Bridges to Contemplative Living

Jonathan Montaldo created the ten volume series designed for small group dialogue published by Ave Maria Press as Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton. This instrument for spiritual development invites participants to be present to the hidden wisdom of their personal experiences through conversations provoked by selections from the writing of Thomas Merton and other spiritual masters who, like him, support and mentor our desires to lead more deeply human and contemplative lives.

Each volume of the series contains eight sessions that follow a similar format: an opening reflection, an introduction to the two texts that are central to each session, one by Thomas Merton and one by a spiritual teacher, poet or writer from a wide variety of cultures. These “other voices” complement the Merton selection. The “other voices” include, to name only a few, Pema Chodron, Teilhard de Chardin, Rumi, Dorothy Day, Edith Stein, Oliviér Clement, and so a chorus of great variety and in harmonies. Questions to prompt reflection and dialogue follow these texts, and each session ends with a closing reflection.

The entire series is user-friendly and requires no special knowledge of Thomas Merton or even of facilitating a group. Rather than a linear, one session building on another, development, Bridges to Contemplative Living is designed so that a group can choose any volume or any particular session across the entire ten volumes without the necessity of “starting at the beginning”.

Jonathan Montaldo has revised the first eight volumes in his Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton series that first appeared in 2007-2008.  His revised editions of volumes 1-4 appeared in 2010 and the revised volumes 5-8 appeared in 2011.


Volume 1 Entering the School of Your Experience (Bridges to Contemplative Living…)
Session 1:  Contemplative Living
Session 2:  Contemplative Dialogue
Session 3:  Exploring Life’s Questions
Session 4:  Trusting Life, Nature and God
Session 5:  Praying Through Your Changing Image of God
Session 6:  Doing God’s Will
Session 7:  Praying Out of the Roots of Your Own Life
Session 8:  Compassion: Prayer in Action

Volume 2  Becoming Who You Already Are (Bridges to Contemplative Living With Thomas Merton)
Session 1:  Entering the School of Your Life
Session 2:  Finding Our Hearts: Praying from the Center of Our True Selves
Session 3:  Finding God in the Company of Our Life’s Best Friends
Session 4:  Living in Solitude and Silence
Session 5:  Living in Freedom
Session 6:  Being Spiritual, Being Religious
Session 7:  Revering Your Life’s Teachers
Session 8:  Waking from a Dream of Separateness

Volume 3  Living Your Deepest Desires (Bridges to Contemplative Living With Thomas Merton)
Session 1:  Finding Our Identity in God
Session 2:  Contemplative Living as Continuous Inner Renewal
Session 3:  Contemplative Prayer and Prayer of the Heart
Session 4:  Contemplative Living and Community
Session 5:  Inner Work and the Struggle to Live Contemplatively
Session 6:  The Spiritual Discipline of Solitude
Session 7:  Living with Purity of Heart
Session 8:  Finding Our Heart’s Deepest Desires

Volume 4  Discovering the Hidden Ground of Love (Bridges to Contemplative Living With Thomas Merton)
Session 1:  Nature’s Wisdom for Contemplative Living
Session 2:  Contemplation as “Virgin Time”
Session 3:  Our Poor Selves and God’s Mercy
Session 4:  Being Contemplative Is Learning to Live
Session 5:  Finding Our Own Souls
Session 6:  The Transparent Holiness of Our Everyday Lives
Session 7:  Becoming God’s Book for Everyone to Read

Volume 5  Traveling Your Road to Joy (Bridges to Contemplative Living With Thomas Merton)
Session 1:  Living Joyfully in the Present Moment
Session 2:  The Joy of Being Human
Session 3:  Waiting for Joy through Sorrow and Anguish
Session 4:  Living Together with Wisdom
Session 5:  A Joy That Tastes God
Session 6:  The Joy of Doing God’s Will in Me
Session 7:  Being Grateful That God Is Who God Is
Session 8:  God’s Joyful Cosmic Dance

Volume 6  Writing Yourself into the Book of Life (Bridges to Contemplative Living With Thomas Merton)
Session 1:  Writing the Testament Our Hearts Speak
Session 2:  Writing a Holy Sentence Day After Day
Session 3:  Shaping Your Life’s Story Line
Session 4:  Your Life’s Cast of Characters
Session 5:  Your Life’s Table of Contents
Session 6:  The Primacy of Persons
Session 7:  The Deepening of Faith
Session 8:  Faith’s Dark Night

Volume 7  Adjusting Your Life’s Vision (Bridges to Contemplative Living With Thomas Merton)
Session 1:  Becoming Instruments of Reconciliation
Session 2:  Nonviolence: A Vision of Hope for Humankind
Session 3:  A Prophetic, Radically Catholice, Contemplative Vision
Session 4:  Listening to God in the Voice of the Stranger
Session 5:  Our Vocation to Unity
Session 6:  Voicing Our Inner “Yes” to God and Neighbor
Session 7:  Finding Our Place in God’s Scheme of Things
Session 8:  Dying as a Catalyst for Continuing Transformation

Volume 8  Seeing That Paradise Begins Now (Bridges to Contemplative Living With Thomas Merton)
Session 1:  The Ecology of Paradise
Session 2:  Entering Paradise: The Pilgrimage to Human Kindness
Session 3:  The Heart’s Eden: Discovering Jesus
Session 4:  Discovering Paradise Within Communities of Forgiveness
Session 5:  Final Integration 1: Contemplative Living as Inner Experience
Session 6:  Final Integration 2: The Loss of Self in Full Ripeness
Session 7:  Final Integration 3: Contemplative Living and Peacemaking
Session 8:  A Transforming Vision of Love’s True Horizons

Volume 9 Lent and Holy Week (Bridges to Contemplative Living)
Session 1:  Where Do We Turn for Forgiveness?
Session 2:  Living More Deeply in Christ
Session 3:  A Season for Compunction and Tears
Session 4:  In All Things, Always Seeking God
Session 5:  Choosing with Christ to Love the World
Session 6:  In the Service of Peace through Humility and Prayer
Session 7:  Returning to the Source of Our Unity in Christ
Session 8:  Liberated to Redeem the World

Volume 10  Advent and Christmas (Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton)
Session 1:  First Week of Advent: Hope
Session 2:  Second Week of Advent: Salvation
Session 3:  Third Week of Advent: Compassion
Session 4:  Fourth Week of Advent: Tenderness
Session 5: Christmas: The Word Made Flesh