Befriending Silence: Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality – Book Review

 I am excited to share my review of Befriending Silence by Carl McColman.  Carl is a contemplative writer, speaker, retreat leader and spiritual companion. Carl helps individuals — and faith communities — deepen their relationship with God through prayer and silence.

this post may contain affiliate links

Carl draws on the teachings of the Christian saints and mystics, applying their wisdom in practical ways to the needs and opportunities of our time.  Learn more about Carl at CarlMcColman.

Carl asks a very important question in “Befriending Silence“, “Can the wisdom, the gifts, and the practices of Cistercian spirituality bless and challenge Christians who live outside monastery walls?” The answer to this important question is Yes!

Let me share some key points that I particularly enjoyed in this wonderful book. There were many so I will need to limit them. I encourage you to read this book and find the rest of them.


“But to truly know God in stillness, we need to follow Saint Benedict’s advice and listen—not only with our physical ears but with the spiritual ears of our heart.” How do we do this? “Give yourself permission to find some time each day, even if only ten or fifteen minutes, for silence.” When we sit in silence and open to God something magical happens. We begin to hear God.


Formation is an interior process. We are made into something new.  “The “something new” is what Saint Paul called the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Carl also mentions, “If we approach the Bible, the Rule, or other great writings with an open heart and an inquiring mind, the Holy Spirit often will use the words on the page to speak directly to our hearts.” Formation is a daily process. It is vital to our growth. We simply need to keep at it. It will take a life time.


“A humble person is down-to-earth, does not put on airs, wastes no time trying to impress anyone but rather goes about his or her business.” As Carl mentions, this business will be serving, pitching in where needed and just carrying on with the daily tasks. A humble person is not interested in having the spotlight focused on him or her.


“……..I would like to suggest that the monastic “diet”—formal prayer, scripture reading, spontaneous/ personal vocal prayer, work-as-prayer, and contemplative (silent prayer)—needs all these elements to be balanced.” This is a very important point. Our prayer life needs balance. Each form of prayer complements the other form. They make us whole.


“Likewise, stability means finding joy in who we are as God’s creations here and now (not just in who we hope to be, someday).” We spend way too much time looking ahead and planning. Enjoy this moment. God is in the now! This is our home.

Next Steps

“Most of the elements of monastic spirituality are adaptable to the lives of people who live “in the world.” Read this book! You will be blessed! And then go back and re read it.

Go Further

Unteachable Lessons: Why Wisdom Can’t Be Taught (and Why That’s Okay)

An Invitation to Celtic Wisdom: A Little Guide to Mystery, Spirit, and Compassion

Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints and Sages

Befriending Silence

Answering the Contemplative Call

The Big Book of Christian Mysticism

Also by Carl McColman:

Promises of the Heart By Carl McColman: This all-new e-course celebrates the wisdom of the heart by drawing from sources like The Heart Sutra in Buddhism, the poetry of Rumi from the Sufi Muslim tradition, the writings of Christian mystics like Julian of Norwich, and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a Hindu sage. All over the world, great teachers have revealed the promises of the heart — promises we can weave into our own spiritual practice to embody a more joyful and conscious life.

Poetry and Prayer from the Celtic Tradition by Carl McColman: The traditional Celtic people of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales wove prayers, blessings, poems, and songs into every aspect of their daily lives — using the power of language to blend a rich spirituality of presence and wisdom into the very fabric of their being. Many of these poetic invocations and charming poems were collected by folklorist Alexander Carmichael over 100 years ago and preserved in the book Carmina Gadelica — the “Charms of the Gaels.”

Celtic Spirituality At the Edge of Mystery by Carl McColman: Consider it a pilgrimage into one of the best examples of everyday spirituality. Celtic wisdom and poetry ​encourages us to recognize the holy all around us, honors and protects the sacred earth, gives inspiration to free our creative voice, and presents a holistic path that links the quest for holiness with ​an ​embodied​​ sense of Divine love.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks – This is a great way to listen to books with your cell phone while you drive, walk or relax at home.  I frequently listen in my car during my commute to and from work.  I’m a proud affiliate.

Drawing from the wisdom of monastic life, modern psychology and best practices in personal productivity, the Monk Manual provides a daily system that will help you find clarity, purpose, wisdom, and peace in the moments that make up your life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *