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A glimpse of Reality...

“Do not look for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

‒ Jn 6:27

Before I seriously embarked on my Spiritual Journey, I had so many attachments. At first, it was for material possessions that I had set my heart on. Wanting so many things in this life, I became a person driven to attain all of it at all cost … I became a workaholic. Relationships didn’t matter to me anymore so long as I could get what I wanted. Because of this, my life took a turn for the worse, and I started losing whatever I had built up one by one. In the end, even my wife left me. I suddenly found myself left with nothing… I turned to the bottle… became an alcoholic. I had reached rock bottom where I stayed for several years until through the mercy of God of my Understanding I was rescued from an existence worse than death.

Now that I am on the road to recovery, today’s reading has clearly pointed out to me the way I should take in order to stay on this straight and narrow path. In the past I had tenaciously held on to things that perished. It is time now to look for “food that endures for eternal life”. And because of the Lord’s kindness and mercy, I can feel he has taken my hand to lead me on. I am so overwhelmed with His love… so grateful for the mercy and compassion He has shown this poor sinner that I am.

 

 

"If I am in your truth, God, keep me there. If I am not, God, put me there."

‒ St. Joan of Arc

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word…”

‒ Mk 16:20

I am temporarily working as a househelp in an exclusive village in the city. Having come from the province where I had lived all my life, I was quite overwhelmed by the size of the house and the rest of the staff, all strangers to me. On the day I first came, they were all nice and kind to me, making me feel so welcome. In spite of this, however, I still felt lonely and homesick and the first night I cried myself to sleep. This went on for a few more days even though I was able to blend in with the household routine right away. One day, to my pleasant surprise, I learned that once a week “Ma’am” gathered us together to share the Bible lectio divina style. This made me feel much better and more at home because back in the province I also participated in a Bible group sharing, although called by another name.

In today’s gospel, the word that spoke to me was “work”. It seems the Lord is telling me to accept and be happy in my work. It made me feel peaceful and I realize that little by little, I enjoy being where I am. My co-workers, my new friends are very supportive of me. My heart wells with gratitude that the Lord has taken away the pain of separation from my family, even though I still miss them.

Thank you Lord, for making your loving kindness manifest in the people around me.

 

 

When James Finley was a young monk at the monastery of Gethsemane, he shared with Thomas Merton (who was his spiritual director) his frustration at his seemingly inept efforts to experience God’s presence. Merton responded: “How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.” Not that we don’t need to continue to seek God, but by our own efforts alone we cannot achieve spiritual maturity. We must bring ourselves to the Light where God’s grace seasons us into juicy, sweet, flavorful ripeness.

Thomas Merton

A glimpse of Reality...

“When he heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.”

 Mk. 6:20

I was in charge of coordinating a three-day retreat for Centering Prayer practitioners. Thus entailed accepting reservations personally and checking with other members who were also taking in reservations on their own. There was a minimum and maximum number of slots to be filled. At first it seemed like there would not be enough participants. However, when the deadline for accepting reservations neared there was a sudden surge of applicants and after everybody turned in their paid reservations the number far exceeded the rooms available. It was such a headache trying to figure out how to solve this problem. In the midst of this confusion, my daughter got very ill and that necessitated hospitalization. It seemed that everything was happening at the same time. It got too much that the constant ringing of the phone caused me a lot of irritation. However, in spite of all these, I found myself uncomplainingly accepting the situation. Today’s reading showed me that my practice of Centering Prayer has allowed me the space to compose myself and get in touch with my God before answering the telephone. I could feel God’s grace giving me the peace and calm I needed to communicate with people in a most loving way.

Thank you Lord, for your assistance in my time of need.

“Joy comes from the holiness of discovering ourselves, of finding our true likeness to God."

‒ John Main

Door to Silence

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away…"

‒ Jn. 10:12

The phrase that speaks to me today is “runs away”.

Because of some deep-seated differences between my son and his father, which recently erupted into a heated argument, they are just co-existing under one roof. But one could sense an uneasiness whenever one needs to communicate with the other. I have gotten so tired of it, trying in my own subtle way to get them to be at peace with each other and I’ve just about given up. They just have to learn to live with each other and accept each other as they are. If they can’t that is their problem. I am out of it! But today’s words spoke to me… “Do not run away from the situation” … Help bring about reconciliation… Be a peace-maker!

Lord, the situation is so difficult to handle. But with your help, nothing is impossible. Thank you for reminding me of my role in your plan of salvation.

A glimpse of Reality...

“As the Father loves me so I also love you. Remain in my love.”

‒ Jn. 15:9

We had a family discussion which centered on the activities of one of my sons. There were pros and cons but mostly cons among the siblings, and I sort of resented the way they seemed to judge this particular son according to their own standards. However, inspite of all these negatives about him, the more I felt love and compassion towards that son even though I did not totally agree with what he was doing.

Today’s words for me, “as the Father loves me…” opened my eyes to the reality of the Father’s love for us, His children. He loves us not because of any particular quality we have, but rather, He loves us in spite of what we are…

Loving Father, thank you for showing me how to love.

"Interior silence is the perfect seedbed for divine love to take root." (TK)
I think of the TREES and how SIMPLY they LET GO." (May Sarton)

In preparation for Holy Week, you are invited to attend a
weekend of silence, reflection and prayer at this

INTRODUCTORY RETREAT ON CENTERING PRAYER AND LECTIO DIVINA

March 24-26, 2017
Maryridge (A Place of Healing and Renewal), Good Shepherd Sisters, Iruhin West, Tagaytay City

For more information, please contact: Betty Florendo: 0917 8772402;
Anna Marie Llanos: 0916 3153980; Herbie Aquino: 0916 469 7766 / Landline: 501 5231
email: cop.secretariat@gmail.com 

Lent is the season in which the church as a whole enters into an extended retreat. Jesus went into the desert for forty days and forty nights. The practice of Lent is a participation in Jesus’ solitude, silence and privation.

The forty days of Lent bring into focus a long biblical tradition beginning with the Flood in the Book of Genesis, when rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. We read about Elijah walking forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Mt. Horeb. We read about the forty years that the Israelites wandered through the desert in order to reach the Promised Land. The biblical desert is primarily a place of purification, a place of passage. The biblical desert is not so much a geographical location – a place of sand, stones or sagebrush – as a process of interior purification leading to the complete liberation from the false-self system with its programs for happiness that cannot possibly work.

Jesus deliberately took upon himself the human condition – fragile, broken, alienated from God and other people. A whole program of self-centered concerns has been built up around our instinctual needs and have become energy centers – sources of motivation around which our emotions, thoughts and behaviour patterns circulate like planets around the sun. Whether consciously or unconsciously, these programs for happiness influence our view of the world and our relationship with God, nature, other people and ourselves. This is the situation that Jesus went into the desert to heal. During Lent our work is to confront these programs for happiness and to detach ourselves from them. The scripture readings chosen for Lent and the example of Jesus encourage us in this struggle for inner freedom and conversion.

Jesus redeemed us from the consequences of our emotional programs for happiness by experiencing them himself. As a human being, he passed through the pre-rational stages of developing human consciousness: immersion in matter; the emergence of a body-self; and the development of conformity consciousness – over-identification with one’s family, nation, ethnic group and religion. He had to deal with the particular but limited values of each level of human development from infancy to the age of reason, without, of course, ever ratifying with his will their illusory projects for happiness.

Jesus appears in the desert as the representative of the human race. He bears within himself the experience of the human predicament in its raw intensity. Hence, he is vulnerable to the temptations of Satan. Satan in the New Testament means the Enemy or the Adversary, a mysterious and malicious spirit that seems to be more than a mere personification of our unconscious evil tendencies. The temptations of Satan are allowed by God to help us confront our own evil tendencies. If relatives and friends fail to bring out the worst in us, Satan is always around to finish the job. Self-knowledge is experiential; it tastes the full depths of human weakness.

In the desert Jesus is tempted by the primitive instincts of human nature. Satan first addresses Jesus’ security/survival needs, which constitute the first energy center: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”

After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus must have been desperately hungry. His reply to Satan’s suggestion is that it is not up to him to protect or save himself; it is up to the Father to provide for him. “Not on bread alone does one live, but one every word that comes from the mouth of God.” God has promised to provide for everyone who trusts in him. Jesus refuses to take his own salvation in hand and waits for God to rescue him.

The devil then took Jesus to the holy city, set him on the parapet of the temple and suggested, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. Scripture has it, ‘He will bid his angels take care of you; with their hands they will support you, that you may not stumble upon a stone!’”

In other words, “If you are the Son of God, manifest your power as a wonder-worker. Jump off this skyscraper. When you stand up and walk, everybody will regard you as a bigshot and bow down before you.” This is the temptation to love fame and public esteem…

In the text, Satan subtly quotes Psalm 90, the great theme song of Lent, a psalm of boundless confidence in God under all circumstances. He suggests that if Jesus leaps off the temple parapet, God will have to protect him. Jesus responds, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” In other words, no matter how many proofs of God’s special love we may have, we may not take our salvation into our own hands. Jesus rejects the happiness program that seeks the glorification of the self as a wonder-worker or spiritual luminary.

The third energy center is the desire to control events and to have power over others. Satan took Jesus to a lofty mountain and displayed before him all the kingdoms of the world, promising, “All these I will bestow on you if you prostrate yourself in homage before me.” The temptation to worship Satan in exchange for the symbols of unlimited power is the last-ditch effort of the false self to achieve its own invulnerability and immortality. Jesus replies, “Away with you, Satan. Scripture says, ‘You shall do homage to the Lord your God; him alone shall you adore.’” Adoration of God is the antidote to pride and the lust for power. Service of others and not domination is the path to true happiness.

Thus, out of love for us, Jesus experienced the temptations of the first three energy centers. Each Lent he invites us to join him in the desert and to share his trials. The Lenten observances are designed to facilitate the reduction of our emotional investment in the programs of early childhood. Liberation from the entire false-self system is the ultimate purpose of Lent. This process always has Easter as its goal. The primary observance of Lent is to confront the false-self. Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are in the service of this project. As we dismantle our emotional programs for happiness, the obstacles to the risen life of Jesus fall away and our hearts are prepared for the infusion of divine life at Easter.

— An excerpt from "The Mystery of Christ, The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience"

 

"Divine love is compassionate, tender, luminous,
totally self-giving, seeking no reward, unifying everything."

— Thomas Keating

CONTINUOUS INTIMACY WITH THE DIVINE

By Thomas Keating

As we practice contemplative prayer and learn to listen to the sound of sheer silence, we are instructed to disregard thoughts that are going by due to our receptive apparatus in the brain that receives all kinds of data. We let go into God all that is happening, including our thoughts, and open ourselves completely. God begins to work with us on a level of intimacy that might be called the divine therapy. In this perspective God is the greatest psychologist there ever was. Since the person we know least is ourselves, we need all the help we can get.

As we move into the silence of contemplative prayer, we experience in some degree who we really are, which is beyond our thinking mind and more real than any sense experience. If we give God the space to be God in us, he takes into consideration all the limitations and weaknesses of our human situation as reflective and self-conscious beings and heals our self-inflicted and culturally imposed woundedness.

God is closer than our name, resume, personality, character, temperament, or number on the enneagram. At every moment he is manifesting God-self to us, healing the wounds of a lifetime, and using our imperfections to transform our weaknesses into humility and pure love.

As silence deepens it morphs into the divine presence in contemplative prayer. This is a pervasive presence that invites us to accept the embrace of divine love and the realization of how much God loves us.

Life is a process of increasing intimacy with God and of relaxing into the present moment by accepting and consenting to whatever is happening. The wear and tear of daily life tests the level of our transformation. If we can maintain the peace of mind that is present during the time of prayer in external difficulties and in the feeling of powerlessness, our spiritual maturity is clearly advancing.

We don’t have to succeed in this world, we just have to be. That means to consent to the slice of
the human condition that God has given us. There are seven or eight billion people in the world right now in whom God is working to build an intimate personal relationship, one that has never been known before and can never be repeated.

Trust in God gives us the peace to endure anything. If you don’t feel you have the strength to deal with some difficulty or trial, do not let that worry you either, because then you are most identified with Christ and the infinite mercy of God.

— From CO Newsletter Dec 2016

“RELAX – THEN JUST LET IT HAPPEN”

By Fr. Carl J. Arico

That is what he said to me when I asked him how he was doing. In his late 80’s, he has been a faithful pray-er since the 1970’s. The Centering Prayer group he started almost 35 years ago in his parish is still going strong. He is filled with gratitude for all that has been received through the years and so proud to have been on the ground floor of this miracle of God's grace we call Contemplative Outreach, now in its 33rd year.

As Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler likes to say, “None of us have it all together but together we have it all.”

“Relax and then just let it happen.” What does this mean? For me it means you do all you can to offer your gifts to the experiences of life and then let go of any expectations and results. One of the wisdom sayings I live by is, “Trust the process,” which is another way of allowing the Holy Spirit to do whatever needs to be done.

Send her forth from your holy heavens and from your glorious throne dispatch her
That she may be with me and work with me, that I may know what is pleasing to you.

For she knows and understands all things, and will guide me prudently in my affairs
and safeguard me by her glory.
Wisdom 9: 10-11

The big stumbling block in the way of full trust is over-conceptualing – always trying to figure it out. Trying to figure everything out, thinking we know what is best prevents us from seeing beyond our limitedness to other possibilities, to the bigger picture. We can’t be led if we are trying to lead.

The wisdom of the desert fathers has much to offer: “Thoughts lead to desires, desires lead to passion and passion leads to action (Evagrius).” How true! Thoughts have unintended consequences. Our thoughts are the seeds of our activity. What is the motivating source of our
thoughts?

We talk a lot about the energy centers and the thoughts that flow from them – security and survival, affection and esteem, and power and control. These energies are natural and necessary, but our intentions are what makes them life giving or life inhibiting. Let us use the example of control.

If the source of our motivations is a disproportionate attachment to power and control then it will influence and color the desire, passion and action of the activity. If there is no attachment and the action is being done with “clean hands and clean heart” then the desire, passion and action will look the same but will have a different feel and influence.

My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says that Lord.
As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.
 Isaiah 55: 8-9

It is interesting that once the seed is planted – out of our hand – it has a life of its own. We can nourish the area around where it is planted but cannot take it back.

This is where a nightly review of the day, an examen, can be so useful for our awakening and growth in the Spirit. What were my motivations? What thoughts dominated my day? Lord help me make them your thoughts.

Father, Son and Spirit stir up in me today true power and control, true affection and esteem, true security and survival. By true I mean that which flows from our true self and the divine presence within us, which animates our life with utmost charity and forgiveness.

I asked the artist to make this tree sculpture especially for me because it shows the essence of what the spiritual journey is about. It is modeled after the Lone Pine in Pebble Beach, California, which hovers over the Pacific Ocean, the wind blowing it whichever way, molding and shaping it. And so I pray it is with me: may I allow the Holy Spirit – the Ruah, the Sacred Breath — to mold and shape me as I consent to the presence and action of God and grow where I am planted, putting on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2: 16).

The liturgical year is beginning again – another invitation to be molded and shaped. Advent calls us to awaken, Lent calls us to repent (change the direction we are looking for happiness) and the rest of the year in Ordinary Time encourages us to do what we need to do and “relax – just let it happen.”

— From CO Newsletter Dec 2016

"The Divine Presence:
... is happening in, through, and amidst every detail of life
... penetrates all that exists
... is in relationship to every part of creation.
... is trying to move humanity to the next stage of consciousness."

— Thomas Keating from God is Love: The Heart of All Creation

Most people have never actually met themselves. At every moment, all our lives long, we identify with our thoughts, our self-image, or our feelings. We have to find a way to get behind this view of ourselves to discover the face we had before we were born. We must discover who we are in God, who we’ve always been—long before we did anything right or anything wrong. This is the first goal of contemplation.

Imagine you are sitting on the bank of a river. Boats and ships—thoughts, feelings, and sensations—are sailing past. While the stream flows by your inner eye, name each of these vessels. For example, one of the boats could be called “my anxiety about tomorrow.” Or along comes the ship “objections to my husband” or the boat “I don’t do that well.” Every judgment that you pass is one of those boats. Take the time to give each one of them a name, and then let them move on down the river.

This can be a difficult exercise because you’re used to jumping aboard the boats—your thoughts—immediately. As soon as you own a boat and identify with it, it picks up energy. This is a practice in un-possessing, detaching, letting go. With every idea, with every image that comes into your head, say, “No, I’m not that; I don’t need that; that’s not me.”

Sometimes, a boat turns around and heads back upstream to demand your attention again. Habitual thoughts are hard to not be hooked by. Sometimes you feel the need to torpedo your boats. But don’t attack them. Don’t hate them or condemn them. This is also an exercise in nonviolence. The point is to recognize your thoughts, which are not you, and to say, “That’s not necessary; I don’t need that.” But do it very amiably. If you learn to handle your own soul tenderly and lovingly, you’ll be able to carry this same loving wisdom out into the world.

— Richard Rohr

“The movement of centering prayer is toward the integration of silence and activity, activity not based on a naďve confidence in ourselves, but rather as a response to the presence and action of the Spirit that is more and more the guiding light in all our activities.

— Thomas Keating

NEW GOVERNING BOARD IN CO LTD.

An announcement was made in the Dec. Newsletter of CO Ltd. re the transition from the former Circle of Service to a new Governing Board “on behalf of all the individuals and all the groups that make up the Contemplative Outreach community. The Board is now separate from Management but collaborates closely with it through Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, whose title is now Executive Director.” Its functions include: setting the overall direction for CO, approving the budget, and hiring/managing the Executive Director. Like most non-profit boards, it is not involved in daily operations.

Fr. Carl Arico, a member of the CO leadership team for many, many years stepped down from his position, believing in the wisdom of passing on the torch to other volunteers who are willing to serve the organization.

The new members of the Governing Board are Mary Dwyer (Chairperson), Nick Cole, Lois Snowden, Tom Smith, Thomas Hall, Fr. Gilbert Walker and Kathy Di Fede. As a primary oversight group, the Board embodies the vision and mission of CO and upholds the spiritual and service aspects of CO in harmony with the CO Vision, Theological and Administrative Principles.

Powerlessness is our greatest treasure. Don't try to get rid of it. Everything in us wants us to get rid of it. Grace is sufficient for you, but not something you can understand. To be in too big a hurry to get over our difficulties is a mistake because you don't know how valuable they are from God's perspective, for without them you might never be transformed as deeply and as thoroughly.....

Thomas Keating

 

FATHER THOMAS: GENTLY WAITING FOR THE BEGINNING

By Steven Standiford

For most of the last 30 years, our abba, Father Thomas, has been an indefatigable whirlwind jetting around the world teaching, leading retreats, writing books and preaching the good news of Centering Prayer. He racked up so many frequent flyer miles traveling to far-flung places like the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and South Korea that he could rest in the executive lounge to wait for his flights. These days, however, Thomas is finally allowing himself to return to the more secluded monastic life he once knew. He concedes that at 92-years-old he doesn’t have the energy he used to. But he gets around pretty well with his walker at his home in the infirmary at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. I’m on a mini retreat at Snowmass and Father Thomas has kindly invited me to visit.

It is late September. The cloudless western sky is cobalt blue and a brilliant array of fluttering golden Aspens lights up the steep mountain slopes. The fall days are sunny and warm but the nights are chilly – a reminder that winter comes early to the Colorado Rockies.

When I first spot Father Thomas, he is literally hopping out of an SUV. He explains that his physical therapist taught him the best way to leverage himself out of a chair was to suddenly “pop up” – sort of like a heavyweight lifter doing a clean and jerk. In his civilian clothes – a plaid shirt, gray work pants, and Patagonia down vest -- Thomas looks more like one of the cattle ranchers in the valley than he does a Trappist monk. And, of course, he is wearing his ever-present black knit cap to keep his head warm and his thoughts flowing.

When we first meet, he seems quite energized -- having just returned with other monks from a neighbor’s house to watch Pope Francis on TV. (The monks still don’t have newfangled gadgets like a flat screen TV.) He marvels that the Pope publicly cited Dorothy Day and fellow Trappist, Thomas Merton, as examples for the rest of the world to follow

“How are you filling your days?” I ask.

“At my age I have to spend most of my time just following doctors orders,” he kids. “In addition to my personal physician, I have a physical therapist and four specialists. Everybody is a specialist these days,” he laughs.

I had hoped to take Thomas out to lunch, forgetting that he is not allowed to, now that he is back at St. Benedict’s. Except for medical care at the Aspen hospital, he almost never ventures out from the monastery. The one exception was his trip three years ago to Boston to attend a conference with his dear friends and fellow mystics, the Dalai Lama and Brother David Steindl-Rast.

In addition to a lack of energy and the monastery rules, there is another reason Thomas does not dine out. As he explained, he has difficulty swallowing -- so most of his food is either finely chopped, pureed, or liquid. I did manage to sneak him a few almond cookies from a fancy New York bakery. Technically they weren’t on his plan, but at 92, Thomas has become younger and more flexible – and occasionally bends the rules.

Depending on his strength, Thomas still spends time each day reading and writing. Books line the top of the desk in his room. And the gazebo-like solarium across the hall is filled with all kinds of popular magazines, scholarly journals and Christian and non-Christian periodicals. One disappointment is that he doesn’t have the energy to participate in regular worship with the rest of the community. For several years he could make his way to the chapel and slip into Mass just for communion -- but now even that is too draining. As Thomas explained “I can’t really go down to communion anymore because I may not have the energy to get back!” (Fortunately, one of the younger monks serves communion in the infirmary after Mass each day.)

During our visit, Thomas did solve one mystery. For over two decades I have heard him often say that, “the minimum time recommended for Centering Prayer is twenty minutes, two times a day.” But I never heard Thomas share what his own practice was. The answer is that along with his doctor’s visits, physical therapy and work with Contemplative Outreach, he sets aside three to four hours a day for silent prayer. (I wondered if this might be a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit to double my own daily Centering Prayer practice.)

We reminisced about Chrysalis House, the lay contemplative community in Warwick, New York that Thomas nurtured in the 1980s and early 1990s -- and remembered fondly Mary Mrozowski, the “Amma” of the house who died suddenly in 1993. For a while we sat transfixed listening to David Frenette’s gentle teachings on his DVD about spiritual transformation through Centering Prayer that Thomas had not seen before. After viewing the first half of the video, Thomas was so moved he called it a “great treasure” and offered suggestions about how to make David’s teaching more widely available to advanced practitioners.

I asked Thomas if I could come again to visit next April. “Sure,” he said with a broad smile and a chuckle, “but I may be dead by then!”

“Then I will pray for you to have as vigorous health as possible,” I offered.

“Well,” Thomas said, becoming more reflective, “it would be better to pray that God’s will be done.” He paused a moment and then added, “after all, I don’t want to overstay my welcome here on God’s earth.” We sat silently for a few moments longer in the late afternoon sunlight. Thomas continued slowly, “as the Buddhists say, everything is temporary. And as we believe, everything is an expression of the Divine. " Smiling broadly, he concluded, “I’m hoping to go back to the Divine, whatever that is.”

I wanted to stay longer, to drink in this sweet passing moment, but Thomas had graciously given me an hour and a half and I didn’t want him to deplete his limited energy any further. We both stood. He opened his long arms and huge hands to give me a fatherly hug good-bye. Thomas has never been a touchy-feely sort but we lingered a moment in a warm embrace. Perhaps he sensed my need for a hug.

As we parted, it struck me as remarkable that this man -- who endured a lonely childhood under a stern, demanding father and a withdrawn, sickly mother – has become such a warm, loving father to so many of us around the world. As I drove out along the gravel road back to Rte. 82, I wondered if I would ever see Thomas again. It had been a perfect, beautiful, warm fall day. But the temperature was dropping and winter comes early in the Rockies.

Steve Standiford, a psychotherapist practicing in Manhattan and Westchester County, New York.

Taken from CO-e News, Jan. 2016

THE BENEFITS OF CENTERING PRAYER

Centering Prayer is a receptive method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer - verbal, mental or affective prayer - into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Christ.

To watch on YouTube, please click here.

Consenting to God as God Is

This book collects the intimate talks and daily presentations made by Thomas Keating to people who have been practicing Centering Prayer for several years, have some experience of the spiritual journey and especially to those engaged in some form of contemplative service. $15 USD. Click here.

The Will of Divine Love

 

Kess Frey

This book looks at the process of spiritual evolution in created reality. It also looks at Centering Prayer and other transformative spiritual practices – Welcoming Prayer, forgiveness practice and creative self-expression – that unload the unconscious and help us to enter the “promised land’ and the inner wealth of our divine inheritance as souls created in God’s image and likeness. $25 USD. Click here.

 

Silence & Solitude: Wherein Wisdom Dwells

Part of the Contemplative Life Program (CLP), this 97-page booklet focuses on the practice and disposition of silence and solitude. Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina feature prominently in the practices of this 40-day mini-retreat, which includes beautiful images, brief inspirational readings and a suggested daily practice. Sections of the booklet include prayer in secret; dimensions of silence; places of solitude; thoughts in solitude; and a day of silence and solitude, which provides a format for your own one-day retreat at home. Booklet or PDF version on sale for $10 USD. Click here.

 

Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating

all products in all formats:

DVDs with guidebook & reflections cards (with English
   & Spanish subtitles) $50 USD.
English digital version $25 USD
Spanish digital version $25 USD
CD with reflection booklet $20 USD. Mp3 version $12 USD
Guidebook $20 USD; PDF version $5 USD
Companion book $12 USD; PDF version $8 USD

 

 

Gift of Life: Death & Dying, Life & Living series with Thomas Keating

all products in all formats:

DVDs with guidebook (with English & Spanish subtitles) $50 USD
English digital version $25 USD
Spanish digital version $25 USD
CD with reflection booklet $20 USD Mp3 version $12 USD
Guidebook $12 USD; PDF version $8 USD
Companion book $12 USD; PDF version $8 USD

Digital downloads now available for many products. Get instant fulfillment with no shipping costs. Search in the online store under Media>Digital Download

 

In Centering Prayer … little by little, we enter into prayer
without intentionality except to consent
… and consent becomes surrender
… and surrender becomes total receptivity
… and, as the process continues,
total receptivity becomes effortless, peaceful.
… It is free and has nothing to attain, to get, or desire
… So, no thinking, no reflection, no desire,
no words, no thing
… just receptivity and consent.

Thomas Keating, ‘Centering Prayer’ segment, Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ

VISION / MISSION


Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. Basil Pennington

Fr. Basil Pennington

Vision Statement

Contemplative Outreach is a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life through the practice of Centering Prayer. The contemplative dimension of the Gospel manifests itself in an ever-deepening union with the living Christ and the practical caring for others that flows from that relationship.

The purpose of Contemplative Outreach is to support one another in the process of Divine transformation through the practice of Centering Prayer. We also encourage the practice of Lectio Divina, particularly its movement into Contemplative Prayer, which a regular and established practice of Centering Prayer facilitates.

In the Philippines, this mission is being carried out by Contemplative Outreach Philippines (COP).  In addition to conducting workshops, retreats and other programs on Centering Prayer, COP guides and facilitates support groups for persons in the practice.  Since its establishment in 1990, the Outreach has shared Centering Prayer with men and women, religious and lay alike.  It has also sponsored recollections and retreats conducted by the founders themselves- Fr. Thomas Keating, Fr. William Meninger and the late Fr. Basil Pennington - all Trappist monks.  Commissioned presenters also conduct retreats and workshops.

Mission Statement

The primary purpose of Contemplative Outreach Philippines is to teach the method of Centering Prayer and to offer practices that bring its fruits into daily life.  The Outreach also teaches Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading), particularly its movement into contemplative prayer as facilitated by a regular practice of Centering Prayer.  The ministry offers workshops, retreats, and formation programs designed to present the richness of the Christian contemplative heritage in an updated and accessible format.

Contemplative Outreach Philippines is authorized to use the formats of Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., founder of Contemplative Outreach Ltd. In the United States and one of the three Trappist monks who developed Centering Prayer.  The Archdiocese of Manila recognizes the Outreach as the official organization authorized to teach Centering Prayer and its formation programs through its bona fide commissioned presenters.

Centering Prayer is a prayer of interior silence and alert receptivity to the Divine Indwelling, the center of one’s being.  Together with the daily practice of Lectio Divina, growth in Prayer awakens the spiritual level of one’s consciousness.  One’s will is cultivated to constantly and repeatedly consent to God’s presence and action as one becomes increasingly aware of them in day-to-day living.

History of Contemplative Outreach

Contemplative Outreach has its roots in the wish of three monks living at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts in the early 1970s. Inspired by the decree of Vatican II, the monks wished to develop a method of Christian contemplative prayer that was appealing and accessible to laypeople. With no idea that their wish would eventually result in an international organization, Fathers Thomas Keating, William Meninger, and Basil Pennington embarked on an experiment. Today their experiment is called Contemplative Outreach.

As abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey, Fr. Keating attended a meeting in Rome in 1971. At the meeting, Pope Paul VI called on the members of the clergy to revive the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in the lives of both monastic and laypeople. Believing in the importance of this revival, Fr. Keating encouraged the monks at St. Joseph's to develop a method of Christian contemplative prayer with the same appeal and accessibility that Eastern meditation practices seemed to have for modern people. A monk at the abbey named William Meninger found the background for such a method in the anonymous fourteenth-century classic The Cloud of the Unknowing. Using this and other contemplative literature, Meninger developed a simple method of silent prayer he called The Prayer of the Cloud.

Meninger began to offer instruction on The Prayer of the Cloud to priests who came to the monastery for retreats. The prayer was well received and as word got out, more people wanted to learn the prayer, so Fr. Keating began to offer workshops to the lay community in Spencer. Another monk at the abbey, Basil Pennington, also began to teach The Prayer of the Cloud to priests and sisters at retreats away from St. Joseph's. At one retreat, someone suggested that the name of the prayer be changed to Centering Prayer, alluding to Thomas Merton's description of contemplative prayer as prayer that is "centered entirely on the presence of God...His will...His love...[and] Faith by which alone we can know the presence of God." From then on, the prayer was called Centering Prayer.

In 1983, Fr. Keating gave the first "intensive" Centering Prayer retreat at the Lama Foundation in San Cristobal, New Mexico. One of the participants of the retreat, Gustave Reininger, previously had met with Fr. Keating and a man named Edward Bednar to discuss starting a contemplative network. After their meeting, Bednar wrote a grant proposal, which he called Contemplative Outreach, and received funds to start parish-based programs in New York City that offered introductions to Centering Prayer. This marked the beginning of the Contemplative Outreach Centering Prayer Program and a milestone in Contemplative Outreach's birth as an organization.
Other participants of the retreat at the Lama Foundation also played a large part in the growth of Contemplative Outreach. In 1985, participants David Frenette and Mary Mrozowski, along with Bob Bartel, established a live-in community in the eastern United States called Chrysalis House. For 11 years, Chrysalis House provided a consistent place to hold Centering Prayer workshops and retreats. Many Centering Prayer practitioners and teachers who now carry on the work of Contemplative Outreach were trained and inspired at Chrysalis House.

In 1986, the three monks' experiment was incorporated as Contemplative Outreach, LTD., and the first official board of directors was named. Fr. Keating served as the first president, Fr. Carl Arico as vice president, Gustave Reininger as treasurer, and Mary Mrozowski and Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler as directors. At first, the organization was run from Gail Fitzpatirick-Hopler's dining room table. After several necessary expansions, the network's international headquarters now offices in 2000 square feet of space in downtown Butler, New Jersey with the help of seven full-time employees, two part-time employees, five volunteers, and, of course, the continued support and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  ̶  From Contemplative Outreach E-News, Oct. 2009

 

“Freedom is the capacity to do what is the appropriate thing to do in any given moment."

‒ Thomas Keating

 

FAQs on Centering Prayer

Four new FAQs on Centering Prayer have been posted to help discuss and answer various doubts or concerns about the prayer practice:

1. What is the overall aim or intention of Centering Prayer?
2. How is Centering Prayer different from meditation, especially Eastern meditation practices?
3. How is Centering Prayer rooted in the Christian tradition?
4. A response to then Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1989 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” This was written by Thomas Keating in response to questions about that letter and Centering Prayer.

See these questions and more in the FAQ section of the Contemplative Outreach website.

ABOUT THE PRAYER

The intent of Contemplative Outreach is to foster the process of transformation in Christ in one another through the practice of Centering Prayer.

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Suddenly, looking around they no longer saw anyone with them, only Jesus.”

‒ Mk 9:8

There is the woman who always turns to me in her need. She has so many problems and I never turn my back on her whenever she comes for help. The one thing that makes me very uncomfortable with her is that she always gets herself in a mess and complicating matters a lot.

Yesterday, she called up and said she was coming to see me. Since then, I’ve had a million thoughts going through my mind as to what could it be this time. I did not like the feeling which her call evoked and in my discomfort turned to the Lord in today’s reading the words they saw only Jesus spoke to me . . . “Why don’t you try seeing Jesus in her.” As I pondered on this, I felt that it was the only thing I could do to ease my anxiety over her.

Thank you Lord, for teaching me the way to a peaceful heart.

 

 

“…This mystery of oneness enables us to emerge from the Eucharist with a refined inward eye, and invites us to perceive the mystery of Christ everywhere and in everything.”

‒ Thomas Keating

History of Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer was developed as a response to the Vatican II invitation to revive the contemplative teachings of early Christianity and present them in updated formats. In this way, the method of Centering Prayer is drawn from the ancient practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the traditional monastic practice of Lectio Divina and the practices described in the anonymous fourteenth century classic The Cloud of Unknowing and in the writings of Christian mystics such as John Cassian, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton. Most importantly, Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

"...when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you."

Matthew 6.6 (New American Bible)

In the 1970s, answering the call of Vatican II, three Trappist monks at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, Fathers William Meninger, Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating, looked to these ancient sources to develop a simple method of silent prayer for contemporary people. The prayer came to be known as Centering Prayer in reference to Thomas Merton's description of contemplative prayer as prayer that is "centered entirely on the presence of God." The monks offered Centering Prayer workshops and retreats to both clergy members and laypeople. Interest in the prayer spread, and shortly after the first intensive Centering Prayer retreat in 1983, the organization Contemplative Outreach was formed to support the growing network of Centering Prayer practitioners.

Today Centering Prayer is practiced by people all around the world, creating local and global networks of Christians in communion with Christ and each other and contributing to the renewal of the contemplative dimension of Christianity.

Taken from CO Website

A Meditation on Centering Prayer

We begin our prayer by disposing our body.  Let it be relaxed and calm, but inwardly alert.

The root of prayer is interior silence.  We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words.  But this is only one expression.  Deep prayer is the laying aside of thoughts.  It is the opening of mind and heart, body and feelings – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts and emotions.  We do not resist them or suppress them.  We accept them as they are and go beyond them, not by effort, but by letting them all go by.

We open our awareness to the Ultimate Mystery whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself.  The Ultimate Mystery is the ground in which our being is rooted, the Source from whom our life emerges at every moment.

We are totally present now, with the whole of our being, in complete openness, in deep prayer.  The past and future – time itself – are forgotten.

We are here in the presence of the Ultimate Mystery.  Like the air we breathe, this divine presence is all around us and within us, distinct from us, but never separate from us.  We may sense this Presence drawing us from within, as if touching our spirit and embracing it, or carrying us beyond ourselves into pure awareness.

We surrender to the attraction of interior silence, tranquillity, and peace.  We do not try to feel anything, reflect about anything.  Without effort, without trying, we sink into this Presence, letting everything else go by.  Let love alone speak the simple desire to be one with the Presence, to forget self, and to rest in the Ultimate Mystery.

This Presence is immense, yet so humble; awe-inspiring, yet so gentle; limitless, yet so intimate, tender and personal.  I know that I am known.  Everything in my life is transparent in this Presence.  It knows everything about me – all my weakness, brokenness, sinfulness – and still loves me infinitely.

This Presence is healing, strengthening, refreshing – just by its Presence.  It is nonjudgmental, self-giving, seeking no reward, boundless in compassion.  It is like coming home to a place I should never have left, to an awareness that was somehow always there, but which I did not recognize.

I cannot force this awareness, or bring it about.  A door opens within me, but from the other side.  I seem to have tasted before the mysterious sweetness of this enveloping, permeating Presence.  It is both emptiness and fullness at once.

We wait patiently; in silence, openness, and quiet attentiveness; motionless, within and without.  We surrender to the attraction to be still, to be loved, just to be.

Centering Prayer List

A Contemplative Living Community in the Christian Contemplative Tradition

CENTERINGPRAYER / A Contemplative Living Community in the Christian Contemplative Tradition, is an unmoderated ecumenical (Christian) mailing list grounded in the Christian contemplative heritage. The list members are committed to the renewal of the contemplative dimension of the gospel through the teaching and practice of Centering Prayer and LectioDivina as taught by Father Thomas Keating, OCSO and his worldwide organization called Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. It is dedicated to those who are BEGINNERS and would like a community to teach, encourage and support them in their practice.

The list was founded on March 7, 1994, in honor of Abbot Thomas Keating's birthday. Father Keating is our mentor, friend and inspiration.

We hope to be able to welcome you to our cyberspace community.

Currently we are presenting an introductory workshop on Centering Prayer.

Centering Prayer is patterned on the formula given by Jesus in Matthew 6:6

If you want to pray, enter your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

To subscribe to the CENTERINGPRAYER List please write to: Centeringprayer@listserve.com

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH LOGO & MEANING

Contemplative Outreach Symbol

JOB’S REDEEMER – PATIENT WAITING

ALPHA AND OMEGA - Symbol of God-the beginning and the end.

THE CROSS - The symbol of our salvation.

  THE FLOWERS - Symbol of the abundance of life – the resurrection.

CIRCLE - Sign of ongoing process.

©2009 Website designed by Mon & Lynn Angeles
email us at cophil2009@yahoo.com

 

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