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A glimpse of Reality...

“And He ordered them to take nothing for the journey . . . They were to wear no sandals and were not to take a second tunic.”

‒ Mk 6:9

At this time of our life, because of my husband’s unsteady income, I really have to watch my spending. Although for myself, I hardly spend anything, many times I find myself “splurging” on my seventeen-year-old daughter. The readings today sort of reminded me of my propensity to buy for her things she really didn’t need only because “she would look nice in it”. Yesterday, we needed to buy her a pair of shoes for a coming party and before we left home, I prayed to the Lord to help us find something nice and inexpensive. I know the Lord had answered my prayer when it did not take long for us to find exactly what we were looking for. It was on sale and costs only about half the price I was prepared to spend. I was very happy about having saved a lot on our purchase. However, as we lingered on at the mall, we saw a cute little black dress that was perfect for my daughter. She really didn’t need one, but, I told here to fit it and she looked gorgeous in it. Without thinking any further, I bought it for her reasoning out that anyway, we had saved on the shoes.

Today, as I pondered on the reading, I felt quite guilty about having bought that extra dress. Not only that . . . the Lord, in His loving mercy, showed me where it was all coming from. He allowed me to see that I was trying to live out my frustrations with my not-so-youthful figure in my daughter. It was a rude awakening for me but I thanked the Lord for making me aware of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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...

“Now I know that Yahweh gives victory to His anointed . . .”

‒ Ps. 19:6

For as long as I can remember, I have been serving my community, as a sort of caretaker, in charge of physical arrangements and making sure everything would be in place for all the meetings we had. I had sort of gotten tired of doing this and so today, our Day of Recollection and Recommitment. I thought it is my chance to “change jobs”. In order to allow the Holy Spirit carte blanche in this endeavor, the whole morning was spent in contemplative prayer and a celebration of the Holy Mass. After much fellowship at lunch, the “business meeting” followed and each one of us signed up to the committee of our choice. At the end of this activity, however, two committees were vacant. I found myself being “volunteered” to serve in one of them. I wanted to object and insist on what I wanted, but in the end just bowed down to what seems to be the Lord’s plan for me. The meeting ended on a happy note as all the committees have been filled, seemingly, with the right people who humbly accepted God’s will.

As I did my lectio that night. I got my affirmation when the phrase that struck me in the readings was “go and tell”. I was voted head of Publicity.

Thank you Lord, for putting me where you know I can be of much service. With your help, I know I will do a good job. Please give me the grace to do everything for your glory.

 

 

 

 

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...

“You know the commandments: ‘. . . honor your father and your mother.’”

 Mk. 10:19

The word “mother” evokes so many memories of my past, especially now that my mother is no longer with us. I find myself thinking a lot about her and missing her all the more. She was the pillar of strength that supported me when my failed marriage left me to single-handedly raise my three children. And it was her loving presence that made it easier for me to bear the vicissitudes of life. Of course, at that time, being occupied as I was with the nitty-gritty of life, I did not fully appreciate her presence in my life. And now, that the children are on their own, I realize how much I had taken her for granted when she was still with me.

But the Lord is so good to me that, he has turned the regrets of the past and the loneliness of today into a felt experience of His presence. My Centering Prayer practice and the interior silence that it has brought about in me had also increased my awareness that my mother is still with me and I no longer feel alone.

 

 

 

 

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

‒ John Main

Door to Silence

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory with all His angels, He will sit on His throne of Glory.”

‒ Mt. 25:31

Yesterday, the new church organ was inaugurated by a 30-minute concert before the Mass. The magnificent music played by the organist was like a balm that wiped away all the bitterness and heartaches of the past when the acquisition of a more expensive pipe organ was put into a vote. Having let go of the initial disappointment of being voted down, many of those in favor were visibly pleased by the new computerized version that could make all the sounds a pipe organ could.

The liturgical celebration that followed was so awe-inspiring with the beautiful singing of the Coro further enhanced by the new sound of the organ. I felt my spirit being lifted up, experiencing the glory of God in music.

Thank you Lord for the gift and for showing us that it is only by your grace that we can glorify You.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“This was the Lord’s doing and I marvel at it.”

‒ Mt. 12:11

At the first meeting of our newly enlarged board, there were a couple of controversial issues discussed. A lot of arguments were thrown back and forth on both sides that I felt so tired just listening. Being the secretary, I had to pay close attention to everything that was being said but I found it such an ordeal. So, I decided not to get hassled and just rely on the tape recorder to do my minutes later on. However, when I sat down to do it, I discovered to my dismay that the tape was blank. The “record” mode had not been switched on. I did make a few notes on my agenda sheet, but these were not enough to write the whole minutes.

So, as was my wont in situations like this, I called on the Holy Spirit for assistance. After going into silence for a few moments, little by little everything that transpired in that meeting came back to me. It felt like I was taking a dictation as I typed the information that came to my mind. I knew then and there where it was all coming from.

Thank you Lord for coming to my assistance.

A glimpse of Reality...

“In their panic and fright they thought they were seeing a ghost, but he said to them, ‘Why are you so disturbed . . .?’”

‒ Lk 24:37

Ever since I knew for sure that I would go on my trip, I’ve been so overwhelmed by all the things I still have to attend to before leaving. I’ve already listed down everything I needed to do, but other things keep coming up that I couldn’t follow strictly my agenda. To top it all, I’ve been feeling sad over leaving my loved ones here, much as I’ve looked forward to seeing my daughters and their families there.

“Why are you so disturbed” spoke so clearly to me from the readings of today. The Lord is telling me to slow down and live the moment as it comes, without getting very harassed . . . that it’s more important to enjoy my time with my loved ones here, playing with the baby, still attending to the needs of others. I almost turned down having lunch with a friend for that reason. The Lord is reminding me to be totally present to the people around me . . . that things will get done if I put myself in the proper disposition.

Lord, thank you for setting my priorities straight.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die, but have eternal life.”

‒ Jn 3:16

My brother and I were the only baptized Catholics in the family, so there was a special bonding between the two of us that did not exist with the other members of the family. Lately, though, my brother has stopped attending Mass and going to the sacraments. Even though he still lives a truly Christian life, the fact that he is “away from the Church became a distressing concern of mine. Therefore, he is constantly in my prayers.

The words from John “that everyone who believes in him may not die, but have eternal life” gave me such consolation, enlightening me about my beliefs. “Do not concern yourself too much about his religion, but trust in the goodness of his heart and God’s promise for those who believe.” was what I heard.

Thank you Lord for allowing me to see your love for all who believe.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear.”

‒ 1 Jn 4:18

My four-year-old grandson is very smart . . . too smart that I feel very challenged every time I carry on a conversation with him. And, as with most smart kids, he would always try to get his way by intelligent “negotiations” that you just have to be one step ahead of him all the time to get him to do what he needs to do. Aside from that, he is so fond of doing “balancing acts” on top of sofa backs, doing “splits” between two dining chairs, and many “death-defying” acts that only kids like him can think of. Because of this, his parents never wanted to “burden me” as much as possible with baby-sitting him.

Last night, we had a big event in the family and he had to stay up late with us. His parents knew that it would be unwise to wake him up early the next day to bring him to school as they went to work. So, they asked me if they could leave him with me for the morning only and I said yes.

The next day after Mass, I found myself volunteering to watch him the whole day and although they couldn’t believe what they heard, readily accepted my offer. He woke up at 10:30 AM, had a little breakfast and wanted to play computer games. I guess he was still tired and sleepy that he actually took two long naps and his waking moments were spent in quiet games: like Lego, dominoes, watching his favorite video tape and none of his famous mental and physical acrobatics. We really had a very pleasant day together that ended at the playground at the park where he safely released his physical energies until his Dad came and joined us.

Thank you Lord, for this opportunity in experiencing you in my grandson.

Jesus breathed on his disciples on the evening of his resurrection saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. There is thus no doubt of Jesus’ intent and ardent desire to communicate the Holy Spirit to us.

Earlier Jesus had taught, “How much more (than ordinary parents who give good gifts to their children) will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk.11:13). Thus there is no doubt regarding the intent and ardent desire of the Father to impart the Spirit to us.

The traditional liturgical hymn to the Holy Spirit prays, “Come Holy Spirit!”—Veni Sancte Spiritus! Hence there can be no doubt of the Spirit’s intent and ardent desire to be poured into the Body of Christ and into each one of Christ’s members. Let every breath then be a cry for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the supreme Gift of the Father and the Son.

Let breathing be a way of participating in healing the sickness of the world paralysed by selfishness, exhaling the saving power of the Spirit into the abyss of darkness that surrounds the earth’s atmosphere—the result of millennia of human brutality, violence, malice, indifference, and injustice.

Be effortlessly aware of the Ground of Being from which all things arise at each nanosecond of time and which might be described as ever-present Awareness keeping silent watch. It is non-judgmental, simple, penetrating all reality; the backdrop, background, and source of everything, and the eternal Now beneath the apparent movement of time.

In Centering Prayer we do not try to reflect, analyze, or understand. We invite the Spirit to take over our mental faculties—memory, intellect, and will. We disregard all sense impressions and our emotional reactions. We remain inwardly and outwardly silent and still, with no attention to external stimuli or particular movements of the mind. We cultivate consciousness without any particular content. Our intention is to rest in God and to be united with everything that exists in the Source of all that is.

Ever-present Awareness does not do anything. It just is and sustains all that exists, letting all things follow their innate nature and fulfill their created purpose. We do not need to make acts of knowledge or will to be in God’s presence. At a certain point in contemplative prayer, to do so introduces a sense of separation from God or a certain uneasiness. Once God’s abiding presence is stabilized, we might even feel as if we were withdrawing from oneness with the divine by such acts. Ever-present Awareness is not looking at us, but at Itself in us.

We may notice in everyday life an increase of mental, physical, and spiritual energy, and a certain quiet joy without knowing where it comes from.

We feel detached from everything even while functioning in our customary ways. The past becomes inconsequential along with its contents, and the future is of no importance if we think of it at all. A sense of peace, freedom, spaciousness, and general well-being predominates.

In this context, we see that to seek rewards from God is a misunderstanding because we already have what is better than any reward. We are right now all that we can ever want or desire to be. We just think it isn’t so. Stop thinking that thought and see what remains.

Relax into the all-embracing and boundless Presence of God which is beyond time, conceptual thinking, words, and actions but present in everything that exists and containing everything that exists.

Rest in the divine Trinity, in the bosom of the Father, in the heart of the Eternal Word, and in the infinite love of the Holy Spirit. This is the doctrine and experience of the Divine Indwelling, the most fundamental basis of our relationship with God.

— By Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O, CO e-News, Dec. 2007

“The heart of the Christian message is Love—to love one another as Christ has loved us and to love our neighbour as ourselves.”

Love is the energy that relates us one to another as human beings. It unites each of us to the center of ourselves and, beyond that center, to the Indwelling Spirit. The love that we share is fueled by God’s love for us. It is an endless supply of love flowing through us. As Christians, we call it Grace.

We can’t isolate ourselves from interacting with others; our families, friends, neighbors, anyone we meet in our daily encounters. Unless we behave in a loving way—starting with loving ourselves—we are not allowing the love of God to flow. We can’t say, “I love God, but I don’t love my neighbor.”

Contemplative living cultivates the freedom to say and do what the Spirit prompts us to say or do, without exceptions or conditions. Keeping an open heart, mind and intention, refreshed daily by our Centering Prayer practice, is vitally important. We begin to grasp that, as we sit in silence each day, we are holding and supporting one another in the energy of love.

It is an approach from “the ground up” to being human, to being lovers of God and lovers of one another.

In the silence the only thing we have to do is to be present and open. The Spirit does the work. The Spirit binds us to each other and we let go of our thoughts that separate us. That is to say, we let go of judgments, assumptions and opinions of who we are and who others are, and remain open to find out the truth of who we really are in God.

Whether we are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Hindu is not important. These words label our belief systems. What we share and what unites us is our human condition. If we let go and let God live our lives for us and act from a place of love, transformation is possible. We find that differences can be resolved and peace can be part of our lived experience. Grace, then, is the recognition that there is no separation between us and all that is good and true.

Contrary to popular opinion about the nature of contemplation—that it is simply a withdrawal into oneself—contemplation is both silence and action. Contemplation places us in the immediacy of open presence, which is living life as it is one moment at a time.

The humble giving of ourselves, one to the other, in order to understand the movements of love and the free flow of Grace with open heartfulness is the joy that is lying in wait for us through the contemplative life.

— Taken from CO e-News, Dec. 2007

OUT OF A STONE

By Fr. Thomas Keating

Can the Creator of all lure poetry out of a stone?
Or cause a stirring of Divine Love in a human heart?

All is possible for the Creator of all,
Who loves to manifest the impossible
In endless configurations.

As the false self diminishes,
And the ego becomes a servant,
Everything turns into poetry
And everything becomes a moment of Divine Love.
But, the separate self lingers on.

Once the separate self has been laid to rest,
The Divine Presence alone remains,
And the Creator of all becomes all in all.

The silence of the Creator is thunderous,
Drowning out everything else,
And hiding in endless creativity.

RE "VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS"

Editor: The video was created by Rachelle Rule, secretary of the COP Secretariat, who passed away August 30, 2014. In her YouTube video, published on May 8, 2009, Rachelle had the following notes:

“Taken from the CD "Inner Room"…Taize / Contemplative music featuring Fr. Thomas Keating reading Scripture for Lectio Divina. This cut also features Soprano soloist Rebecca Gale together with the Spiritus and Aunyx Choruses. CD Produced by Jonathan Blair. Video taken from the YouTube and edited by chelrule. Remastered on May 10, 2009.”

To date, the video has had more than 37,000 viewers. Here are a few comments:

From mary margaret (8 years ago)
“...i could sense the angels singing with this... :)
thank-you.... Father, Son, Spirit... :) “

From mysticoversoul (6 years ago)
“Thank you so very much for posting this music video of the much-loved Taize chant "Veni, Sancte Spiritus." I have been so taken by the video's sacred quality that I have embedded it at my Web site at contemplatingtruth (dot) WordPress (dot) com. Again thank you.”

From Fran Schultz (5 years ago)
“Beautiful and touching and has real healing qualities. Thank you for this precious gift. Veni, Sancte Spiritus…”

From Thomas Rowan (3 years ago)
“Well, thank you. The best rendition of one of life's most perfect songs should never be kept in 'private.' “

May Rachelle rest in God’s embrace forever, and surrounded by the angels singing “Veni, Sancte Spiritus”.

The silence of the heart, that deep-down awareness of what we’re thinking and why, is our monk’s cell. It’s in that place of total honesty where we come to realize who we ourselves really are. We learn there what we fear and what we are resisting. We hear there the voices we so commonly block out with noise that seduces us to give in to ourselves. It’s in silence that we hear the sounds of our better angels calling us to rise above our lesser selves. It’s in silence that we arm-wrestle our picayune selves to the ground of truth.

Silent reflection throws us back upon ourselves, exposes our wounds, and challenges us to authenticity. Silence is not an event—not a confession, not a miracle. Silence is a process that transforms us from an etching of our potential to the fullness of ourselves. Silence frees us from our public selves so that we have more to give to the rest of our world in the future.

Silence can, of course, become our private game of escapism. We can begin to substitute feeling holy for being holy. We can withdraw from the real world and call withdrawal a spiritual life. We can use silence to avoid the world, its problems, and our responsibility to them. We can simply dissociate from the people around us and tell ourselves that we have done a holy thing. But if we do, we are misusing silence, debasing its spiritual value, and making ourselves our own god, whom we go inside to worship.

— Taken from “Radical Spirit” by Joan Chittister

This video of Fr. Thomas Keating has recently been posted to the Contemplative Outreach YouTube channel. Filmed by Kay Kukowski at Snowmass in June 2017, it includes congratulatory remarks by Fr. Thomas directed to Contemplative Outreach Northwest (CONW) for its 30th anniversary celebration, as well as his reflections on the spiritual journey and the mind of Christ (about five minutes long).

Who could have predicted 25 years ago, when three Trappist monks from a monastery in Massachusetts introduced contemplative prayer to a group of non-contemplatives, that its popularity would grow so dramatically? Today, thousands of believers from a variety of Christian denominations in every state and in dozens of countries practice contemplative prayer daily. In addition, an international network of dedicated volunteers teaches it around the world.

These three monks dreamed of taking the church’s rich, centuries-old tradition of contemplative prayer and distilling it into a simple, easily learned prayer that ordinary people could practice. They believed that the daily practice of this prayer could lead to a more intimate union with God and a more powerful experience of God’s presence in our lives. This active presence heals, transforms and offers freedom and peace. Today, many Christians throughout the world are deeply committed to the daily practice called centering prayer, which they experience as a cornerstone of their lives.

How did this modern practice of contemplative prayer originate? What is centering prayer? How has its practice grown during the last 25 years? What are the fruits of practicing it?

The Origins of Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is deeply rooted in the church’s long tradition of contemplative prayer. In A Taste of Silence, Carl Arico highlights the striking similarities between centering prayer and the prayer of giants like Gregory of Nyssa, John Cassian, Pseudo-Dionysius, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux and Thomas Merton.

Merton in particular made three important contributions to the practice. The Seven Storey Mountain introduced the monastic life and contemplative prayer to a wide secular audience. Before Merton wrote, contemplative living and the experience of prayer without words or images were simply not on the radar screen of most contemporary thought. Second, during the last years of his life, Merton fostered an understanding of Eastern mysticism and how its teachings and practices paralleled and illuminated Christianity. Finally, Merton’s own practice of contemplative prayer foreshadowed centering prayer. He wrote: You rest in [God] and He hears you with His secret wisdom. In a letter to Abdul Aziz, a Sufi scholar, Merton described his prayer as centered entirely on the presence of God and His will and love, and as rising up out of the center of nothingness and silence. It is most appropriate, therefore, that the practice of centering prayer takes its name from Merton’s writings.

The current practice of centering prayer can be traced to the mid-1970’s, St. Joseph Abbey in Spencer, Mass., and three monks, Abbot Thomas Keating, William Meninger and Basil Pennington. Their work was a response to the exhortations of the Second Vatican Council to become more knowledgeable about other religious faiths through dialogue with believers from these traditions and to revitalize the path of contemplative prayer in order to help Catholics, especially those who had left the church, to find such experiences in their own faith tradition.

Fathers Keating, Meninger and Pennington entered into intense, sustained dialogue with leaders from other traditions who lived near the abbey. They invited to the abbey ecumenically oriented Catholic theologians, an Eastern Zen master, Joshu Roshi Sasaki, who offered weeklong retreats on Buddhist meditation, and a former Trappist, Paul Marechal, who taught transcendental meditation. The interaction between these Christian monks and practitioners of Eastern meditation helped distill the practice of Christian contemplative prayer into a form that could be easily practiced by a diverse array of non-monastic believers: priests, nuns, brothers and lay men and women.

Thomas Keating was personally disappointed that so many Catholics had left the church because they had no idea it offered meditation practices that could cultivate the inner peace and spiritual union they desired. At a monastery gathering in the mid-1970’s, Keating posed a question to his fellow monks that provided the impetus to the centering prayer movement: Could we put the Christian tradition into a form that would be accessible to people in the active ministry today and to young people who have been instructed in an Eastern technique and might be inspired to return to their Christian roots if they knew there was something similar in the Christian tradition?

William Meninger’s contribution was to develop a simple, easily taught method of prayer based on the 14th-century mystical classic, The Cloud of Unknowing. Believers are invited to enter into a deep, silent state of unknowing during which one expresses one’s naked intent to rest in deep communion with God. Meninger suggested the mental repetition of a single sacred word that symbolizes the believer’s intention to turn completely toward God. This made it easier to let go of the thoughts and feelings that would invariably come into one’s awareness during prayer. An abundance of conferences, retreats, audio and videotapes and publications have followed from these humble beginnings.

The Growth of Centering Prayer

Flowing from Meninger and Basil Pennington’s retreats in the mid-1970’s, the teaching and practice of centering prayer has grown steadily in the United States and abroad. When retreats at Spencer could no longer accommodate all who wished to attend, Keating and his associates trained others to teach centering prayer.

After his term as abbot at Spencer had ended, Keating moved to St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colo., in 1981. There he offered a series of talks on prayer at a local parish in Aspen. These conferences and retreats represent an important seminal event in the growth of centering prayer, for they provide a remarkably comprehensive theological context for the prayer and describe the powerful psychological benefits of practicing it twice a day. Meeting in New York City in 1984, Gus Reininger, Ed Bednar and Keating created a network of individuals and small faith communities called Contemplative Outreach, which is now based in Butler, N.J. The past 16 years have seen a steady, significant growth in the practice of centering prayer around the world. From 1988 to 1999 Contemplative Outreach chapters have grown from a few dozen to 154, and prayer groups have increased from 73 to 439.

What Is Centering Prayer?

Centering prayer is a remarkably simple method that opens one to God’s gift of contemplative prayer. Its practice expands one’s receptivity to the presence and activity of God in one’s life. It is a distillation of the practice of monastic spirituality into two relatively short periods of prayer each day.

The experience of thousands of practitioners has convinced most centering prayer teachers that two periods a day of 20 to 30 minutes each are necessary to enable the believer to benefit fully from the practice. At the start of a session, the practitioner has the intention to rest deeply in God in silence and to let go of the thoughts, emotions, memories, images or sensations that will inevitably come into awareness during prayer. The fundamental dynamic of centering prayer is not to stop thinking or to combat thoughts as they arise, but rather to let them go gently so they can pass through one’s awareness. Thus the believer can return with his or her whole being to an awareness of God.

Keating suggests only four simple guidelines for practicing centering prayer:

  1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

  2. Sitting comfortably with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently and introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

  3. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.

  4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

The Fruits of Centering Prayer

A growing body of literature describes the benefits of practicing centering prayer. Since the principal arena for living a spiritual life is not prayer but rather everyday life, the benefits of centering prayer reveal themselves not during periods of prayer, but over time in the way we live our lives.

The essence of centering prayer is consent to the presence and activity of God in one’s life. One opens oneself completely to God and to whatever God wills, even though it may be painful and contrary to our desires. In response to our intention to become more deeply united with the divine presence, God acts within us to transform us, making us more like Christ. One’s intimacy with God deepens and one’s awareness of that intimacy expands. The actual fruits a practitioner of centering prayer experiences will depend on the person’s personality, strengths, vulnerabilities, background, situation and, most important, God’s will. Some may first notice that their life has begun to reflect the gifts of the Holy Spirit charity, joy, peace, faithfulness, perseverance, gentleness, goodness, compassion and self control.

Another important way of understanding the impact of the practice is with the help of the concept of the false and true self. This concept is based on St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:22-24) and was developed by Merton and later by Keating. Paul writes: So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used tothe old self which was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new. You must put on the new self which is being created in God’s likeness.

Merton described the true self as the deepest part of our being, our center, that is united with God and reflects divine love and grace. For Merton, the false self is out of touch with God’s active presence and, as a result, reflects sin, selfishness and darkness. The essence of the spiritual life, Merton believed, was to become more deeply centered in our true self where God resides, so that God may develop the true self and dismantle the false self.

Keating has expanded the concept of the true self and false self into a cornerstone of the literature on centering prayer. Keating describes a false self system, which begins with needs not met in childhood. We unconsciously compensate for these unmet needs by developing irrational compulsions for things that cannot possibly make us happy: power and control, affection and esteem, survival and security. Our conscious thinking and our behavior attempt to satisfy these exaggerated needs, thus re-enforcing the false self. With remarkable psychological insight, Keating describes how the twice-daily practice of centering prayer enables us to take a vacation from the false self. By letting go of thoughts, emotions and images so we can experience deep silence and cultivate our receptivity to God’s active presence in our life, we make it easier for God to heal the false self in us.

Those who regularly practice centering prayer have identified additional benefits. These include: greater access to God’s own wisdom and energy; a significant increase in creativity; a decrease in compulsive behavior; a reduction of painful emotions and negative thoughts and greater freedom to respond positively to them when they do arise; a greater ability to accept difficult situations with peace and joy; an expanded capacity to accept others on their own terms without judging them or desiring them to change; an ability to love others more selflessly; and a greater awareness of the presence of God in every person and situation we encounter.

Leaders of Contemplative Outreach predict the practice of centering prayer will continue to grow because it is a simple, effective and powerful way to access a deeper relationship with God and because it addresses a deep hunger within the hearts and souls of individuals who long for peace and a deep experience of God in a fast-paced, impersonal, competitive and often hostile world.

This article also appeared in print, under the headline "Centering Prayer," in the September 9, 2000 issue.
 

The essence and heart of Centering Prayer is consenting to God’s presence and action within. It leads to contemplation and its continuing development.

The following qualities reveal how this consent deepens through daily practice.

1. Silence arises in consenting to God’s presence within. External silence supports this movement and leads to interior silence.

2. Solitude flows from interior silence. It disregards the endless conversation we have with ourselves and rests in the experience of God’s presence.

3. Solidarity is the growing awareness of our oneness with the whole human family and with all creation. It is sensitive to the ever-present inspirations of the Spirit, not only during the time of formal prayer, but in the details of everyday life.

4. Service is an expression of solidarity that is an inner call to serve God and others based on the realization that God is loving and serving them through us. In other words, God in us is serving God in others.

5. Stillness is what Jesus called “prayer in secret” (Matt. 6:6). This is the experience of God’s presence beyond rational concepts and preoccupation with our thoughts and desires. Interior silence tends to move into solitude and then into stillness. Stillness is the habitat of contemplative prayer. As Saint John of the Cross teaches, contemplation is the inflowing of God into our souls, and in the Christian tradition, is looked upon as pure gift. In actual fact, it is a gift that has already been given. Just by being human, one has this capacity. Many advanced mystics affirm that contemplation is the natural state of human consciousness, of which the Garden of Eden in Genesis is a symbol.

6. Simplicity is the growing capacity to live in the midst of the dualities of daily life in such a way as to integrate contemplation and action. Even in enormous activity, endless distraction, and immense concerns, we can remain in the divine presence. That presence invites us to enter the inmost center of our being where God dwells and where the Spirit inspires all our actions. Simplicity is the final integration and unification of all our human capabilities. It is the peak sustained by a whole mountain of interconnected and interdependent parts, in which each acts according to its particular nature in complete harmony with every other part. Simplicity arises out of the immense complexity of human nature as it is brought into unity through letting go of attachments and trusting in God.

The first step towards this simplicity is simplicity of lifestyle and the cultivation of interior silence through contemplation. Contemplative prayer and action under its influence gradually liberates us from attachments both conscious and unconscious that cause the loss of interior peace. It moderates the tumultuous emotions that can tear us apart and undermine the sense of being rooted in God and in the state of life we have embraced.

Contemplation is not the same as action, but they are not separate. They are distinct, but God is
as much in one as in the other. It is we who may not be present to one or the other. Simplicity is based on the truth about ourselves and the experience of God. It is the acceptance of everything just as it is. The Holy Spirit can then move us to change what needs to be changed or do what needs to be done.

7. Absolute Surrender is the total gift of self to God, a movement from divine union to unity. It marks the beginning of what Jesus calls “eternal life” as an abiding state of consciousness. Self-surrender through the practice of Centering Prayer is a traditional path to divine union. The movements of self-surrender and trust are the work of the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit, and of the increasing joy of giving oneself completely to God.

Knowing the Ultimate Reality as Unmanifest is to lose oneself completely. This is the invitation of
the amazing texts in Saint John’s Gospel about our being in God and God living in us. (cf. Jn 17: 20-22).

Suffering is the consequence of the fact of living in an imperfect world. For that there is no cure. Sharing the divine life does not mean that created things are not good; it is just that they are incapable of fulfilling our boundless desire for perfect happiness. Nothing could be more down to earth or more humbling than this ever-present Presence, which just is. It does not have to prove itself. It does not need to acquire anything. It just is. Its desire is to make us equal to Itself in the expanding interior freedom that goes with that unity.

As we experience the dynamic unfolding of grace, our perspective changes in regard to God, the spiritual journey, and ourselves. In between these stages there may be delightful plateaus which are great blessings and have huge physical, mental, and spiritual effects. The dark nights are psychological states, and the darkest of all is the spiritual suffering that arises from being a creature, unable because of our weakness to handle the difficulties we encounter in this life, but going through them with invincible confidence in God’s infinite mercy.

— Taken from the Contemplative Outreach December 2017 Newsletter

"In growing up we had no experience of the divine presence within, which is the true security, the deepest affirmation of our basic goodness, and the true freedom. Since we did not even know that God was actually present within us, we had to look elsewhere for the security, affirmation and freedom that only the divine presence can provide. The spiritual journey is a training in consent to God’s presence and to all reality.

… This gradual training in consent is the school of divine love in which God invites us to accept the divine plan to share the divine life with us in a way that transcends all that the human imagination can foresee."

— Thomas Keating, Invitation from God


Interior silence morphs into the presence of God.
Then silence is not just silence, emptiness, or nothingness.
It is rather the best preparation for divine union there is, because over time it reduces all the obstacles.
God's love is like the atmosphere that fills every empty space.

From “God is Love The Heart of All Creation.
A conversation with Thomas Keating and Carl J Arico”

 

TWO THOMASES TOGETHER

By Carl Arico

I had a dream. Walking along the road to Emmaus, I came upon two men arguing and discussing the events which had taken place in Jerusalem – the manifestation of Jesus Christ in all levels of existence. I introduced myself and asked if I could walk with them. I listened intently as they talked about the rest of the story — the contemplative journey — the call to be transformed and enter into unity consciousness with the divine. I was spellbound. Although I did not understand all they were saying, I felt myself intuitively responding to the truth of it all. They then invited me to join them at table. I sat dining on their words and the lively discussion. We soon entered silent prayer. When the prayer ended, I opened my eyes and they were gone. I knew something had changed within me; I felt renewed. As I looked around the room, I noticed they had left their business cards: one from Thomas Merton and one from Thomas Keating. They were companions on the journey and I had the privilege of experiencing them together.

Dreams do come true. For me, Thomas Keating created a conceptual framework for the Christian contemplative journey and Thomas Merton embodied the contemplative journey and reached out to connect with social challenges, allowing his heart to be touched by the realities of the world. Their lives and works are different sides of the same coin.

The two Thomases have been spiritual guides in my life. The challenge for me is how to take their teachings and make them a daily reality. Well, I found a way.

I have two daily readers on my Kindle – one with the teachings of Thomas Keating and one with the teachings of Thomas Merton. Each day I set aside time and I ask my spiritual guides, “Well my friends, what do you have for me today?” I then read and listen for words or phrases that catch my attention and I weave a spiritual quilt for the day.

For example, on October 4th, the feast of St Francis of Assisi, the Thomas Keating selection was from Intimacy with God on Centering Prayer. These words caught my attention: humble method, new light, self-surrender and trust. The Thomas Merton selection was a journal entry from 1965 and what caught my attention was, “it is given,” and “beginning to know what life really is.”

I pondered both sets of words for a time. What emerged as my spiritual quilt for the day was, “The humble method of Centering Prayer, which is a gift given, brings to me a new light to know for the first time what life really is when it opens to self-surrender and trust.”

This became my active insight prayer for the day. More needs to be said about these two great contemplatives of our time. I celebrate their spiritual companionship and teachings in my own being each day. I see Thomas Keating standing on the shoulders of Thomas Merton.

From “God is Love The Heart of All Creation. A conversation with Thomas Keating and Carl J Arico”

— Taken from the Contemplative Outreach December 2017 Newsletter

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

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

 

A TASTE OF CENTERING PRAYER

“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 reward you.” (Matt. 6:6)

Centering Prayer is a simple Christian practice that helps us to locate and take refuge in our “inner room,” consent to the presence of God-in-2nd-person, and lead us into deep prayer, devotion, and contemplation of the divine. Largely popularized in recent decades by Father Thomas Keating, Centering Prayer traces its origin to the contemplative prayer of the Desert Fathers, the Lectio Divinia tradition of Benedectine monasticism, and to works like The Cloud of Unknowing and the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. It endures to this day as one of the Christian tradition’s most powerful contemplative practices.

Take 20 minutes out of your day, and do the following:

  • Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within (e.g. God, Christ, I AM, Love, Now, Faith, Amen, etc.).

  • Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

  • When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.

  • At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes, before returning to the rest of your day.

About Fr. Thomas Keating

Father Thomas Keating is considered by many to be one of the few genuinely realized Christian saints in the world today. He continues to be a prominent voice in the Christian Centering Prayer movement through the organization he founded, Contemplative Outreach, an international network committed to renewing the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in daily life.

-- Taken from Integral Life

We consent to God's presence, letting God decide what he wants us to do.
God seems to want to find out what it is like to live human life in us,
and each of us is the only person who can ever give him that joy.
Hence our dignity is incomparable.
We are invited to give God the chance to experience God
in our humanity, in our difficulties, in our weaknesses,
in our addictions, in our sins.
Jesus chose to be part of everyone's life experience,
whatever that is, and to raise everyone up to divine union.

— by Thomas Keating, “Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit”

Centering Prayer is sometimes accused of falling short of true intimacy with Christ. What is meant by “true intimacy?”

Ordinarily we think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. Contemplative prayer, the pure gift of God, is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to the Divine Presence within us, beyond thinking, conversing, and even consciousness itself.

Centering Prayer is a method that prepares our faculties to awaken to the gift of contemplation. It leads to an intimate relationship with Christ that is beyond words, and moves into communion with him both in daily prayer and action. Centering Prayer is Christo-centric and consistent with the Christian mystical interpretation of the Gospel. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Centering Prayer leads to a deeper intimacy with Christ.

Jesus invites us to learn this kind of prayer in his Discourse at the Last Supper: “I do not pray for them alone (those at the supper). I also pray for those who through their preaching will believe in me. All are to be one; just as you Father are in me and I am in you, so they too are to become one in us.” And a little later: “The glory you have bestowed on me, I have bestowed on them, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me. Thus their oneness will be perfected … May the love with which you love me dwell in them as I dwell in them myself (John 17: 20-26).”

This is the teaching that Centering Prayer proposes, following the whole Christian contemplative tradition, and brought into dialogue with contemporary psychological, anthropological, and neurological discoveries, as well as with the wisdom teachings of other religious traditions.

In Catholic theology, Jesus is not just a human being possessing a complete human nature. He is the Word made flesh, the Son of God, who in his divine nature assumed the historical humanity of Jesus. It is through the person of Jesus, the Divine Human Being, that we are drawn to experience the Eternal Word of God, not just through abstract theological formulas, but directly.

At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the Father’s voice rang out saying, “This is my beloved Son … Listen to him.” This listening points to prayer as an intimate relationship with God. As listening deepens, so does the relationship with God, which gradually matures over time until we become one with him. This is the thrust of the practice of Lectio Divina: first to know Jesus in his humanity and historical life, then to know him in his passion, death, and resurrection; then to know Jesus in his resurrection; and finally to know him in his Ascension and risen life in the Trinity.

The practices of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina open us to new levels of responding to the Spirit of God within. This growing relationship may require different responses from us as each level unfolds. In other words, the focus of each level is distinct and produces different results. To grow in divine love, through the earlier stages of relationship is to experience a deeper knowledge and love of Christ. They change one’s perspective not only of God but of all reality.

Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayers, rather it casts a new light and depth of meaning on them. Centering Prayer embraces the unitive stage of Lectio Divina, as do all Christian prayer practices that encourage complete surrender to Christ.

The source of Centering Prayer is the Divine Indwelling, where one is responding to the call of the Holy Spirit to consent to the Divine Presence and action within oneself. Through the continuing practice of Centering Prayer, we experience a deepening commitment to the needs and rights of each member of the human family and an increasing respect for the interdependence and oneness of all creation.

As we move from conversation to communion with God's human and divine nature, Christ, we experience the divine intimacy as it was practiced in the first few centuries and preserved in the Christian contemplative tradition both in the West and in the Eastern Orthodoxy. The contemplative life, already present within us through the Divine Indwelling, awaits our consent.

— From Contemplative Outreach Newsletter, June 2016

If we want to be anything other than what God has made us to be, we are wasting our time.
It will not work. The greatest accomplishment in life is to be what we are,
which is God's idea of what he wanted us to be when he brought us into being;
and no ideas of ours will ever change it. Accepting that gift is accepting God's will for us,
and in its acceptance lies the path to growth and ultimate fulfillment.

— by Thomas Keating, “The Heart of the World”

 

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.

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH YOU TUBE CHANNEL

To watch videos on You Tube please click here

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

— Thomas Keating

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.

 

"A part of the process of letting go is to forgive ourselves and to trust God enough that if we are sorry for our misbehaviors, God has completely forgotten about them and would prefer that we would too. To live in the present moment means that the past has been integrated into who we are now. To think back would be a foolish thing to do because we can never judge the dispositions that we had then with how we now would judge certain behaviors. ... Part of acceptance is just to be still and surrender to God knowing that all God wants is our love."

— by Thomas Keating

 

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...

“’So,’ Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone.’”

‒ Jn 12:7

The word “alone” spoke to me. And as I pondered on it, I realized that it is only when I am alone that I can face myself. It is only when I’m alone that I can know my true self and see myself the way God sees me. And I realize the importance of this. . . That there can be no real conversion if I don’t face the reality of myself first and accept with all honesty what I see to be the real me.

Thank you Lord for showing me the way to build your Kingdom in me.

 

 

“…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.

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