Saturday, January 06, 2007

How do you pray?

Fr. Thomas Keating and the Centering Prayer phenomena.
"Centering Prayer is neither Catholic nor prayer, yet it is offered at most retreat centers. Nowadays, most retreat centers can scarcely be called Catholic and are notorious for adopting New Age and other non-Catholic techniques and philosophies.

An additional problem with retreat centers is that they often promote universalism (everyone is saved). In a short article by Fr. James Behrens, a universalist and Trappist at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia (where centering prayer and yoga retreats are offered), he asserts his belief in universal salvation by saying: "Salvation is a one is left out... all the Bibles could be destroyed tomorrow and it would not make a difference."

What is the connection between Centering Prayer and universalism? At the root of Centering Prayer is the belief that we are all already saved and because of this belief, we do not need to pray to God for salvation. New Agers believe that we are God and God is everything, so we do not need to pray to God in a relational way (as someone apart from ourselves), but rather to the god within. "
Spero News Forum
The above editorial concerns the Enneagram as well as Centering Prayer, two essentially non-Christian approaches to the spiritual life, 'adapted' and often promoted by some Roman Catholic priests, monks and nuns. I've written on these topics before, and I'm heartened that other more qualified people continue to do so as well.
What's the big deal however? What if Zen or yoga trips your mystical trigger? What harm is there in that? What if Wicca or neo-paganism answers your spiritual needs? What if you practice a Christianized version of trancedental meditation and call it Centering prayer? Personally, I don't care what people do when they say they are praying, I just get annoyed when a few dress it up and try to pass it off as Roman Catholic contemplative prayer.
I've run into a number of la-di-da mystics out there as it is, pseudo-nuns and oodles of 3rd order religious or self-styled hermits, convinced they are contemplatives - despite their apparent lack of discernment, and perhaps a bit of presumption, these folks at least are pursuing an authentic prayer life. New Age feel-good religious seem to me to be simply pursuing themselves - or the god they believe themselves able to become.
Just because someone is a member of the Poor Clares, the Sisters of St. Joseph or the Cenacle, doesn't mean they are an authority on Catholic mystical theology, much less posess a penetrating understanding of the New Age crap they are in to. It might even be possible an elderly Trappist could be a bit theologically off center as well. (I've lived with monks - living in a monastery and wearing a habit doesn't guarantee orthodoxy.) However, these well intentioned people may not know they are leading others astray with false teachings. Unless... maybe...just maybe... they... do... know!


  1. Anonymous3:31 PM

    It's just one more example of our culture's demand for instant gratification; in this case, instant contemplation. Forget all that business about being cleansed of vice and growing in virtue. You can see God face to face in just 20 minutes a day.

    It's not for nothing that the Carthusians don't touch this crap.

  2. alcuin said...

    "It's not for nothing that the Carthusians don't touch this crap."

    Here, here!!


    To be "Hanged in their habits"
    What a glorious thing,
    For their silence screamed,
    "Christ is the King!"

    And like the Innocents
    So Holy, that died,
    With sword-cut bodies
    Their mothers cried

    And wept like mothers
    Do today,
    Who send their sons
    Into the fray

    Like Innocent Carthusians,
    With staff and rod,
    Who continue the defence...
    The Priest-sons of God!

  3. Anonymous4:54 PM

    i think one can debate the place and value of centering prayer. but i do not think the objections raised in the quote are really fair to Abbot Keating and the centering prayer movement. as a movement it seems to be dying out(mostly older people seem to belong to it where i live)....but I am sure Abbot keating does not teach the ideas mentioned in the quote.

    i have found in talking about prayer, rather than attack something we may not be that familiar with or approve of... it is more helpful to share what works for us?

    i have found a new book on contemplative prayer called INTO THE SILENT LAND by Fr Laird to be very insightful and he does not seem to get caught up in the 'technique hang ups' that others usually do. IMHO

  4. I was at a Catholic store (sorry, it wasn't Leaflet, no offense...), and I know the owners to be very devout, solid Catholics. But like any of us, they don't know everything. I found a book on display, one written by someone by the name of "Pennington" or something similar, and it was all about Centering Prayer. I paged through it, disturbed by how they were dressing up Eastern Mysticysm to look like authentic contemplative prayer. When I had a moment, I stopped the owner and asked him if he was aware that Centering Prayer is NOT Catholic? WE discussed it, but for some reason I got tongue tied, but thankfully, a seminarian who was working there to help out at Christmas gave his input also. The store owner explained that he was not familiar with this "Prayer" and the book was requested by a customer. The sem and I both suggested that if someone comes in asking for that, then he should recommend anything by Father Dubay, the writings of St. Therese of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis de Sales (easiest to understand, in my humble opinion). He agreed, and thanked us for catching this.

    He wants to hire me. :-) I would prefer to work for him than in my job, but I have a mortgage to pay, dogs...bills. So I'm stuck. But leading others to God for a living...what a blessing that would be!

    Anyway...I'm all for your conspiracy theory, and quite honestly, if they are religious, then they have, at some point, been informed of the truth, have rejected it, and are embracing the devil instead. So they are free game. We need to pray for them, but let's not mince words. They KNOW what they are doing and they are in a state of mortal sin, leading others down the same road. This is a grave matter, objectively, and these people and all who have contact with them are in need of some serious prayer.

    Divine Mercies all around!

    (There are such good things as good conspiracy theories...such as the Divine Mercy....) :-)

    We pray that for them, it's all over. Satan can't stand against the mercy of Jesus.

  5. Basil Pennington is now deceased, but was a monk at Spencer when Keating was abbot.

  6. Jake G: Good post. Centering prayer is something I have seen advocated at many Catholic parishes around town. I'm glad I'm not the only one bothered by it.

    Adoro: Too bad, you'd make a really good Catholic bookstore employee but I can understand the money part.


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