At the age of 44, after a prominent career as a Catholic activist, Carlo Carretto was summoned by a voice that said: ‘Leave everything, come with me into the desert. I don’t want your action any longer, I want your prayer, your love.’ Carretto responded by leaving for North Africa, where he joined the Little Brothers of Jesus and embraced the example of Charles de Foucauld.
Among the fruits of Brother Carlo’s response was Letters from the Desert, the first and most popular of his many books. Its life affirming message has inspired countless readers in a dozen languages. Simply, it reminds us that in the evening of our lives we will be judged by love.
Carmina Gadelica is an anthology of poems and prayers from the Gaelic oral tradition, the most comprehensive ever collected. They came from communities all over the Highlands and Islands of Scotlad, were often shared or performed in the evening ceilidh and therby passed on from generation to generation. Alexander Carmichael complied the collection in the second half of the nineteenth century, and in doing so created a lasting record of a culture and way of life that has now largely disappeared. In the Introduction, Carmichael recounts with great warmth and evident pleasure the hospitality which he received from the people whose songs and stories he was anxious to record "I have three regrets -" he says, "that I had not been earlier collecting, that I have not been more diligent in collecting, and that I am not better qualified to treat what I have collected." Nevertheless, Carmina Gadelica quickly became an invaluable resource for those wanting to study and understand Gaelic culture and for those wanting to experience the beauty and wisdom of its oral literature.
Thomas Merton's classic study of monastic prayer and contemplation brings a tradition of spirituality alive for the present day. But, as A M Allchin points out in his Introduction to this new edition, Contemplative Prayer also shows us the present day in a new perspective, because we see it in the light of a long and living tradition.
Merton stresses that in meditation we should not look for a 'method' or 'system' but cultivate an 'attitude' or 'outlook': faith, openness, attention, reverence, expectation, trust, joy. God is found in the desert of surrender, in giving up any expectation of a particular message and 'waiting on the Word of God in silence'.
Merton insists on the humility of faith, which he argues 'will do far more to launch us into the full current of historical reality than the pompous rationalisation of politicians who think they are somehow the directors and manipulators of history'.
In the Celtic way of prayer, the divine glory was intertwined with the ordinariness of everyday events like the patterns on carvings and in illuminated Gospels.
The modern prayers in this book beautifully recapture that tradition. They were composed in a small parish in the north of England to help individuals and groups rediscover the use of life's simple rhythms in their worship of the Eternal Presence.
Here are prayers for individual devotions and for corporate worship, as well as for quiet days and retreats.
In the spirituality of the desert fathers and mothers, the Benedictine monk, John Main, discovered a tradition of contemplative prayer he believed could re-energise the Church in prayer and restore its capacity to communicate a sense of wonder at the heart of creation. In his teachings on prayer, the contemplative power of early Christianity, which for centuries has been diverted to dogmatic issues and institutional structures, is once again released.
The contemplative experience is simply pure attention to God in the present moment. A way of prayer that is totally simple, it invites you to set aside your own thoughts, feelings and perceptions and to let God be God. In silent contemplation, relating to God becomes more than thought, dialogue or contractualy bargaining. Instead of questioning, we awaken to the basic relationship of life which determines all other relationships, with others and with ourselves. In a busy and frenetic world, it enables us to discover redemptive, healing silence.