Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Monk’s Writings Invite Readers To Encounter God

By VICTOR A. KRAMER, Commentary | Published March 29, 2007

ANGELS: Our Guides to Contemplation for the Third Millennium: Trinitarian and Cosmic by Thomas Francis Smith, OCSO, (Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, 2006), 68 pp., $5.95.

This compact book by a Cistercian monk at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers challenges Christians to be more open to the presence of our cosmic God and to the supernatural. Father Thomas Francis’ book should open up the eyes and hearts of readers. If read well his book will reassure Catholics that they are active participants in a Trinitarian and cosmic dance.

Father Thomas Francis has pondered the mystery of Christian consciousness and practice for decades, and in this wise book he provides a key to how Christians might learn more consciously to experience “the central place of the Divine God” in their lives (p. 4). His emphasis throughout the book is upon the Trinitarian God, “[the] summit of the whole Christian revelation.”

The book is arranged in three basic parts (the first two are revised from pamphlets written some years earlier). Through an awareness of the presence of angels (in Genesis; in John), Father Thomas Francis helps readers to refocus on the importance of angels as guides and as reminders of spiritual energy, so frequently “neglected in modern times” (p. 5). By doing so we can also become more conscious of the continuing actions of the Trinitarian God.

The final section (pp. 47-68) about “Centering Prayer—Its Background and Procedure” yields fundamental insights about how “going down to one’s center” (p. 47) in Centering Prayer is clearly grounded in earlier practices of the Desert Fathers, many medieval writers, and especially Meister Eckhart in the 14th century. Father Thomas Francis also demonstrates how in our contemporary world of violence, the “lens” of contemplation can provide a tool for “how we Christians should primarily live, move and have our being” (p. 45).

What Father Thomas Francis reminds us of is very simple, but for some Christians his insights could be earth shattering. While even some Catholics may sometimes be limiting themselves to a view of God as Jesus which remains focused on Savior, Redeemer, Son of God, Father Thomas Francis reminds readers that because of “co-inherence” in contemplation we can existentially meet God: “God as God is, Triune and Transcendent. In such an encounter, silence is the very medium of communion. This is not communication with God, but direct union-communion. In contemplation, one is in an interpersonal relationship with God” (p. 52).

This short book reassures readers that by contemplative practice we can become exceedingly close to God, in fact, in union with God. The cosmic and Trinitarian God can always be with those who are attentive in prayer. For those who pursue contemplative union with our Creator-Created-Creating God, God’s presence energizes the entire cosmos.

Victor A. Kramer, Ph.D., professor emeritus of English at Georgia State University, is the author of books on James Agee and Walker Percy, and editor of The Merton Annual and of the fourth volume of Thomas Merton’s journal. He and his wife, Dewey Weiss Kramer, Ph.D., completed an oral history of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.