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Podcast Series: A Church Come of Age with Sarah Bachelard (2021)
John Main Seminar 2019 in Canada: a memorable edition led by Sarah Bachelard:
This resource is courtesy of The World Community on Christian Meditation (WCCM)
A speaker at the John Main Seminar for 4 days in August 2019 at Quest University, British Columbia, Sarah Bachelard spoke on the theme A Contemplative Christianity for our Time
The John Main Seminar is an annual gathering sponsored by the World Community on Christian Meditation – see http://www.wccm.org and http://www.wccm-canada.ca
Note: you might start with the 3rd or 5th talk to get a sense of her prophetic message.
Sarah Bachelard – The Interview (2021):
Sarah Bachelard | Silence, Stillness, and Contemplative Action | Dirrum Dirrum Conference (2014):
7 thoughts on “Sarah Bachelard”
In Sarah Bachelard’s Seminar entitled “A Contemplative Christianity for our Time”, Bachelard discusses the imperative roles that meditation and contemplative prayer hold in Christianity. She specifically focuses on delivering a clear message as to why meditation can deepen our understanding of the faith, but in addition, emphasizes that without it, we will soon lose touch with our spiritual beings.
I found Bachelard’s seminar particularly interesting because it cleared up a misconception that I had concerning meditation in Christianity. I remember being told at a young age that meditation was strictly a form of prayer practiced by Buddhists and Hindus, and therefore it was wrong to bring that form of prayer into my own Catholic spirituality.
After having listened to the seminar, I learned that meditation is in many ways the only method of prayer that can truly lead us towards a deeper understanding of our faith, regardless of what religion you identify with.
Bachelard states that taking time to silence our minds and hearts and focus on the Spirit is essential to learning how we can best practice our faith and grow closer to God.
A point that I found especially striking was when Bachelard states that sometimes, when we grow accustomed to ritualistic styles of prayer, such as limiting ourselves to reciting the same prayers each day, we begin to lose touch with the whole purpose of religion. She says that falling into this pattern of mindless “prayer” can become similar to how in modern days, we disregard things such as the Ancient Aztec discoveries since we no longer hold a purpose for them in this day and age. The gospels and teachings we learn in Church begin to lose their spiritual purpose if we do not fuel them with careful thought and contemplation.
Overall, I believe that Sarah Bachelard’s message of the importance of meditation in Christianity is extremely important, especially because failing to do so can cause us to become disconnected with our faith as well as God, and can lead us to a lack of mindfulness.
“A point that I found especially striking was when Bachelard states that sometimes, when we grow accustomed to ritualistic styles of prayer, such as limiting ourselves to reciting the same prayers each day, we begin to lose touch with the whole purpose of religion.” Bachelard’s podcasts took a fair bit of time to get through them but the aspect of prayer that she spoke about was something that I consider important. I don’t know how many times I have heard about the importance of prayer in homilies or catechism classes… but it is not only the case for Christianity. Prayer is important in practically any religion. But that really allowed me to think about, “why?”
Human beings are social beings – and I think this Covid-19 pandemic showed that (side note: and implications have arisen because of such feature in human beings… just saying). It only makes sense that if we were to truly devote our lives to a Supreme Deity – for Christians, to God, then we need to converse with the Deity, and have God at the centre of our lives. I have heard prayer as a metaphor of our breath – the moment you start breathing you die. So is prayer, when you stop praying, you die spiritually because a lack of prayer is failure to put God at the centre of your life and I would go to the point to say that a lack of prayer indicates a sense of pride in oneself rather than humbling oneself, recognizing that one needs God in their life.
While I love the “fixed” prayers of Catholicism such as the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, Bachelard is right, sometimes we fall into the trap of merely seeing prayer out of routine. Yet, prayer should not be a routine like morning hygiene, but for Christians in particular, a conscious conversation and encounter with God. We must be conscious and mean what we say and do when we are in prayer mode at Mass or other acts of piety so that we can connect with God in a more intimate relationship with Him.
Hi Vincent and Valuscha,
Nice posts! I think an essential element of contemplation/meditation, in comparison to other types of prayer, is an emphasis on emptying ourselves of words and thoughts. It is often associated with ‘apophatic theology’ i.e. theology based in the indescribability and unknowability of God through language. Interestingly, there are apophatic streams of thought in many world religions and also secular philosophy. They focus on how we should live in light of what we don’t understand. What difference do you think it makes if we use words in prayer? Is there a benefit to specifically wordless prayer?
Wikipedia has a page on apophatic theology and has a section on various world religions:
Wow, the podcasts by Sarah Bachelard had a lot for me to take in – they were about one hour each but they were worth the time listening to. There are several themes that I can pull out of the podcasts, but looking through the notes that I took, I noticed one important that underlies her talks. While speaking of “Contemplative Christianity,” in particular the figure of Jesus Christ and the Christian vocation in that context, we must notice that to truly live a life of contemplation, a life of “contemplative Christianity” is to really strip ourselves of our ego.
I already had that impression in the beginning, when Bachelard spoke of the question, “Who are you,” which she classifies it as “a shoe removing question. Expresses humility and expresses vulnerability of the one who asks it.” When speaking of transformation, Christian meditation and metanoia in the other podcasts, she constantly mentions Jesus as the protagonist of such undertakings. While that may sound obvious, especially when speaking of it may not be necessarily so in today’s society.
People in society are too concerned about themselves or an egocentric reason. This is evident in what is happening throughout the world, and in particular, the United States in which churches have been subject to arson, monuments vandalized, statues of religious figures pulled down, store looting… I honestly don’t get it – people take the “Black Lives Matter” as an excuse to do all this, while in reality, if people were truly to fight justly for “Black Lives Matter”, it would be done in a sincere spirit of reconciliation and peaceful protests and rallying – not through the destruction of things that do not belong to oneself.
I think Bachelard is speaking against this type of behaviour in a prophetic way when discussing the concept of “Contemplative Christianity.” In order to truly be free, a true follower of Jesus Christ, one must be willing to surrender everything to Jesus and put him at the centre of our lives – that is the focus of all the transformation, meditation and contemplation which Bachelard speaks about. At the end of the day, by putting Jesus at the centre of all we do, we strive for holiness which is the ultimate vocation of the Christian life. That is not necessarily easy at times – it requires much patience, listening, dialogue, and reconciliation – things that take time and society today is not keen on that as they want action now! However, trust Bachelard, taking these steps in the contemplative Christian life are worthwhile – we see it in the example of the Saints, and many other “prophetic” figures featured in this project.
Great response! I definitely agree that in order to be a truly free follower of Christ you need to surrender your vices, your ego, and virtually everything in order to be faithful in your religious endeavours and cultivate a strong and trusting bond with God. I find it interesting that you were able to relate the Black Lives Matter lootings to the concept of egocentrism and how certain individuals can use such a movement that is meant to advance causes of equality, justice, and peace for their own personal selfish gains. I think these are the kinds of internal vices that Bachelard is arguing we need to give up in order to be truly vulnerable to the Lord and a vital step in fostering a strong sense of faith in oneself. Good job!
Sarah Bachelard’s seminar was a very thought provoking five-piece series that sought to position Christianity in relation to the rapid secularization happening in our current culture. I found her points to be rich in truth but one recurring theme that I found throughout her talks was the concept of faith. Sarah argues that “pushing back against the tide” [of secularization] often tends to take a defensive and rivalistic approach but she is able to effectively deduce the ineffectiveness of this framework of action. Bachelard makes a strong case of strengthening one’s own relationship with Jesus in a time of secularization and further argues that encountering Jesus requires the death of our own logos and human way of mapping reality from our own standpoint – what this means to me is to have faith. I think faith is a very abstract but solid concept, although it can sometimes be seen as inherently fluid, faith (at least to me) is define-able. I think Sarah captured the true essence of faith beautifully when she said it is “being drawn into the divine life, transforming ourselves. Divine reality is never exhausted by our understanding”. A big part of this faith is an unquestionable and unwavering trust and loyalty towards the Lord, with Whom we can conquer all obstacles and maintain our spirituality even in the midst of the constant allure of secularization.
There was so much to chew on in this series of talks! I’ll only comment here on a few things that got me thinking.
The idea that secularisation is a fruit of Christianity is fascinating. There seems to be a growing number of high-profile intellectuals of every political stripe saying something similar. Some that immediately come to mind are:
– Slavoj Žižek (a philosopher and radical leftist)
– Jordan Peterson (a clinical psychologist and a classical libertarian)
– Tom Holland (an historian)
– Rene Girard (literary critic and anthropologist)
I think it’s fair to say that Rene Girard and Slavoj Zizek see religious iconoclasm as the very core of Christianity. Zizek has gone as far as to describe himself as a ‘Christian Atheist.’ The fact that these authors that are so distinct in almost every other area of thought really strengthens the case they make together that there really is some way in which it is Christianity that has produced increasing secularism or religious liberalism in Western societies. The paradox and tensions this creates are profound. What on earth does it mean in practice to follow a religion-less religion?!
Well, Sarah Bachelard addressed this by saying something to the effect of ‘Christianity is doing its job when it is barely visible’. I appreciate this approach because it speaks to the self-emptying and ‘non-threatenedness’ of Jesus’s life and teaching. On the other hand, there was and is something painfully visible and in-your-face about Jesus’ death and his proclamation of the gospel. As such, I’m not sure we can tell the whole story by suggesting a faithful Christianity is one that is barely visible.
Something I was reminded of through these talks is that Christianity often leads us into the complexities and paradoxes of life, not away from them. Contemplation or meditation – grounded in a conviction that God is good – is a practical way of sitting with complexity and ambiguity in a way that produces life, gratefulness, compassion and responsiveness. As we are increasingly bombarded with information and political division through technology, learning to embrace ambiguity compassionately seems more necessary than ever.