John Main OSB

Benedictine Father and teacher of Christian Contemplative prayer


At the time of the 1991 John Main Seminar in New Harmony, Fr. Bede Griffiths OSB said, “in my experience John Main is the best spiritual guide in the Church today”.  

Born Douglas Main, with roots in County Kerry, Ireland, and educated at Westminster Choir School and by the Jesuits at Stamford Hill, London, he had numerous professional experiences, amongst which was his exposure to the practice of meditation in Malaysia during his work for the British Diplomatic Service. In 1958 he joined the Benedictines at Ealing Abbey in London, where his novice master asked him to give up his meditation practice, it being deemed not a Christian form of prayer.  

In 1969, having been posted to the US as Headmaster of the school at St. Anselm’s Abbey in Washington DC, he was led to a reconsideration of the roots of his own Christian monastic tradition through reading the Conferences of John Cassian and the teachings of the desert fathers.  Recognizing the depth of the teaching and its relevance to the urgent need for meditation in the modern world, he began to practice again. This led, in 1975,  to the opening of the first Christian Meditation Centre at Ealing Abbey in London, and then, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Montreal, the opening of a Benedictine Priory committed intentionally to the practice and teaching of Christian meditation.  

Realizing that this way of the prayer of the heart could guide the search of many modern people for deeper experience, he recommended two regular daily periods of meditation to be integrated with the usual practices of Christian life.  In his teaching, he emphasized the simplicity and universality of the practice of meditation as well as acknowledging the fact of its being a discipline.  He believed that ‘meditation creates community’ and indeed the growth of the World Community for Christian Meditation continues to express the truth of that insight for our time.