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A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Lk 10:22

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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...

“As Jesus and His disciples went on their way, a man said to Him, “I will follow you wherever You go”.

‒ Lk 9:57

For many years, I had been neglecting (abusing is a better word) my health with the wrong diet. I was on a “see-food diet”; meaning, I ate everything in sight. No matter how hard I tried to ease up on my eating, my desire for food was so obsessive that it soon became an addiction. Needless to say, it took a toll on my health, my figure, and my wardrobe, too. I developed high blood pressure, felt very sluggish, and had chest pains often. Finally, I got myself to see a doctor, something I also neglected to do in the past. Although I expected the worst, I was still shocked to find out that I’ve already had two mild heart attacks without my knowing it. This got me so scared that I vowed to follow everything the doctor prescribed. As expected, my diet was the first thing he wanted me to change drastically. As I said,, it was an addiction and I knew I could not do it by myself. So, acknowledging my weakness and helplessness, I asked the Lord to help me. Like any addict, I lived each day, one at a time, imploring God’s mercy to make it easier for me to follow the doctor’s orders. Aside from this, my medication was too much for my budget. In all of these, I kept asking the Lord for assistance and He answered my prayer by leading me (through a friend) to a Chinese herbal doctor in Binondo. He was so good that by only looking at me, he knew what was (were) wrong with me . . . exactly what my doctor had told me. He was also very inexpensive. In two weeks of treatment, I had already lost some weight, was feeling much better with all the aches and pains gone. The only trade-off was, of course, my diet (generally nothing nice and tasty), the very unpalatable medicine I had to drink twice a day, and having to go to Binondo from Las Piñas, where I live, thrice a week. There are times when I felt like grumbling about these trade-offs but today’s lectio tells me to follow him wherever he leads me. When I saw my “other” doctor, he was amazed at the improvement in me and said it was almost miraculous. All I could say was “Amen”.

And as I ponder on the way the Lord has led me through all these, I’m amazed at how it was during this Jubilee year when the Lord promised freedom from bondage. I was set free from my addiction.

Thank you Lord for your kindness and mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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...

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

 Lk 5:26

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

‒ John Main

Door to Silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Mt 8:12

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

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

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

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Lk 13:19

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

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

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Lk 17:16

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

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

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath and a crippled woman was there. An evil spirit had kept her bent for eighteen years so that she could not straighten up at all. On seeing her, Jesus called her and said, ‘Woman, you are freed of your infirmity.’”

‒ Lk 13:10

That woman in the Gospel was me. For eighteen years I have been crippled, possessed by an evil spirit and bent so that I could not straighten up at all, spiritually speaking. But the Lord healed me by bringing Centering Prayer into my life. Although there’s still a lot of “straightening up” to do in my life, I know I am on the road to freedom from my false self.

Thank you Lord for Your healing love for me.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“On seeing her, Jesus said, ‘Woman, you are free from your infirmity.’”

‒ Lk 13:11

Yesterday, I was with a friend who, in the course of our conversation, revealed to me a hurt she had been carrying for twenty years now, the perpetrator of which she could not bring herself to forgive. This was the other woman in her husband’s life. This revelation brought to my mind a similar hurt in my life and stayed on even in my prayer. However, I was surprised that the usual emotions of anger and hatred were not there anymore. Instead, I felt quite peaceful and even wondered how she must be doing at present.

Today’s reading was quite an affirmation when the words “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity” spoke to me.

Thank You Lord, for the healing power of Your love.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Mt. 18:2

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

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

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

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’”

‒ Lk 9:61

I had not fully recovered from a very debilitating illness I was down with for almost a month when I had to give a weekend retreat in Tagaytay. Feeling still weak, I was getting a bit anxious that I might not be able to last the whole three days. Not only that . . . my whole body was so “out of sync” that I already felt exhausted just thinking of everything I needed to do in preparation for it.

However, in my lectio the night before the retreat, the word “go” spoke to me. “Just go and do only what you can for it is I who will make things happen. All I need is your presence. You just stand there, open your mouth, and I will be the one to speak.” So, obediently I went, leaving my apprehensions behind. And as I stood there, I not only felt stronger, but everything flowed so effortlessly. The Holy Spirit’s action was so obvious even with the staff who did their duties with much love and harmony among themselves.

At the end of the last talk, one of the participants, a tiny lady who was seated in front, came up to me, gave me a hug and said, “All the while you were talking to us, I knew it was Jesus speaking”. Although I knew it was true, I was so amazed at how the Lord had affirmed in concrete terms what He had already told me the night before.

Thank you Lord, for your kindness and mercy in letting me know in no uncertain terms that it is You and Your action in me that make good things happen.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for You alone, Lord make me dwell in safety.”

‒ Ps. 4:8

Recently, I figured in an accident where the van we were riding fell off the road ten feet down into a creek. It was a miracle my sister and I and the driver came out of it alive. Although the vehicle was a total wreck, the worst injury we suffered was a hairline fracture in my sister’s right wrist. I suffered a few abrasions on my arms and legs and an overall ache in my body. But after a week, all my physical wounds were healed.

However, the fear would every now and then haunt me. But, when I stop to think about it and recall the details of what happened, I remember that even as we were falling, I did not panic. Deep in my heart I knew I would be safe. It must be a fruit of the Centering Prayer, a discipline I have been practicing for some time now.

Thank you Lord for Your healing love and mercy.

 

For those progressing on the spiritual journey, even when the consoling aspect of the Divine Presence dissipates because of excessive activity or too much thinking, an interior presence arises that becomes more and more permanent. A shift in consciousness begins to take place. Our rational consciousness is transcended by the awakening of intuitive consciousness. The rational level is not rejected; we simply become free of its limitations. Reason remains available and functional for ordinary daily life, human relationships, and all the needs of embodied activity, but does not overshadow or take away the deeper and abiding awareness of the Divine Presence.

How can we be thinking beings and not think? The Divine Presence beyond all thought is a state that flows from being one with what happens in each nanosecond of time. The divine activity is taking place everywhere all at once. No one owns it or possesses it. It just is without any limit or boundaries. The presence and action of the Spirit embraces perfect unity and infinite diversity.

To seek for enlightenment is to pray for the reward of one’s efforts to serve God. It is not yet complete detachment from self. The dissolution of the false self is the opening to true freedom and union with God. It leads to the experience of inner resurrection, which is to be taken over more and more completely by the Spirit.

To know the living God we have to share the sorrow of the Divine Heart. God puts up with endless human error, excess, and sometimes malice, in order to get across to us the most important realities of life, of which God’s unconditional forgiveness and love for everyone is the foremost.

We have to be humbled and ground to dust for this experience of divine love to manifest in us. It also happens with varying degrees of intensity. The stages of consciousness are one way to describe the process of spiritual evolution. This is the experiential conviction of God as a Presence of extraordinary tenderness and exquisite thoughtfulness, beyond any human conception or expectation.

Perhaps the infinite gratuity of God’s unconditional love, beyond all love as we know it, is the best way to express it. In any case, there is no end to divine love. As the Psalmist cries out, “His love is everlasting” (Psalm 135).

From CO Newsletter, June 2019

 

EMPTY BEFORE GOD

When one is in deep quiet,
one is very susceptible to brilliant intellectual insights
or marvelous psychological breakthroughs.
… Human nature does not like to be empty before God.
…But if you are going to practice Centering Prayer,
the only way to do it is to ignore every thought.
Let it be a time of interior silence
and nothing else.
If God wants to speak to you in successive words,
let him do so during the other twenty-three hours of the day.
He will be more pleased that you preferred to listen
to his silence. In the prayer God is speaking
not to your ears, to your emotions, to your head,
or even to your heart but to your spirit,
to your inmost being.
There is no human apparatus to understand
that language or to hear it.
A kind of anointing takes place.
The fruits of that anointing will appear later
In ways that are indirect; in your gentleness,
peace and willingness to surrender to God
in everything that happens.

Fr. Thomas Keating, “Open Mind, Open Heart”

 

 

 COMING HOME TO A PLACE I SHOULD NEVER HAVE LEFT

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.

Fr. Thomas Keating, “Open Mind, Open Heart”

 

LETTING GOD ACT

According to quantum physics, various levels of material energy can occupy the same physical space at the same time. In similar fashion, the divine energy can be at work in us at levels that cannot be perceived at all.

On the level of grace, faith is purified of attachments and excessive dependency on ways that are good as stepping stones, but inadequate to manifest the full range of the divine presence and action.

By sitting down to do Centering Prayer we consent to the divine presence, the whole of God in pure faith. This faith, once it is established as a conviction, changes our perspective of who we are and who God is. It operates appropriately through the theological virtues and the Seven Gifts of the Spirit, enabling us to respond to the realities and routines of daily life and to perceive the divine presence in the ordinary, the insignificant, and even in suffering.

Thomas Keating, “Intimacy with God”

A BLESSING FROM FR. CARL ARICO

 

Father, Son and Holy Spirit
stir up within us all the graces and blessings that you want for us.

Enlarge our territory
our minds,
our hearts
and our whole being,
to do your will in ways far beyond our wildest imaginings.

We need your help; we cannot do this without you.
Keep us from being discouraged and second guessing ourselves.

In our desire to do good may we not cause too much harm.

May all our deceased relatives and friends
who are gazing upon the face of God cheer us on
as we enter more deeply into the mystery of the Blessed Trinity
with the Blessed Mother through Christ Our Lord.

Amen

From CO Newsletter, June 2019

On Oct. 25, 2018, Fr. Thomas Keating, beloved by many all over the world as a spiritual father, teacher and soul friend passed away after a long illness, at St. Joseph’s Monastery in Spencer, MA. With broken hearts, we will always remember with much love and affection this gentle and extraordinary monk who touched our hearts and minds so deeply and changed us forever.

We are grateful beyond words for his presence in our lives, coming to the Philippines several times to meet with us, his Centering Prayer family; for his wise and profound teachings thru numerous books, tapes, videos and other resources, and most of all for his loving friendship and companionship in our journey into God.

The following tribute by a very dear student/friend of Fr. Keating says it all. Indeed this beloved of God taught us with utter simplicity but compelling power thru his personal life, what it means to “live our ordinary lives with extraordinary love”.

It was the month of August, 1989. A Trappist monk had come all the way from Snowmass, Colorado to the Philippines, to teach us Centering Prayer. His name was Father Thomas Keating, OCSO.

At the Santuario de San Antonio, Fr. Thomas came in, and there was a hush, and everyone quieted down. I don’t know about the others, but at that moment, the tears just started to flow down my face. I finally quieted down, wondering what had just happened. I later realized what brought on the tears. It was his presence….so gentle, so kind, so full of love but so compelling! It was as though he had caught a glimpse of my soul. No words were exchanged or expressed…just a presence to presence. I felt like I was the only one in the whole church.

We listened, as this gentle monk went on to share the prayer, holding both our attention and our hearts. As he explained the prayer, I was transported to another world - the world of Contemplative Prayer. “A world in which God could do anything… To move into that realm is the greatest adventure. Our private, self-made worlds come to an end; a new world appears within and around us and the impossible becomes an everyday experience. Yet the world that prayer reveals is barely noticeable in the ordinary course of events.” (Quoted from the book, Open Mind Open Heart by Thomas Keating.)

Centering Prayer was new, it was different…it was special, but most of all, IT WAS HOME. He spoke of how silence was God’s first language…and how we needed to learn that language if we wanted to develop a relationship with God. So, as I did this very simple prayer, and practiced it for 20 minutes, twice a day, later graduating to 30 minutes, I learned to trust and love the silence.

Silence is magic. Beautiful things happen in the quiet. Flowers bloom, stars twinkle, grass grows, rain falls, the moon glows… and most of all, it was in silence that Our Lord was brought forth. And it is in this seemingly barren space that the Divine Therapist gently does his work, blessing our wounds and healing in love.

One day, I found myself going to Snowmass, Colorado, to learn more about this prayer. It was fall, the leaves had turned gold, orange, yellow and brown with smatterings of green. The sky was clear and the air felt so clean, so pure. It was a time to bask in Our Lord’s love. Father Thomas said, it was a time to allow God to love me. I felt like my soul had come out to play. It was the “fall” of my life.

He wrote on total vulnerability: “the willingness to be hurt over and over again, without loving less but more. And this meant never giving up on anyone, not even on yourself. Of such is the Kingdom of God.”

Total vulnerability sort of became my golden rule…my mantra. Tough words, but like Father said: “contemplative prayer is the world in which God can do anything…” I just had to trust and believe that I was on the right path.

He said grace was the “presence and action of God in our lives.” In that sense, he was my “grace.” Prayer, love and Fr. Thomas are one and the same to me. Life brought me down to my knees, Centering Prayer whispered to me of love and gently picked me up.

We learned from Father, that Jesus taught us about God, his Abba: all loving, all merciful. I learned about God from Fr. Tomas. He bridged that gap between God, Jesus and me. I met a God who never gives up on us…on me. A God who loved me even before the day I was born, before I was even conceived…before time even began. He introduced me to a God who asks for nothing but to be loved back in return; to unconditionally accept His love as pure gift. Father Tomas was my “Jesus.”

As the years went by, and the prayer began to take hold of me, the divine therapy that took place during the prayer, during the silence, also began its work. Years of hurt, trauma came into my awareness, and in the process, healing would very slowly take place. How can it fail? God is my therapist, the divine therapist. God never went on vacation and was there for me…all the time.

I will never forget this: Father came back to the Philippines several times later. I would tag along with Lita Salinas and Grace Padilla whenever they picked up Fr. Thomas at the airport. The three of them would huddle together, talking animatedly as we walked out of the terminal to the car. I, happy and content just to be there, would grab his bags... so few were they, and walk behind them. Even as he was fully present to Lita and Grace, every now and then, he would stop, reach out with his long arm and draw me into their little circle... and when little by little, I would lag behind, once again, he would reach out and draw me back in. No words spoken, just a gentle smile and a loving gesture. I think that is what cemented my love for him...he was so kind. He was just love personified.

He taught us what it meant to be a true contemplative…doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way, with extraordinary love or utmost charity.

He would say, Centering prayer is like hearing the music rather than just the notes. Beyond all the noises of our mind is the mysterious sound of silence, which is no sound.

I saw that the spiritual journey is not easy. There is a lot of falling down and getting up; again and again and again.

Ever present, on videos, on laptops, in books, and in my memory, he guided us. Always prodding us to move on, deeper and deeper, into the silence, allowing our awareness, our consciousness to grow. And I plod along that spiritual path, falling down again and again, but always getting up, gently picking up the pieces of my life.

To me, he will always be the man who taught me a prayer that has become the love of my life, the life of my love, my life and my love…and I am learning to forgive, even if forgiveness has not been asked of me; and to love even at the risk of not being loved back in return.

In Oct 25, 2018, a little before 10 pm, this beloved of God passed into the night to join the love of his life. He gave his final consent.

Farewell, dearest Father Tomas. I know I should be rejoicing that you are finally in the arms of your Abba, but could you “hold space” for me, to miss you? Just for a little while? My human heart cannot take this all in at the same time. I knew you were sick and one day would have to leave us, but did it have to be so soon? The thought of not being able to see you again, grips and tugs at my heart. My heart is in shambles. On a deeper level, ever present, is an overwhelming sense of gratitude…gratitude for the prayer, gratitude for all the blessings that came my way… a gratitude so deep and so full, that it almost comforts. Thank you.

I know your presence will live on, in creation, in conversations with others, in your books, but most of all, in the depths of my being, in that inner room, where everything is joy, peace and love. The light has slightly dimmed, but there is still the light of Centering prayer. Father Thomas thank you for all these. I offer my silence as flowers in celebration of your new life. The God in me, honors the God in you. See you at the center.

(Excerpts from a National Catholic Reporter article by Dan Morris, Oct. 26, 2018)

Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating, a global figure in both interreligious dialogue and Christian contemplative prayer, has died at the age of 95.

Keating died Oct. 25 at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, where he had been abbot from 1961 to 1981, and where he began his role as one of the chief architects of what is now known as centering prayer…

An Oct. 26 statement from Contemplative Outreach, the international organization co-founded by Keating, said, "It is with deep sorrow that we share the news of the passing of our beloved teacher and spiritual father….He modeled for us the incredible riches and humility borne of a divine relationship that is not only possible but is already the fact in every human being," the statement said. "Such was his teaching, such was his life. He now shines his light from the heights and the depths of the heart of the Trinity."

Keating, born March 7, 1923, was the third of four children born into an affluent New York City family, the son and grandson of prominent maritime attorneys. Presumably to follow a similar path, he launched his college education at Yale University in 1940.

His mother was a Bible reader and his father a lapsed Catholic. However, Keating found himself attracted to religion and told of sneaking out of his house to attend Mass.

In a 2014 documentary, "Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence," Keating recalled: "At 5, I had a serious illness. I heard adults in the next room wondering whether I'd live. I took this very seriously, and at my first Mass bargained with God: 'If you'll let me live to 21, I'll become a priest.' After that, I'd skip out early in the morning before school and go to Mass. I knew my parents wouldn't approve, so I never told them."

During his freshman year at Yale, Keating was increasingly drawn to church history and the writings of its mystics.

He transferred to Jesuit Fordham University in New York City, where he graduated from an accelerated curriculum in December 1943. While he was there, the spiritual director of a camp at which Keating had worked took him and others to visit Our Lady of the Valley, a Trappist monastery in Rhode Island, which was destroyed by fired in 1950. "Keating was mesmerized," reports a 5280 magazine feature story on the monk.

A 20-year-old Keating entered the strict Trappist community at Valley Falls, Rhode Island, in January 1944. He was ordained a priest in 1949.

In the documentary, he describes the painful break from family and friends: "I broke communication with everyone I knew ... and prayed for my family daily. I felt the more austere the life, the sooner I would achieve the contemplative life I sought. I spent the next five to six years observing almost total silence. I couldn't leave. My only communication was with two abbots, neither of whom could give you any friendship or equality."

His grandmother, he said, wrote him from her sickbed: "I miss you so much. I'm lying here in bed, and I said to the nurse, 'If my grandson doesn't come home, won't you please just throw me out the window?' "

Unable to respond, Keating said he prayed harder for those he'd left behind.

Keating had resided at St. Benedict's at Snowmass for approaching four decades, not having left the campus for several years, St. Benedict's Abbot Joseph Boyle told NCR last July. Boyle died of cancer Oct. 21.

Recovering Christian contemplative prayer

Largely in response to the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council's call to religious orders for renewal, Keating and fellow Cistercian monks Fr. William Meninger and the late Fr. Basil Pennington (1931-2005), worked together in the 1970s to develop a contemplative prayer method that drew on ancient traditions but would be readily accessible to the modern world.

Keating's observation that many, notably younger persons, were being attracted to Eastern meditation practices helped spur his work to recover Christian contemplative prayer.

In-house issues and the contemplative work — focused on understanding silence as the language of God — reportedly created some uneasiness within the Spencer Trappist community. Some have described it as tension between monastic asceticism and contemplation.

A vote in 1981 on the continuance of Keating as Spencer's abbot was evenly split. Keating resigned rather than try to lead a divided community. He returned to St. Benedict's at Snowmass where he had served from 1958 to 1961 during its founding.

Freed of the Spencer monastery administrative demands, Keating not only expanded his work in centering prayer, but also spearheaded formation of the Snowmass Interreligious Conferences in late 1983, a yearly gathering of major figures of various religious backgrounds that ran for three decades.

During that same time frame, the growing popularity of centering prayer led to Keating directing retreats and workshops worldwide. That networking, in turn, sparked widening interest in organizational and educational structuring.

Out of that grew Contemplative Outreach Ltd., officially incorporated in 1986. Its website describes the network as consolidating "the three monks' experiment." Keating was its first president.

Fr. Carl Arico, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, also helped found Contemplative Outreach, and has done extensive teaching and outreach with contemplative prayer forms.

In the 2014 documentary on Keating, Arico describes attending one of the Trappist's first intensive centering prayer retreats at the Lama Foundation in San Cristobal, New Mexico, also attended by several others who would become founding members of Contemplative Outreach.

"I went on retreat with him in 1983," said Arico. "I went up to that mountain as Carl the priest. I came off that mountain as Carl the human being who happens to be a priest."

"The growth that has taken place in Contemplative Outreach is a miracle of God's grace and the power of prayer," Arico states on the organization's website.

The website also reports that Contemplative Outreach:

Annually serves more 40,000 people;

Supports more than 90 active contemplative chapters in 39 countries;

Nurtures some 800 prayer groups;

Teaches more than 15,000 people centering prayer and other contemplative practices through local workshops;

"Provides training and resources to local chapters and volunteers."

While the organization's international offices are now located in Butler, New Jersey, its initial headquarters was the dining room table of Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, a member of the founding governing board and a trustee until 2014. Now retired, she was Contemplative Outreach executive director from 1985 to 1999 and was president from 2000 until 2015.

"My relationship with Father Thomas spans almost 40 years and we have shared many important moments in the growth and development of Contemplative Outreach, and it is hard to zero in on particulars," Fitzpatrick-Hopler emailed NCR.

She visited Keating at St. Joseph's Monastery in early July.

"It was very sweet to remember together and to have a few good laughs and shed a few tears. Over the years we have become good friends and companions on the contemplative path," she said.

In the Keating documentary, Fitzpatrick-Hopler says that, "within a few sentences," Keating "brought all my Eastern experience and my Catholic upbringing together all at once, and I recognized him as my teacher. It was almost not so much about what he said but just about who he is, and his presence. And he could just bring it together in such a way that meant something to me very, very deeply. ... Something really resonated."

Speaking in the documentary, Keating provides an insight into his overall sense of the divine.

"The gift of God is absolutely gratuitous," he said. "It's not something you earn. It's something that's there. It's something you just have to accept. This is the gift that has been given. There's no place to go to get it. There's no place you can go to avoid it. It just is. It's part of our very existence. And so the purpose of all the great religions is to bring us into this relationship with reality that is so intimate that no words can possibly describe it."

In addition to Contemplative Outreach, Keating has also served as president of both the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue and the Temple of Understanding. The Temple of Understanding presented the priest with its Juliet Hollister Award for "religious figures who bring interfaith values into the place of worship where the faithful congregate."

Ibrahim Gamard, the Sufi Muslim representative at the Snowmass Interreligious Conferences from 1988 to 2004, wrote in a statement provided to NCR: "Fr. Thomas was able to be nourished by other mystics and mystical traditions, not only for his own spiritual growth, but for the greater purpose of helping to revive Christian mysticism and contemplation — which is why he helped to develop and spread interest in Centering Prayer."

Over the years, Keating shared stages with many of the world's best-known religious thinkers and leaders, including the Dalai Lama and philosopher Ken Wilber.

Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, well-known author and speaker on spirituality, told NCR, "In my lifetime there are few priests or teachers who have both exemplified and taught an actual transformative spirituality as well as Thomas Keating."

"He changed lives and not just ideas. He changed minds and hearts and not just peoples' group affiliations," said Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"He combined good theology with good psychology without compromising either of them," added Rohr. "We were personal friends and I will miss his company here in nearby Snowmass, but we will still have his love — and his books, which will always remain as spiritual classics."

Keating published nearly three dozen books, and was involved in several audio-visual projects.

Some of his best-selling volumes include Open Mind, Open Heart; Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit; St. Thérèse of Lisieux: A Transformation in Christ; Manifesting God; The Transformation of Suffering: Reflections on September 11 and the Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee; and Divine Therapy and Addiction: Centering Prayer and the Twelve Steps.

One of Keating's most popular multimedia projects is the nine-hour, self-directed "Centering Prayer: A Training Course for Opening to the Presence of God," dubbed by one reviewer as "a monastery in a box."

Keating is featured in several YouTube video postings. The Contemplative Outreach website provides links to multiple brief video segments with the monk.

A significant collection of Keating's work is archived at Atlanta's Emory University, which also houses a collection of output from another famed Trappist, Fr. Thomas Merton…

The late Snowmass Abbot Boyle, under whose authority Keating had lived since Boyle was elected abbot in 1985, shared a different perspective in July.

When Boyle joined the Snowmass community in 1959, Keating was his superior and remained so "until the day of my simple vows, two years later," just before Keating was elected abbot at Spencer.

"So, my first experience of Thomas was as the superior who introduced me into the monastic life," Boyle told NCR.

Since becoming St. Benedict's abbot, Boyle said, he "had the custom of spending an hour with Thomas every Monday afternoon. That would include everything from spiritual discussion to particular leadership issues with me and even at times with issues he was dealing with. His counsel was always treasured."

"Actually, Father Thomas was a very easy person to have in community and he would not hesitate to ask permission for anything out of the ordinary that he wanted to do," Boyle added. "Of course, he was my teacher when I first entered, and as abbot I did not consider myself to be his teacher."

When Keating returned to St. Benedict's at Snowmass in 1981, said Boyle, "I imagined that he would use his time sitting quietly in one corner of the church meditating day and night. Instead, the Lord seemed to put it into his heart to start a new venture that would spread the contemplative practice among Christians and support them in it. As such he would fly around the country spreading that word wherever there was an audience desiring it."

Located on nearly 4,000 bucolic acres surrounded by the Elk Mountains, the Snowmass community of about 15 monks accommodated him.

"Though it is very unusual for a Trappist monk to be involved in any ministry like this, the monastic community here, and myself as abbot, felt that Thomas really did have a calling from God to do this ministry, and we supported him in it as best we could," Boyle said.

"This meant that Father Thomas' participation in the monastic life at Snowmass needed to be modified to accommodate this ministry," he continued. "But since we felt this was a response to God's call to Thomas, it did not adversely affect the community, but rather we encouraged him."
Boyle echoed what many said about Keating, underscoring the priest's "pastoral approach to people and their situations" and "gentle temperament."

"He was so easy to approach," the monk said.

Keating's temperament, approachability and intelligence clearly played a key role in the success of the Snowmass Interreligious Conferences.

"Participants met on a very personal level, not wanting any publicity, and just shared their own religious experiences," said Boyle…


While little direct record of the conferences' conversations exists, a 2006 book, The Common Heart: An Experience of Interreligious Dialogue, offers a summary and analysis of the gatherings…


Among the Snowmass Trappist community supporting the spread of centering prayer is Meninger, an original collaborator with Keating and Pennington.

Meninger's 1974 discovery of a dusty volume in the Spencer monastery library proved central in the development of centering prayer. The anonymous 14th-century The Cloud of Unknowing, notes Meninger's website, "presented contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God."

According to the website, Meninger "quickly began teaching contemplative prayer according to The Cloud of Unknowing at the Abbey Retreat House. One year later his workshop was taken up by his Abbot, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington, both of whom had been looking for a teachable form of Christian contemplative meditation to offset the movement of young Catholics toward Eastern meditation techniques."

In an email to NCR, Meninger said Keating's work "represents the finest in the mystical Catholic tradition, with its origins in the earliest centuries of the church."

Keating, Meninger wrote, "was also a much beloved teacher throughout the world and will be long remembered in the hearts of mystics and contemplatives."

Among the many gifts Fr. Keating brought to the wider Catholic community, not least being the success he attained both in bringing the rich contemplative tradition of Lectio Divina — brilliantly taught as Centering Prayer — to a worldwide readership, and the establishment of Contemplative Outreach — an organization committed to the propagation of centering prayer, he was also a leading Catholic proponent of interreligious dialogue, cultivating ties of friendship and understanding between religions. One thinks, for example, of the Snowmass Conference that he instituted ... as a wonderful model of how to do interreligious dialogue in the post-Vatican II era.”

[Dan Morris-Young is NCR's West Coast correspondent. His email is dmyoung@ncronline.org.]

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 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.

— By Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O, CO Newsletter, December 2016

The essence and heart of Centering Prayer is consenting to God’s presence and action within. It leads to contemplation and its continuing development.

The following qualities reveal how this consent deepens through daily practice.

1. Silence arises in consenting to God’s presence within. External silence supports this movement and leads to interior silence.

2. Solitude flows from interior silence. It disregards the endless conversation we have with ourselves and rests in the experience of God’s presence.

3. Solidarity is the growing awareness of our oneness with the whole human family and with all creation. It is sensitive to the ever-present inspirations of the Spirit, not only during the time of formal prayer, but in the details of everyday life.

4. Service is an expression of solidarity that is an inner call to serve God and others based on the realization that God is loving and serving them through us. In other words, God in us is serving God in others.

5. Stillness is what Jesus called “prayer in secret” (Matt. 6:6). This is the experience of God’s presence beyond rational concepts and preoccupation with our thoughts and desires. Interior silence tends to move into solitude and then into stillness. Stillness is the habitat of contemplative prayer. As Saint John of the Cross teaches, contemplation is the inflowing of God into our souls, and in the Christian tradition, is looked upon as pure gift. In actual fact, it is a gift that has already been given. Just by being human, one has this capacity. Many advanced mystics affirm that contemplation is the natural state of human consciousness, of which the Garden of Eden in Genesis is a symbol.

6. Simplicity is the growing capacity to live in the midst of the dualities of daily life in such a way as to integrate contemplation and action. Even in enormous activity, endless distraction, and immense concerns, we can remain in the divine presence. That presence invites us to enter the inmost center of our being where God dwells and where the Spirit inspires all our actions. Simplicity is the final integration and unification of all our human capabilities. It is the peak sustained by a whole mountain of interconnected and interdependent parts, in which each acts according to its particular nature in complete harmony with every other part. Simplicity arises out of the immense complexity of human nature as it is brought into unity through letting go of attachments and trusting in God.

The first step towards this simplicity is simplicity of lifestyle and the cultivation of interior silence through contemplation. Contemplative prayer and action under its influence gradually liberates us from attachments both conscious and unconscious that cause the loss of interior peace. It moderates the tumultuous emotions that can tear us apart and undermine the sense of being rooted in God and in the state of life we have embraced.

Contemplation is not the same as action, but they are not separate. They are distinct, but God is
as much in one as in the other. It is we who may not be present to one or the other. Simplicity is based on the truth about ourselves and the experience of God. It is the acceptance of everything just as it is. The Holy Spirit can then move us to change what needs to be changed or do what needs to be done.

7. Absolute Surrender is the total gift of self to God, a movement from divine union to unity. It marks the beginning of what Jesus calls “eternal life” as an abiding state of consciousness. Self-surrender through the practice of Centering Prayer is a traditional path to divine union. The movements of self-surrender and trust are the work of the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit, and of the increasing joy of giving oneself completely to God.

Knowing the Ultimate Reality as Unmanifest is to lose oneself completely. This is the invitation of
the amazing texts in Saint John’s Gospel about our being in God and God living in us. (cf. Jn 17: 20-22).

Suffering is the consequence of the fact of living in an imperfect world. For that there is no cure. Sharing the divine life does not mean that created things are not good; it is just that they are incapable of fulfilling our boundless desire for perfect happiness. Nothing could be more down to earth or more humbling than this ever-present Presence, which just is. It does not have to prove itself. It does not need to acquire anything. It just is. Its desire is to make us equal to Itself in the expanding interior freedom that goes with that unity.

As we experience the dynamic unfolding of grace, our perspective changes in regard to God, the spiritual journey, and ourselves. In between these stages there may be delightful plateaus which are great blessings and have huge physical, mental, and spiritual effects. The dark nights are psychological states, and the darkest of all is the spiritual suffering that arises from being a creature, unable because of our weakness to handle the difficulties we encounter in this life, but going through them with invincible confidence in God’s infinite mercy.

— Taken from the Contemplative Outreach December 2017 Newsletter

Father Thomas Keating

Founder, spiritual guide and one of the principal architects and teachers of the Christian contemplative prayer movement.

A Life Surrendered to Love

Click here to watch the video

From Contemplative Outreach website

New YouTube Resources:

+ Living Ordinary Life with Extraordinary Love, by Thomas Keating This is a record of Fr. Thomas' keynote address at the 2004 CO Annual Conference in Toronto. The theme of the conference was "Finding Peace at the Center: A Contemplative Response."
https://youtu.be/5yfbPWjaKt4

+ The Divine Therapy, Part 1: Lectio Divina, with Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler
This and also parts 2 and 3 below were one video in a series titled "Transformation in Christ." https://youtu.be/Fs_phIv1c-0

+ The Divine Therapy, Part 2: The Human Condition, with Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler
https://youtu.be/83lMWZ2Dyuk

+The Divine Therapy, Part 3: Q and A Session with Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler https://youtu.be/79GJEKu3UDM

+ Parable of the Great Banquet: Luke 14: 15-24, by Thomas Keating This is a recording of Fr. Thomas' homily from the mass at the 2002 CO Annual Conference in Nashville, TN. https://youtu.be/WifqW1Z-fvY

At Fr. Thomas' request, we are going back to the basics and posting here "Model of the Human Condition," the first of six hour-long talks that are Part 2 of the Spiritual Journey series. This is the second half of the third talk: The Pre-Rational Energy Centers.  Listen here >

Thomas Keating: From the Mind to the Heart

This beautifully illustrated book with the paintings of Charlotte M. Frieze, comes from the conversations Fr. Keating had with his friend John Osborne in 2010 for the film, The Rising Tide of Silence and three years later for the new film, From the Mind To The Heart. Fr. Keating's thoughts about silence and contemplation, power and the false self, and humankind's shifting relationship with God have emerged in the film and this companion book. $25 USD. Click here.

Self-Guided Online Courses

Learn or renew your practices or deepen your experience of the contemplative life. Available
anytime, anywhere with internet access.

Partial scholarships available.

  • Silence and Centering Prayer

  • Embracing Living: The Welcoming Prayer

  • Lectio Divina: Heart to Heart - Listening and Living with God

  • A Journey of Discernment

  • Forgiveness: A Growth in Love

  • The Transformation of Suffering

And more. Visit the complete listing on the CO website at Programs>Online Courses. Click here.

That We May be One: Christian Non-Duality

Though this term has not generally been associated with the Christian Tradition, in fact, its essence runs throughout the New Testament, most prominently in the Gospel of John and the Letters of Paul. Opening to the Divine Indwelling through practicing Centering Prayer is the consent to God's presence and action within us. This separate-self sense gradually evolves into the conviction of self in God.

Six topics are included:

  • The Western and Scriptural Models of Spirituality (15 min.);

  • The Invitation of the Christian Contemplative Tradition Beyond Rational Consciousness (19 min);

  • The Self and Evolving Consciousness (16 min);

  • Christian Non-Duality and Unity Consciousness (18 min.);

  • The Present Moment and All That Is (13 min.);

  • Fallen, Beloved and Surrendered (17 min.)

Formats:

  • DVD package and reflection booklet: $25 USD

  • MP3 (audio only) and reflection booklet PDF : $10 USD

  • MP4 (video) and reflection booklet PDF: $15 USD

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

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

 

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...

Jesus said to the crowd, “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a bowl or put it under the bed; rather, he puts it on a lampstand so that people coming in may see the light.”

‒ Lk. 8:16

Having been tasked to prepare a 10th anniversary supplement of our contemplative outreach group, I’ve been continually beset by doubts about the propriety of having to publicize our group activities, complete with pictures and names of people involved in it. It seemed so contrary to our goal of attaining simplicity and hiddenness in our chosen vocation as contemplatives in the world.

Today’s reading told me that my doubts were misplaced and that I should look at the positive results such publication could enkindle in those who will read it. Much of it really depends on my motivations and only good can result if you do this mainly for the glory of God.

Thank you, Lord, for making me see the light.

 

 

“…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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