In his recent book, I Am That I Am, Francis Bennett describes the profound state of awareness in which he lives. I Am That I Am began life as a journal, written at the suggestion of Francis' spiritual director. It was intended to help Francis clarify and explore the shift in perception that had come upon him, not only for his own sake but for those who might seek his spiritual guidance in the future. This deceptively simple book brings a unique freshness and humanity to the meeting of Christianity with Eastern investigation of the nature of the self. As Francis says: "Who I am is happiness and bliss don't take my word for any of this. You can experiment with this on your own and discover for yourself whether or not these claims are true. This little book may be able to assist you in conducting just such an experiment in your own life. That is certainly my hope in writing it." This is a rare opportunity to be meet with this deeply realized teacher in such an intimate setting.
UCP is happy to play host to Francis' Friday evening public talk. For those wishing to go deeper, there is also a retreat scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Raleigh. For more information about the retreat, contact Carolyn Bard at CarolynJBard@gmail.com.
Francis Bennett was a Roman Catholic, Trappist monk for a number of years. He lived in two monasteries of the Trappist Order in the US and was also a member of an urban, contemplative monastic community originally founded in Paris, France in 1975. He has lived in France at several monasteries, including Saint Gervais et Protais in Paris, at Mont Saint Michel along the coast of the English Channel and in Canada at a small monastic community in Montreal Quebec. He received a five and a half year monastic/spiritual formation with the Trappists before he made his vows as a monk at Gethsemani Abbey in 1982. He graduated from the Pontifical College Josephinum with a BA in Philosophy and completed a two year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education with Ohio Health Hospital System in Columbus, Ohio. He has worked in ministry in the area of pastoral Care in the hospice movement, as a hospital chaplain and in pastoral care of the sick and dying in parish settings.
He has lead retreats in both the Vipassana Buddhist Tradition and in the Christian mystical/contemplative Tradition. He has been offering spiritual direction and helping guide people in their spiritual quest for a number of years. He was an avid spiritual seeker throughout his entire time as a contemplative monk and studied deeply in both the Theravadan Buddhist practice of Vipassana, working primarily with Mahathera, the venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratana (from whom he received a temporary monastic ordination in 1999-2001) and with several western Vipassana teachers. He studied Zen and practiced with Soen Sa Nim, the founder of the Providence Zen Center, in a kind of "correspondence course study" via the telephone, with Charlotte "Joko" Beck of the San Diego Zen Center and briefly with several other Zen teachers in both the Rinzai and Soto traditions of Japanese Zen.
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