PRAYER AND "THE CLOUD"
by Conchitina Bernardo
On Saturday, January 16,
2021, Father William Meninger, O.C.S.O gave a talk to Contemplative
Outreach Phil. (COP) via zoom. It was 9:00 PM here and 8:00 AM
at St. Joseph’s Monastery in Spencer, MA, U.S.A. Fr. William Meninger,
a Trappist monk together with his confreres, the late Fr. Thomas
Keating, and Fr. Basil Pennington, started the Centering Prayer
movement and brought contemplative prayer to the world outside the
confines of a monastery or a convent. All three Trappist monks have come to the Philippines as
early as in the late ‘80’s. Only Father Meninger is still with us.
Before the conference,
there was friendly bantering between Fr. Meninger and Fr. Carl Arico,
a co-founder of Contemplative Outreach Ltd. (COL), the organization
based in the U.S. to which COP is affiliated. Fr. Carl learned
Centering Prayer from Fr. Meninger in 1974 and until his retirement
from COL a few years ago, was a member of the COL Board of Governors.
Fr. Carl came to the Philippines in the ‘90’s to give us formation and
retreat. So COP has a special place in his heart and vice-versa.
Dan Dobbins of
Contemplative Outreach, Florida, and a good friend of Fr. Messenger,
introduced our guest speaker. Dan was Fr. Meninger’s travelling
companion every time Fr. Meninger would give talks about Centering
Prayer all over the U.S. Dan recalled that one day after a
particularly hectic week of giving talks, retreats and workshops, he
marvelled at Father Meninger’s physical energy that did not seem to
wane despite their punishing schedule. He asked Fr. Meninger how he
managed to remain so energetic, and the answer he got from the
travelling monk was: “Everything I do stems from Centering Prayer”.
The conference on Jan. 16
started with a beautiful prayer taken from the book, “The Cloud of
Unknowing” an old spiritual classic believed to be written by a
Carthusian monk in old English, in the 14th century.
"Oh God to whom all hearts
lay open and unto whom desire is eloquent, and from whom no secret is
hidden; purify the thoughts of my heart by the outpouring of your
Spirit, that I may love you with a perfect love, and praise you as you
The book is one of the
best guides in the journey to contemplative prayer and contemplation.
One of the important teachings of “The Cloud” is that there are two
basic ways of knowing God. One is by using one’s intellect, the other
is by using one’s heart. Contemplative prayer of which centering
prayer is the first step leading to it, disposes the heart to respond
to God’s love. It is the work of love that stems from having a deep
relationship with God. This prayer is more pleasing to God than any
other prayer practice.
Father Meninger quoted
“The Cloud“ as saying: “Gather all your love, like roses, into one
word." Applying this advice to Centering Prayer, it refers to the
sacred word that we use to signify our intention to consent to God’s
presence and action within us. “When you love God with all your heart,
and express it with your prayer word, it is God doing the praying. You
love God from your heart. The Holy Spirit through you, loves God. It
is God loving God.”
Through the prayer word,
repeatedly spoken in love, you, the pray-er becomes a conduit. You
open a vortex of love, a gentle swirl of that unconditional love
between the Father, Son and Spirit. You are caught in it and can’t do
anything but also love. The result manifests in the person becoming a
“contemplative in action”, always in a posture of serving others,
always radiating love as one lives her ordinary daily life. We are
both Martha’s and Mary’s, waiting on God and sitting at His feet,
listening to Him, while at the same time doing our duties in life to
the best of our abilities.
One of Fr. William’s deep
insights that he shared with us is the fact that we cannot fathom God
with our limited minds. No one is capable of embracing the reality of
who God really is. In doing centering prayer, we express our desire to
love this God of mystery and wonder. He then honors our intention to
consent to His presence and action within us, by healing and
transforming us in the process. But it does not stop with our
individual transformation. We have to share God’s love with the rest
of the world. We must reach out and embrace our fellowmen. Fr.
Meninger emphasized that “contemplatives are never, never, never just
one thing,” thus the importance of being “contemplatives in action”.
There were 156 attendees
in Father William’s conference, an international crowd coming from as
far as South Africa, Ireland, Trinidad and the U.S. With his talk and
the Q and A that followed the conference, we were enriched by his deep
insights and profound explanation about “The Cloud of Unknowing”. It
was as if the book became alive for us, speaking in a powerful but
simple way, understandable to lay men and women like us.
It was a beautiful
evening, one to be remembered and relished for a long, long time. It
afforded us an opportunity to comprehend more clearly and reflect in
the silence of our hearts what contemplative prayer and centering
prayer are. We have been gifted by the God of Love with this prayer
and we are truly grateful.
Thank you, Fr. William,
for being an instrument of God by sharing your wisdom with us, and for
teaching us how to love God, this God “unto whom desire is eloquent,
and from whom no secret is hidden… that we may love Him with a perfect
love, and praise Him as He deserves." (From “The Cloud of Unknowing”.)
For those interested in
listening to Fr. William’s talk, it is available in the COP uTube
channel. The link is below.
TO TRANSFORMATION AND ONENESS
By Chita G. Castillo
Every second Saturday of
the month COP offers a special event for its members. To kick off
2021, on Saturday, January 9, COP invited Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J. for
a spiritual talk followed by a contemplative Mass. The title of the
talk was “Road to Transformation and Oneness: What to bring for the
Journey'', which piqued curiosity and engendered excitement among the
COP membership, so much so, that they attended in full force. Two
hundred twenty six members were present at the zoom event, among them
the USA centering prayer online coordinators - Joanne Warner, steward
for SPIRITUS online course and Cecile Betit, steward for LUX-DIVINA
Father Villarin’s talk
brought out two summary points of reflection:
terminology, being a scientist as well as an educator and an
administrator, Fr. Jett explained how this can be achieved in our
In the context of the
world-change challenging our lives today, we were asked to pray for
the freedom that comes with transformation, as well as for the wonder
that contemplatives find in building community. He described
contemplation as “the still point in this moment of eternity.”
At the end of the talk,
Fr. Jett led us in saying a prayer for this time of pandemic. “Lord of
life, Help us to listen to what you're telling us these days... Give
us faith to see you with us now, in this boat being tossed by the
waves... Please give us enough light to keep us going… Our old plans
are shot, our dreams disrupted. Bring your dreams then closer to
ours...Help us to be brave.”
RECOLLECTION WITH FATHER CARL ARICO
by Conchitina Bernardo
On December 12, 2020 at 9:00 PM
Philippine time and 8:00 AM Eastern, United States, Father Carl Arico
came to the Philippines thru a zoom conference to give COP an Advent
recollection. It was entitled, “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let it
Begin with Me.” Father Carl Arico is a founding member of
Contemplative Outreach, Ltd., founded in 1984. Its objective is to
foster the process of transformation in Christ through the practice of
Centering Prayer. One hundred thirty seven participants came to that
Advent recollection. The evening ended close to midnight, which
included an interaction with Father Carl. There was a Q and A portion
with questions coming from the participants starting with the
Philippines, and also guests from Canada, the United States, Italy,
United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Brazil and South America.
There was thanksgiving and
much affection in our hearts for Father Carl Arico who had come to the Philippines
and spoken to the budding Contemplative Outreach Philippines, some 20
years ago, for formation and retreat. His reflections have always been
thought provoking and are full of wisdom.
In his presentation, Fr.
Carl used the beautiful painting by Rembrandt, entitled “The return of
the Prodigal Son", as a segue to his teaching about Compassion. The
points that he brought up were moving and compelling.
Chita Gallaga Castillo,
member of the San Antonio Centering Prayer Group (CPG) shared this:
“Jesus asks us to be
compassionate towards others in the same way that God shows us
compassion, this, referring to the father and mother of the returning
prodigal son. Then Father Carl quoted Henri Nouwen, an author of many
spiritual books. “Each time we touch that sacred emptiness of
non-demanding love, heaven and earth tremble and there is great
rejoicing among the angels of God. It is the place where there is
nothing left to lose, where your love has no strings attached and
where spiritual strength is found.’”
For Charit Montalban,
presenter in centering prayer workshops and CPG head of Our Lady of
Fatima church in Parañaque, kept this prayer in her heart: “Lord teach
me how to “grieve” and not run away from the pain, to “forgive”
without guarantee, to be “generous” without expectations. Open my eyes
to see that “there is nothing to lose” when I follow You.” Thank you,
Lord, for the gift of Centering Prayer, which I know will lead me to
that “sacred emptiness of non-demanding love” – Your brand of love!”
Indeed, it is when you are
truly grateful that you find that kind of peace that surpasses
understanding. A recollection like
what we had with Fr. Carl provides us with valuable pointers as we journey in
life. Like Father Carl said, “Let it begin with me.”
(We take this opportunity
to thank our tech team - Len Hizon, Cris Rosenthal, Faye Corcuera and Sam Leuterio
for the flawless handling of the technical requirements that evening.
Lending valuable support were advisers Tess Colayco, Billie Trinidad
and Terly Chikiamco.)
"An Advent Day of
Prayer with Fr. Carl Arico", watch video
“30 YEARS OF
CONSENTING TO GOD’S PRESENCE AND ACTION”
Philippines turned 30 years on November 25, 2020. A birthday fit for a
celebration. A Zoom contemplative mass was planned as a commemoration
for the occasion. The fete was entitled:
“30 years of Consenting
to God’s Presence and Action”
The celebration consisted of
1. A Mass with a
contemplative talk given by Fr. Robert Manansala, OFM.
2. A video recounting the past 30 years. This was full of sharing and
photographs reminiscing on the following:
o How COP began;
o Growth of CPLD groups
o Countless workshops and retreats
After the video time was
made available for questions, answers and sharing.
The Zoom meeting was
attended by 130 participants, both in the Philippines and
abroad, among whom were:
1. Founding member Fr Carl
Arico and other members of the board of CO in the US like Pat Johnson, Mary
Jane Yates and Maru L. de Guevarra.
2. The Dominican Republic coordinators, Vicky Acra and Rosa Assis
3. Online centering prayer List moderators, Cecile Betit and Joanne Warner.
4. Lita Salinas and Grace
Padilla, founding members of COP.
It was with great joy that
the COP members found themselves face to face online with friends and
others whom they had not seen for some time. A happy moment to remember
and hold in our hearts.
“Centering Prayer is an
anticipation of the Eternal Now! You try to do away with everything
except God! You can’t do away with God even if you wanted to. You
place yourself in a face to face situation; you are living on earth
the life that the saints live in heaven, but they don’t have the
problem of distractions. It is the prayer of heaven. The closest you
are going to come in this world to God! Can’t get any closer while you
are alive in this world and still immersed in the manifestations God
had placed you in. …”
Fr. William Meninger
“There is a time
for everything…” (Eccleciastes 3)
"…a time to weep and a
laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…"
And most of all… a time to be grateful; to become more aware of a
Everything speaks of God to me. The presence of God is now more
A realization that our tiny churches and cathedrals can not hold our
He is everywhere, too big for this. And most importantly, He is in our
in my heart. Life as I know it, no longer holds…it is now a time to
Let us welcome our new Reality…our Divine Reality.
XMAS PARTY 2020
by Conchitina Bernardo
It was totally new,
totally different and totally gratifying. The COP Christmas Fellowship
had its first celebration by zoom on December 16, at 9:30 AM. It had
never happened before, this type of fellowship via the air waves,
either on a computer, a smart phone or iPad . They were all there, the
COP members, Centering Prayer Group Heads, members of the Circle of
Service whose tech team managed the event. Present too were the two
ladies credited for bringing Centering Prayer to the Philippines -
Lita Salinas in Manila, and Grace Padilla in far away United States.
Our Masses have an added
facet that involves moments of quiet and contemplation right
after the Consecration, and after Communion. Moments of quiet are
observed for spiritual reflection. Very often though, it is just to
relish and savor the silence.
Father Orly Sapuay of the
Missionaries of La Sallete and COP spiritual adviser, gave a homily
that resonated with those who practice Centering prayer. Father Orly
is familiar with the prayer . He mentioned “Welcoming Prayer" as a
practice that helps us to deal with stressful events in our life . (To
know more about this prayer, you can go to uTube and go to
Contemplative Outreach Ltd. for its explanation.) Father Orly
stressed that faith in God in all moments of life, be they good or bad, are meant for us “to grow towards love, union, salvation, or
enlightenment. The movement is from Order to Disorder and ultimately,
Then Lita Salinas imparted
valuable seeds of wisdom and advice. From the very start of COP, when
she was its first Adviser, Lita’s gift of speech and insights drawn
from her lived experience of a contemplative life has always been
treasured by COP members . Her thought-provoking and inspiring talks
are gems that help us walk our life’s journey from day to day. In her
Christmas message to us, Lita challenged all of us to stand up from
our comfortable place of meditation, to become contemplatives in
action. She told us to ignore the “murmurations” (internal
commentaries) of events and distractions around us, and to focus on
what we have consented to do – surrender to the will of the Father in
every event of our lives, from the most mundane to the most important
challenges that we face.
Fun time was the breaking
of the attendees into virtual groups - 5 to a group to answer 2
questions posed by the organizer. The purpose was to allow the members
from different centering prayer groups to interact with each other and
promote better fellowship as a community. In one group there was a
member who was based in the United States. Participants of the same
prayer groups who had not seen each other, reconnected with the
warmest greetings, happy to see each other again. In one group, two
cousins, one living in Isabela and another in Manila, finally got to
An added bonus was a the
raffle using a virtual tómbola wheel! Five happy members left the
meeting with prizes. Fellowships like this have a way of bonding us.
So are the COP events and activities like formation talks, workshops,
retreats and social get-togethers. For information regarding COP
events, you may go to the COP Facebook page.
Christmas Video for the
Upon the invitation of the Cistercian monks at St. Benedict’s
Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, COP along with other centering prayer
groups worldwide greeted the community by zoom. Wearing red outfits,
the COP group led by Len Hizon, gave their happiest smiles to the
monks and greeted them with much mirth, joy and the best of the
Christmas season. You can watch the short video
By Tess Colayco
On March 7, 2020, just
before the lockdown due to the pandemic, COP had it’s Annual
Recommitment Day. It started at 9:00 AM with holy Mass at the Blessed
Sacrament chapel in Don Bosco parish, presided by Fr. Greg Bicomong,
parish priest. It was a contemplative Mass with
two periods of centering prayer, each lasting 10 minutes, after the Gospel
and Communion. After the Mass, we had the traditional practice of
“Taking a Stand” as taught to us by the late Fr. Basil Pennington.
Essentially we pronounce before a priest our desire for a particular
“virtue” or spiritual disposition that we want to develop or live
deeper in our life. Individually we approach the priest and declare
our ”stand”, then he blesses us with holy oil.
After the Mass, we
proceeded to Roozen Hall for a program where we were reminded about
the objective of our annual recommitment activity. It was to renew the
vision and mission of Contemplative Outreach, and to practice in daily
life "the contemplative dimension of the Gospel" which is expressed in
a deepening of our relationship with God, and a practical caring for
others.” At the same time, it was to reiterate our full support to our
faith community and to each other in our spiritual journey.
Tess Castaneda, head of
the Socials Committee in the Circle of Service (COS), emceed the
program. This year we did not have a guest speaker. Instead we watched
the video or Fr. Keating, “From the Mind to the Heart". This was after
the individual members of the COS gave their reports regarding their
respective committees which included activities that were done in the
past year, as well as their plans for the coming year, 2021.
Then it was time for
fellowship among the members. It was bonding time with the members
from the different centering prayer groups (CPG’s) that interacted with
each other. A hearty snack was served simultaneously with some parlor
games being played, complete with prizes for the winners.
Recommitment 2020 ended on
a happy note, the members bonding with each other as they renewed
their intention of “living our ordinary lives with extraordinary
love.” For after all, centering prayer is not just a method of prayer
but a way of life.
AN ANCIENT BYZANTINE
Serene light shining in the ground of my being,
Draw me to yourself,
Draw me past the snares of the senses,
Out of the mazes of the mind,
Free me from symbols and words
That I may discover the Signified,
The word unspoken,
In the darkness that veils the ground of my being.
By Chuchi Daroy
(As I settled down to
write this, I said a little prayer to Monsi for guidance and
inspiration. Then a whiff of blissful joy came upon me as if he were
next to me and smiling approvingly.)
Monsignor Atilano Oracion,
“Monsi”, as he was fondly called, was a faithful spiritual adviser to
Contemplative Outreach Philippines and a devoted advocate of Centering
Prayer and Lectio Divina. From the moment he first heard of Centering
Prayer from Lita Salinas, he would follow her everywhere she would
share the prayer with. He finally got her to give a Retreat to the Seminary
for Theologians for the whole Province of Quezon and Laguna.
He would also attend the formation talks
that Lita would give to COP members four times a month at Santuario de San Antonio
Parish. He would be up as early as 4:00 AM, leaving Lucena at 5:00 AM
to attend the formation talks in Makati at 9:30 AM. Monsi loved to bring native delicacies from Quezon, like
espasol and flat, thin biscuits called “apas,” which he would share
with the COP members and guests at the snack breaktime during these
formation talks. The COP community looked forward to his pasalubong
treats with great gusto.
Monsi was a very nice
person...comfortable with being himself, simple, humble and
kind-hearted. His presence at COP gatherings was a great consolation
as he was always ready to say Mass, give advice and share in the
fellowship. He would celebrate contemplative Masses on special
occasions that were solemn yet full of light and love. He would be
there during Recommitment Day, celebrating Mass and presiding over the
Recommitment ceremony, and staying for the program and fellowship that
followed. He would say Mass during our Christmas fellowship and join in
the camaraderie that ensued. He was happily content with the modest
stipend COP would give him and would have to be forced to accept love
offerings from other COP members, protesting that he had already
received a stipend from COP. Monsi was a generous soul indeed. At the
wake of a COP member's parent, he celebrated Mass even if it meant
travelling from Lucena to Manila. At the golden wedding anniversary of
Lita, he brought his theologians from the seminary to sing during the
Dedette shares: “I will
never forget the time when I assisted Charit in an Introductory
Workshop and we stayed for 2 nights at the seminary in Lucena where
Monsi was assigned then. He was a marvelous host - so solicitous about
our comfort and feeding us with the specialty food of Lucena for our
last dinner and for breakfast before going home. "May pabaon pa siya,
lukban Iongganisa" for me which he knew I loved. His funeral Mass was
so impressive with so many people in attendance, showing that he was
well loved. The eulogy given by his successor
captured Monsi's character to a T, so simple, so thoughtful and so
giving. After the Mass, before going home, his sister gave us "pabaon"
of "espasol". His sister said "pinagbilin yan ni Monsi. Sabi niya gusto
Indeed, Monsi is much
loved by COP and we sorely miss his faithful presence. Yet we are
comforted by the thought that he is in a much better place from where he looks upon us,
and intercedes for us.
(Thank you to Lita
Salinas, Tess Colayco, Charit Montalban, Anna Marie Llanos, Billie
Trinidad, Doris See, and Dedette Gamboa for sharing their memories of
WORKSHOPS, FORMATION CLASSES AND OTHER ACTIVITIES
The first CP
Introductory Workshop for 2019 was held at Don Bosco
Parish, Makati, on Feb. 16, 2019. Eight people
attended the workshop which was facilitated by Billie Trinidad and
Rita Go. Making sure that everything would go smoothly in the AVR
(audio visual room), Betty Florendo, head of Retreats and Workshops,
staffed the activity.
Introductory workshop was held on Feb. 23 at
Don Bosco Parish, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Facilitators were
Susan Rivera and Chickie Ferraren. There were eight participants.
Charit Montalban, one of the earliest commissioned presenters, gave a
talk on Centering Prayer to a group of ladies from Our
Lady of Fatima Parish in Parañaque on Holy Tuesday,
April 16, 2019. There were twenty-four ladies who were very
interested to learn Centering Prayer so much so that Charit helped
them organize themselves into a weekly Centering Prayer group.
There was a
Deepening Retreat on March 29 - 31, 2019
at the St. Scholastica’s Center for Spirituality in Tagaytay
City. Thirty participants spent the time in prayer, silence
and reflection. The group also watched a video of Fr. Thomas Keating,
“A Life Surrendered to Love.” Staffing the retreat were
Betty Florendo and Terly Chikiamco.
On May 17 - May 19,
twenty-two attended a Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop
at the same venue. Among them were three CP workshop
presenters-in-training. Charit Montalban facilitated the retreat while
Betty Florendo took care of the administrative and other staffing
There was an
Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop held at Don Bosco
Parish, Sta. Rosa, Laguna on May 25, 2019
sponsored by two centering prayer groups: Don Bosco, Sta. Rosa, and
Pedro Calungsod. Workshop presenters were Susan Rivera and Chickie
Ferraren. Thirteen people attended the workshop which was staffed by
members of the sponsoring centering prayer groups.
Introductory Retreat will be held on Aug. 16 -
also at St. Scholastica’s Center for Spirituality,
Training Workshop was held a few months ago for some COP
members who have been doing the prayer and living its spirituality for
several years. Eventually the four presenters-in-training will conduct
CP introductory workshops. Facilitating the training were Lita
Salinas, COP Formator, and Charit Montalban.
member of the Santuario de San Antonio centering prayer group was the
guest in “Headstart”, a talk show on ANC channel TV
hosted by Karen Davila. This was held last Holy
Wed., April 13, live on Ch 27. Len shared with
the audience some basic information about CP, the method and its
fruits in one’s daily life. For one whole hour, Len and Karen had an
engaging and inspiring conversation about contemplative prayer.
Audience feedback about the one-hour interview was very positive.
Monday of the month, there is a formation talk for COP members
at Santuario de San Antonio Parish. The regular speaker
is Lita Salinas, COP Formator. Once in a while a resource person is
invited such as the formation talk on March 25, 2019,
which was given by Fr. Ted Garcia, S.J.
Turn” was the title of the presentation which was about the
importance of pausing and reflecting on what’s happening in one’s life
here and now, then turning or moving towards the direction of
spiritual growth and transformation.
Some nuggets of wisdom
from Fr. Ted’s talk:
An unreflected life is not
worth living. A personal inventory/accounting/review of our life is
important in our human development.
story...acknowledge our gifts and limitations, our shadows.
God is in our experiences.
Don’t be pulled down by
emotions. Like thoughts, we can let them go.
Be aware of exaggerated
emotional reactions, over-involvements.
We need Jesus who
identifies with our pain and can liberate us from them if we let Him
be God in our lives.
Be open...do not judge.
Just pay attention to what “is”.
respect differences in each other.
A problem well defined is
Where is the Lord in my
present life journey? Where am I in relation to Him?
There is a little child
inside each of us ... listen to her... she needs to feel safe.
Define what are our
deepest convictions, values, what’s important for us (i.e., esteem,
creativity, love, etc.)
Identify graced moments
when you felt God’s presence.
What takes me far or near
drives/obsessions bring us closer/farther away from God... (i.e,
materialism, worry, gluttony, narcissism, etc.)
We center our life in our
dignity as children of God. Like Peter, Christ invites us to
transcend/rise above the struggles of our life.
God wants us to return to
our true identity/true self....
The next Formation
Class will be on July 22, 2019 with Lita
Salinas as speaker.
Fr. Thomas’ final resting
place at St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado
(Mar 7, 1923 – Oct. 25, 2018)
In the past year 2 years,
eight COP members passed on. We remember them in prayer and unity
as a faith community bonded in the heart of God forever.
August 13, 1946 – November 18, 2017
Presentation of the Child Jesus CPG
March 10, 1948 – July 27, 2018
St. Ignatius CPG
Josephine “Ping” Ong
August 19, 1939 – November 25, 2018
St. Michael CPG
Meny de la Rosa
May 1, 1941 – April 29, 2019
Santuario de San Antonio CPG
Feb. 25, 1951 – June 17, 2019
Parañaque, Las Pinas, CPG
-------------------- – June 26, 2019
Santuario de San Antonio CPG (up to early 2000. Thelma
eventually joined the Carmelite Third Order Lay Community).
Monsignor Atilano Oracion,
Oct. 5, 1939 – July 26, 2019
Spiritual adviser to Contemplative Outreach Philippines
Jan. 5, 1943 – Jan 23, 2021