To the Editor:
A letter in The Catholic Messenger Oct. 18 expressed concern over the New Age or “Eastern” aspect of Centering Prayer. To support this viewpoint, the writer included a quote referring to Father Thomas Keating as recommending yoga and jogging for relaxation. The full context reveals Fr. Keating’s actual intent: “I am not exploring methods that help to calm the body, mind and nervous system, such as breathing, yoga, and jogging. Such methods are fine for relaxation, but what we are concerned with is the faith relationship…. The fundamental disposition in centering prayer is opening to God.” (Open Mind, Open Heart, p. 37)
Introducing Centering Prayer to the laity in the 1970s and 1980s, Fr. Keating (along with fellow Cistercian monks Father William Meninger and Father Basil Pennington) did so to provide young people seeking spiritual enlightenment from Eastern religions with an awareness of the rich contemplative tradition in Catholic heritage. That tradition is manifested in the lives of such saints as Anthony of the Desert, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross.
Unlike emptying the mind, as in many Eastern forms of meditation, Centering Prayer intends to open the mind and heart to the presence of the Trinitarian God within. This allows those who pray to be filled with the light and love of Christ and to bring that light and love into their daily lives.
Throughout my years of practicing this prayer, I have encountered many people for whom Centering Prayer has provided great healing and growth, as well as a deepening of the experience of Scripture study and other prayer forms, most notably Christ’s transforming presence in the Eucharist. As Glenn Leach expressed Oct. 25, Catholics have many assaults from without. Rather than criticizing each other’s personal prayer, let us encourage our fellow pilgrims on the journey.
To the Editor: