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Contemplation and Meditation – A Reflection

March 9, 2020
Sodality Chapel on the campus of the Jesuit Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.

When Denise and I went on a Silent Ignatian Retreat at Spring Hill College in June of 2019, it was a blessing to be immersed in the silence of the retreat. The only time we could talk was during our daily one-hour meeting with our Spiritual Director. It was an amazing experience. This was the longest time I had ever spent in silence. At first I was nervous about the silence because silence when I was living alone during my last two years in the Air Force was difficult in part because of my tinnitus. In a larger part, the silence was difficult because of the spiritual darkness in my own soul .

What I do remember about leaving the retreat was how noisy the outside world was! I yearned for the silence again and again. Denise and I have intentionally taken time for silent reflection and meditation at home. There is just something so inviting and refreshing about that time.

Today I was able to have some time for quiet contemplation and reading at work. In between meetings and tasks, I embraced the opportunity for some reflective reading.

In the book Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine by Susan McCaslin and JS Porter, I read the following about Merton, Art, and Contemplation: You also see a call, if not to prayer, then to quiet reflection, in Merton’s photography, calligraphies and brush drawings.

As a photographer I could really resonate with that. Photography has become such an integral part of my spiritual life (along with blogging and reading). Nature has taught me (along with Thomas Merton and Abbess Christine Valters Paintner of the Abbey of the Arts) to slow down and receive the images that God shares with us. I learned back in 2015 at a course at Columbia Presbyterian Theological Seminary on Thomas Merton’s Journals how Photography was an essential contemplative practice for Merton. So he and Christine have taught and continue to teach me a lot about this practice.

In his book, New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton said the following about meditation:

…this is the real end of meditation—it teaches you how to become aware of the presence of God; and most of all it aims at bringing you to a state of almost constant loving attention to God, and dependence upon [God].

The real purpose of meditation is this: to teach a woman/man how to work herself/himself free of created things and temporal concerns, in which she/he finds only confusion and sorrow, and enter into a conscious and loving contact with God in which she/he is disposed to receive from God the praise and honor and thanksgiving and love which it has now become her/his joy to give. (p. 217-218)

As I continue to minister in a variety of contexts, these centering moments help to keep me spiritually grounded. Out of these moments come the ability and opportunity to guide the flock through the pitfalls and problems in today’s 24/7 information and opinion overload. For that, I am truly thankful. My hope and my prayer dear reader, is that it can do the same for you.

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