Contemplative Prayer

PRAYER: Private Lectio Divina by M. Basil Pennington

February 25, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer Choose a text of the scriptures that you wish to pray.  Many Christians use in their daily lectio Divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible.  It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours. Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent.  Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent.  For some Centering [...]

PRAYER: The Underlying Rhythm Of Lectio Divina by M. Basil Pennington

February 18, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer If we are to practice lectio Divina effectively, we must travel back in time to an understanding that today is in danger of being almost completely lost.  In the Christian past the words action (or practice, from the Greek praktikos) and contemplation did not describe different kinds of Christians engaging (or not engaging) in different forms of prayer and apostolates.  Practice and contemplation were understood as the two poles of our underlying, ongoing spiritual rhythm: a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual “activity” with regard to God and “receptivity.” Practice – spiritual “activity” – referred in ancient times to our active cooperation with God’s grace in [...]

PRAYER: The Process Of Lectio Divina by M. Basil Pennington

February 11, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer A very ancient art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio Divina – a slow, contemplative praying of the scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.  This ancient practice has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, enabling us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm.  Within this rhythm we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves to God, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ. Lectio (reading / listening) The art of lectio Divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with [...]

PRAYER: The Prodigal Father by M. Basil Pennington

February 4, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer As Jesus spoke a very mixed crowd gathered around.  On the fringes were the big shots, the Pharisees who had all the answers, the scribes who knew the law, and the priests, the holy ones.  They looked down on the motley crew pressing in to hear Jesus – a sinful crowd that did not know the law. What was more painful to Jesus was the fact that many of the poor little ones who were listening to him readily believed that they were indeed the sinful ones.  They knew their sins too well.  They longed to hear words that would bring them peace. Jesus told them then this story. A rich man had two sons.  The older was a very righteous lad, painfully faithful to his duties.  He knew he was the firstborn [...]

PRAYER: It Begins With Faith by M. Basil Pennington

January 28, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer Through this little book we have been listening to the Lord.  Jesus has told us that he and the Father dwell with us, that they want to refresh us, that all things are ours and we are God’s.  We can believe all that, we know it is all true, because God has given us the gift we call faith. Faith is the ability the Lord gives us to know something is true because God has said it.  It is a precious gift because it lets us in on a whole lot – really, on the whole story: “I have made known to you all that my Father has made known to me.” Like our muscles or our minds, faith is a gift that grows by use.  Faith comes from hearing and it grows by hearing.  Each day we want to grow in faith.  [...]

PRAYER: Coming Home by M. Basil Pennington

January 21, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer One of the young men who headed east in the course of the fifth century was a wealthy young man from Dalmatia who had gone to Rome to study – John Cassian by name.  John traveled widely in what we call today Asia Minor and Syria, and finally he settled in a monastery near Bethlehem.  But he was far from satisfied.  He set out again on a seven-year quest only to return to his monastery still filled with longing.  His third journey took him into the depths of the Egyptian desert where he sought out the fabled fathers of the desert.  There he came upon a wise old man who was said to be the holiest, oldest, and wisest of the fathers: Abba Isaac. John and his traveling companion Little Herman [...]

PRAYER: The True Self by M. Basil Pennington

January 14, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer When we were born – of course, most of us don’t remember it for ourselves, though it is all written deep in our memories – we experienced ourselves as little bundles of need.  We needed warmth, we needed stroking, we needed nurture.  All these things were very important to us.  And we yowled to get them. And most of us got them. Our consciousness expanded.  The persons who supplied these needs became very important to us.  There was a deep bonding. As we grew and our consciousness continued to expand, we became aware of how important were the things we did, our doings.  We learned that if we acted in a certain way, people would give us what we wanted.  If we kept certain people happy with [...]

PRAYER: Lord, Where Are You? by M. Basil Pennington

January 7, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer History repeats itself.  We’ve all heard that.  We ask the same questions others have asked before us.  We seek the same things others have sought before us: A meaning for our lives, friends, and some kind of relationship with God that grounds all the rest. We look for a wise person who has some answers and who shows by the peace in his eyes and the serene joy in his face that these are answers that work. In recent years a lot of men and women have headed to the Far East in search of those answers.  They have gone off to India, Thailand, and even more exotic places.  Some have found something, but most have returned home to their own roots. This isn’t the first time men and women have gone [...]

MYSTICISM: Meditation And Recollection by Evelyn Underhill

November 1, 2017

From Practical Mysticism Recollection, the art which the practical man is now invited to learn, is in essence no more and no less than the subjection of the attention to the control of the will.  It is not, therefore, a purely mystical activity.  In one form or another it is demanded of all who would get control of their own mental processes, and does or should represent the first great step in the education of the human consciousness.  So slothful, however, is man in all that concerns his higher faculties, that few deliberately undertake their education at all.  They are content to make their contacts with things by a vague, unregulated power, ever apt to play truant, ever apt to fail them.  Unless they be spurred to it by that [...]

PRAYER: Contemplative Prayer An Introduction by Thomas Merton

June 26, 2017

From Contemplative Prayer He who walks in darkness, to whom no light appears, let him trust in the Name of Yahweh, let him rely upon his God. (Isaiah 50:10) I will give them a heart to understand that I am Yahweh, and they shall be my people and I will be their God when they return to me with all their heart. (Jeremiah 24:7) The monk is a Christian who has responded to a special call from God, and has withdrawn from the more active concerns of a worldly life, in order to devote himself completely to repentance, “conversion,” metanoia, renunciation and prayer.  In positive terms, we must understand the monastic life above all as a life of prayer.  The negative elements, solitude, fasting, obedience, penance, renunciation of [...]

PRAYER: St. Teresa Of Ávila And Prayer by Ernest E. Larkin

June 19, 2017

From: The Published Articles of Ernest E. Larkin, O.Carm. Prayer is the heart of Teresa of Avila’s life and teaching, her “way of perfection.” For her, prayer is the supreme meaning and value of human existence, since it is the inner life that animates the exterior, the journey within that is the journey into reality. Prayer is life before it is an exercise, a dimension of being before it is an experience. Prayer means to be in touch with the Center of one’s life, who is “the Divine Majesty” dwelling in his own rooms in the depths of the interior castle, the figure for ourselves. This contact deep within where we merge with God and are transformed into God-centered persons makes us the “new creation” of Pauline theology and [...]

PRAYER: Transformative Contemplation by William A. Clark

June 17, 2017

From Violence, Transformation, and the Sacred: They Shall Be Called Children of God An Encounter With Sacred Violence On May 1, 2011, while most of their professors were at home preparing for bed or already asleep, students at the small Catholic college where I teach participated in a dramatic demonstration of what must be called, “sacred violence.”  That night, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, for ten years the embodiment of “The Enemy” in the War on Terror, had been killed by U. S. commandos in Pakistan.  Many students had just heard President Barack Obama declare to the nation: “We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we [...]

LECTIO DIVINA: The Penitent Woman by William A. Anderson

January 24, 2017

From The Gospel of Luke: Salvation For All Humanity And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus [...]

LECTIO DIVINA: John 16:16-20

November 8, 2016

From Order of Carmelites 1) Opening Prayer Lord God, our Father, you are not far away from any of us, for in you we live and move and exist and you live in us through your Holy Spirit. Be indeed with us, Lord, send us your Holy Spirit of truth and through him deepen our understanding of the life and message of your Son, that we may accept the full truth and live by it consistently. We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 2) Gospel Reading – John 16:16-20 Jesus told to his disciples: “In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean, ‘In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later [...]

PRAYER: The Contemplative Life by Thomas Keating

September 6, 2016

From The Transformation of Suffering Everybody who does centering prayer always asks, How can I be a contemplative in everyday life, with its noise, turmoil, and constant interruptions?  How can I be interiorly quiet when the world is getting noisier and the pace of life faster? The answer is to slow down and pray more.  Prayer has the great advantage of giving us a perspective on what we have to do.  If we practice contemplative prayer every day, we find that we have more time for everything else.  This is because we were doing a lot of things that we don’t really have to do.  Contemplative prayer cultivates the gift of discernment.  Spiritual discernment is not something we have to try to do; it arises spontaneously as one [...]

PRAYER: Lectio Divina And The Angelic Way by Rami Shapiro

July 16, 2016

From The Angelic Way At the heart of this book is the intuition that we are part of God, and the notion that myths regarding angels are designed to remind us of that.  The stories of angels descending to Earth and taking on human form, the stories of humans ascending to Heaven and becoming angels, the stories of humans ascending to Heaven to see God, and the stories of humans ascending to Heaven and then returning to Earth to guide humanity are all pointing to a single truth: humanity and God belong to a singular reality, and each has the capacity to reach the other. In other words, the relationship between humanity and God is analogous to that between the positive and negative poles of a magnet.  A magnet cannot be a magnet without [...]

LISTENING: A Taste Of Silence by Sue Monk Kidd

June 30, 2016

From Firstlight Often I feel like that famous contemplative, Charlie Brown.  My favorite Charlie Brown story is about the time he and Lucy were sailing on a cruse ship.  Lucy, great philosopher that she is, said, “You know, Charlie Brown, life is like a cruise ship.  Some people take their deck chairs to the back of the ship to see where they have been.  And some people take their deck chairs to the front of the ship to see where they are going.  What kind of person are you, Charlie Brown?”  He pauses reflectively, and then says, “I’m the kind of person who can’t get my deck chair open.”  In the contemplative life, I’m still trying to open my deck chair. Somehow, as a young woman with a [...]

MEDITATION: Learning To Be Silent by John Main

June 28, 2016

From Word Into Silence We now need to take a closer look at the sort of silence that is needed for meditation.  Meditation is not the time for words, however beautifully and sincerely phrased.  All our words are wholly ineffective when we come to enter into this deep and mysterious communion with God whose own Word within us is before and after all words.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord. In order to enter into this holy and mysterious communion with the Word of God dwelling within us, we must first have the courage to become more and more silent.  In a deep creative silence we meet God in a way that transcends all our powers of intellect and language.  We are all basically aware that we cannot apprehend God [...]

MYSTICISM: Beholding The Lord by Richard J. Foster

December 11, 2015

From Sanctuary of the Soul The best contemplative tradition is often inclined to pass on from listening to a tranquil beholding. (Hans Urs von Balthasar) As we experientially learn the grace of recollection, we begin to move into the second step of meditative prayer, “beholding the Lord.”  What does this mean?  Beholding the Lord speaks of an inward steady gaze of the heart upon God, the divine Center.  We bask in the warmth of God’s presence.  We soak in God’s love and care.  The soul, ushered into the Holy Place, is transfixed by what she sees. Two Ancient Witnesses Perhaps the best way we can understand this step into meditative prayer is to hear the stories of witnesses of such an experience.  One such [...]

DIVINE FRIENDSHIP: Ours For The Receiving by M. Basil Pennington

July 28, 2015

From: Centered Living A question I am often asked when Centering Prayer is referred to as a “method of contemplative prayer” is: Can we force God to give us contemplative prayer?  We have already spoken a little about this, but I think it is worth returning to the subject. First of all, “a method of contemplative prayer” might not be the best way to describe Centering Prayer.  There are many different notions of just what contemplative prayer is, the term being used to cover a broad spectrum of experiences.  So we have decided to leave the label aside and stay with the title: Centering Prayer. Surfacing in this question is a fear that has long been prevalent in our church: the fear of Pelagianism.  Pelagius was a fourth-century [...]

SPIRITUALITY: The Variety Of Gifts by Henry C. Simmons

July 13, 2015

From In the Footsteps of the Mystics: A Guide to the Spiritual Classics Why does one person respond to a question about the spiritual life in one way, and another person answer the same question in quite a different manner?  Personal experience is a powerful factor, as are church tradition, historical era, education, age, gender, and social class. These factors may account for an array of answers too various to catalogue.  Some, however, seem to fall into patterns which give us categories for understanding the shape and flow of our relationship with God and allow us to identify our own place within the much wider spiritual tradition. What do patterns of spirituality look like?  What do they describe?  As we look at two questions which [...]

PRAYER: The Necessity Of Prayer by Francis de Sales

July 6, 2015

From Introduction to the Devout Life One Prayer opens the understanding to the brightness of Divine Light, and the will to the warmth of Heavenly Love – nothing can so effectually purify the mind from its many ignorances, or the will from its perverse affections.  It is as a healing water which causes the roots of our good desires to send forth fresh shoots, which washes away the soul’s imperfections, and allays the thirst of passion. Two But especially I commend earnest mental prayer to you, more particularly such as bears upon the Life and Passion of our Lord.  If you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with Him, you will grow in His Likeness, and your actions will be molded on His.  He [...]

GRATITUDE: Contemplation In Action Prayers by Matthew Linn, Dennis Linn, & Sheila Fabricant

June 11, 2015

From Prayer Course for Healing Life’s Hurts Take a minute and ask for the grace to be able to receive love.  Then go and do one of the following: One Take a walk of thanksgiving in which you just thank God for the ways you see his love.  You might thank him through words, by the way you take deep breaths of his care, or just by the way you rejoice in seeing and touching his creation.  Maybe you will want to stop in one spot and thank him for all you can hear, smell, touch, and see.  Let him smile at you and smile back. Two A favorite prayer of Saint Teresa was to work with an awareness of Jesus being at her side.  Invite Jesus to be with you as you work during part of the day.  You might speak to him about what you are doing, [...]

PRAYER: Intelligence In The Prayer Of Quiet by Thomas Merton

December 20, 2014

From The Ascent to Truth Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Àvila have both left us detailed studies of the ways of contemplative prayer, and better than any other mystics they have described the practical details of our cooperation with the Spirit of God in the degree of prayer which most interests us here.  They both agree that in the Night of Sense, and more still in the Prayer of Quiet, the faculties of the soul are in some measure passive.  But they also agree that these faculties are still free to act of their own accord and that consequently they are capable of either helping of hindering the work of God.  And they both agree that in order to help the action of grace our faculties must engage in some very simplified [...]

PRAYER: The First Step To Contemplation by John Ruysbroeck

December 19, 2014

From Reflections From the Mirror of a Mystic When the soul has arrived at true life, and all her actions are referred to the glory of God, she feels herself suddenly stirred by a desire to see what her Spouse is like, asking who and what is he who has become man for her sake?  He who has died to save her, and has given himself to her?  This Jesus, who on leaving the Earth has left her his sacraments and promised her his Kingdom; this Jesus, ever ready to provide for the needs of the body and the consolation of the soul, what is he like?  And the soul, full of questions, feels the desire of seeing her Spouse increase within her; the longing to know what he is like, what he is in himself; for the knowledge, such as it is, which she [...]

PRAYER: Contemplative Prayer — A Warning and a Precaution by Richard J. Foster

December 15, 2014

From Prayer O my divine Master, teach me this mute language which says so many things. (Jean-Nicholas Grou) Contemplative prayer immerses us into the silence of God.  How desperately we in the modern world need this wordless baptism!  We have become, as the early church father Clement of Alexandria says, like old shoes – all worn out except for the tongue.  We live in a wordy world with our sophisticated high-tech telecommunication systems.  We now have the dubious distinction of being able to communicate more and say less than any civilization in history. Isaac of Nineveh, a Syrian monk, once observed, “Those who delight in a multitude of words, even though they say admirable things, are empty within.”  We today [...]

PRAYER: Towards Contemplation

December 15, 2014

From Approaches to Prayer, Henry Morgan, editor You yourself are even another little world and have within you the sun and the moon and also the stars. (Origin) Introduction There is much confusion about terminology.  Often people use the word “meditation” when they really mean “contemplation,” while the Ignatian tradition uses the word “contemplation” when referring to what others call “meditation”! By “meditation” (sometimes “discursive meditation”) we will be referring to the active use of the mind, the feelings, the imagination, applied to a passage of scripture, or our own situation in life, or to any active way in which we try to understand God or ourselves [...]

LECTIO DIVINA: The Way Of Friendship by M. Basil Pennington

December 4, 2014

From Lectio Divina This question is often raised at workshops and retreats: “What should I read at my lectio?  How do I know what text to use?” As Saint Paul told Saint Timothy: “All scripture inspired by God is useful for teaching and refutation, for correction and putting us in the way that is right with God, for communication and communion.”  For our lectio we can use any text of scripture we want.  Some like to open the Bible at random to see what the Lord has to say to them today.  This is fine, though we should avoid all superstitious attitudes, looking for the Lord to give us through the Bible infallible answers to particular questions.  That is not usually his way.  He has given us a mind to use and [...]

PRAYER: Seven Principles Of Lectio Divina by Michael Casey

December 2, 2014

From The Undivided Heart: The Western Monastic Approach to Contemplation Experience confirms that the most ordinary cause of “dryness” or “staleness” in prayer is a defect in genuine spiritual reading.  Without consistent intake of the Word of God, prayer never comes naturally and interest in prayer declines.  On the other hand, the first step in any program to revitalize the practice of prayer is always a renewed contact with God’s Word. However, many people continue to experience such dryness even though they do devote regular periods to spiritual reading.  This is usually due to the fact that the reading is not done in such a way as to provoke prayer.  If no distinction is made between the manner in [...]

PRAYER: How To Practice Lectio Divina by Christine Valters Paintner

December 1, 2014

From: Lectio Divina – The Sacred Art: Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer First Movement – Lectio: Settling & Shimmering Begin by finding a comfortable position where you can remain alert and yet also relax your body.  Bring your attention to your breath and allow a few moments to become centered.  If you find yourself distracted at any time, gently return to the rhythm of your breath as an anchor for your awareness.  Allow yourself to settle into this moment and become fully present. Read your selected scripture passage or other sacred text once or twice through slowly and listen for a work or phrase that feels significant right now, is capturing your attention even if you don’t know why. [...]