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WCCM Academy

Contemplative Living

Bonnevaux, the international home of the WCCM in France
  • The WCCM Academy

The Academy offers a programme of inter-disciplinary study in the context of contemplative practice. It is grounded in the Christian contemplative tradition, particularly as passed on through John Main and Laurence Freeman and the worldwide body of teachers of the WCCM. It is inspired by meditation as a universal and unifying source of wisdom and it believes this wisdom can be enacted and applied across all of human life-experience and society. The Academy is based on ecumenical, interfaith and inclusive values. We believe that contemplation generates peace and wisdom which are the necessary foundations for justice. 

Multilocal within a global spiritual family, the Academy operates both online and with in-person events at Bonnevaux, the WCCM spiritual home.

  • The Academy and the Vision

Human history has reached a turning-point. This is widely acknowledged on several fronts, from culture, politics, religion and most urgently global ecology. The challenges are frighteningly complex, creating reactions of fear, denial and panic. Reflecting on and living with these issues, as the WCCM has been doing for many years, we, with other contemplative movements, have come to see that the priority response must be a change of consciousness. 

  • Study Programme
 

The study programme lasts for two years and is open to everyone who wishes to deepen their contemplative approach to life through a combination of study and practice.

The Academy year is composed of three eight-week terms. Classes, seminars and meetings with tutors are usually online. Three study and practice weeks at Bonnevaux will be part of the annual programme at the beginning and end of the year and all students and faculty are encouraged to participate in person.

The first two-year cycle of the Academy will launch in Spring 2023 and conclude in Spring 2025. In the first run, we expect a group of 30 – 35 students.

Charles Taylor
  • The Academy and Bonnevaux

 

An important part of the programme is a three-week residency in the Bonnevaux, the international meditation and retreat centre of the WCCM near Poitiers, France. It is an opportunity to meet fellow students, the faculty and the Bonnevaux community in person. Students will be able to participate in the rhythm of prayer, work, and study of the core community. There will be classes and bodywork. The opportunity is to experience in community how contemplative living can be lived and its essential elements brought back to ordinary life at home and work.

The cloister at Bonnevaux
  • A tutorial system

The tutorial programme is integral to the Academy experience. As personal growth is central to the combined approach of study and practice, each student will have regular meetings with a tutor. Each tutor will have a background of contemplative practice and experience and will help the student to integrate the different elements of their Academy experience and balance it with their life-responsibilities. 

Students will be encouraged and supported by their tutor to develop a personal project that expresses their own way of integrating what they are learning and how they are growing with how they are living and serving others. 

The aim of our study-practice approach is to cultivate a fuller contemplative life in each student. This is a gift seen as a way to heal the wounds of division in the world of the student and in the world at large. The students in the program are helped to develop this sense of ‘growth for others’ in their sense of vocation and service by coming to the fullness of their humanity and by deepening their consciousness of God’s indwelling spirit. 

  • Study overview

 

The syllabus rests on a broad, interconnected curriculum with a holistic and integral approach to learning and dialogue. The average time commitment will be about 7 to 9 hours per week.

The three levels of the syllabus in each term are

  1. The Christian Contemplative Tradition
    • This will study core elements of Christian theology and the art of reading scripture from a contemplative perspective. It will also introduce the student to the range and depth of the Christian mystical teachers.

  2. Contemplative wisdom in other traditions
    • The interfaith dialogue will underpin a study of the parallels, common elements and the importance of the differences between traditions.

  3. Applying contemplative consciousness to the problems of our world
    • This will bring students together with contemplative practitioners with in-depth experience and insight in diverse fields such as science, work, politics, environment and social action.
The library at Bonnevaux

Year 1

1 – Contemplative Christianity

  • Revelation

    Looking at creation, human nature and transcendence. Different kinds of revelations will be studied particularly in the biblical tradition.
    (God as Father).

  • Incarnation 

    Word made flesh. Reflection of the incarnated logos in the human condition.
    (God as Son)

  • Unity

    Dealing with all manifestations of spirituality. (God as Spirit).

2 – Contemplation and the world

  • Work 

    The meaning of ‘good work’, contemplative leadership and self-management.

  • Science 

    Approaching science as a contemplative activity. The challenge of technology.

  • Politics and democracy 
    How can a contemplative perspective restore tolerance and collaboration to democracy and values to public life?

3 – The Roots of Christian Mysticism

  • This is a very popular online course for a personal study exploring mystical teachers and schools from Jesus to the present, updated for the Academy. There will be scheduled meetings with the creator of the course and the author of its inspirational source, the book ‘Journey to the Heart’.

Year 2

1 – Contemplative Christianity

    • Church 

      Church institutions, ecumenism and their history and future. Impact of the churches (positively and negatively) on society and the world. New forms of religions today and looking for a mystical core of institutions.

    • Prayer 

      Different forms of prayer in the Christian tradition (wheel of prayer). Study liturgy, sacraments and devotionalism and find a new language about worship.

    • Art 

      Searching for universal transcendence and the contemplative nature of art. Study of beauty in literature, painting and architecture. 

2 – Contemplation and the world

    • Communication
      The role of the media in shaping and serving human values and inter-personal relations.

    • Secular society
      Contemplation brings new hope to a divided and polarized secular society.

    • Environment
      How the contemplative mind approaches the roots and consequences of the climate crisis by re-aligning inner and outer ecology.

3 – Interfaith dialogue

  • Studying the contemplative core of major religious traditions, reading and reflecting on sacred texts, and dialogues with representatives of different faiths.
  • Dates and Time-Commitment

The two-year programme is presented through six trimesters (eight weeks each). The academic year is structured as follows: 

  • First trimester Mid-April to Mid-June
  • Second trimester Mid-October to Mid-December
  • Third trimester Mid-January to Mid-March

Teaching days will generally be Tuesdays and Thursdays  (or exceptionally on Mondays) with the usual start at 7 m CET. These times will better suit students from Europe and further west (Canada, the US, and South America). To balance this, in the next cohort, we will instead try to favour time zones from Asia to Australia. Classes will be recorded and may be viewed later.

The dates for residential weeks in Bonnevaux: 

  • 14 March to  21 March 2023 
  • 11 March to 18 March 2024
  • March 2025
  • Faculty
Laurence Freeman

Fr. Laurence Freeman OSB

Laurence Freeman is a monk of the Benedictine Congregation of Monte Oliveto Maggiore and Director of The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) a global, inclusive contemplative community. He studied English Literature at New College, Oxford University. Before entering monastic life, he worked with the United Nations in New York, in Banking and Journalism. Fr. Laurence is the author of a number of books on Christian Meditation. He travels extensively giving presentations and leading Christian Meditation Retreats.

Dr Sarah Bachelard

Sarah Bachelard is an Anglican priest and theologian based in Canberra, Australia. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, with special interests in philosophy, ethics and spirituality. She is the founder and leader of Benedictus Contemplative Church, an ecumenical worshipping community with a practice of silent meditation at its heart, and is a member of The WCCM. In 2006 she served as Director of the John Main Centre for Meditation and Interfaith Dialogue at Georgetown University. Sarah Bachelard is the author of Experiencing God in a Time of Crisis and Resurrection and Moral Imagination.

Prof. Ivana Noble, PhD

Ivana Noble is a professor of Ecumenical Theology at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague, priest of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church and former president of the European Association for Ecumenical Theology Societas Oecumenica. She teaches and publishes in the areas of ecumenical systematic theology, fundamental theology, Orthodox theology, hermeneutics, theology of culture, theological anthropology, political theology and Christian spirituality. Ivana is a retreat leader, spiritual guide, visual artist and poet.

Rev. Dr Cynthia Bourgeault, PhD

Cynthia Bourgeault is a modern-day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader. She holds PhD in Medieval Studies and specialized in early music and liturgical drama. Along with Richard Rohr and James Finley, she is one of the founding core faculty members of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC). She is the author of numerous books. Cynthia balances contemplative practice and solitude with regular global travel, teaching widely and helping with the ongoing contemporary recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom paths.

Charles Taylor

Prof. Charles Taylor

Charles Margrave Taylor is a Canadian philosopher, political theorist and public intellectual. His work bridges the gap between philosophical theory and political action and covers various subjects, including multiculturalism, modernity, humanity, morality, artificial intelligence, and language. He was appointed a member of the Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour. He was also a winner of many prizes, including the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research, and the Kyoto Prize. His writings have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Herman van Rompouy

Herman van Rompuy is a politician who served as Prime Minister of Belgium and later as the first permanent President of the European Council, from 2009 to 2014. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy and a Master's degree in Economics from the university K.U. Leuven. He is the recipient of several honorary doctorates and a number of major international awards. Herman van Rompoy is acknowledged as a seasoned statesman of stature and wisdom. He also contributes from his contemplative experience in talks to his fellow meditators in the WCCM.

Dr Marco Schorlemmer

Marco Schorlemmer is a research scientist at the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and a lecturer at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. His research is on knowledge representation and reasoning, multiagent systems, and computational creativity. He also serves on the board of the 'País Conscient' association, which continues the 'National Plan for Values' initiative launched by the Government of Catalonia. Marco is currently the WCCM Coordinator for Science and Technology and leads a university meditation group.

Dr Barry White

Dr Barry White

Dr Barry White is a Consultant Haematologist from Dublin and he was the first National Director of Clinical Care for the Irish Health Executive. He has been working with Laurence Freeman to teach meditation at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and to the healtchare environment. He was speaker at the John Main Seminar, September 2018, in Bruges, Belgium, speaking on “A contemplative practice to transform healthcare.”

Prof. Sean Hagan

Sean Hagan is currently a Visiting Professor at Georgetown Law School. He was the IMF’s General Counsel in years 2004-2018. Prior to beginning work at the IMF, Professor Hagan was in private practice, first in N. Y. and subsequently in Tokyo. Professor Hagan received his Juris Doctor from the Georgetown Univ. Law Center and also received a Masters of Science in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. During the 2018-2019 Academic year, Professor Hagan has been Visiting Fellow at Oxford University (Exeter College).

Giovanni-Felicioni

Giovanni Felicioni

Giovanni Felicioni (Bonnevaux Associate Director) is part of the WCCM since the beginning, being involved in its official foundation in 1991. He is an Oblate, a certified Advanced Rolfer™, a Rolf Movement™ practitioner and a Yoga Teacher.

Dr Stefan Reynolds PhD

Stefan Reynolds is Retreat Director at Mount Melleray Abbey, Co Waterford, Ireland. He has a PhD from London University in Christian Spirituality and two MA’s in History of Christianity and in Inter-Religious Dialogue. He is the author of Living with the Mind of Christ : Mindfulness in Christian Spirituality (DLT, 2016) and The Wisdom of Love in the Song of Songs (Hikari, 2018). He teaches Christian Meditation and is author of the online Roots of Christian Mysticism Course.

  • Tuition fees and applications

Tuition fees are a minimum of USD 1980 and up to USD 3000 per year. Those who can afford to pay above the minimum amount help us financially support other students. Travel and other expenses are not covered by tuition.

If you want to join the Academy but need financial assistance, please contact us.

Direction of the WCCM Academy

  • Application form

Please submit the following application form to start the application process and to receive more information. The admission procedure will include a short online interview about your motivation to study.

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