“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
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.’”
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
‒ John Main
Door to Silence
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
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
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
Thank you Lord for
coming to my assistance.
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
“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.
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.
glimpse of Reality...
“There is no fear
in love; perfect love drives out all fear.”
‒ 1 Jn 4:18
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
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
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
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.”
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
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.
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
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
Drowning out everything else,
And hiding in endless creativity.
RE "VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS"
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:
margaret (8 years ago)
“...i could sense the angels singing with this... :)
thank-you.... Father, Son, Spirit... :) “
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.”
Schultz (5 years ago)
“Beautiful and touching and has real healing qualities. Thank you for
this precious gift. Veni, Sancte Spiritus…”
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,
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.
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
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
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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:
Choose a sacred word as the
symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
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.
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.
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
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,
The essence and
heart of Centering Prayer is consenting to God’s presence and action
within. It leads to contemplation and its continuing development.
qualities reveal how this consent deepens through daily practice.
arises in consenting to God’s presence within. External silence supports
this movement and leads to interior silence.
flows from interior silence. It disregards the endless conversation we
have with ourselves and rests in the experience of God’s presence.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
The Will of Divine Love
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.
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.
Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating
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.
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
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
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
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?”
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.
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 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.
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.
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
which is God's idea of what he wanted us to be when he brought us into
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
"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.
"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
Fr. Thomas Keating
Fr. William Meninger
Fr. Basil Pennington
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
‒ Thomas Keating
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
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.
The intent of Contemplative
Outreach is to foster the process of transformation in Christ in one
another through the practice of Centering Prayer.
glimpse of Reality...
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
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
"...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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.