In Befriending Silence: Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality respected speaker, author, and Patheos blogger Carl McColman introduces Cistercian spirituality as “the hidden jewel of the Church,” presenting a surprisingly contemporary path grounded in monastic tradition. This accessible and comprehensive guide highlights a unique focus on simplicity, living close to the earth, and contemplative prayer, all of which make Cistercian spirituality relevant today.
Steeped in chant and silence, grounded in down-to-earth work and service, and immersed in the mystical wisdom of teachers ancient (Bernard of Clairvaux) and modern (Thomas Merton), Cistercian spirituality’s beautifully humble path has for centuries made monasteries places of rest, retreat, and renewal. Now, Carl McColman offers the first practical introduction to this ancient method of contemplative spirituality for all people.
Hailed by reviewers of his many books as playful and profound, McColman draws on his experience as a lay Cistercian to provide insight into the relevance of the tradition to contemporary issues and spiritual practice. He explains how silence, simplicity, stability, stewardship of the earth, contemplation, ongoing conversion, and devotion to Mary combine to offer a rich and unique path to discipleship and intimacy with God.
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“Our job is not to tell God what to do, but to listen to God, and for God, with the ear of our heart.” (Page 11)
“On another occasion, one of the brothers spoke with me about how the public sometimes misunderstands the monastery. ‘People think we become monks because we’re holy,’ he pointed out, ‘but that’s not it at all. We become monks because we’re not. We need the structure of the cloister to try to become holy. Most of us are weak, and that’s why we need the monastery, to help us along our way.’” (Page 40)
“Among monks and nuns, one of the greatest of such writings is The Rule of Saint Benedict, composed early in the sixth century and designed to help with the practical issues surrounding the administration of a monastic community. But like so many spiritual masterpieces, the Rule provides plenty of timeless spiritual instruction along with its down-to-earth information.” (Page 31)
“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.’2” (Page 14)
“Our faith matters because it invites us to remember our identity. If we have become lost in addiction or despair, faith invites us back to that place where we shine like the sun. If we immerse ourselves in consumerism—the rat race, the endless quest for more entertainment or new experiences—the simple message of Jesus never stops inviting us back to himself. Our faith beckons us back to a place where we remember that God loves us and that God calls us to love one another, to love ourselves, and even to love our enemies (which Jesus taught and Saint Benedict reaffirmed in his Rule).” (Page 28)
Drawing on his personal experience and expansive knowledge, Carl McColman skillfully presents readers with an accessible introduction to the beauty of Cistercian spirituality. As the Rule of Benedict instructs, readers will be inspired to ‘listen carefully’ to the wisdom of a tradition that continues to speak powerfully to women and men. Not only does Befriending Silence guide us in the gifts of Cistercian spirituality, but it’s also a tremendous gift to all spiritual seekers!
—Rev. Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M.
Befriending Silence is useful and stimulating to anyone who wishes to profit from the substantial wisdom of the Cistercian tradition.
—Michael Casey, O.C.S.O.
It’s a pleasure to recommend Carl McColman’s new book on Cistercian spirituality, Befriending Silence. It manifests in a wonderful way the Cistercian charism which today is shared by Lay Cistercians and also guides mature seekers.
—Br. Patrick Hart, O.C.S.O.
Carl McColman is the author of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and Answering the Contemplative Call, and writes for Patheos, Huffington Post, and Contemplative Journal. He also has his own popular website and blog devoted to Christian and world mysticism. McColman is a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a contemplative community under the spiritual guidance of Trappist monks. A Catholic in full-time ministry as a retreat leader and speaker, McColman frequently leads workshops and retreats on contemplative spirituality at churches, seminaries, monasteries and retreat centers.