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A glimpse of Reality...

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

‒ Mt 7:21

“. . . does the will of my Father” spoke to me. I was led to ponder on “the will of the Father”. It is not easy to do something you hardly know anything about. Doing His will connotes some effort on my part. First to try to discern what His will is for me, and then putting my best efforts to do it. But, as I pondered on it some more, the Lord showed me that doing His will does not really require any effort on my part. It is more an effortless activity to flow with His will. I have to make my own will “disappear” and allow Jesus in me to act. Everything I do must be in complete surrender of my own will.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me a deeper understanding of what doing my Father’s will is all about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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...

“Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and He will grant you your heart’s requests. The Lord watches over the lives of the wholehearted; their inheritance lasts forever.”

These were the words that spoke to me so deeply as I sat at Mass wondering at the series of events that had taken place in my life. In just a few days, I had gone from peaceful and joyful to confused and sad. As the words Trust in the Lord came to me, I once again found myself thanking the Lord for gently reminding me to trust in Him when things were going well in y life; but the minute problems came, the trust just literally flew out the window. I had forgotten how much easier it was to say yes to His plan whether it was pleasant or unpleasant. This is where my security and true happiness lies. God has a plan, God has a plan.

So, once again, I settle down in gratitude and peace. The Divine is truly so simple. I am the one who complicates things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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...

“Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’.”

 Lk 6:11

The verse in today’s Gospel speaks to me in no uncertain terms that I should reach out more to those in need . . . to get out of my comfort zone and extend a helping hand to more people beyond my family and intimate circle of friends.

Most of my life I have been looking only after myself and my own selfish interests, unmindful of those around me who are in need. With these words, the Lord is telling me that it is not enough to pray, but to live my life witnessing more by my actions rather than words.

Thank you, Lord, for teaching me the way to your kingdom.

 

 

 

 

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

‒ John Main

Door to Silence

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.”

‒ Mk 12:2

In the mornings when I go to the park to join an exercise group, being in communion with nature enhances the pleasure of camaraderie and the exercise itself. I just love the sight of the different trees and plants of the surroundings and the sound of the birds flying around us. As I observe the behavior of each tree in the months that I have been going there, I notice that each tree sheds its leaves at a proper time and not all of them do at the same time. So much so that one sees an interesting panorama of different shapes and colors at any one time: some with young leaves, others with some mature ones, and still some, just a skeleton of twigs.

This picture in my mind reflected the insight I got from the words, “at the proper time.” Just as each tree sheds at the proper time and in its own time, so do people. Each one of us, in our journey, get to our conversion at the proper time the Lord ordains for each of us. Many times I despair about a loved one seemingly unmindful and indifferent about the relationship with God. But my words today give me some comfort that the proper time will also come for them . . . just as it did for me.

Thank you, Lord, for showing me your way of doing things. With your grace I hope to increase my trust in your goodness and mercy.

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? . . .
... all these I have observed . . .”

‒ Mk 10:17, 20

In trying to heed the call of our Blessed Mother to go to confession regularly, I often find myself “groping” for sins to confess. For, like the rich young man in the gospel, I feel I have obeyed all the commandments but more than him, I have also fairly followed Jesus’ admonition to “sell what I have and give to the poor”. But today, at Mass, I heard the priest speck of attachments in its broad sense . . . meaning, not only to possessions but also to relationships, events, physical pleasure, etc . . . in fact, anything that would hinder us from getting attached to the most important of all . . . Jesus. This gave me a lot to think about and I realized that indeed I still had so many things I must let go in my life. I still have a long way to go in order to be free to follow Jesus.

Lord, thank you for opening my eyes to the realities in my life. With your grace, I know I will be able to follow you.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Take this, all of you, and drink from it . . . Do this in memory of me.”

In my younger days, when I heard the words, “Do this in memory of me” at Mass, I thought it plainly meant commemorating His passion and death by attending Mass. However, with God’s grace, I have come to the realization that it meant much more than that . . . “this” was referring to all He has done for us. It meant dying to ourselves daily as we live our lives trying to follow Him. It meant doing everything He has done for love of us. . . Imitating Him as He went about doing good while on earth.. . bearing our trials the way He did, uncomplainingly and joyfully . . . loving unconditionally . . . forgiving our enemies . . . everything He did the way He did it.

Dear Lord, thank you for enlightening me on the true meaning of the sacrifice I offer you daily at Mass.

 

On the last and great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out: “If anyone is thirsty, let that person come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as Scripture said: “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-39)

Each feast of the Liturgical Year is both an event to be celebrated and a grace to be received. The grace of the Epiphany is to know him in his divinity. The grace of Holy Week is to know him in his emptying and dying. The grace of Easter is to know him in his triumph over sin and death. The grace of the Ascension is to know him as the Cosmic Christ. It is to know the glorified Christ, who has passed, not into some geographical location, but into the heart of all creation. . . . What then is the special grace of Pentecost? . . .

On the day of his resurrection, Jesus breathed his Spirit upon his disciples, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” On the day of the Ascension, forty days later, he “charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…before many days, you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The Spirit, then, is not given only once. He is an ongoing promise, an endless promise – a promise that is always fulfilled and always being fulfilled, because the Spirit is infinite and boundless and can never be fully plumbed.

The Spirit is the ultimate promise of the Father. A promise is a free gift. No one is bound to make a promise. Once a promise is made, however, one is bound. When God binds himself, it is with absolute freedom, absolute fidelity. The Spirit, as promise, is a gift, not a possession. He is a promise that has been communicated; hence never to be taken back, since God is ultimately faithful to his promises. Note that the communication is by way of gift, not possession. Like the air we breathe, we can have all that we wish to take into our lungs; but it does not belong to us. If we try to take possession of it - stuff it in a closet for safekeeping, - our efforts will be in vain. Air is not made to be possessed, and neither is the Spirit.

The divine Spirit is all gift but will not acquiesce to a possessive attitude. He is all ours as long as we give him away. “The wind blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know when it comes or wither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” In these words, Jesus explained to Nicodemus and to us that we have no control over the Spirit. In fact, it is in giving him away that we manifest that we truly have received him. He is the supreme gift, but supremely himself, supremely free.

The Spirit of God, the promise of the Father, sums up in himself all the promises of Christ. For they all point to him. The Incarnation is a promise. The passion and death of Jesus are promises. His resurrection and Ascension are each a promise. Pentecost itself, the outpouring of the Spirit, is a promise. All are promises and pledges of the divine Spirit, present and to be received at every moment. He is the last, the greatest and the completion of all God’s promises, the living summary of them all. Faith in him is faith in the whole of revelation. Openness and surrender to his guidance is the continuation of God’s revelation in us and through us. It is to be involved in the redemption of the world and in the divinization of the cosmos. To know that Christ is all in all and to know his Spirit, the ongoing promise of the Father – this is the grace of Pentecost.

Between God and us, two extremes meet: He who is everything and we who are nothing at all. It is the Spirit who makes us one with God and in God, just as the Word is with God and is God . . . the Word by nature, we by participation and communication . . .

. . . The Spirit is the gift of God welling up in the Trinity from the common heart of the Father and the son. He is the overflow of the divine life into the sacred humanity of Jesus, and then into the rest of us, his members.

“If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John tells us that Jesus was speaking of the Spirit when he uttered these words. The Spirit is the stream of living water which wells up in those who believe. It is the same Spirit that causes our hearts to rejoice because of the confidence that he inspires in God as Father. Abba, the word that spontaneously wells up in us, sums up our intimacy with God and our awareness of being not only with God as friend to friend, but in God. We are penetrated by God and penetrating into God, through the mysterious, all-enveloping, all-absorbing and all-embracing Spirit.

Jesus in his priestly prayer for his disciples prayed “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” It is the Spirit who causes us to be one in the Body of Christ. We all received the same Spirit, enlivening us and causing us to be in Christ, in the Father, in the Spirit.

We are in God and God is in us, and the unifying force is the Spirit. To live in the Spirit is the fulfillment of every law and commandment, the sum of every duty to each other, and the joy of oneness with everything that is.

— From the "The Mystery of Christ, The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience"

 

 

God for us, we call you Father.
God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit.
You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me.
Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see you in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
Amen. (So be it.)

— by Richard Rohr

 

WE ARE THE DWELLING PLACE OF THE LORD

By Carl J. Arico

In the theology of Christian spirituality, there are two levels of contemplative prayer — acquired and infused contemplation. Acquired contemplation is how we dispose ourselves to open to God’s presence and action within — what we do with the help of the Holy Spirit to prepare ourselves for contemplation. Centering Prayer is such a method. Infused or higher contemplation is a mystical manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our awareness and our lives as a response to our desire to consent.

The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church speaks of contemplative prayer:

“Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we 'gather up' the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.”

 - #2711, from Part Four: Christian Prayer, Chapter Three: The Life of Prayer, Section III Contemplative Prayer

The first time I read this passage I could not believe my eyes. It spoke to my heart as a powerful, dramatic portrait of the ritual we experience when we enter Centering Prayer.

It is an entering into the banquet of the Eucharist – the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine — a reminder of the promise: “I will be with you until the end of time,” an eternal covenant. And so we gather the intentions of our heart, bringing our whole being to the Lord through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, celebrate that we are temples of Holy Spirit, made in the image and likeness of God. This is a powerful affirmation: “abide in the dwelling place of the Lord, WHICH WE ARE.”

Faith is itself a gift from God. We awaken our faith in God, who is always present and waiting for us to come to prayer. We let our masks fall – the false self, the homemade self we have acquired throughout the years by our disproportionate need for security, affection and control. We turn not only our minds but our heart, our desire and passion, back to the Lord for 20 minutes, to a Lord that loves us and will always love us, just as we are. I am reminded of the theological principles #4 and #5 of Contemplative Outreach on page two of this newsletter.

In Centering Prayer, we let go of our thoughts, feelings, commentaries, body sensations — we let everything come and we let everything go during the prayer. No resistance, no clinging. We hand everything over to God to receive the gift of a “two-armed embrace”— the arm of purification from our attachments and attitudes and the arm of transformation which calls forth a new creation rising from our depth — Christ in us.

You may wish to re-read the excerpt above in the spirit of Lectio Divina and allow the words to wash over you and penetrate each cell of your being and perhaps spend some time resting in the Word. May blessings be upon you.

 

THE ENTIRE WORLD IS SACRAMENTAL

May 25, Feast of the Ascension

To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ…who ascended into heaven” is to say, “I believe in the mystical dimension of life….”

Awareness, the first mark of the contemplative, brings us face to face with the holiness of life. Dualism with all its separation of spirit and matter, heaven and earth, reason and feeling, light and dark, lies to us about the nature of creation. Life is not two substances—one spirit, one matter, one good, one evil—joined together on the tether of a fragile human breath. Life is two dimensions of one creation, integrated and brimming with the Divine in one another: “See these hands, look at these feet, touch these wounds,” the Risen Christ says and yet manifests all of them now in a new dimension, the magnitude of which “eye hath not seen nor ear heard.” And yet some have.

To the contemplative, the entire world is sacramental. Everything speaks of God. Everything unveils God to us. The true contemplative is a naturalist, a lover of life, a respecter of persons, a diviner of the tangible who sees behind the masks of creation to the Creator.

Dailiness is the stuff of contemplation. The contemplative does not go looking for stardust in which to discover God. The contemplative sees God in the clay of the day. Here in the struggles of marriage and unemployment, of dissension and jealousies, of rejection and the broken shards of trust, the contemplative sees the Jesus who showed the way beyond the crucifixion to the Ascension, beyond suffering to the glory of wholeness.

Jesus came to be among us. Jesus walked the earth and blessed it. Jesus lived the life of the living and grew in “wisdom, age, and grace” here. But Jesus raised our eyes above and beyond the narrow limits of our paltry little lives, showed us other horizons, gives us a world beyond our ourselves. In the end, out of the dregs of the worst the world has to offer, the Creed lifts our eyes and our souls to the vision that transcends the pedestrian—He ascended into Heaven. The Creed brings us face to face with the mystical and reminds us to abide there all the while we walk the streets of the world.

The Creed is right. “Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God” and I can, if I look hard enough at everything in front of me, find him there.

From In Search of Belief by Joan Chittister

 

The resurrection of Jesus is not only an historical event. The words of Jesus to Thomas suggest something more. They might be paraphrased as follows: "You based your faith on seeing me, Thomas, but there is a greater happiness - to believe in my resurrection because you experience its effects within yourself".

This, of course, is an important message for us. It tells us that it is far better to relate to the risen Christ on the basis of pure faith that rests not on appearances, feelings, external evidence, or what other people say, but on our personal experience of the Christ-life rising up and manifesting its fruits within us.

This is the living faith that empowers us to act under the influence of the Spirit - the same Spirit that Jesus breathed upon the apostles on the evening of his resurrection.

— by Thomas Keating

 

CONTINUOUS INTIMACY WITH THE DIVINE

By Thomas Keating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— From CO Newsletter Dec 2016

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

— Thomas Keating

“RELAX – THEN JUST LET IT HAPPEN”

By Fr. Carl J. Arico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— From CO Newsletter Dec 2016

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

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

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

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

— Richard Rohr

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.

FATHER THOMAS: GENTLY WAITING FOR THE BEGINNING

By Steven Standiford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taken from CO-e News, Jan. 2016

THE BENEFITS OF CENTERING PRAYER

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

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

To watch on YouTube, please click here.

Consenting to God as God Is

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

The Will of Divine Love

 

Kess Frey

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

 

Silence & Solitude: Wherein Wisdom Dwells

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

 

Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating

all products in all formats:

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

 

 

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

all products in all formats:

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

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

 

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

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

VISION / MISSION


Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. Basil Pennington

Fr. Basil Pennington

Vision Statement

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

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

History of Contemplative Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

  ̶  From Contemplative Outreach E-News, Oct. 2009

 

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

‒ Thomas Keating

 

FAQs on Centering Prayer

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

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

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

ABOUT THE PRAYER

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

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Jn 12:7

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

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

 

 

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

‒ Thomas Keating

History of Centering Prayer

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

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

Matthew 6.6 (New American Bible)

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

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

Taken from CO Website

A Meditation on Centering Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centering Prayer List

A Contemplative Living Community in the Christian Contemplative Tradition

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

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

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

Currently we are presenting an introductory workshop on Centering Prayer.

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

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

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

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH LOGO & MEANING

Contemplative Outreach Symbol

JOB’S REDEEMER – PATIENT WAITING

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

THE CROSS - The symbol of our salvation.

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

CIRCLE - Sign of ongoing process.

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

 

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