In the Stillness Dancing now available as an ebook.

Neil McKenty’s In the Stillness Dancing – the journey of John Main is now available to a new generation of readers as an ebook on Amazon – click here. All proceeds from the sale of this ebook will be going to charity (details will be confirmed on this blog shortly) .

Here we are reprinting an article about the original publication of this book.


It says something about Neil McKenty, author of “In the Stillness Dancing”, that during the very period in which he was researching and writing the biography of Dom John Main he was also establishing a record high listener-rating for the phone-in programme, “Exchange” which he hosted on CJAD, Montreal’s leading English-language radio station.

In July 1985 when, after completing most of the second draft of the book, he left the station where he had worked for thirteen years as Director of Public Affairs Neil’s listeners considerably outnumbered those of all the other English-language Montreal AM stations combined. He had enjoyed his broadcasting career but his chief immediate concern was how to reach as many people as possible with the story of the life of one of the most remarkable men he had ever encountered.

He brought to his task as biographer a varied background. Born in Peterborough, Ontario, he grew up in the nearby town of Hastings where his father owned a hardware store. After joining a Jesuit boarding school  in Kingston Neil joined the Jesuit order. Later he went on to the University of Toronto where he received an M.A. in history and then to the University of Michigan from which he holds an M.A. in Communication Arts.

For a time he was on the editorial staff of “America” the influential Jesuit weekly. Later he spent a year in London as editorial assistant on the British publication, “The Way”.

In 1967 his biography of Mitch Hepburn, the colourful late Premier of Ontario, was published and was awarded the University of British Columbia medal for the best biography of Canada’s centennial year [This book will be published as an ebook later this summer as well].

After twenty-six years as a Jesuit he left the order in 1970 having confronted what he called ‘a spiritual impasse’ in his life. He then went to work as executive director of a foundation helping retarded children across Canada and played a role in introducing to the country the special Olympic programme for the retarded.

Neil married Catharine Turnbull of Toronto in 1972 and in the same year moved to Montreal to launch his career in broadcasting. Even as his success grew he and his wife were increasing conscious that they needed a spiritual dimension to their lives. Early in the winter of 1979 a Jesuit friend asked Neil if he had ever heard of the Benedictine monk, Dom John Main. Neil took note of the name.

Some months later on the spur of the moment he called Father John and arranged to see him. “I found him,” he recalls, “sitting in his shirtsleeves on the verandah behind the Vendôme Avenue house. He was very imposing but very friendly. We chatted for about an hour. He suggested that if I was interested I could listen to his tapes, ‘Talks on Meditation’, and see what I thought.”

After Neil and his wife heard the tapes Neil called Father John to ask if it would be possible to come to any of his evening talks. He was told that there was no room but that in early 1980 a new group would be formed.  “And so,” recalls Neil, “we went in February to our first talk. We sat in rather cramped quarters on dilapidated furniture and we listened attentively. There were no false notes. We kept going each week. Often I would ask a convoluted question of some sort and I would always get a very simple answer. Father John seemed to have fun doing it.”

In the spring of 1982 during a week-end visit to the Priory now on Pine Avenue, Neil asked Father John about forming a meditation group to meet once a month in his home. He was warmly encouraged to do so. Some months later when Father John was suffering intensely from the cancer which soon after took his life, he specially came out of the Priory after an evening talk to ask how their group was going.

“As his condition deteriorated,” Neil remembers, “he continued to extend himself to the limit in giving talks through the fall of 1982.” On December 29th Father Laurence Freeman invited the McKentys to the Priory to see Father John who was then barely conscious. “ I spent five hours in his room the afternoon before he died,” says Neil. “Around 9 p.m. a number of us sitting next to his bedroom said Compline. It was a time filled with serenity and peace and maybe even triumph.”

That evening Father Laurence raised the possibility of Neil’s writing a biography of Father John. “I decided right away I would go ahead and tackle it,” says Neil. “I considered the pros and cons. There were no cons.”

In the Stillness Dancing, now available as an ebook, is the fruit of Neil McKenty’s decision that night.

Article from  1986 by John Hallward

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