frKeating

Background

Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. International 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.

Mission

Contemplative Outreach, Ltd, (of which Contemplative Outreach of Middle Tennessee is a chapter) 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 mission of Contemplative Outreach is to share the method of Centering Prayer and its immediate conceptual background. We also encourage the practice of Lectio Divina, particularly its movement into Contemplative Prayer, which a regular established practice of Centering Prayer facilitates.

We identify with the Christian Contemplative Heritage. While we are formed by our respective denominations, we are united in our common search for God and the experience of the living Christ through Centering Prayer. We affirm our solidarity with the contemplative dimension of other religions and sacred traditions, with the needs and rights of the whole human family, and with all creation.

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. After the Reformation, this living tradition was 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 this 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 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 (praying the scriptures). The Cloud of Unknowing (author unknown), St. John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila are a few of the classical resources in the contemplative heritage. Centering Prayer was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington, and Abbot Thomas Keating at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.