Reputable Authorities on Catholic Contemplative Tradition

 

MT asks: “Can you please give me a list of the five to ten top reputable authorities you trust for assessing what is the real Catholic Contemplative Tradition.”

Great idea!

I would place at the very top of the list the works of the two saints whose writings are considered preeminent in this subject area – St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross:

The Interior Castle, by St. Teresa of Avila (outlines the entire mystical life from beginning to end, including the four stages of prayer, spiritual warfare, growth in virtue, etc. and how one progresses from one stage to the next)

The Way of Perfection, by St. Teresa of Avila (focuses on prayer and the interior life – deep reading)

The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, edited by Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh (St. John is very deep, but his writings are indispensable for anyone interested in the ways of the interior life)

For a more contemporary treatment of these writings, I would suggest:

Fire Within, by Fr. Thomas Dubay (my first choice – this is the best book I’ve ever read on the Catholic contemplative tradition and I refer to it constantly – it combines the teachings of both St. Teresa and St. John)

Interior Castle Explored: St. Teresa’s Teaching on the Life of Deep Union With God, by Ruth Burrows

Where Lovers Meet: Inside the Interior Castle, by Susan Muto

St. John of the Cross: The Practice of Contemplation According to St. John of the Cross, by James R. Kinn (focuses primarily on those tricky beginning stages of contemplation)

Finding the Mystic Within You, Peggy Wilkinson (very down to earth, easy to read)

Conversation with Christ: The Teachings of St. Teresa of Avila about Personal Prayer, by Peter Thomas Rohrbach (uses the writings of St. Teresa to discuss the “ins and outs” of meditation, distractions in prayer, etc.)

The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (explains another dimension of the contemplative tradition, that of living in the presence of God on a daily basis – very simple and easy to read book)

“Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,” Congregation for the  Doctrine of the Faith, can be read in its entirety here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfmed.htm (a must read for anyone wanting clarification on eastern and western forms of meditation)

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Prayer, Part 4 (The only way to understand what Christian prayer is not – is to first learn what it is. This is a great place to start!)

This should be enough to get you started. Stay away from any books that mix Eastern and Western methods (i.e., centering prayer) and/or do not contain an imprimatur/nihil obstat.

I have written several blogs on this subject that may be of help in explaining what the Catholic Contemplative tradition is – and is not:

Swapping Fads for Miracles: Eastern vs. Christian Meditation

Centering Prayer, St. Teresa of Avila and the Cloud of Unknowing 

Why Centering Prayer Should Not be Taught to Children

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