"Silence is not the absence of word or sound. It is not characterized by absence but by presence, a presence too great for words. When we have some little joy or pain we are apt to talk about it. When joy or pain grows strong we rejoice or cry. But when bliss or suffering become overpowering — we are silent." So writes Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic monk of the Benedictine Order who is known for his pioneering work in interfaith dialogue and his espousal and elucidation of the spiritual practice of gratefulness. He is the author of many books, including Common Sense Spirituality, and is profiled in S&P's Living Spiritual Teachers Project.
Steindl-Rast begins this rich and robust examination of the spiritual life by opening a door to the inner world of prayer. With precision, he then shows how many religions are nourished by the Word, by Silence, and by Understanding. Next, the author unpacks the simple truth that "there is a mystic in all of us" and discovers paradoxes that challenge even the most adventuresome seekers.
We are spiritual when we are most alive and this capacious experience embraces body, mind, and spirit. With wonder in his heart, Steindl-Rast writes:
"The task is to spiritualize all of life. That means to make all of life vibrant with life — all of our aspects, including the body."
Under this rubric, Steindl-Rast revels in taking a foot bath and notes how the toes of some who do this practice "will start to sing gratefully." Then he concludes: "Can anyone deny that this is a step in the direction of 'life abundant'?"
God speaks through everything — nothing is excluded — and our response to this miracle is to marvel that the Divine presence comes to us in five languages: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. Reading these pages, we were caught up again in Steindl-Rast's theme song of gratefulness and his awesome admission that "Yes is my favorite synonym for God."
We are pleased to inform all who have followed the remarkable ministry of Brother David Steindl-Rast that this spiritual resource is bubbling over with meditations and keen insights into joy ("the gist of the Christian Good News"), becoming attuned to the dynamic order of love, realizing that the ground we are standing on is holy, mining our meanings, celebrating the surprise element of life, tending the mystical flame, and nurturing wholeheartedness in all our ways and all our days.