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A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Mt 7:21

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

"If I am in your truth, God, keep me there. If I am not, God, put me there."

‒ St. Joan of Arc

 

 

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

When James Finley was a young monk at the monastery of Gethsemane, he shared with Thomas Merton (who was his spiritual director) his frustration at his seemingly inept efforts to experience God’s presence. Merton responded: “How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.” Not that we don’t need to continue to seek God, but by our own efforts alone we cannot achieve spiritual maturity. We must bring ourselves to the Light where God’s grace seasons us into juicy, sweet, flavorful ripeness.

Thomas Merton

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

 Lk 6:11

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

‒ John Main

Door to Silence

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Mk 12:2

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Mk 10:17, 20

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

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

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

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

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

 

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

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.”

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.

— From Contemplative Outreach Newsletter, June 2017

"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

 

Our keystone quotation is Matthew 6:6: “When you 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.” What is the inner room? The inner room is not fixed, static or empty, but something living, spacious and open, a place needing to be nourished and attended like a garden. The inner room will have its seasons. There will be spring growth, characterized by a movement from exterior to interior silence. Summer will be joy in the awareness of God’s presence. Then autumn will come before winter. The journey to purification and transformation has begun. God has taken the initiative and invited you further into the process of the dismantling of the false self. The journey at times may seem long— long psychologically, long emotionally, long spiritually and long chronologically. In the end it is the journey itself that matters. In the autumn and winter of the spiritual journey we will experience dryness, restlessness, even boredom. You will feel like getting up and running away.

I know that is how I felt even after many years of Centering Prayer. For the first ten years or so, I was a 19-minute practitioner at the best of times. On one occasion when making a 21-day retreat with Cathy McCarthy, a volunteer coordinator in New York, Cathy asked me if I did Centering Prayer twice a day. I said no, but sometimes I do a little longer once a day. Cathy was not impressed. She said once a day is for maintenance and twice a day is for transformation.

Fr. Thomas Keating says, “This is not a magic carpet to bliss.” What develops is a knowing not found in books but deep within the pilgrim heart. New insights emerge, new self-awareness develops. We will experience the mystery of the Cross; it will be endurance, a desert experience. This is the testing time. Reason is still in control and love has not reached the point where it overwhelms reason. Fear can prevent us from taking the risk and entering The Development of Centering Prayer into unknown regions. While God beckons, God also waits on our response. Basil Hume says, “Despite everything, we want to go on praying.”

The first glimmer of love with which the search began must now grow into something personal,
friendship with Christ. As we respond, in stops and starts, we open ourselves to the gift of love. The heart of our Centering Prayer is love. And love is the only reality that will ultimately change us. Only when we have found a greater and deeper love can we let go of the lesser loves that can ensnare the heart and hold it captive. Centering Prayer is the key to opening ourselves to the embrace of God’s love. St. John of the Cross says that only love will ultimately change the heart from within.

The inner room is the place where we are transformed not only spiritually but also humanly. The journey is a movement toward wholeness, a kind of homecoming to oneself. God does not swallow up our human nature; rather it is enriched, making us fully human, fully alive. The movement is away from self-absorption and predictable patterns towards an ever more complete participation in the life of the Trinity. God is not a noun, God is a verb. God is life, energy, and movement. Prayer is never a concept or an idea. It is always life, friendship and love.

Our sitting in Centering Prayer is never a waste of time. Back in November 2015, our group met as we have done for the past nine years. We had just heard the stunning news of the terrorist attacks in Paris. We felt helpless. And yet silent prayer is never a waste of time or energy. United by our intention and receptivity, we sit together as the Body of Christ, which places us at the very center of the pulsating world. “The one who sits in meditation,” the Zen masters remind us, “sits for the whole world.” Nothing in the universe is more intensely alive and active than genuine prayer and contemplation. According to John of the Cross, one act of pure love is of more value to the whole world than all other acts put together.

As we sit in silence, we serve the world. Fr. Thomas, in referring to the 2001 World Trade Center disaster in New York said, “We have to evolve to respond to violence in a new way, and I trust that we will. I have more trust in the future than optimism about it. This evolution to higher states of consciousness is present in all world religions. In other words our rational level of consciousness is not the end of biological evolution. It is the gate, the beginning of higher states of consciousness, of developing the brain beyond where it is now.”

The human race is on the crest of the wave moving into the intuitive level of consciousness. As we sit and consent to the Spirit praying in us, we cooperate with this movement. There are some signs of the human race working more closely together, able to sit down and negotiate — a testament to the evolution of intuitive consciousness. A recent example is the Paris Agreement on climate change where for the first time in over 20 years of the U.N. negotiations, representative of the 196 parties attending agreed to a joint statement limiting fossil fuels.

Contemplative Outreach “creates a context in which the transformation of humanity can take place.” This is where we are headed as we follow the developmental path of the spiritual journey. The person who is most truly and fully human is the one who has come close to the source of life, the place where light, truth, and beauty dwell. As we sit and enter the inner room, we come closer to the ultimate center of all things — and to finding our place in the heart of the world. This work of love is never done. And the greatness of our works will be seen in light of the love with which they are done. Growth is the only sign of life: growth in love, growth in service and growth in compassion – the compassion of Christ. The crucial test is the quality of our relationship with Christ and our willingness to put our lives in the service of others. This is the reason for the prayer, the purpose of every endeavor. Love can only show its true depth in deeds of love.

— From Contemplative Outreach Newsletter, June 2016

In prayer, you are allowing God to love you and to complete the circuit of love, which is the way all electricity must work—in a circuit. God sees the Christ in you and cannot not love you. That part of you—your True Self—has always loved God and has always said yes to God. Contemplative prayer is recognizing yourself in God and letting God recognize God’s very self in you. Now the circuit is complete, and the power called grace can flow freely.

— by Richard Rohr

COMING HOME TO GOD: A FAMILY'S EXPERIENCE WITH CENTERING PRAYER

By Mindy Durias

Our world is moving forward at an unprecedented pace. The ability to be so easily connected to one another has made this planet very small indeed. Yet, it is quite possible that we have never been more disconnected from our true selves and God.

As a mother of five children, in this age of concrete technological and scientific breakthroughs, I wrestle with how to communicate the abstract, mysterious and intangible relationship we are created to share with the Divine.

For the past three years, I have been practicing contemplative prayer as a way to connect more intimately with God. This has included introducing my children to Lectio Divina as a way to listen to the Spirit of God speaking uniquely to their individual hearts. They have been very open and receptive to this practice, and consequently have grown in their day-to-day awareness of God speaking in the moments of their lives.

But what of the apophatic (non-verbal) prayer practice Centering Prayer? This prayer has been transformative in my life. I’ve found abundant grace in the silence, stillness and solitude of this practice. It has helped me to disconnect from the noise and activity of life and find myself in God’s embrace. And more profoundly, Centering Prayer has created a deeper awareness of who I truly am in God. In the practice, I’ve come home to myself and God.

I decided to experiment with my children and see if they would have a similarly positive experience with Centering Prayer. At first, the struggle was to find language to communicate the practice to children ranging in ages from five to sixteen. It quickly became clear that while my five-year old could understand what Centering Prayer was, she was not ready to sit in silence and stillness for any amount of time!

My other four children ages nine, twelve, thirteen and sixteen quickly grasped the concept of the practice, so we began trying it out. We started with three-minute sits. Gradually, we lengthened the time to five minutes, then eight, ten and so on until we reached twenty minutes. Our intent has been to practice every day after breakfast before we begin the rest of the day.

It has not been perfect. In fact, some days it feels like a complete waste of time. Wiggling limbs, wrestling in chairs, bodily noises, rough starts to the day, the irritation of relational conflict — you name it, we have experienced it.

Yet, I keep reminding myself that this is a practice. A perfect experience should never be the goal. For no such experience truly exists. The fruit of the practice is seen in the rest of life. My hope is that we are becoming more aware of God in everything. So, we continue to practice, to open our hearts together to the presence and action of God within us. We enter with the invitation of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Little changes have been made along the way to accommodate the needs and development of each child. Most days my husband, two older children and I sit for twenty minutes together. Then, the two younger children and I sit for ten minutes together. Our five-year old talks about joining us when she is bigger. She is learning Breath Prayer and the beauty of God being as near to her as every breath. It is perfect for where she is at right now.

Addendum … a year later: In the last three months, my six-year old’s attention span has expanded and she is more patient. She has been able to join in Centering Prayer for about ten minutes several times a week before the wiggles take over. I continue to see the fruit of contemplation in the lives of my children, especially in their attentiveness to God. It's my belief that spending time in silence is much easier for children than it is for adults. Even though they cannot sit still as long, their hearts and minds are more naturally open to the whisper of the Divine. I believe the practice of Centering Prayer helps them return to their center more quickly in day to day situations. As a mother, I am learning more and more to trust the action and presence
of God within them, just as I’m practicing myself.

In Centering Prayer we are all learning to come just as we are, and to find our true home in God who continues to affirm that we all belong. In this place of belonging, it is my hope that each of us will choose to embrace one another in love and help bring healing to this world in search for peace with God and humankind.

— From Contemplative Outreach Newsletter, June 2016

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

— by Richard Rohr

 

CONTINUOUS INTIMACY WITH THE DIVINE

By Thomas Keating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— From CO Newsletter Dec 2016

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

— Thomas Keating

“RELAX – THEN JUST LET IT HAPPEN”

By Fr. Carl J. Arico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— From CO Newsletter Dec 2016

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.

THE BENEFITS OF CENTERING PRAYER

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

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

To watch on YouTube, please click here.

Consenting to God as God Is

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

The Will of Divine Love

 

Kess Frey

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

 

Silence & Solitude: Wherein Wisdom Dwells

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

 

Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating

all products in all formats:

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

 

 

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

all products in all formats:

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

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

 

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

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

VISION / MISSION


Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. Basil Pennington

Fr. Basil Pennington

Vision Statement

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

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

History of Contemplative Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

  ̶  From Contemplative Outreach E-News, Oct. 2009

 

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

‒ Thomas Keating

 

FAQs on Centering Prayer

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

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

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

ABOUT THE PRAYER

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

 

A glimpse of Reality...

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

‒ Jn 12:7

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

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

 

 

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

‒ Thomas Keating

History of Centering Prayer

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

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

Matthew 6.6 (New American Bible)

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

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

Taken from CO Website

A Meditation on Centering Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centering Prayer List

A Contemplative Living Community in the Christian Contemplative Tradition

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

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

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

Currently we are presenting an introductory workshop on Centering Prayer.

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

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

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

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH LOGO & MEANING

Contemplative Outreach Symbol

JOB’S REDEEMER – PATIENT WAITING

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

THE CROSS - The symbol of our salvation.

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

CIRCLE - Sign of ongoing process.

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

 

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