Background


Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.

Contemplative Outreach, Ltd, was established in 1984 by Fr. Thomas Keating, o.c.s.o., to bring this ancient prayer practice out of the monastic milieu to those in contemporary society. Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. is now a world-wide spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to renewing the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life. Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. serves the needs of this spiritual network.

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative Prayer is the opening of the mind and heart, our whole being to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions, whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, thinking, feeling, and choosing; even closer than consciousness itself. The root of prayer is interior silence. Though we may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words, this is only one expression. Contemplative Prayer is a prayer of silence, an expression of God's presence as the ground in which our being is rooted, the Source from whom our life emerges at every moment. For the Church's first sixteen centuries, Contemplative Prayer was the goal of Christian spirituality. During the past four centuries, this living tradition has been virtually lost. Today with cross-cultural dialogue and historical research, the recovery of the Christian contemplative tradition has begun. The method of Centering Prayer, in the tradition of Lectio Divina (praying the scriptures), is contributing to this renewal.

Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer is a method of prayer which prepares us to receive the gifts of contemplative prayer. Centering Prayer consists of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God's presence and action within. It furthers the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our faculties to cooperate with this gift. Centering Prayer facilitates a movement from more active modes of prayer - verbal, discursive or affective prayer - to a receptive prayer of resting in God.

Centering Prayer is meant to enrich and complement other forms of prayer, not exclude or replace them. Centering Prayer is, at the same time, a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. It is Trinitarian in its source, Christ-centered in its focus, and ecclesial in its effects; that is, it builds communities of faith and bonds the members together in charity. Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably those of the Desert Fathers and Mothers and the monastic practice of Lectio Divina.

The Cloud of Unknowing (author unknown), St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Frances de Sales and St. Thérèse of Lisieux are a few of the classical resources in the contemplative heritage. Centering Prayer was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970's by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington, and Abbot Thomas Keating.