litigator in Philadelphia.

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No Peace without Prayer

Encouraging Muslims and Christians to Pray Together; A Benedictine Approach

Abbot Timothy Wright

Abbot Timothy Wright proposes sowing a small seed from which might grow a greater respect between the world's two largest religions, Christianity and Islam. Indeed, he believes that the seed has already been planted. Christians give unique value to their revealed Scriptures as the "Word of God." Muslims speak of the Qur'an as God speaking to them.In No Peace without Prayer, Wright presents the case for developing this faith in the Word of God to establish groups of Christians and Muslims dedicated to sharing their respective "Divine Word" in ways that enhance the "other." This is not a tussle for converts but a way into greater mutual understanding-under the eye of the God who communicates this Word-to create a new shared memory. Such is a work of prayer, a prayer that could lead to greater peace. The key word, says Wright, is partnership, arising from their shared belief in the One God, creator of the universe, communicating with the human world and merciful to the repentant.Abbot Timothy Wright, OSB, presently teaches at Benedictine University, Lisle, Illinois, and is the delegate of the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation for Monastic-Muslim Relations. He served as abbot of Ampleforth Abbey from 1997 to 2005, during which time he and Mohammad Ali Shomali organized a series of dialogues between Catholic monks and theologians and Shi'a Muslims from Iran.

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The Sacred Gaze

Contemplation and the Healing of the Self

Susan R. PitchfordForeword by Alan Jones

Eight hundred years ago, Clare of Assisi advised a correspondent to gaze into the mirror of the crucified Christ and study her own face within it. One hundred years ago, sociologist Charles Horton Cooley said we can know our self only as it is reflected to us by others. Contemplation is the choice to find our reflection in the divine Mirror. In The Sacred Gaze, Susan Pitchford explores how a false self is created by distortions in the mirrors around us. Drawing from the mystical and sociological traditions, and with practical suggestions for how to begin, Pitchford shows how gazing into the face of Christ can reveal to us who we really are. When the true self is known, and known as God's beloved, the way is opened to radical freedom and joy.Susan R. Pitchford is a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Washington and a professed member of the Third Order, Society of St. Francis. She is the author of God in the Dark: Suffering and Desire in the Spiritual Life (Liturgical Press) and Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everyone. Susan lives in Seattle with her husband, Bob Crutchfield.

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Prayer in the Cave of the Heart

The Universal Call to Contemplation

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam

Prayer is an art that cannot just be taught. It must be experienced, lived, and practiced. In Prayer in the Cave of the Heart, Cyprian Consiglio draws on his experience as a Camaldolese monk to give readers an accessible reflection on prayer that is based on Bede Griffith's "universal call to contemplation." In this text, the contemplative traditions of East and West intersect to invite readers into prayer that makes them "present to the Spirit who is already present to us."

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At Play in Creation

Merton's Awakening to the Feminine Divine

Christopher Pramuk; Includes illustrations and photos

In this series of deeply meditative retreat conferences, Christopher Pramuk leads the reader through a sustained meditation on Wisdom-Sophia, the feminine face of God's presence alive in the world, who speaks and sings in the writings of Thomas Merton. With the sensitivity of a poet and the intellectual acuity of a seasoned teacher and Catholic theologian, Pramuk invites readers to taste and see for themselves the hidden presence of Christ and the dynamism of Love at play in creation; the biblical and mystical tradition from East to West calls this presence Sophia. Looking beyond Merton to seek out her presence in the silent and broken landscapes of our world today, Pramuk shows Sophia above all to be the bearer of hope in an age of unspeakable violence and planetary destruction.Christopher Pramuk is associate professor of theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton and Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters across the Color Line; he is also a contributor to Give Us This Day, published by Liturgical Press. The recipient of the Catholic Theological Society of America's 2009 Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award, he has also received the International Thomas Merton Society's 2011 Thomas Merton Award and several best essay awards from the Catholic Press Association.

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