AFTER EVERY CRUCIFIXION IS RESURRECTION AND HEALING

By Dedette Gamboa

Following Christ and living a life of total self-surrender and obedience to the Father is a life-long journey especially if one is a controlling and take-charge person. It took a crisis to show me that I was not in charge of my life and that God was. When I was 60, I decided to take my optional retirement to be able to spend more time with my ageing mother. But before retiring, I decided to go on a two-week retreat in the States to discern what I should do with my life after retirement. In those two weeks in a convent in Indiana, I experienced God’s abiding presence and great love for me. It was a beautiful spiritual experience. I did not know that God was preparing me for a big surprise!

As soon as my plane landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I opened my cellphone and received a message from my sister to rush directly from the airport to the ICU at Makati Med. When I arrived at the ICU, I saw the doctors pumping my mother trying to revive her. They just waited for me to say my goodbye before pronouncing her dead! I was in a shock!!! I left my mother hale and hearty and now, just after two weeks, she was dead! At that moment , I felt I had gone through my passion and crucifixion. I surrendered to God, someone whom I loved dearly for whom I had given up my job. The Lord asked from me two of the most precious things around which my life revolved, my mother and my work. It was truly a dying to self. God took away two loves that competed with my loving Him fully and completely. I felt miserable and lost but God never abandoned me. He accompanied me through my grief and pain.

God does not leave a vacuum. What He takes away, He fills in. The loss of my mother drew me much closer to my siblings and their family and my spiritual family grew. Through them I experience God’s great love and care for me. My work is now my service to God and my community. Having retired and living alone, I have more time for my Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina. In Centering Prayer, I sit in silence accepting God’s presence and HEALING ACTION In my life while in Lectio Divina I try to discern God’s will and OBEY. These two prayers have deepened my relationship with the Lord. Therefore, just like Mary Magdalene and the disciples of Jesus, I can truly say I HAVE MET THE LORD! HE IS RISEN !

CONVERTED TO WHAT?

Metanoia, conversion, is an ancient concept that is deeply embedded in the monastic worldview. Early seekers went to the desert to escape the spiritual aridity of the cities, to concentrate on things of God. “Flight from the world”—separation from the systems and vitiated values that drove the world around them—became the mark of the true contemplative. To be a contemplative in a world bent on materialism and suffocated with itself, conversion was fundamental. But conversion to what?

The answer never changes. In every great religious tradition the concept is clear: To be a contemplative we must be converted to the consciousness that makes us one with the universe, in tune with the cosmic voice of God. We must become aware of the sacred in every single element of life. We must bring beauty to birth in a poor and plastic world. We must restore the human community. We must grow in concert with the God who is within. We must be healers in a harsh society. We must become all those things that are the ground of contemplation, the fruits of contemplation, the end of contemplation.

The contemplative life is about being in the world differently. What needs to be changed in us? Anything that makes us the sole center of ourselves. Anything that deludes us into thinking that we are not simply a work in progress, all of whose degrees, status, achievements, and power are no substitute for the wisdom that a world full of God everywhere, in everyone has to teach us. Anything that drowns out the voice of the Ultimate within must be damped.

From Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis)

MARY THE MOTHER OF CREATION

By Conchitina S. Bernardo

In the silence of Centering Prayer, one ponders the topic of Our Lady and creation and suddenly one is reminded of St. Francis' Cancticle of the Sun, that says:

"Praised be my Lord for our mother the Earth, which sustains us and keeps us, and yields diverse fruits, and flowers of many colors, and grass."

All that speak of creation, always refer to Mother Earth.....female. Probably because symbolically life springs from woman. This why in the month of October dedicated to the rosary and Our Blessed Mother, we contemplate on Mary and creation.
In the quiet of the room, it all comes together... Pope Francis encapsulated it into an encyclical, “Laudato Si”

Paragraph 241 of the encyclical on “the care of our common home,” which is entitled “Queen of All Creation,” in obvious reference to the Blessed Virgin, reads: “Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus."

The Encyclical is a worthy read. The Pope minces no words. We, the human race, are largely responsible for the degradation in our environment. How then does all this tie in with Mary?

Mary, mother of Creation has the transforming touch to heal this groaning, tattered world , and bring us back to sustainability. It is through instilling a change in values, a diminution of greed, and a tempering of the lust for power. Helas, the human condition rears many ugly heads. While few of us are in a position of power to actually address the ills, there is inside everyone a formidable power source, called prayer. This can be brought forth, through Our Lady, to God who weaves untold miracles!

Perhaps we, in the praying ministries, should attest more as to how we see God in the morning dew drops reflecting the sun, hear Him in the chirping of birds, we taste him in the salty sea mist, we see Him on starry nights and feel Him in the breeze that caresses the face. Unspoiled nature speaks of the Divine.
Simplistic as this may seem, it is a call to Faith. Be reminded that Jesus said "Nothing will be impossible with God" ( Luke: 1:37 ) Prayer is always simple .

For us at the Contemplative Outreach Philippines it means praying more while holding on to the promise that no prayer goes unanswered.

In Silence we hear God's whisper.

Reference for this article is taken from the CBCP newsletter.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus identified material concerns as our main source of anxiety. How can we make ourselves more comfortable and reduce personal suffering? This is the major preoccupation that obscures the present moment and disrupts true priorities.

Therefore I bid you put away anxious thought about food and drink to keep you alive, and clothes to cover your body. Surely life is more than food, the body more than clothes. Mt 6:25

When he tells us not to worry Jesus is not denying the reality of daily problems. It is anxiety he is telling us to abandon, not reality. Learning not to worry is hard work. . . .[Yet] despite its “attention-deficiency disorder,” even the modern mind has its natural capacity to be still and to transcend its fixations. In depth it discovers its own clarity where it is at peace, free from anxiety. Most of us have half-a-dozen or so favorite anxieties, like bitter sweets we suck on endlessly. We would be frightened to be deprived of them. Jesus challenges us to go beyond the fear of letting go of anxiety, the fear we have of peace itself. The practice of meditation is a way of applying his teaching on prayer; it proves through experience that the human mind can indeed choose not to worry. . .

An excerpt from Laurence Freeman OSB, “Meditation,” JESUS THE TEACHER WITHIN”

A PRAYER OF SILENCE AND CONSENT

By Tess Castañeda

I find myself looking back with awe and wondering how God has lovingly led me along my spiritual journey. It was 14 years ago when I joined Contemplative Outreach Philippines (COP) and I believe that it was with God's grace that I was privileged to know what Centering Prayer (CP) is all about. The prayer has reinforced my awareness of God's loving presence by silence and stillness. I declare my consent to His Presence and healing action within me. I learned how to pause, pray, and be silent, especially in moments when I am experiencing anxiety and powerlessness. I always start to feel calm and peace enveloping my whole being after that silent moment.

The deepening of my prayer life was enhanced by the daily practice of Centering Prayer. I am a member of a support group made up of people on the same spiritual journey. We meet once a week sharing the prayer together. It is a silent prayer which sustains our commitment to the journey. We then share individual experiences and provide mutual support and encouragement. Aside from these weekly meetings, various COP activities like Formation Classes, Retreats and Workshops that focus on the education of a faith community and sustenance of the spiritual journey of Centering Prayer practitioners, help enhance and deepen my prayer life.

The practice of Centering Prayer all these years has enabled me to connect with God in solitude, and in a very simple way - no words, no thoughts, no feelings, no expectation….Nothing! As I sit in silence and solitude and just consent to that special moment with Him, I allow Him to do what He wants to do with my life in complete surrender.

God has always been straightforward with me. I encounter Him in the scripture reading of the day. I try to find out His mission for me and respond obediently. I know in my heart that with my simple act of consent and trust in those silent moments, I will find refuge and not be discouraged to face the most serious difficulties in my journey thru life.

A MEDITATION ON CENTERING PRAYER AND POVERTY OF SPIRIT

By Sydney S. Orr

Fr. Keating recommends studying the beatitudes. The beatitudes, especially poverty of spirit, seem to stand out in the heart of his writing. It seems to me I can take satisfaction in my gifts, even the gift of Centering Prayer, and it needs a poverty of spirit. This poverty is like learning to be without regards to myself or with self-reflection. This poverty is like having an identity that is not concerned about my self-worth. It seems to me my spirit needs no thought of being thanked or repaid, even no regard for appreciation. This poverty is like breaking down my pride and allowing the unfolding of the Divine in my spirit.

This poverty of spirit seems to allow the virtue of humility to be there, especially when my pride thinks it is making good things happen. My pride is like vainglory and it can take special satisfaction in my virtue of being well-intentioned. My pride wants me to call attention to my generosity. I truly like being repaid for being generous. My pride is like a hidden “goodness” within, calling attention to my selflessness, being humble, being self-sacrificial and then wanting to be repaid for being generous. Yet in all reality, my pride is a fundamental denial of the loss of contact with Being and the loss of contact with real love.

Fr. Keating’s words remind me to not be overly affected by my experiences and once again learn to be present. Yet my experiences fill me with pride and I suspect this is my wanting to fill up my nothingness with pride. There is even a side of me that wants to sustain a particular identity, like an image or idea of myself. Yet it seems if I am true to this diamond within, I need poverty of spirit for the richness of God to flow within and without my creating anything about who I am. This simply resting in the ground of Being appears to be the source of everything, even who I am.

Poverty in spirit seems critical in Centering Prayer and this poverty can be communicated in how I flow with life, feeling calm and balanced, regardless of the ups and downs. Poverty of spirit seems to be the key and just learning to be relaxed with the energies of life without trying to control any of it. Poverty of spirit, from Centering Prayer, communicates the need to be present and awake, yet at a place where identity and self-worth do not arise. This poverty feels like freeing the self from experiences, so pride does not need to make things happen.

The freedom to be is like being truly free of an unbound state, such as with my pride. Moving this pride is an enormous accomplishment and everything in life is changing because of it. This shift in my center is a profound reorganization. It is like being in self-possession and learning to self-surrender to this poverty of spirit. There is no self-consciousness and alienation here. It is like effortlessly being so human and so receptive it makes my body shake and tremble inside. When all is said and done, this Centering Prayer is a gift, just as our Supreme Being is a gift to each of us, just as each of you are a living reminder of this gift.

— From CO Website
Series: Voices of Community

LISTENING AND RESPONDING TO GOD

By Bobby Novenario

When I was asked to write about the topic “Listening and Responding to God”, I immediately thought of Lectio Divina.

The practice of Centering Prayer twice a day for two decades has led me to encounter God, through scriptures. Centering Prayer quiets me down and in the silence, I am more receptive to God’s words in the gospel. There is usually a word or a sentence that attracts my attention. This is Lectio Divina. I ponder on the word or phrase and listen to what God is telling me in the context of my life right now. If I allow the word or phrase to speak to me, God always has a message for me. Many times it is in silence, the language of God, when I am directed to do something quite difficult, but always the more loving thing to do.

Obedience is the key to the growth of my spiritual life. It is only when I obey and take action on the word of God, is there fulfillment. Otherwise it is only good intentions, nothing more. Only when I truly listen, can I respond. Being able to respond is a grace from God who through the promptings of the Holy Spirit bring me to action.

God also uses people and events to convey His message. In conversations with friends, business associates or workers, there will be lessons learned or explanations I need to hear. I believe they come from God. In the events in my life, like a long illness, losing a loved one, disappointments and happy occasions, God speaks to me. For my response, I try to bring God’s goodness and love to others. A deep spiritual life makes me sensitive to the needs of others and I try to respond.

The gospel of God is all about love. If one is firmly rooted in prayer, there is no other response but to love. It is expressed in forgiveness or an act of charity. We can only be sensitive about the needs of others if we have love. Love is the fruit of prayer.

WE ARE THE DWELLING PLACE OF THE LORD

By Carl J. Arico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are interested, I have compiled a document of excerpts from the catechism which relate to the four conferences on Centering Prayer taught in the introductory workshop, as well as other passages relating to Lectio Divina. This document is posted on the Contemplative Outreach website>FAQs> “How does Centering Prayer relate to the Catholic Catechism teachings on prayer?” You may download the complete document there.

TASTE OF SILENCE

By A Contemplative Parishioner

My vision for the Santuario de San Antonio Parish is that of a community and a place of worship that can respond to the spiritual needs of its parishioners.

Having had to live in the United States, where for many years I was a single parent, I was too busy to belong to a community, and had to pray in my own way. It was my faith that guided me in growing with my children in a different culture. It was very difficult, but by God’s grace I was able to deal with my situation for 10 years.

Upon returning home, I was invited by my neighbour Josie Tordesillas, who took me to a cenacle and to Centering Prayer. I joined the Contemplative Outreach Philippines (COP). Coming home without my children was lonely. It was my time to work on my spiritual life. Centering Prayer and COP became my source of strength and I met new friends there.

In COP, I belong to a community of faith that offers support, direction. and mutual concern. The prayer of silence that has brought us together in search of transformation and union with God has made my life a joy. Knowing friends in the journey has made me happy. While I may be alone, I do not feel alone any more.

In the United States, I could not go on retreats. Here, the retreats have deepened my Faith. In times of quiet and reflection, I was communing with God, and in the silence I truly heard Him. I continue to listen.

As I grew spiritually, I felt I had a “calling.” I had to do something to serve Him. I prayed for guidance. When I was a teenager in the province, I used to teach in the slums and the public schools. I taught basic catechism. He led me to the ministry of catechism. Today I teach 8-year-olds and prepare them for their First Communion. In the process, I too am learning more about Him. Truly I can say my Shepherd has guided me all my life!

As I look back, God’s love has provided me with all the people and events -- be they favorable or unfavorable -- always for my good. He has channelled my life so that it evolved step-by-step and has brought me to where and to what I am today. All in His time, and in His way.

In all these, I can say, that when I worked on my spiritual life, it mirrored His presence at every moment, especially when I had difficult times.

In silence I feel His presence and love. God is good!


 

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