This is me, twenty-five years ago, sitting in a monastic cloister. I wondered, then, whether I could find a key to life by encountering the God the monks claimed to know. So I set out into the deep silence of contemplative monasteries in France and Italy. All these years, at their request, I kept silent about it. But in March 2020 they said: it’s time to tell the story.
This book is that story.
From hindsight, those years with the monks and the years since my departure were like the stirring of an inner pearl. The slow growth of the treasure that is the contemplative life. Yes, there is a rare gem that grows within monastery walls. I spied this treasure as a young man. Now, in age, after so many seasons and storms of life, I was surprised to find that pearl nestled in the shell of my own heart.
In the end, I found what I first set my heart on as a young man. I identified it in the deep silence of the monastery and then held onto it in the long years since. This book is my effort to share the wonder of that discovery with you.
If you’re like me, you know that modern life tends to crowd out the awareness of God. We live in the here and now, in the push and pull of technology and politics, work and sports, fashion and finance. We lose touch with the eternal perspective. The fullness of life, friendship with God, deep peace of heart – these things we read about in the lives of the saints. They seem far off, like distant mountains. Desirable but not reachable.
When I was younger, I felt the ache of this distance. I even questioned whether God really existed. I questioned whether my own life really mattered. Searching to answer those questions, I hiked up the mountain of monastic wisdom and experience. There I found a stream of water flowing in the desert, a light that gave light to darkness. In the years since, I have found myself living into a message – into the good news the monks have for our modern world.