A 20th Century Christian mystic, Thomas Merton is far and away one of my favorite authors. Although I haven’t read all his books yet, New Seeds of Contemplation is in my mind his greatest work. Without a doubt a modern spiritual classic. The depth of Merton’s spiritual understanding is difficult to grasp. His words are soothing as a pool of cool water. I want to swim in them for hours.
“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.” ~ Thomas Merton
In New Seeds of Contemplation Merton takes us to deeper levels in our spiritual walk, teaching us about faith and humility, thoughtfully helping us to find our true identity in Christ. If you are on a serious spiritual growth path, seeking a clearer understanding of your relationship to God, this is the book for you. My feeble words fail when trying to describe the magnificence of Thomas Merton’s writing.Poetic, transcending, life-changing, mesmerizing, core-cutting, astounding, incredibly perfect, a true gift from God. It leaves me almost breathless… Always wanting more.
The highest of recommendations from my bookshelf. READ THIS BOOK!
In January 2008, I was introduced to Joshua Choonmin Kang when Renavare` suggested their followers read Deep-Rooted in Christ together that year. Because I am such a fan of Richard Foster and the Renovare`organization, I was confident the book would be amazing. I was not disappointed. In the tradition of classic spiritual writers, Joshua uses the spiritual disciplines to show us the path to Christlikeness. Written with 52 short chapters it is perfect for a weekly devotional. There is so much life changing wisdom that once through barely skims the surface. I’ve read this sweet book several times since I first got it. If you are looking for a new devotional for the upcoming year or perhaps a Christmas gift, I would highly recommend Joshua Choonmin Kang’s beautifully written book Deep-Rooted in Christ: The Way of Transformation. I’m looking forward to reading it again myself.
“There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us.”
I became an immediate Thomas Merton fan when I read this first sentence of Thoughts in Solitude. After living most of my life numbed out in a mind filled with fantasy, I was amazed to find a book written by a Trappist monk that could touch the core of my being with one sentence.
Merton’s writing flows like beautiful poetry. You will want to soak in his nourishing words for hours on end. There is incredible healing in this precious book. I’ve read it twice and will read it time and again for the rest of my life.
If you are unfamiliar with Thomas Merton, I highly recommend starting with Thoughts in Solitude. It was my first book of his but it hasn’t been the last. Until I’ve read them all I can’t name a favorite, though this one is at the top of the list so far.
As my monastic spiritual quest unfolds God continues to put amazing books in my path. Each leads to another and on and on they go. My Amazon account is grateful to be sure!
In early 2014 when I was looking for books to use with my Lectio Divina and Liturgy of the Hours practices, I started reading Phyllis Tickle’s book series The Divine Hours. She spoke about the history of The Hours and how years ago monks (and some still today) would chant the Liturgy vs. speaking it.
A light bulb moment hit and I began looking for a book on chanting. Then voila’! I discovered Cynthia Bourgault’s book Chanting the Psalms. The perfect answer to my search.
Not only is this book an incredible history of chanting but it is a beautiful teaching tool of music and worship. The best part is the instructional CD that is included to help you learn the chants.
Don’t worry if you’re not a musician or a singer. Cynthia has all that covered. She does an awesome job putting us at ease with our uncertainties and inexperience. As a novice with chanting I need lots of practice. But that’s where our spiritual growth comes through our practice.
I am so excited about Chanting the Psalms by Cynthia Bourgeault and plan to use it for many years to come. I hope you will consider it as an addition to your prayer and personal worship experience.
St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
Readers who have been following my blog will be familiar with the title of this book. It has been listed as a resource for many of my columns.
As the title suggests St. Benedict’s Toolbox is just that… an excellent tool for applying The Rule of Saint Benedict to lives outside the monastery wall. Jane Tomaine does a incredible job laying out the chapters in a user friendly fashion with ideas and resources that will blend with your personal lifestyle and faith practice. If you were to buy only one book to help you begin applying The Rule you must buy St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday BenedictineLiving by Jane Tomaine! I’m crazy about Jane’s book and plan to use it for years to come! Every time I open it I get more excited about putting it into practice. Thanks Jane!
It’s always exciting when I discover a book that has fresh concepts and approaches to the subject of addiction recovery. Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr is just that and more.
I’ve been using this book in my own recovery walk for over a year now. With every chapter I get new insights that help me get up and take my daily baby steps again. Though himself not a recovering addict, Fr. Rohr has a sweet way of lining up our hurts and issues with the spirituality and healing we all long for. Breathing Under Water, like all of Richard Rohr’s books, is beautifully written and is one of my favorite books. I highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with addiction of any type.
To finish out this year I have chosen to review the two best resources I’ve found for becoming a Benedictine Oblate. Both books are beautifully bound with durable hardcovers designed for years of use. They are similar in style and format with topical essays in easy to read chapters written by excellent contributing authors.
The Benedictine Handbookbegins with a brief introduction to Saint Benedict and his Rule followed by the tools for Benedictine spirituality and how to practice them in our every day lives whether we live in a community or as a solitary. The Benedictine Handbook is an excellent resource to help you understand the basics of the Benedictine lifestyle and the foundation of this type of spiritual walk.
The Oblate Lifethough very similar in style and format regarding Benedictine history and spirituality, it focuses mostly on what it means to live as a Benedictine oblate. Whether married with a family or single, in our community or the church, the essays cover all areas and seasons of life. The bibliography in The Oblate Lifeis an excellent list of resources to help us delve deeper into all things Benedictine.
If you feel called to the Benedictine spiritual walk both of these books are a must have for your library. The Benedictine Handbookand The Oblate Lifeboth serve as a great introductions to many of the best Benedictine authors in the market today. I have thoroughly enjoyed studying both books and will continue to for years to come.
Benedictine spirituality is unfamiliar to Protestants and Catholics alike. For this reason we must equally welcome Dennis Okholm’s wonderful book Monk Habits for Everyday People. As a Protestant pastor and Professor of Theology, Dennis Okholm helps to bridge the gap with excellent historical background. He unreservedly gives reasoning behind why Saint Benedict’s rule is vitally important to our modern world.
When I first began to explore the roots of contemporary Benedictine monasticism, it dawned on me that in one sense Benedict belongs to Roman Catholics no more than he does to Protestants. His life preceded the Reformation by a millennium, and the same Protestants who revere and learn from Augustine (b.354) may just as legitimately, and without feelings of betrayal and guilt, appeal to Benedict (b.480).
In Monk Habits for Everyday People Dennis shares stories of his retreats to monasteries. He digs deep into the basic tenants of Benedictine spirituality: Listening, Poverty, Obedience, Humility, Hospitality, Stability, and Balance while giving practical application to all. If you are at all curious about Benedictine monastic practices I highly recommend this resource. Monk Habits for Everyday People is a great beginning place for anyone interested in learning Benedictine ways. One of my favorite things in this book is the list of simple suggestions that help us begin practicing Benedictine spirituality in our every day lives.
For the last several months I have been using Phyllis Tickle’s prayer book series. I purchased the entire set which includes prayer books for each season of the year, along with a book of Night Offices. I started with Prayers for Springtime and have now moved to Prayers for Summertime.
If you are unfamiliar with Phyllis Tickle you will find her a prolific writer with dozens of books to her name. She is the founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly and has been a muchsought after speaker on religion in America.
In The Divine Hours Ms. Tickle makes primary use of The Book of Common Prayer, the writings of the Church Fathers and takes Scripture readings from the New Jerusalem Bible. Each book is divided into specific time categories: Morning, Mid-day, Evening and Night and is easy to navigate to find today’s reading.
As a recovering addict it’s critical that I keep my prayer routine on track and The Divine Hoursseries has been most helpful in this area. Although I have several prayer books and iPhone apps, I really enjoy Phyllis Tickle’s books and use them regularly.
If you are looking for a way to freshen your prayer and praise routine while participating in the ancient practice of the liturgy, I highly recommend The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.
Shortly after I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality in 2012, I found Joan Chittister. The title to this book was intriguing to me since I’ve been walking the recovery road for a while. In The Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility RevisitedJoan does a remarkable job breaking down Saint Benedict’s 12 steps of Humility into easily applied life principles. I’ve read this book twice and use it regularly as a resource. I also enjoy Joan’s blog and other books which you can find here: joanchittister.org. Sr. Joan’s writing is beautifully descriptive. She is one of my favorite authors today.