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A glimpse of Reality...

“Imagine a person who has taken a mustard seed and planted it in the garden. The seed has grown and become like a small tree . . .”

‒ Lk 13:19

Doing my lectio on the mustard seed in the Gospel, my grandmother, who has been dead for almost thirty years suddenly came to mind. The seed she had planted in me as a little girl has grown, adding a beautiful dimension in my life. She was my first piano teacher and, even though at that time, I did not appreciate much what she was teaching me, she had instilled in me the love for music. My heart swells with gratitude to the Lord for giving her to me as my Lola, for, because of the seed she planted in me, I am able to give glory to the Lord in the music ministry of our parish.

Thinking about my Lola made me realize that I had neglected praying for her for a while no. So, I will do all the requirements for a Plenary Indulgence and offer it for her. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me to keep praying for the souls of our beloved departed.
 

 

 

 

 

 

"For human beings, the most daunting challenge is to become fully human."

‒ Thomas Keating

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“And I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven...”

‒ Mt 8:12”

The visit of Fr. Thomas Keating to grace our 10th anniversary celebration with his presence was to me like a banquet. It was such an awesome spiritual experience that I will always treasure as long as I live. And I thank the Lord for giving him the strength and stamina to come after ten years of staying put in his Abbey in Colorado due to health reasons. His visit was like a gentle breeze, so refreshing in these our troubled times.

So, now that he’s gone back, where do I go from here? I feel I must not allow his visit to just go by without a conscious effort on my part to change. Even just a gesture of gratitude. I must live out whatever I got out of his talks and one-on-one meeting with him.

Dear Lord, thank you for this beautiful experience. May it make me grow in your love that I may glorify you in everything that I think, say, and do.

 

 

 

 

“The recurring theme of all religions is a sympathy, empathy, connection, capacity between the human and the divine - that we were made for union with one another. They might express this through different rituals, doctrines, dogmas, or beliefs, but at the higher levels they're talking about the same goal. And the goal is always union with the divine.”

Richard Rohr

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear and said, ‘What wonderful things we have seen today.’”

‒ Lk 5:26

In these, our troubled times, it is not unusual to look at the general picture and bemoan our fate to high heavens. Many times, I find myself in a complaining mode, too, because of the present turmoil our country is in. However, today’s reading somewhat opened my eyes to take note of the little things happening around me in the day-to-day business of living. A little act of kindness, a loving thought, a helping hand extended without being solicited, a smile, the beauty around me . . . all these wonderful things that make life pleasant, and yet taken very much for granted. As I ponder on this, I examine myself . . . my motivations, my relationships, my actions and I find much room for improvement.

Lord, thank you for making me aware of the amazing things in life I need to appreciate. Give me the grace to be able to grow into the image that You created.

I sit with God because I love God. I desire to go deeper and deeper into my relationship with God. And see what happens. God’s depths are bottomless like a vast ocean.

‒ Thomas Keating

A glimpse of Reality...

“I have been given all things by My Father . . .”

‒ Lk 10:22

When a companion and I met Father Thomas Keating at the airport, I was so thrilled and excited to see him again since three years ago, when I attended a Contemplative Outreach conference in Andover, MA. I didn’t expect him to remember me, and when I was reintroduced to him, all he said was “Hello”. But the way he said it made me feel so good . . . It was as if we were the only two people there. What a perfect example it was of being totally present to another. Surely, this must be a fruit of all those years of practice of contemplative prayer. Then, my thoughts went a little further . . . this must be the way my heavenly Father loves me . . . so intimate, so personal.

Lord, thank you for allowing me a glimpse of the reality of Your love for me.

“The real spiritual journey is work. You can make a naive assertion that you trust in Jesus, but until it is tested a good, oh, 200 times, I doubt very much that it's true."

Richard Rohr

A glimpse of Reality...

“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”.

‒ Lk 17:16

During these troubled times of our life today, I would find myself being drawn more and more to prayer and fasting. As I ponder on the happenings, not only in our country, but also all over the world, it is apparent that this is more a spiritual warfare than anything else. Issues have become so clouded it is hard to see who is right and who is wrong. There is really no way out except through divine intervention.

Lord, increase my faith that I may be able to see beyond all these turmoil and uncertainty . . .that You are always there for us and that everything will work out for the good.

A glimpse of Reality...

“Then, Jesus called a little child in the midst of the disciples and said: ‘I assure you that unless you change and become like little children, you can not enter the kingdom of heaven.’”

‒ Mt. 18:2

This passage brings to mind my two-year old grandchild who is so inclined towards spiritual things. She would watch a TV Mass with me, or the song prayer of the Divine Mercy on EWTN, and, very often, talks about “Papa Jesus” and “Mama Mary”. She has also learned to pray the “Hail Mary”, I guess, from her yaya. Every night, at about 8:00 PM, she would come to me and say, “Let’s pray the rosary already”. And so, whether I like it or not we “had to” pray. She would just sit there quietly, toying with the rosary I lent her and stay until the end. One time, I didn’t hear her call and when I noticed the time, I looked for her. And there she was, with her yaya, just seating patiently waiting for me.

In my lectio about the passage above, I could see in her what Jesus meant when He said that unless we become like this little one . . . unless we possess that attitude of waiting on Him with patience and trust, we can not enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Thank You, Lord, for this little child whom You gave me to constantly remind me that “it is to such as this that the kingdom of God belongs.”

Excerpted from an interview with Thomas Keating and Jonathon F.P. Rose of The Garrison Institute, October 2008

JR: Tell us about Centering Prayer, and particularly the role of Centering Prayer in an uncentered time.

TK: [laughs] Well, obviously the role of Centering Prayer in an unsettled time is to center. It’s a term that comes from St. John of the Cross in The Living Flame of Love, one of his most mature writings, and it’s not a bad term for what we're trying to do, because as he says, the center of the soul is God and so as we leave behind the perplexities and the suffering and the turmoil at least as an obsession or over-emphasis on it, we turn towards our inmost center, and we move from ordinary psychological awareness to the spiritual level of our being, a level of intuition and our capacity for God. St. Thomas says that the soul has a certain capacity for God. To open to this capacity, we need to turn our attention from our preoccupations temporarily to get the perspective on reality which has God as its center.

Some theologians have said God is reality, not just our reality but everything that in a sense is God, in a sense of coming from the Ultimate Reality as the source, whether you consider this personal or impersonal God. The Ultimate Reality is probably both — it adjusts to each thing that exists according to its nature. As we move towards the inner self, one approaches what some folks call the true self; in the Judeo-Christian tradition it would be called the image of God or the image and likeness of God. The likeness is what we don’t have yet or which we lost depending on what your religious understanding or perhaps your scientific preference might be, because in the perspective of evolution, especially spiritual evolution, we’re returning to our source or as the Buddhists call it — and this is just a private interpretation, I hope you’ll forgive me — emptiness is form and form is emptiness. …

So, Centering Prayer is a movement towards the center, our own center, which is also the center of everything else that exists which is the Ultimate Reality or God in the label given by the Judeo-Christian traditions, but which could be called anything. … It’s the faith in God as the center of our being that is not only supporting as an existence but welcoming us into the divine hospitality, the only host that can give not just gifts but Itself to us.

— From the December 2021 Contemplative Outreach News

“I sit with God because I love God. I desire to go deeper and deeper into my relationship with God. And see what happens. God’s depths are bottomless like a vast ocean.”

Thomas Keating

This is an excerpt from a conversation between members of the Denver Center for Contemplative Living and Thomas Keating on April 28th, 2016 at St. Benedict’s Monastery

Our ultimate goal is to integrate the active and contemplative dimensions of reality within us and around us, which some mystics call ever-present awareness, enlightenment, or waking up. To handle the details of living a human life without being distracted from this primary vision is not attained through thinking, but through what might be called the practice of just being.

To take time just to be, which is to do nothing but be in God’s presence for a regular period of time every day seems to be the shortest access to the mystery that is beyond any conceptual consideration. It leads to a communion with God that is more intimate than anybody can imagine or foresee. Divine love never stops coming but waits for us to shed the obstacles in us to awaken fully to the Divine Presence within us.

It’s better to use the word “awakening” than “discovering” because “discovering” suggests effort, and even when effort is good, there is still some ego at work. It takes a while to perceive what the obstacles are. We may ruin our health with extreme bodily asceticism and die too soon. The spiritual journey normally takes a long time.

If we experience emotional suffering, there is probably something we haven’t quite surrendered yet. If we truly surrender everything we possess, we will know the right thing to do spontaneously, and action inspired by the Spirit is where Centering Prayer is preparing us to go. It grows into contemplative prayer as presented in the Christian contemplative tradition. Saint John of the Cross writes that those who practice meditation keep moving to ever-deeper interior levels until they reach their inmost center, which is where God dwells and is waiting for us. …

At some point in the spiritual journey, there is a shift where you realize that the best knowledge you can have of God is no knowledge. That means letting go of every thought, memory, rigid belief system, harmful forms of cultural conditioning, as well as all possessions. It doesn’t mean you despise the values of belief systems because most people need some kind of discipline of mind and body in the beginning. The process of awakening normally takes time. Where is it going and where does it end? It ends in God, which is to say it never ends.

— From the June 2021 Contemplative Outreach News

“God will bring people and events into our lives, and whatever we may think about them, they are designed for the evolution of His life in us.” ...

Thomas Keating

Few personages in the history of Christianity have the rare combination of intellectual astuteness, daring rhetoric, radical message, and contemplative insight that the medieval German Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart had. In his day, roughly 1260-1328, Eckhart was a noted academic, an able administrator, a fascinating spiritual guide, and a compelling preacher. He was a mystic in the marketplace, unafraid of engaging the world while plunging into the mystery of God.

Eckhart’s message to us is to follow Jesus Christ through the practice of detachment, that we might give birth to the Divine Word within us and break through into oneness with God. Essentially, the mysticism of Meister Eckhart focuses on nothing but God. He invites us to follow Christ into oneness with God by practicing detachment: “God does not ask anything else of you except that you let yourself go and let God be God in you.”1 The Meister wants to center us on God and that means letting go of everything else. This is where he offers Centering Prayer practitioners a wonderful gift.

As a presenter of Centering Prayer, I have noticed that one of the biggest issues people face in Centering Prayer has to do with effort. We are trying too hard. Keating teaches us that Centering Prayer “is an exercise of effortlessness, of letting go; to try is a thought.”2 So, it is not even that we’re trying too hard, it is that we are trying at all! We are, in other words, putting way too much effort into our practice. I often hear people talk about their attempts to push thoughts out of their heads or throw their mental content away. At times, when we sit for a period of Centering Prayer, our bodies reflect this inner effort. Our brows furrow in concentration, our neck and shoulder muscles tighten, and our faces become tense.

In the introductory program to Centering Prayer, we teach the “4 R’s”: resist no thought, retain no thought, react to no thought, and return to the sacred word. Of course, in practice, we have a tendency to resist, retain, and react to our thoughts. This causes us to try to let go, to shove thinking out of our minds. Meister Eckhart steps in to offer us a precious gift. He beckons us to relax. He preaches a way of relaxing our efforts and our thinking to release ourselves into the mystery of God. I believe Meister Eckhart would recommend adding a fifth R to our current “4 R’s,” which would be “relax into God.”

Meister Eckhart preaches only one contemplative practice: detachment. He writes, “Detachment makes me receptive of nothing but God.”3 Detachment is the work we do to remove everything getting between us and God. But this doesn't have to be hard work. It can also be an effortless flowing into the mystery of God. Many Eckhart commentators refer to this aspect of detachment as gelassenheit. Instead of the hard-sounding practice of detaching, gelassenheit communicates gentleness. Though hard to translate, some scholars have suggested that gelassenheit means “release,” “loosen,” or “let be.” The Meister also uses words like “self-abandonment,” “flow,” and “sinking.” Here is an example: “You ought to sink down out of all your your-ness, and flow into his his-ness, and your ‘yours’ and his ‘his’ ought to become one ‘mine,’ so completely that you with him perceive forever his uncreated is-ness, and his nothingness, for which there is no name.”4 We are invited to sink into the divine is-ness and flow into the divine nothingness without forceful effort or trying.

For Eckhart, gelassenheit means the effortlessness of detachment. It is as if Eckhart is telling us to take it easy and be laidback about letting go. One of the images that comes to my mind is dropping luggage after a long trip. It is a relief. One of Eckhart’s best images for gelassenheit is found in his treatise On Detachment where he writes, “The soul … loses its name and draws God into itself, so that in itself it becomes nothing, as the sun draws the red dawn into itself so that it becomes nothing.”5 Just as effortlessly, one relaxes into the ever-present mystery of God.

When it comes to our practice of Centering Prayer, Eckhart teaches us to let go of pressure, agitation, and any stress regarding the method. When we relax into God, we don’t try at all. We sink into the holy mystery who is always and forever already one with us. Relaxing is a spiritual attitude, one of faith in God and ongoing consent.

Eckhart preaches, “You should love [God] as he is a non-God, a non-spirit, a non-person, a non-image, but as he is a pure, unmixed bright ‘One,’ separated from all duality; and in that One we should eternally sink down, out of something into nothing.”6 Here, Eckhart invites us to practice the “Fifth R” or relaxing into God by not thinking, not judging, but remaining in a state of nothingness. What do we do with our thinking? Nothing! Instead, we let all our thinking, fade away into nothing. We do not engage them, resist them, retain them, or react to them. When we think our thoughts, we allow non-thinking nothingness. Every time we ever-so-gently return to the word, the ego is softly released. It is gradually reduced to nothing so there’s nothing between God and us at all.

Relax into God is a good synonym to Meister Eckhart’s “sink down out of something into nothing.” Sinking is effortless; the “something” is the effort to make something happen. It is trying to manufacture contemplation. We don’t have to get it right, though. We only need to show up and trust in silence. We tend to complicate things. Trying to do the method of Centering Prayer right, better, or perfectly may, in fact, be the trap of perfectionism. We wind up reinforcing the false self and its need to control. Relaxing into God, as a spiritual attitude, dissipates the need to make things the way we think they’re supposed to be. We think our Centering Prayer is supposed to be without thoughts and so we go about trying to create that condition. Instead of the effort to rid our minds of thoughts, we gently return to our sacred symbol and remain relaxed, not talking back even as our thoughts are constantly talking to us.

Eckhart says, “Now put aside ‘this’ and ‘that,’ and what remains is nothing but God.”7 We are gently releasing thoughts and feelings (“this” and “that”), until we awaken to God. In our Centering Prayer, we release the tension of expectations, assumptions, and fixed ideas. Our hearts relax and drop any preconceived notions about how everything should be. We relax into God. Now, heeding the wisdom of Meister Eckhart, the teaching could be, “resist no thought, retain no thought, react to no thought, return to the sacred word, and relax into God.”

[1] Fox, Matthew, Meditations with Meister Eckhart, Santa Fe, NM: Bear and Company, 1983. Kindle Edition
[2] Keating, Thomas, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, NY: Continuum, 2006, p
[3] The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart,Translated by Maurice O’Connell Walshe and Bernard McGinn, NY: Crossroad, 2009, p. 566
[4] Meister Eckhart: Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense, Translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, NY: Paulist, 1981, p. 207
[5] Meister Eckhart: Essential Sermons, p. 292.
[6] Meister Eckhart: Essential Sermons, p. 208.
[7] The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, p. 389.

L.J. Milone serves as the Director of Faith Formation for a Catholic Church in SilverSpring, MD. He writes weekly articles for the parish bulletin on Scripture and mysticism. He is the author of a book about Meister Eckhart called Nothing but God: The Everyday Mysticism of Meister Eckhart, which is available on Amazon. He also teaches Centering Prayer and leads contemplative retreats in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He lives in Columbia, Maryland with his wife and four children.

— From the December 2019 Contemplative Outreach News

“Silence teaches me who I am. Silence shows me the actions I should take. Silence teaches me what actions not to take because someone else is best suited for the task. Silence shows me the way forward. I need both silence and action. They make me whole.”

Thomas Keating

God will bring people and events into our lives and whatever we may think about them, they are for the evolution of God’s life in us.” Thomas Keating, A Rising Tide of Silence film

My introduction to Thomas Keating was in the nineties when a copy of Open Mind Open Heart was thrust into my hand. I remember distinctly saying to my husband, “You know, there is something in this book!” Centering Prayer became the next step in my search for meaning after over twenty years of studying and practising different spiritual and philosophical Traditions.

Centering Prayer and its psychological background widened my perception and understanding of the Christian faith. There was something about this receptive practise called Centering Prayer that was drawing me. I recall a visit to Raimon Panikkar when reflecting on different traditions. He said that he left Europe for India as a Christian, discovered he was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be a Christian. And as Thomas Keating said, Christ is bigger than Christianity.

I engaged enthusiastically with Thomas Keating's teaching, Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, the Welcoming Prayer Practice and volunteered for everything! I trained in the UK and US, attended retreats led by Fr Thomas and annual conferences. I taught others, co-founded Contemplative Outreach London. I resonated with the nuances and background that Cynthia Bourgeault brought to Centering Prayer and supported her visits to the UK.

In 2018, I was invited to join a newly formed global team representing English-speaking countries. As we continued to meet, the concept “global” acquired a new significance for me. I experienced a fluidity; there was no longer a fixed centre. The centre is wherever the practice takes place. We are members of one body. The body of Christ.

Paradoxically, the pandemic, a global phenomenon with no fixed centre, has had the effect of bringing into the same online space people from many countries, transcending barriers and lineages of Centering Prayer. The practise of Centering Prayer has responded to this global longing for unity and love. United in one body of prayer.

I continued to be inspired by how Fr Thomas never ceased to share his explorations, gather around him teachers of other traditions, and follow scientific and psychological developments to enrich our understanding and living experience of the Divine life. His later recordings show his developing insights about his earlier teaching.

There is a sense that the Christian contemplative life is growing in recognition among spiritual seekers and Christians alike. Thomas Keating’s final gift, the eight poems, A Secret Embrace, illuminated by Cynthia Bourgeault's profound reflections, offer us further insights into Unity.

In my never-ceasing explorations, I was invited eight years ago to explore the process of Focusing as a contemplative practice. Since then, the process, which I now teach, has become an embodied way of life, deepening Presence. It develops the capacity to turn toward our present moment response to ourselves and others with interest, non-judgement, empathy, and radical acceptance.

I could fill this page with the names of those I have met on this journey that I would love to thank and share the joy. I know this one thing; Centering Prayer deepens faith and whilst true faith is imperceptible, at times I sense a sweet embrace of confidence.

May you have a blessed Advent.

Jill Benet has been a part of Contemplative Outreach for over 20 years, serving as a prayer group facilitator, Introductory Workshop presenter and trainer, and retreat leader. She was co-founder of Contemplative Outreach London and the Silence in the City series of talks on the Christian contemplative life. Her "day jobs" included teaching art and creating crystal chandeliers. Jill is currently completing certification as a teacher and guide as an Inner Relationship Focusing Professional. She lives between London and Barcelona with her husband and spiritual companion Antonio Benet.

— From the December 2021 Contemplative Outreach News

“The heart of the Christian spiritual journey is God’s determined will to transmit to us the maximum of divine light, life, love and happiness that we can possibly receive.”

It is there for us to receive. God loves us more than we will ever comprehend. Let go and open to God’s unconditional love. Trust God!

“Divine love, however, is a fire so intense that no one can be fully exposed to it in this life without turning into a grease spot.”

God’s love is strong and powerful!

Thomas Keating

The spiritual life combines an ever-deepening practice of interior silence and service of others motivated by the love for God. Both are necessary for the spiritual journey because they cultivate a disposition of alert receptivity and openness to the guidance of the Spirit.

Contemplation and action are manifested in the practice of servant leadership. For a while, the Church of the Middle Ages nearly lost the vision of Christ as servant leader and joined forces with the political powers of the time. Maybe that was historically inevitable because there was no other kind of force to establish a safe society for people than the institutional Church. But when any group affirms its elite status or superiority over all other groups, there is a hazard that the ego will take possession of that idea and go for it, because now it has an excuse or motive for justifying all kinds of egoic forms of domination.

Jesus emphasized servant leadership to his apostles over and over again. What we do for others
is not to fix them, which presumes that we know how to fix them and presupposes that we are coming from a superior position. We are called by God to care for others as a privilege. All the members of the human family are members of what St. Paul calls the Mystical Body of Christ. He doesn’t need our leadership talents. But he does appreciate and need our practical love and humble service. He manifested the divine humility by sacrificing all the honor and privileges of his nature as the Son of God. If we made that disposition our own, trying to fix situations would change into allowing God to heal the wounds that are impossible for us to deal with, let alone to fix. By making ourselves the servant of those we serve, the divine healing work of Christ can flow through us without our egos getting in the way. Servant leadership leads to gratitude for being able to serve.

The most profound truth regarding the spiritual journey is that we are being transformed into Christ. We are turning ourselves over completely to God in the full consciousness that this is a service that we are offering for the healing of the whole human family, not just for our particular intentions.

Our heart in the sense of our inmost being has to become big enough through grace to take into
it everyone who has ever lived – past, present, and to come. We are loved by God to the point of his becoming one with us and our particular experience of the human condition. The cross is suffering endured out of love for all the members of the Mystical Body and their transformation into oneness with the Father.

— From the June 2018 Contemplative Outreach News

God is more us than we are.

We were in his mind forever and we will be with him in due time, forever, too.

Thomas Keating

Humility is an attitude of honesty with God, oneself, and all reality. It enables us to be at peace in the presence of our powerlessness and to rest in the forgetfulness of self.

Thomas Keating

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

“If we experience emotional suffering, there is probably something we haven’t quite surrendered yet.”

Thomas Keating

NEW: Contemplative Life: Discovering Our Path into The Heart of God

by Julie Saad

This book begins with this sentence: "Contemplative life begins when we take the first step into the silence of our heart.”

And continues: "It’s a pilgrimage—a journey that takes us first to the inner reaches of who we really are, and from there, into the life we were meant to live. We don’t usually start a journey like this unless we’re searching, even longing, for a different way of life. The search often begins when we experience an existential crisis, a trauma, a loss, or sometimes just a weariness with the way life is. It may be a search for purpose or meaning, or a desire for a deeper connection with the Ultimate Mystery. As any spiritual pilgrim knows, the journey is one of mystery and discovery. It’s a different path for every person with one experience common to all: every person who embarks on the journey will be changed by it. It doesn’t matter where you are on your life’s path, whether you’re young or old, experienced in prayer or a novice, religious, spiritual, agnostic, or none of the above. What matters is that something deep in the silence of your heart called you to take the first step.”

Writing from her lived experience on the contemplative journey for well over 30 years, Julie’s book shows how a life dedicated to contemplative life can be transformed. $17.99 USD

Heartfulness

by Thomas Keating, with Betty Sue Flowers

A digital download pdf, this companion book is an edited transcript of the Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ video series, with beautiful images and additional resources for further study, pondering and spiritual practice. 212 pages with over 90 four-color images - beautiful! $6 USD.

Hardcopy on sale $6 USD.
Online video and PDF guidebook $25 USD.

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Jesus did not teach a specific method of meditation or bodily discipline for quieting the imagination, memory and emotions. We should choose a spiritual practice adapted to our particular and natural disposition. We must also be willing to dispense with it when called by the spirit to surrender to his direct guidance. The Spirit is above every method or practice. To follow his inspiration is the sure path to perfect freedom.

— 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.

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"Our ultimate goal is to integrate the active and contemplative dimensions of reality within us and around us, which some mystics call ever-present awareness, enlightenment, or waking up. To handle the details of living a human life without being distracted from this primary vision is not attained through thinking, but through what might be called the practice of just being. To take time just to be, which is to do nothing but be in God’s presence for a regular period of time every day seems to be the shortest access to the mystery that is beyond any conceptual consideration."

Thomas Keating, June 2021 newsletter

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

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.

“…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

 

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH LOGO & MEANING

Contemplative Outreach Symbol

JOB’S REDEEMER – PATIENT WAITING

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

THE CROSS - The symbol of our salvation.

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

CIRCLE - Sign of ongoing process.

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

 

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