New Personal Essay on Contemplation in _Spirit & Life_

I’m always grateful for the support of Spirit & Life, the Benedictine magazine that the congregation of sisters I’m affiliated puts out every other month. But especially so right now. On the occasion of the Exultation of the Cross coming up on the 14th of this month, they’ve published an essay of mine that brings together American neo-bohemia, altered states of consciousness, devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and contemplation. (!) You can find it here.

This is by far my most personal essay so far, and I find it’s getting easier over the years to just say what I want to say. Spirit & Life has helped foster that growth for sure—if you like what you see there, please subscribe; it’s free and a very pleasing material publication!

pax inter spinas

Webinar for Paraclete Press with Abbot Primate Gregory Polan on the Divine Office

I had the distinct privilege yesterday of having a conversation with Abbot Primate Gregory J. Polan, OSB and Rachel McKendree of Paraclete Press about the practice and virtues of the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours) and my new book, The Saint Benedict Prayer Book.

We discussed a bit of the history but more so the vision of reality that is conveyed by the performance of the Hours, why it matters as a form of prayer in the world today and how it shapes who we are. It was a fabulous discussion with much wisdom from Abbot Primate Gregory.

If you have an interest, you can watch the full conversation here, and you can pick a copy of the book here.

Pax et Bonum!

More Benedictiana: 6th century poem on St. Benedict in _Spirit & Life_ (+ audio)

I’ve come back from vacation to find my translation of a Latin poem on St. Benedict in the latest print issue of Spirit & Life, the magazine that the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration publish every couple months.

It’s a middle-length poem by a monk named Mark of Monte Cassino, and it’s the earliest attestation we have of St. Benedict’s existence—in plenty of time for his feast day on July 11th. The Latin is set in elegiac couplets, and I’ve translated them into alternating 12-syllable and 10-syllable lines modeled on French syllabic lines.

So, if you’re interested in arcane Benedictine texts (as you know I am), have a read here and a listen below if you like! Also: you can sign up for a free subscription to the magazine here.

Post(s) on Blessed Itala Mela Featured at Paraclete Press’s Site

In celebration of all things Benedictine and in the wake of The Saint Benedict Prayer Book coming out, Paraclete has also recently posted a brief life and translations of prayers I’ve written up on the first (modern) Benedictine oblate to be beatified, Blessed Itala Mela.

If you have an interest in Benedictine history, the liturgy, or arcane mystics that you didn’t even know were a thing, I hope you check it out, and support Paraclete while you’re at it if you’re able to.

Pax

_The Saint Benedict Prayer Book_ Released by Paraclete Press

Very happy and humbled to announce the publication of The Saint Benedict Prayer Book. Those who read this blog from time to time for my verse might not be as familiar with my work on western monasticism, but Benedictine culture and thought are primary passions and preoccupations of mine in professional and personal capacities. Years of practice as a Benedictine oblate and of studying the texts that Benedictines have left us from the tenth thru the twentieth centuries have come together in this book in a way that leaves me grateful.

The volume features Little Offices, Commemorations, and Litanies, many of which have been sitting unused for centuries in manuscripts and for decades in scholarly editions. As Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB says in his Foreword, these prayers are “deeply rooted in the liturgical life of the Church,” with most of them serving as a kind of “adornment” for the Liturgy of the Hours in the Latin Church’s offering of prayer to the Father thru the Son in the Spirit.

Any monastic, oblate, or anyone who is just curious about a 1,500-year tradition of religious life, culture, and liturgical experimentation should find something of value in this book. I offer it to the world ut in omnibus glorifecetur deus.

If you’re interested in a preview or a copy, you can find it here on Paraclete’s site. Thanks for reading!

Marian Poem by Dame Gertrude More (Audio)

On this Marian feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I thought I’d offer a reading of Dame Gertrude More’s poem “To Our Blessed Lady, the Advocate of Sinners.”

A short prayer-poem set in common metre, “To Our Blessed Lady” was composed by the Benedictine nun Gertrude More in the early seventeenth century and is edited in my fourth book, Dame Gertude More’s Poems & Counsels on Prayer and Contemplation.

Benedictines paved the way of Marian devotion thru-out the early and high middle ages, and here’s Gertrude, co-foundress of Stanbrook Abbey, carrying on the tradition.

New essay on “Monastic Tradition and the Problems of Big Tech” in _The Windhover_

An essay of mine bringing together my interest in the Benedictine monastic tradition with my concerns about the pervasive (and pernicious) influence of Big Tech has just been published in The Windhover.

In the essay, I bring to bear on our screen-saturated consciousnesses two key, foundational insights of the western monastic tradition: the daily practice of calling to mind one’s own death (Rule of St. Benedict 4.47) and the call to treat all things like “the vessels of the altar” (Rule of St. Benedict 31:10).

In light of these and other teachings of the monastic tradition, I suggest that “If we were to tend to our own attention with care and concern, we might individually and collectively find ourselves again, find the stable parts of who we are, and begin to build something new with the technological advances that we have surrounded ourselves with . . .” Doing so would bring us into accord with Benedict’s prescription to “let peace be your quest and aim” (Rule of St. Benedict Prologue.17).

The Windhover doesn’t make its contents fully available online, so if you have an interest, please do help support a literary journal open to a variety of Christian perspectives and that publishes solid poems, fiction, and essays by buying a copy here.

Pax!

Thanks to all retreatants of New Camaldoli this weekend!

I just finished co-leading a retreat on bringing insights from the Upanishads to bear on Christian contemplation with Fr. Cyprian Consiglio “at” New Camaldoli Hermitage. Our first attempt at a Zoom retreat–a few tech snags, but such a delightful and invigorating experience.

Thanks to Fr. Cyprian, the Hermitage and its staff, and everyone who participated–I appreciate your time and sharing with all of us in ways I can’t say. Stay in touch and press on!

Pax

Happy Birthday Dame Gertrude More!

The sisters at Stanbrook Abbey reminded me this morning that it’s Dame Gertrude More’s birthday today–March 25, 1606!

Though she was a totally enclosed, contemplative nun, her friends and her spiritual father all said that she was a very personable, energetic, and friendly woman. Always wanting to talk and joke–even with her great respect for silence in the Benedictine tradition too. Reminds me of many monastics I know!

If you’re on the hunt for down to earth but still intensely profound writing on the mystical life, Dame Gertrude is a good bet. Here‘s a link to my new book of her shorter works.

Dame Gertrude More Book Now Available!

In this very strange time in the world, I’d like to offer at least a small bit of good news: my new book, an edition of the poems and shorter prose works on prayer and contemplation of Dame Gertrude More, is now available!

Dame Gertrude was a seventeenth-century Benedictine. A great-great-granddaughter of Saint Thomas More, she left home at 17 to co-found the Abbey of Our Lady of Comfort in what is today Cambrai, France. This monastery was part of a movement to revive monastic life among English Catholics after the Reformations and was so successful that the community continues today as Stanbrook Abbey back in England.

Dame Gertrude More was a strong, talkative, and likable woman who, under the tutelage of Dom Augustine Baker, also became a great lover of contemplation. She wrote poems, several shorter prose works, and a longer work sometimes called her “Confessions,” all of which were published in 1658, years after her early death. This book made her one of the earliest women published in the English language.

Her works celebrate and describe the nature of contemplation and divine union. With a plain style that was unconcerned with technicalities and intellectual hair-splitting, Dame Gertrude’s teachings on prayer and contemplation are beautiful testaments to the value of pursuing, as she puts it, “the one thing necessary” (experiential intimacy between the soul and its Maker).

She, Dom Augustine Baker, and the community at Cambrai more generally were instrumental in passing on the ancient and medieval teachings on contemplation in the Christian west, and I am delighted that both the community at Stanbrook Abbey and Gracewing have helped me to make Dame Gertrude’s works more readily accessible to a new generation.

I hope that in this uncertain time, we might find some solace in the kind of unwavering attention Dame Gertrude gives to what is most pressing and important in this earthly life.

You can find a copy on Gracewing’s website and on Amazon. I hope you enjoy!