Recent Reading On Contemplative Prayer

Here is a list of books I’ve recently read on contemplative prayer. This is a journey into which I am deeply immersed. 

Michael Casey, Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer. Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1996. Casey offers a fabulous introduction to contemplative prayer, that ancient practice of calming the clamoring ego so that we might come close to God and others. This book is as good as it gets on prayer in the ancient, contemplative tradition. Casey is a Cistercian monk from Australia

Michael Casey, A Guide To Living In The Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching On Humility. Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1999. The monastics taught the necessity of humility before contemplation, that the aim of monastic life is to love God and others but can only be achieved through the discipline and practice of humility. So much to be learned for those of us who are not monks.

St. Benedict, The Rule of St. Benedict. New York: Vintage, 1998. This stunningly beautiful, sixth-century classic, that captured, and at the same time launched, the great monastic movement that helped to shape an unfolding Christian Europe. This wonderful book can serve as a guide to simple Christian living and the practice of meaningful prayer.

The Cloud of Unknowing And Other Works, translated by A. C. Spearing. London: Penguin, 2001. This fourteenth-century work by an unknown author remains a readable classic on Christian spirituality. Truly an amazing work.

Saint John of the Cross, Dark Night Of the Soul, trans by E. Allison Peers. Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1959. One of the classic books on that demanding path taken by contemplatives as they seek an all-consuming encounter with God. This sixteenth century Spanish mystic writes with intelligence, psychological nuance, and great passion.

St. Teresa Of Avila, The Way Of Perfection, translated and edited by E. Allison Peers. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1964. Christian mysticism and contemplative prayer are the topics of this brilliant sixteenth-century Carmelite nun. Though her subject is deep spirituality, she doesn’t hesitate to take a swipe at Luther’s growing popularity.

Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer. New York: Image, 1969. Merton became quite known as a seeker of contemplative peace, eventually joining a Trappist monastery and taking a vow of silence. He was a prolific writer, a devoted monk, who sought to teach, inform, and change the way peopled lived.

Esther De Waal, Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1984. This is a lovely book, reflectively sketching out the profound influence of St. Benedict’s Rule, the formation of the monastic movement, and a way of life that leads to spiritual fulfillment.

Esther de Waal, Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering The Spiritual Art Of Attentiveness. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2003.

Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel. New York: Bloomsbury, 2006.

Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry. New York: Seabury, 1981.

Raymond Studzinski, Reading to Live: The Evolving Practice of Lectio Divina. Collegeville, Minnesota: Cistercian Publications, 2009. This is a thorough, generous introduction to this formative practice whereby we read Scripture and sacred writing on our paths of toward transformation.

James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing The Presence Of God. New York: HarperOne, 2004.

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy For Christians In A Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel, 2017. This book is about Christians living faithfully in an age of militant secularism by separating into distinct Christian communities. The model is St. Benedict in the sixth century at the time when Rome was collapsing. Controversial, not always right, in my opinion, but an important book.

Jean Leclercq, O. S. B., The Love Of Learning And The Desire For God: A Study of Monastic Culture, trans by Catharine Misrahi. New York: Fordham University Press, 1961. This may be the third time I have read this extraordinary book. This consummate scholar writes with such eloquence because he believes whereof he writes. Anyone hoping to understand the monastics—their writing, their culture, their experience of God—this is a fundamental, and oh so delightful, starting point.