VISION / MISSION

HISTORY OF CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH

FAQs ON CENTERING PRAYER

ABOUT THE PRAYER

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The Contemplative Life ProgramCentering Prayer training courseHeartfulness Transformation in Christ

 

 

 

 

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.

The feast of Christmas is the celebration of divine light breaking into human consciousness. This light is so bright that it is impossible at first sight to grasp its full meaning. Only an intuitive realization such as that of the shepherds is able to enjoy it. Later, as our eyes adjust to the light, we perceive little by little what is contained in this Mystery…

Let us try to grasp the significance of the Word made flesh…Jesus did not merely assume a human body and soul; he assumed the actual human condition in its entirety, including the instinctual needs of human nature and the cultural conditioning of his time….

“The Word was made flesh” signifies that by taking the human condition upon himself with all its consequences, Jesus introduced into the entire human family the principle of transcendence, giving the evolutionary process a decisive thrust toward God-consciousness…

“To everyone who received him, he gave power to become the children of God,” that is, to know their divine Source. This is the Mystery of the Word made flesh. Flesh does not merely mean skin and bones; it means the worldly values of the self-centered programs for happiness held firmly in place by conscious or unconscious habits or by over-identification with one’s family, tribe or nation. Christ, by joining the human family, has subjected himself to the consequences of the flesh and at the same time introduce into it the principle of redemption from all pre-rational levels of consciousness. Our own development into higher states of consciousness is the cutting edge of the corporate personality of “the Christ,” the gradual unfolding in time of the new Adam….

The joy of Christmas is the intuition that all limitations to growth into higher states of consciousness have been overcome. The divine light cuts across all darkness, prejudice, preconceived ideas, prepackaged values, false expectations, phoniness and hypocrisy. It presents us with the truth. To act out of the truth is to make Christ grow not only in ourselves, but in others. Thus, the humdrum duties and events of daily life become sacramental, shot through with eternal implications… Commitment to the new world that Christ is creating – the new corporate personality of redeemed humanity – requires flexibility and detachment: the readiness to go anywhere or nowhere, to live or to die, to rest or to work, to be sick or to be well, to take up one service and to put down another. Everything is important when one is opening to Christ-consciousness. This awareness transforms our worldly concepts of security into the security of accepting, for love of God, an unknown future. The greatest safety is to take that risk. Everything else is dangerous.

The light of Christmas is an explosion of insight changing our whole idea of God. Our childish ways of thinking of God are left behind. As we turn our enchanted gaze toward the Babe in the crib, our inmost being opens to the new consciousness that the Babe has brought into the world.”

— From "The Mystery of Christ" by Thomas Keating

A BLESSING FOR THE COMING YEAR

By Thomas Keating

This is Fr. Thomas wishing you all, on this wonderful season, the graces of peace and deeper understanding of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, but most of all into our lives.

Let's take just a quick look at a way of trying to understand what the gift of Christmas really is, in other words what is the primary grace of the feast of Christmas? I think the answer is in a somewhat unexpected place and that's in the story of the Magi, these three kings who showed up in Jerusalem a year or two after Jesus was born and asked Herod, if you recall the story, "Where is the king of the Jews being born?" These were people who had a special anointing from the Holy Spirit. The very name "Magi" in Hebrew mysticism means someone who has been anointed as the kings of Judea used to be.

And so what prompted the Magi to come from virtually nowhere (coming from the east in the Hebrew is another little hint that this refers to a spiritual experience), and so I think we can say that the Magi had within them as a gift this anointing of the Spirit that we receive through the graces of this time and especially in the sacraments but also in contemplative prayer. Centering Prayer is designed to bring us into this state gradually in which we realize inwardly that we're looking for something more than ourselves or more than this world can offer, more than this world can even hinder, and that is the conviction of faith and experience that God dwells within us, and when that awareness grows, then we awaken to the presence of God within us, and it gives the capacity to perceive God present in others.

So the Magi, they got the inspiration that the king of the Jews was coming into the world and that he was a divine person, and the source of their own interior experience of the divine, so it was that awakening of their consciousness to the spiritual level of their being and of their true nature as the children of God and of sharing in the grace of the Messiah or as we would call it, sharing in the grace of Christ or being one with him or identified with him.

And so it was the divine presence in them, in the Magi, that was able to recognize the divine presence in him and to connect with it and to enable them to fall down in worship in front of this helpless infant, because of their moving beyond all the appearances in this life, they resonated, you might say, with the divine presence in all its fullness that was in him, however underdeveloped in the human way because of his infancy.

So the grace of Christmas then, it seems to me, is the awakening within us, the realization or the deepening of faith, that the presence that we experience at times, and sometimes a lot of the time, if we're advancing in the Centering Prayer practice, which is cultivating silence and interior freedom, we recognize like the Magi did of the infant in spite of our fragility, our weaknesses and even our sins, we recognize the power of the divine presence in us that is come to heal us and to manifest the divine love by the ultimate service of the sacrifice of one's life in the service of others.

It's that presence in us that is in Christ that also deserves to receive gold, frankincense and myrrh in the degree that we're opening and advancing in the experience of the divine presence, that Centering Prayer -- and especially when it becomes completely contemplative prayer -- it anoints us, so to speak, especially at the time of these great feasts that symbolize these various spiritual experiences.

And so it's that grace that I pray that each of us might experience an enormous increase in, so that we may then perceive in others this divine presence even where it's completely unexpected and hidden and secret.

This secrecy then is gradually unveiled as we activate the gift of myrrh, that is the selfless service of others, welcoming and embracing the sacrifice or humility that it sometimes takes to serve those in need. As Jesus said, "In whatever need, everyone is our neighbor. Everyone is in need of help," and our own limitations are gradually being dissolved and taken away through the practice and action of service, rooted in a daily practice and penetration of our whole lives by the Holy Spirit and what is referred to in Scripture as the anointing. In other words, the Spirit is like oil that is poured over our heads and that flows all throughout our body and that pushes out all the obstacles to the clarity of our perception of the divine presence.

So, I wish you then this grace and you already have it! So I send you whatever spiritual energy I have and thank you for pursuing this journey.

So, in this spirit, then, let us face the difficulties of the coming year with great confidence and hope. Like the Magi, you may go through a lot of troubles in traveling and getting where you want to but once you're there, then the joy that they experienced, it will also be us, no matter what the difficulties and hazards or how many Herods there are that want to do away with us and our brothers and sisters, or in our time, when we recognize more and more that the whole human family is our brothers and sisters and that we're more united at the deepest level than any superficial, merely human levels of controversy and opposition and that the power of the Spirit through our love will be able to heal the lack of love or the wounds in other people that we're called upon to love as best we can.

I'll always be thinking of you and inviting you into the presence of the Spirit that comes to each of us as a free gift and a true security and the true love and the true freedom, so I'll end there and hope that the new year will be filled with blessings for all of us.

Lux Divina: An Advent Journey
An online retreat in partnership with Spirituality & Practice
December 1 - 29, 2017
$59.95

Partial scholarships available through Contemplative Outreach. Please inquire at pamela@coutreach.org.

6 CEH's available for chaplains

For a description of the course and to register, please go here.

Faith: An Advent Companion

This 105-page booklet is intended to serve as a daily companion for moving ever deeper into a life of pure faith in relationship with the living God during the sacred season of Advent. Scripture passages used each day are part of the rotation of liturgy for the season and are complemented by beautiful images, Fr. Keating’s writings and a mini-practice on which to focus for the day. An excellent praxis to keep attention and intention on God during a time when society tends to be busy and distracted.

$20 USD for hard copy booklet
$10 USD for digital PDF

Consenting to God as God Is

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

The Will of Divine Love

 

Kess Frey

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

 

Silence & Solitude: Wherein Wisdom Dwells

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

 

Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating

all products in all formats:

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

 

 

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

all products in all formats:

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

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

 

A TASTE OF CENTERING PRAYER

“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” (Matt. 6:6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Fr. Thomas Keating

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

-- Taken from Integral Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— From Contemplative Outreach Newsletter, June 2016

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

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

 

NEW GOVERNING BOARD IN CO LTD.

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

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

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

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH YOU TUBE CHANNEL

To watch videos on You Tube please click here

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

— Thomas Keating

THE BENEFITS OF CENTERING PRAYER

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

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

To watch on YouTube, please click here.

 

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

— by Thomas Keating

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

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

VISION / MISSION


Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. Basil Pennington

Fr. Basil Pennington

Vision Statement

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

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

History of Contemplative Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

  ̶  From Contemplative Outreach E-News, Oct. 2009

 

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

‒ Thomas Keating

 

FAQs on Centering Prayer

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

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

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

ABOUT THE PRAYER

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

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Jn 12:7

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

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

 

 

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

‒ Thomas Keating

History of Centering Prayer

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

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

Matthew 6.6 (New American Bible)

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

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

Taken from CO Website

A Meditation on Centering Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centering Prayer List

A Contemplative Living Community in the Christian Contemplative Tradition

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

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

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

Currently we are presenting an introductory workshop on Centering Prayer.

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

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

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

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH LOGO & MEANING

Contemplative Outreach Symbol

JOB’S REDEEMER – PATIENT WAITING

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

THE CROSS - The symbol of our salvation.

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

CIRCLE - Sign of ongoing process.

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

 

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