The unspoiled Skelligs are famous for their bird life. Above: looking towards Little Skellig, breeding ground for over 70,000 gannets.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who was executed by the Nazis for resisting Hitler's totalitarian regime, left a rich theological legacy. One of his books, The Cost of Discipleship, is considered a classic of Christian thought. In it, he distinguishes between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” “Cheap grace,” he wrote, “is the grace we bestow on ourselves...grace without discipleship. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again.... It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Click here to access a short and beautiful visual distillation of this teaching.
Gerry Pierse (1940-1999) was a Redemptorist priest from County Kerry. During his missionary ministry, he became deeply involved in contemplative prayer, inspired by the teaching of Benedictine monk John Main. With a gift with words that made his teaching simple, clear, effective, and often humorous, Fr Pierse delivered a superb series of talks introducing Christian meditation. Listen to them here.
Karen Armstrong, religious historian and former Catholic nun, is a provocative, original thinker on the role of religion in the modern world. Her "Charter for Compassion" promotes a new kind of religious discourse that goes back to the core values of religion: every single religion is based on compassion and on the golden rule, first propounded by Confucius 500 years before Christ, “Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you. Look into your own heart, discover what it is that gives you pain, and then refuse under any circumstance to inflict that pain on anybody else... This is civilization”. Listen here to her excellent TED talk.
Christian Meditation Ireland (CMI) is part of The World Community for Christian Meditation, which continues the work initiated 40 years ago by the Benedictine monk, John Main, in renewing and sharing the ancient path of contemplative prayer.This ecunemical movement - the "monastery without walls" - is today present in 114 countries, with 100,000 people in 2,000 meditation groups meeting weekly. The CMI website offers rich resources for individual and group meditation, and will also help you find an Irish meditation group near you.
On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.
Resources for those interested in pursuing a Benedictine way of living in ordinary life.
Contemplative Outreach provides an introduction to the practice of “centering prayer”, a receptive method of silent prayer developed by the Trappist monk, Thomas Keating.
Extensive archive of columns by author and journalist Dr Ron Rolheiser, president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. His popular weekly column is carried by almost 100 newspapers worldwide.
"Gratefulness" is a website initiated by Brother David, a Benedictine monk, offering online educational programs and practices which inspire and guide a commitment to saying “yes” to a wholehearted life.
For Trappist monk Thomas Merton, the “deeply spiritual life” meant the “experience” of God’s presence and love at all times, combining that with action in everyday life. This PBS programme provides an introduction to Merton.
The Cloud of Unknowing, written by an unknown author in the 14th century, is an outstanding guide to contemplation, solidly grounded in the Western Christian mystical tradtion. Click here for a series of excellent 10-minute talks on The Cloud by the Revd Graeme Watson, Anglican priest and author.
The late John O’Donohue was an Irish poet and Hegelian philosopher. His themes of echo as the response of continuity, imagination as the ability to still see the mountain behind the mist, and absence as the transformed presence of the vanished, awaken our thinking and provide food for our spiritual journey in an increasingly hungry world. One of the lines that he loved in the New Testament was: “One day you will know as you are now known.” Click here to listen to his beautiful hour-long discourse on this topic.
In 1923, on a geological expedition deep in the Ordos Desert of Mongolia, the newly ordained priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, pondered his obligation to offer a daily celebration of the Mass – but how to do so in the middle of the desert, with neither bread nor wine available to him? His solution: the whole earth would become his altar, with the human toil and sufferings of the day to be offered up as his bread and wine. The result of this profound reflection is his “The Mass on the World, a mystical expression of the presence and activity of God in all creation. Listen here to a reflective reading of selected excerpts from Georgetown University, and click here to read Teilhard's full text.
Poetry has been described as capable of making one into a tuning fork of the Divine. Journey with Jesus is a weekly webzine of the global Presbyterian Church, which includes a a poetry section offering over 300 poems by writers as diverse as Teresa of Avila, GK Chesterton, John Donne, Thomas Aquinas, Seamus Heaney, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mary Oliver, and many, many more.
Dutch priest, teacher and spiritual thinker, Henri Nouwen, touched millions of people worldwide with his moving lectures and his books. Nouwen eschewed dogma and judgment in favor of a personal, confessional style that affirmed a theology of the heart.This hour-long film, narrated by Susan Sarandon, provides an introduction to a remarkable and engaging man.
Aspects of the Spiritual Life
“Layer upon layer keeps uncovering, isn’t it amazing what meditation enables? It’s limitless, all these beginnings...I have been given the kingdom of heaven, yes, but to be led to understand that this is the kingdom of eternal forgiveness is astonishing!” These words are from one of the last letters of the late David Wood, Anglican priest and ambassador for Christian meditation. Listen here to his engaging and deeply human talks.
Saint Ignatius believed that God could speak to us just as clearly in our imagination as through our thoughts and our memories. Contemplation isn't about trying to place yourself in a historic setting, like dreaming you were back in the Middle Ages, it's about trying to encounter Jesus in a personal and unique way. Some excellent imaginative contemplation exercises provided by the English Jesuits can be accessed here.
"Meditations from Carmel" offers short podcast meditations from the writings of the great Carmelite Saints, including St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, and many others.
Richard Rohr offers daily meditations to awaken us to God’s loving presence in all things. Drawing from the Christian scriptures and tradition as well as teachers from other religions, Fr. Richard reframes neglected or misunderstood teachings to reveal our true self in God.