Renew your spiritual life and community worship with these adaptations of ancient Christian practices.
Celtic Christian spirituality refers to a set of practices and beliefs in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales that developed in the early fifth century during the development of the monastic tradition. Many of these practices have roots in desert spirituality; Celtic monks considered the teachings of the desert mothers and fathers essential wisdom.
Through this meditation, texts both secular and sacred become part of a reader’s heart and soul.
I sometimes picture myself in a nursing home where my family and friends complain about having to empty my pockets of notes, reminders, and quotes stashed here and there lest I forget good advice. They’ll also have to manage an avalanche of prayer books, anthologies, and texts on my bedside stand, never shelved just in case I need to find, in a weak moment, a favorite passage, part, or prayer.
The Jesus Prayer invokes a living God who is present in every aspect of creation.
When I made my final profession as a Benedictine oblate last summer, Brother Luke, one of the monks at the monastery I’d just pledged myself to, gave me a welcome-to-the-community gift: a hand-tied prayer rope of 33 knots (one for each year of Jesus’ life) with a small Byzantine cross attached. (Brother Luke’s grandparents were Byzantine Orthodox, and he nearly joined a Byzantine monastic order before settling on the Benedictines.) I was unfamiliar with prayer ropes at the time but thought it was a sweet gift.
Music as a spiritual practice helps us tell our Christian story anew.
One of my core childhood memories is of singing at Mass. It’s neither a sappy nor a prayerful story, however. This was one of my rare moments of rebellion. While the rest of the congregation stood and sang together the opening hymn at Mass, I was lying down, sprawled out in the pew, singing my own made-up lyrics that went something like, “I don’t want to be here! I’d rather be watching cartoons!” My mother rightfully glared at me, urging me to stand up and behave.
Not all successful pilgrimages involve journeying far away.
This is part of a series of two essays on how to make a successful pilgrimage. You can read the other part, on eight practices of a good pilgrimage, here.
There are many ways to practice pilgrimage. You can journey far away to a sacred site, but there are also options within reach of a walk or drive from home, or even within your own imagination. Keep in mind these three essential aspects to create your own pilgrimage experience:
What makes a successful pilgrimage isn’t distance traveled but commitment to the journey itself.
The value of travel was ingrained in me from a young age. When I was growing up in New York City my father worked for the United Nations, and we had the privilege of traveling back to Austria, where he was from, as well as other European countries and once as a teen through Asia.
Tips for how to keep going in a world torn by strife.
Trouble pounced on a recent trip through rural Minnesota. For 10 miles I drove behind a big red pickup truck jammed full of white men, all of whom looked to be in their 30s. I could see their silhouettes laughing. An American flag was draped across the back seat. The driver landed in sync with a rundown van in the next lane. He laid on the horn, while his clan of bros shouted obscenities out the window and made slashing motions. Their victim?
A lone Somalian teenager.
From seed to plant to mulch—the life cycles of a garden have a lot in common with those in our own lives.
I am in my garden, squatting in the dirt like a medieval peasant, as around me rise the complex smells of lichen and mineral, exhalations of earthworm and beetroot. The job for this day is planting sweet corn by hand, which means poking each kernel down into its own secret burrow, each tiny, wrinkled corpse into a solitary tomb, but with hope of resurrection.
There is a rhythm to pipe smoking, a ritual that allows you, if you let it, to enter into a state of contemplation.
There is a rhythm to pipe smoking, a ritual even, one that allows you, if you let it, to enter into a state of contemplation. You must pack the pipe first, and pack it well, else you will have an uneven smoke, causing the pipe either to burn out too quickly or not to stay lit. Then, once properly packed, you must light it. And this too is a ritual. The first light chars the tobacco on top, the second causes the ember to reside deep within the bowl. Once the ritual of packing and lighting is completed comes the smoking. This too must follow some kind of rhythm.
From the archives: Icons are not just beautiful paintings. The purpose of icons is to help us pray. Jim Forest offers instructions for putting them to good use.
“In the beginning was the Word,” wrote St John. “He is the image [ikon in Greek] of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” wrote St. Paul. We meet him still in both word and image.
Both have figured in the worshiping life of followers of Christ from the church’s beginning, as visitors to the catacombs in Rome are reminded. The bones are mainly gone, but icons remain on the walls and ceilings of those underground places where Christians prayed and celebrated the Eucharist.