centering prayer


#1

The womans group for our diocese is hosting a workshop on centering prayer.
I thought that centering prayer was considered more of a yoga type exercise that was to be avoided. Any comments?
God bless,
maggiec


#2

Fr. Thomas Keating, who is one of the major authors behind the centering prayer movement, describes it as this:

The Guidelines

Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

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.

thecentering.org/centering_method.html

This sounds like basic meditation - and from the books I have read, it seems to be practiced in Benedictine and Trappist monasteries.


#3

Centering prayer is a thorny issue. It is a very SOPHISTICATED prayer technique if done from a Catholic perspective. And by that I don’t mean that an ordinary person is not CAPABLE of centering prayer. I do mean that an ordinary person, in this prayer as in ANY thing which is complex, would need to do quite a bit of groundwork to prepare himself or herself just to LEARN about centering prayer, let alone to pray it.

However, there are some centering prayer groups and proponents who do not approach this from a strictly Catholic perspective, but more from an “eastern spirituality” perspective. Not to denigrate eastern spirituality in the Buddhist/Hindu et. al in the least, but the whole worldview of that religious mindset is very far from Catholicism. Its charm, to its practitioners, is based on the spiritual principle which uses the very simple (like the mantra “om”) to supposedly “clear the mind” of EVERYTHING (um, this includes God, but they don’t seem to realize it) and just to “open” the person to “the all”–which paradoxically is also the “nothing” such as nirvana. (I am, of course, probably oversimplifying and using layman’s terms, and I am sure that there are all sorts of high-falutin’ terms and “explanations” that attempt to rationalize everything into this great “god is all and all are god, god is us and we are god” happy sappy P.C. inclusionism). And I of course do not want to be accused of excluding people–it sounds so Unchristian. :smiley:

Still, though I may be like Pooh, a “bear of little brain”, it strikes what little brain that I possess that, if there IS a CATHOLIC teaching of something, and I am a CATHOLIC, then maybe, just maybe, I should be learning that Catholic teaching, rather than some OTHER teaching which “INCORPORATES” Catholic teaching by grafting it onto teachings from OTHER religions, and trying to use that conglomeration of teachings as opposed to an actual factual Catholic teaching on the grounds that our Catholic teaching is too hard, too “dead white male”, too focused on medieval intolerant militant Christianity, too lacking in diversity, etc.

Let’s hope your woman’s group is going for the centering prayer of St. Teresa of Avila, for example. If not–well, a good dominican web site or a google for authentic Catholic centering prayer might be a good idea. Gather up some documentation, print out a few copies of your research, and bring them to the group. *I’m thinking that maybe “This Rock” might have some articles, or EWTN, check them out too.


#4

I had heard that centering prayer was dangerous because of the fact, as you pointed out, you are suppose to clear your mind of everything. Doesn’t leave much room for God. I am a little fearful of trying it. I am a little old fashioned I guess, but I will look at EWTN website, they probably do have something about it there.
Thank you,
maggiec


#5

There is nothing to worry about in CP done properly.

There are a number of “phonies” around who teach weird stuff that has some likeness to CP but has their own “flavor” thrown in, and in these cases I’ve heard some rather strange things pass as CP that quite clearly aren’t.

The trick is to find out whether the workshops you are going to are officially sanctioned and run by certified Contemplative Outreach (CO) personnel. If it’s not, then beware – it could be one of those clones where they sometimes do quite an injustice to those seeking truth.

If it’s a woman’s group running the thing, I’d be very wary. If they are sponsoring it, they may have certified teachers come in from CO.

You can find out who is your representative for Contemplative Outreach by clicking on your state on this map at their web site.

I would not hesitate to call the CO coordinator for your region and ask if these sessions are authentic, or conversely to ask your women’s group if the session is being conducted by CO authorized trainers.

If they are not authorized I’d be very wary about it. You can read some of the theological background by Fr. Thomas Keating in a two-part article starting here.

Alan


#6

[quote=maggiec]Doesn’t leave much room for God. I am a little fearful of trying it. I am a little old fashioned I guess,
[/quote]

There are lots of ways to pray. No one method is best for everyone - we use what brings us closer to God.

If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of centering prayer, that is fine. You still have lplenty of more traditional prayer options to choose from. :slight_smile:


#7

[quote=AlanFromWichita]There is nothing to worry about in CP done properly.

There are a number of “phonies” around who teach weird stuff that has some likeness to CP but has their own “flavor” thrown in, and in these cases I’ve heard some rather strange things pass as CP that quite clearly aren’t.

The trick is to find out whether the workshops you are going to are officially sanctioned and run by certified Contemplative Outreach (CO) personnel. If it’s not, then beware – it could be one of those clones where they sometimes do quite an injustice to those seeking truth.

If it’s a woman’s group running the thing, I’d be very wary. If they are sponsoring it, they may have certified teachers come in from CO.

You can find out who is your representative for Contemplative Outreach by clicking on your state on this map at their web site.

I would not hesitate to call the CO coordinator for your region and ask if these sessions are authentic, or conversely to ask your women’s group if the session is being conducted by CO authorized trainers.

If they are not authorized I’d be very wary about it. You can read some of the theological background by Fr. Thomas Keating in a two-part article starting here.

Alan
[/quote]

Its the quarterly meeting of the Western Deanery Diocesan Council of Catholic Woman (Austin Diocese) that is sponsoring this presentation. I’m still a little concerned about the concept of centering prayer after all I’ve heard about the problems with it. Thanks for your input.
maggiec


#8

[quote=maggiec]Its the quarterly meeting of the Western Deanery Diocesan Council of Catholic Woman (Austin Diocese) that is sponsoring this presentation. I’m still a little concerned about the concept of centering prayer after all I’ve heard about the problems with it. Thanks for your input.
maggiec
[/quote]

Please do not worry as long as it is legitimate.

I’ve heard a great deal of criticism of CP on this very forum and seen a number of Catholic writers referenced, and 99% of what is said negatively is incorrect and based on false twistings of our teaching. There seems to be quite a political contingent involved, and much, much misinformation.

I’ve heard pretty much all of it. The issue is, CO does not do apologetics because they are committed to actually doing their prayer, not to arguing about it. After all, CP is a way to merge monastic practices with active life, and in a monestary they don’t argue about their prayer – they just do it.

In the past, threads about CP is good v CP is bad have gotten shut down because they got so heated. This is because of the fear and misinformation involved.

There are other methods of prayer that seek contemplation, and are less controversial. Notably Lectio Divina, which is also conducted by Contemplative Outreach; unlike CP they did not devise the method though, as LD has been around for centuries.

Either way, please do not shortchange yourself on prayer like most active Catholics do. By that, I mean most “mainstream” Catholics never even heard of “contemplative prayer” which is the deepest but simplest and most profound of three types of prayer discussed in the CCC. It’s not about who is experienced; it is about who is called. The CCC even goes as far to say that prayer SHOULD go beyond vocal, beyond meditative, and into contemplative.

There is a subtle distinction between “contemplation” and “contemplative prayer,” and CP is one form of the latter. Many people get tangle up in word games but it is not complicated. “Contemplation” itself is a gift from God. “Contemplative prayer” involves any of a number of techniques or formats by which we “invite” the Holy Spirit to give us the gifts of the spirit and heal us of a lifetime of emotional wounds.

I’ve skipped some ground here, but you might gather that “heal a lifetime of emotional wounds” is a pretty strong claim. Nobody makes that claim on behalf of CP or any prayer technique, but this is precisely possible for God the Holy Spirit, aka the Divine Therapist, who heals us through prayer perfectly and completely.

I cannot get inside the heads of people who have been put off by anti-CP materials to find out why they are so sure – other than that there are certain apologists who all seem to say the wrong things about it, as if they did a scholarly study and came to a conclusion without even having a context by which to understand and certainly without experience themselves.

I think people are afraid of any type of prayer that promises that it may actually bring about a change of heart and allow the Holy Spirit to answer our Pentecostal Psalm refrain “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth,” even though ostensibly that’s what we pray for in the first place. I think people like prayer to be something they do and then it’s over and nothing really changes unless the prayer was a petition prayer in which we’re hoping God listens to us rather than the other way around. Maybe people like to keep their problems because they are comfortable with them, because once they are healed of them they find there are new problems they then notice. :hmmm:

edit >> even if you don’t get into CP, consider getting a Spiritual Director and/or involved in other type of contemplative prayer. Do not take my word for it that this is an important prayer component. Please consult the CCC 2697-2724 about the three prayer forms.

Alan


#9

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Please do not worry as long as it is legitimate.

I’ve heard a great deal of criticism of CP on this very forum and seen a number of Catholic writers referenced, and 99% of what is said negatively is incorrect and based on false twistings of our teaching. There seems to be quite a political contingent involved, and much, much misinformation.

I’ve heard pretty much all of it. The issue is, CO does not do apologetics because they are committed to actually doing their prayer, not to arguing about it. After all, CP is a way to merge monastic practices with active life, and in a monestary they don’t argue about their prayer – they just do it.

In the past, threads about CP is good v CP is bad have gotten shut down because they got so heated. This is because of the fear and misinformation involved.

There are other methods of prayer that seek contemplation, and are less controversial. Notably Lectio Divina, which is also conducted by Contemplative Outreach; unlike CP they did not devise the method though, as LD has been around for centuries.

Either way, please do not shortchange yourself on prayer like most active Catholics do. By that, I mean most “mainstream” Catholics never even heard of “contemplative prayer” which is the deepest but simplest and most profound of three types of prayer discussed in the CCC. It’s not about who is experienced; it is about who is called. The CCC even goes as far to say that prayer SHOULD go beyond vocal, beyond meditative, and into contemplative.

There is a subtle distinction between “contemplation” and “contemplative prayer,” and CP is one form of the latter. Many people get tangle up in word games but it is not complicated. “Contemplation” itself is a gift from God. “Contemplative prayer” involves any of a number of techniques or formats by which we “invite” the Holy Spirit to give us the gifts of the spirit and heal us of a lifetime of emotional wounds.

I’ve skipped some ground here, but you might gather that “heal a lifetime of emotional wounds” is a pretty strong claim. Nobody makes that claim on behalf of CP or any prayer technique, but this is precisely possible for God the Holy Spirit, aka the Divine Therapist, who heals us through prayer perfectly and completely.

I cannot get inside the heads of people who have been put off by anti-CP materials to find out why they are so sure – other than that there are certain apologists who all seem to say the wrong things about it, as if they did a scholarly study and came to a conclusion without even having a context by which to understand and certainly without experience themselves.

I think people are afraid of any type of prayer that promises that it may actually bring about a change of heart and allow the Holy Spirit to answer our Pentecostal Psalm refrain “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth,” even though ostensibly that’s what we pray for in the first place. I think people like prayer to be something they do and then it’s over and nothing really changes unless the prayer was a petition prayer in which we’re hoping God listens to us rather than the other way around. Maybe people like to keep their problems because they are comfortable with them, because once they are healed of them they find there are new problems they then notice. :hmmm:

edit >> even if you don’t get into CP, consider getting a Spiritual Director and/or involved in other type of contemplative prayer. Do not take my word for it that this is an important prayer component. Please consult the CCC 2697-2724 about the three prayer forms.

Alan
[/quote]

Alan, you have calmed my concerns, now do you have any good resources that I can pick up more information?
As far as a spiritual director I would really like to have one. Unfortunately the small city of Marble Falls doesn’t offer much in that respect. I have looked on the net and have come up with some possibilities for long distance spiritual direction. Hopefully that will work out.
Thank you for your help,
God bless
Maggie


#10

[quote=maggiec]Alan, you have calmed my concerns, now do you have any good resources that I can pick up more information?
As far as a spiritual director I would really like to have one. Unfortunately the small city of Marble Falls doesn’t offer much in that respect. I have looked on the net and have come up with some possibilities for long distance spiritual direction. Hopefully that will work out.
Thank you for your help,
God bless
Maggie
[/quote]

There are a lot of resources in the archives page at CO website centeringprayer.com/archives.htm

There are several books online, but honestly I haven’t read them. The articles are good. I’ve listened to many hours of Keating’s videotapes about the “false self” and how it develops due to original sin and societal upbringing, and how the Holy Spirit, if we simply invite Him, goes about healing each of us through this prayer at a rate determined only by Him.

One thing that I realize everytime I talk to people from CO (most recently I had a meeting with the regional instructor about two weeks ago) is the complete surrender they give to the Holy Spirit.

The main point is we “rest in God,” meaning we consent to God’s presence by allowing our minds to gently clear themselves of all thought of worldly things. This decision to sit quietly and allow our minds to rest is our invitation to God, like a baby bird’s gape, to feed us with Spiritual Food, if He will. Whether we actually experience “contemplation” or not is an act of God’s will, not ours. Some have the impression one is supposed to “find himself” or something, based on some interpretations of a passage in one of Keating’s books. This really isn’t the point – we actually let go of our normal worldly concerns. The “sacred word” we refer to, often equated with “mantra” in a negative way, differs from a mantra in that the sacred word (which may nto be a “word” at all) is simply a symbol of consent to let go of something we thought of, not something to think about in itself.

The problem I have is too much to say about it; really it’s all about sitting still for 20 minutes at a time and just being quiet; I even do it during Adoration hour. Just sit there with God – my fourth grade daughter Monica once said it’s almost like “taking a nap with Jesus.” That was actually a reference to the fact that when her mom and dad do CP, we sometimes fall asleep. That isn’t part of the prayer, but the prayer itself is considered “resting in god.” Here we go in the “inner rooms” and pray in secret, as Christ commanded.

Alan


#11

there are several threads on this topic, please do a search, because you will find links to reliable articles critical of CP as it is presented and practiced. CP is NOT infused contemplation or an easy method to enter into infused contemplation as described in the works of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila or the Cloud of Unknowing. If CP is presented as a method to achieve infused contemplation it is bogus, misleading and dangerous.


#12

With countless methods of prayer that are tried and true, why go looking for something else?


#13

[quote=puzzleannie]there are several threads on this topic, please do a search, because you will find links to reliable articles critical of CP as it is presented and practiced. CP is NOT infused contemplation or an easy method to enter into infused contemplation as described in the works of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila or the Cloud of Unknowing. If CP is presented as a method to achieve infused contemplation it is bogus, misleading and dangerous.
[/quote]

That was my concern when I started this thread but it is being put on by my diocese womans group thats why I was trying to get more information.
God bless,
maggiec


#14

The fact is, centering prayer is directly derived from the practices described in the Cloud of the Unknowing.

Some try to attack CP by pointing out that the Cloud itself states that there is no “method” to deliver contemplation. This is actually true, and properly informed CP practitioners know that to be completely true as well.

If others chime in, you will hear that in CP a person tries to find himself and all other such things, when basically it amounts to clearing your mind.

Centering prayer is a modern (i.e. born of Vatican II) device which is taken to bring the benefits of monastic prayer life into the lives of both active laity and religious.

As for why add a new prayer practice or devotion, I don’t understand the question. If one took this question as an absolute, one would have no prayer life at all. One adds prayers and devotions to assist in becoming closer to God. Some are called to centering prayer and others aren’t, and by no means would I claim any particular soul “needs” CP as a specific form of prayer. I just wish people who do not wish to participate in this devotion and/or wish to discourage it would become more familiar with the facts first hand instead of all of them repeating what others say. :whacky:

Alan

edit>> when you wrote I’d calmed your concerns, I knew there would soon be those who think there is something to fear about it. If you fear it, stay away from it. Those who speak as apologists against it, from what I can tell, all derive their arguments from a small set of misconceptions. It’s like having catholic/protestant shouting matches, right here inside Catholic church. That’s why CO does not do apologetics, nor should I unless I am ready to hear more discouraging if not misleading statements about the most powerful devotion I’ve experienced in my life. I don’t worry about it because the healing I’ve experienced is real, and like the leper who couldn’t be silenced, I have a story to tell about my God and I’m only blessed if I hear these attacks and do not retailiate. (Clearly since I defended against those attacks I’ve lost that blessing, but I do it for the sake of the devotion and the power of God to heal through this, an honest Catholic devotion which is only controversial to the uninformed, wrongly informed, and the partially informed, in order of increasing severity.)


#15

Maggiec

Here is a link that is about considering centering prayer. There are some great posts in it. I suggest reading it.

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=84937&highlight=centering+prayer


#16

[quote=puzzleannie]CP is NOT infused contemplation or an easy method to enter into infused contemplation as described in the works of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila or the Cloud of Unknowing. If CP is presented as a method to achieve infused contemplation it is bogus, misleading and dangerous.
[/quote]

As one who has spent several years trying to find parallels between CP and the teachings of the Doctors, I can say the experience has been a little bit like putting a square peg in a round hole.

The “Eureka, I found it” moment for me came when I began to see CP in the light of what St. Teresa of Avila has to say about the Prayer of Recollection in Chapters 28 and 29 of the “The Way of Perfection.” This new understanding helped me immensly in these type of discussions.

What Puzzleannie says here is true . . . and St. Teresa is very careful to differentiate between what some today might call acquired contempation (the things WE do) and infused contemplation (the things GOD does). They are not one and the same . . . and the former does not begot the latter.

Having said that, St. Teresa was very emphatic in the necessity of the Prayer of Recollection (where I see a certain similarity to CP) . . . but only for those who’ve reached a fairly advanced point in the spiritual life. In this, the author of the Cloud of Unknowing would agree since he was not writing for a beginner . . . but a proficient in contemplative prayer.

From my experience on these forums, most of the cautious or even negative comments toward CP are based not so much on the fact that it is “wrong” in anyway . . . but that these posters have a very clear understanding of what the Saints teach with regard to “the proper time and place” for prayer of this type.

In that regard, I’m reminded of one of my favorite tongue and cheek comments by Brother Lawrence providing counsel for an overly enthusiastic nun to focused on “grabbing” the Lord’s gifts and consolations - - - “She would choose to go faster than grace.” :slight_smile:

Dave.


#17

I really appreciate all of the postings in answer to my question on centering prayer. I have come to the conclusion that I must search deeper. I understand that it will take time to find truth but I am on my journey to God. He has given me all and I need to find a way to grow closer to Him. This may be it. Thanks all,
God bless
maggiec


#18

[quote=Jenlyn]Maggiec

Here is a link that is about considering centering prayer. There are some great posts in it. I suggest reading it.

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=84937&highlight=centering+prayer
[/quote]

There certainly are some great posts in it. :thumbsup:

Alan


#19

Another way to go, if after all this you don’t believe you are called to practice CP, is to practice Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading.

This practice also gets to true resting, but does it in steps. It has been a common monastic practice and is not surrounded by controversy. I think it’s a shame that “controversy” is even a factor in deciding which devotions or pray styles one uses, but since it is there I’ll point out that those who are against CP are often FOR Lectio Divina.

The reason? It is not “new” and controversial, and it still gets to contemplative form. This way you immerse yourself through different levels of intimacy with the scriptures at a certain pace. Typically a short passage is read about four times, with time in between to meditate in the manners prescribed. Personally I think it’s just as good as CP, but some are called to one form and some to another. In a way it touches us in several ways, as we first meditate on the words of the scripture and then later just sit and rest having listened to it. It ends up with the intent of interior silence, which is the same intent as CP, but there are several steps on the way.

In fact, the Wednesday night meetings at our diocesan Spiritual Life Centers used to be all centering prayer but now they only do a single 20 minute prayer, watch some video, and go through Lectio Divina with one short scripture passage.

Alan


#20

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Another way to go, if after all this you don’t believe you are called to practice CP, is to practice Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading.

This practice also gets to true resting, but does it in steps. It has been a common monastic practice and is not surrounded by controversy. I think it’s a shame that “controversy” is even a factor in deciding which devotions or pray styles one uses, but since it is there I’ll point out that those who are against CP are often FOR Lectio Divina.

The reason? It is not “new” and controversial, and it still gets to contemplative form. This way you immerse yourself through different levels of intimacy with the scriptures at a certain pace. Typically a short passage is read about four times, with time in between to meditate in the manners prescribed. Personally I think it’s just as good as CP, but some are called to one form and some to another. In a way it touches us in several ways, as we first meditate on the words of the scripture and then later just sit and rest having listened to it. It ends up with the intent of interior silence, which is the same intent as CP, but there are several steps on the way.

In fact, the Wednesday night meetings at our diocesan Spiritual Life Centers used to be all centering prayer but now they only do a single 20 minute prayer, watch some video, and go through Lectio Divina with one short scripture passage.

Alan
[/quote]

I think I have experienced something similar. Several times after praying the rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament I have seemed to realize that I was “lost in meditation”. When I try to reproduce this it doesn’t happen but when I let go in meditation (usually the rosary) it just seem to happen. It is a wonderful feeling.
Maggie


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