VISION / MISSION

HISTORY OF CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH

FAQs ON CENTERING PRAYER

ABOUT THE PRAYER

CENTERING PRAYER LIST

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH LOGO & MEANING

Online On-Demand CoursesThe Contemplative Life ProgramCentering Prayer training courseHeartfulness Transformation in Christ

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

““Now, as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years...”

‒ Lk 12:19

The phrase above spoke to me about my refrigerator. I am amazed at the amount of food stored there that have defied classification… according to the length of time they’ve been there. Because of my habit of buying and bringing home my favorite delicacies and storing them until I can eat them there is hardly any vacant space on the shelves. Then, once in a while when I decide to review its contents with the intention of sharing some of the “older” ones with the household helpers I find that most of them are already too old and inedible, they end up in the trash.

The gospel about the man who wanted to build bigger bins for his harvest tells me of the similarity in our lifestyle… to keep acquiring and storing things for a perceived future use. I now realize that this is such a selfish and wasteful lifestyle calling for a change…to simplify my life.

Thank you Lord for making me aware of my need to change and to share my abundance with the least of my brethrens.

 

 

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

‒ St. Joan of Arc

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Jesus told him, ‘Return home. Your son will live’”.

‒ Jn. 4; 49

For as long as I can remember, this daughter of mine has been giving me some problems regarding her beliefs and spiritual practices which I find so contrary to the Catholic upbringing I tried very hard to instil in her. Aside from the many prayers and novenas I say for her, I never lack in reminding her of her need to repent and to stick to the strict tradition of the Church in order to be saved. Needless to say, our resulting strained relationship was causing me much distress and endless anxiety over her salvation.

Today, the phrase that spoke to me in the Gospel was: Your son will live. It very clearly told me not to worry so much about my daughter because her life was in God’s hands and, no matter how much I think I love her, I could never love her more than the Father can. At our support group sharing, I was also struck with the awareness that I was the one who had the problem because I could not accept her the way she was… that she was different from me and therefore was searching for God in her own way. I realize now that this situation is allowing me to learn much about myself in the light of my relationship with my daughter.

Thank you Lord, for making me see your love and mercy in the midst of this turmoil I feel. I hope that with your grace I may be able to do the right thing so that Your Will may be done.

 

 

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...

“His heart was moved with pity for them.”

 Mt. 14:14

Jesus never found any man a nuisance, even when His whole being was crying out for rest and quiet. This tells of Jesus’ compassion for people…and speaks to me forcefully today. I can identify with Jesus’ desire to go to a place apart…to withdraw, to grieve, to rest, to pray, to simply regroup one’s energies. I feel it all the more these days since I always seem to be tired, out of sorts, fragmented. All my morning resolutions to be loving and understanding seem to be blown to smithereens before the hour is over…

Today, Lord, all I can offer You are my best efforts, little as they are. Transform them, Lord, into acts of love as only You can…

 

 

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

‒ John Main

Door to Silence

 

Easter is the awakening of divine life in us. “Christ is risen!” is not merely the cry of all the people of God throughout the centuries who have realized Christ rising in them, not only in the form of emotional enthusiasm, but in the form of unshakable conviction. The light of Christ reveals the fact of our abiding union with him and its potential to transform every aspect of our lives.

. . . The resurrection of Jesus is the first day of the New Creation. The events following the resurrection and the various appearances of Jesus to his disciples and friends are used in the liturgy to help us understand the significance of this central Mystery of our faith.

. . . In the Christian scheme of things, the movement from the human condition to divine transformation requires the mediation of a personal relationship with God. The personal love of Jesus facilitates the growth of this relationship. The experience of being loved by Him draws the Christian out of all selfishness into deeper levels of self-surrender.

. . . The forgiveness of sins and the consequent restoration of friendship with God is the great triumph of Jesus’ sacrifice. This is the true security that every human heart yearns for. Jesus’ sacrifice frees us from the separate self-sense and from the alienation that flows from it. This is the peace that the world cannot give. The peace of Christ comes from the inner experience of his resurrection, the realization of the union of our true self with the Ultimate Reality. . .

The Ascension

After speaking with them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his seat at God’s right hand. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere. (Mark 16:19-20)

By becoming a human being Christ annihilated the dichotomy between matter and spirit. In the Person of the Divine-human Being, a continuum between the divine and the human has been established. Thus, God’s plan is not only to spiritualize the material universe, but to make matter itself divine. . . . The grace bestowed on us by the Ascension of Jesus is the divinization of our humanity. Our individuality is permeated by the Spirit of God through the grace of the Ascension and more specifically through the grace of Pentecost. Thus, we in Christ, are also annihilating the dichotomy between matter and spirit. Our life is a mysterious interpenetration of material experience, spiritual reality and the divine Presence.

The key to being a Christian is to know Jesus Christ with the whole of our being. It is important to know his sacred humanity through our senses and to reflect upon it with our reason, to treasure his teaching and example in our imagination and memory, and to imitate him by a life of moral integrity. But this is only the beginning. It is to the transcendent potential in ourselves – to our mind which opens up to unlimited truth, and to our will which reaches out for unlimited love – that Christ addresses himself in the Gospel with particular urgency.

Not only is it important to know Jesus Christ with the whole of our being; it is also important to know Jesus Christ in the whole of his being. We must know Christ, first of all, in his sacred humanity and historical reality and more, precisely, in his passion, which was the culminating point of his divinity. The essential note of his passion is the emptying of his divinity. We enter into his emptying by accepting the emptying process in our own life, by laying aside our false self and by living in the presence of God, the source of our being.

We must know Christ, however, not only in his human nature – his passion, and emptying – but also in his divinity. This is the grace of the resurrection. It is the empowerment to live his risen life. It is the grace not to sin. It is the grace to express his risen life in the face of our inner poverty without at the same time ceasing to feel it.

The grace of the Ascension offers a still more incredible union, a more entrancing invitation to unbounded life and love. This is the invitation to enter into the Cosmic Christ – into his divine person, the Word of God, who has always been present in the world . . . This is the Christ who disappeared in his Ascension beyond the clouds, not into some geographical location, but into the heart of all creation. In particular, he has penetrated the very depths of our being, our separate self-sense has melted into his divine Person, and now we can act under the direct influence of his Spirit. Thus, even if we drink a cup of soup or walk down the street, it is Christ living and acting in us, transforming the world from within. This transformation appears in the guise of ordinary things – in the guise of our seemingly insignificant daily routine.

. . . The grace of the Ascension is the triumphant faith that believes that God’s will is being done no matter what happens. It believes that creation is already glorified, though in a hidden manner, as it awaits the full revelation of the children of God.

The grace of the Ascension enables us to perceive the irresistible power of the Spirit transforming everything into Christ despite any and all appearances to the contrary. In the misery of the ghetto, the battlefield, the concentration camp; in the family torn by dissension; in the loneliness of the orphanage, old-age home, or hospital ward – whatever we see that seems to be disintegrating into the grosser forms of evil – the light of the Ascension is burning with irresistible power. This faith finds Christ not only in the beauty of nature, art, human friendship and the service of others, but also in the malice and injustice of people or institutions, and in the inexplicable suffering of God for humanity, a hunger that he intends to satisfy.

. . . “Christ is all in all” – meaning now, not just in the future. At this very moment we too have the grace to see Christ’s light shining in our hearts, to feel his absorbing Presence within us, and to perceive in every created thing – even in the most disconcerting – the presence of his light, love and glory.

— Taken from The Mystery of Christ . . . . The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience"

 

NEW GOVERNING BOARD IN CO LTD.

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

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

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

 

GOD IS ALREADY HERE

By Fr. Thomas Keating

We used to think that time and space were limited. But now we know the galaxies are going beyond space as we know it and are going away so fast that in another generation, we are told, their light will no longer be seen by planet earth. They are travelling faster than light, and will soon get so far away that their light can never again get back to us.

So take a good look at the sky. It’s our last chance to see the oldest galaxies. Where are they going? We don’t know. The realization that we know very little about the universe grows as we experience the presence of God everywhere. When we see God everywhere, we don’t care about knowledge. That divine presence enables us to forget ourselves and enter into collaboration with the creation of the universe. Apparently we have been given an enormous capacity to affect it. We are accountable for everyone else in the human family and for all living things. For all practical purposes, how we treat other people is what we are doing to ourselves.

God is already here. Hence, to search for God at a certain point in our spiritual evolution is a mistake. It is no longer the proper time for that kind of effort. The most productive effort is to accept the endless humiliations of the false self. The spiritual journey is not a career, but a succession of “diminutions of self,” as Teilhard de Chardin put it. This has nothing to do  with the neurosis of a low self-image. It is simply the fact that we are completely dependent on the love of God. We are always in the arms of the beloved, whatever we may feel or think.

A new asceticism for people of good will might be the practice of goodness; that is, just being good to everybody. It presupposes the immense evolutionary process from matter in its most primitive form to the transformation of developing human intelligence and freedom into the divine life itself. God, out of his infinite mercy, made himself equal to us in the Incarnation by identifying with the human condition. God makes us equal to him by transforming us into his own unconditional love.

What maintains our growth on the spiritual journey are not ideas but insight. Such are the inspirations of the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit. In prayer, not thinking but being is the primary practice. Thinking about ourselves or the ups and downs of the present moment is not it.

Doing out of the sense of being lived in by God is getting close.

— From CO News, Dec. 2015

AWARD FROM SHALEM INSTITUTE

On March 10 in Washington DC the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation honored Thomas Keating and Contemplative Outreach with their 2016 Contemplative Voices Award. At left, Al Keeney and Margaret Benefiel of Shalem flank Fr. Thomas and Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, Executive Director of Contemplative Outreach. Shalem gives the award to "individuals who have made significant contributions to contemplative understanding, living and leadership ..." This was the first year they also honored an organization.

 

The second picture at right is Gail standing next to the picture of Fr. Thomas, who presented a message of gratitude via pre-recorded video.

Taken from the March 2016 e-Bulletin from Contemplative Outreach

 

 

 

 

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

Thomas Keating

PRAYER GRID

On the occasion of Fr. Thomas Keating’s 93’rd birthday last Mar.7, the world-wide community of centering prayer practitioners “covered” him with their prayers for 24 hours starting on March 7 and ending on March 8, 2016. This love offering to our beloved founder, teacher, and friend, Fr. Thomas, was painstakingly organized by Billie Trinidad who patiently contacted and followed up the different CO groups locally and internationally regarding the birthday prayer grid for Fr. Keating. The practice has been going on for the past 10 years, our concrete way of expressing our gratefulness to Fr. Thomas for the gift of centering prayer, and for his continuing inspiration and guidance thru his teachings and personal example.

In his message of thanks for our spiritual bouquet of prayers wherein each one of us did a 30-minute period of centering prayer, Fr. Keating said he was deeply touched and grateful for our love and prayers. May the Lord continue to bless him with peace, joy, and strength in the year(s) ahead.
 

"The spiritual journey is not a career, but a succession of 'diminutions of self,' as Teilhard de Chardin put it. This has nothing to do with the neurosis of a low self-image. It is simply the fact that we are completely dependent on the love of God. We are always in the arms of the beloved, whatever we may feel or think."
 

Thomas Keating

FATHER THOMAS: GENTLY WAITING FOR THE BEGINNING

By Steven Standiford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taken from C-e News, Jan. 2016

Prayer is a way of life, spirituality in the fullest sense of the word. Not just a hobby, not just a weekend activity, but a way of life that pervades and touches everything you are and do. It therefore means ultimately a total conversion of heart, along with deep faithful stability and integration of the personality, the healing of your wounds and hang-ups, and the incarnation of faith in all the ways that we learn to love.

Laurence Freeman

THE BENEFITS OF CENTERING PRAYER

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

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

To watch on YouTube, please click here.

Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating

all products in all formats:

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

 

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

all products in all formats:

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

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

 

God is infinite love, which really changes everything. Most religious people have put the cart before the horse by imagining that we can earn God's love by some kind of moral behavior. Whereas, according to the saints and mystics, God's love must be experienced first--and then our moral behavior is merely an outflowing from our contact with that infinite source toward all other people and things. Love is the powerful horse; morality is then the beautiful cart that it pulls, not the other way around.
 

Thomas Keating

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

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

VISION / MISSION


Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. Basil Pennington

Fr. Basil Pennington

Vision Statement

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

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

History of Contemplative Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

  ̶  From Contemplative Outreach E-News, Oct. 2009

 

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

‒ Thomas Keating

 

FAQs on Centering Prayer

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

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

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

ABOUT THE PRAYER

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

A glimpse of Reality...

“You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”

‒ Lk. 10:27

The formulation of a Rule of Life had been on my mind these past few days. So, quite naturally, in the readings today, our Lord speaks to me about my Rule of Life. He asks me to take a closer look at love. How sensitive am I to His love…am I aware of the moments throughout the day when His love is made manifest…do I hear His cry for love in the poor, the sick, the oppressed, in those who are hurting…in my son who has been my thorn in the flesh?
He asks of me to introspect on my growth in loving and to look into arrears that have prevented me from loving not only “my neighbour as myself,” but in loving as He has loved…to be totally vulnerable…to be hurt over and over again and still continue to love.

Help! Lord, I’ve got a long way to go…The journey has just begun, but I am willing to take the first step.

 

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

‒ Thomas Keating

History of Centering Prayer

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

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

Matthew 6.6 (New American Bible)

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

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

Taken from CO Website

A Meditation on Centering Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centering Prayer List

A Contemplative Living Community in the Christian Contemplative Tradition

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

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

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

Currently we are presenting an introductory workshop on Centering Prayer.

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

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

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

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH LOGO & MEANING

Contemplative Outreach Symbol

JOB’S REDEEMER – PATIENT WAITING

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

THE CROSS - The symbol of our salvation.

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

CIRCLE - Sign of ongoing process.

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

 

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