Many people on the contemplative spiritual journey benefit from attending formal programs offered by the Chicago chapter of Contemplative Outreach and other chapters around the country.
Below are short descriptions of the programs we offer. Our calendar contains specific information about current offerings in our chapter. Programs are open to all people on a spiritual path regardless of denomination. As our ninth Theological Principle states, “…we are united in our common search for God and our experience of Christ through Centering Prayer.”
If you have questions about any of the program offerings, please e-mail us using the Contact page.
New to Centering Prayer
If you’re new to Centering Prayer or would like to know more about the Contemplative Outreach community in Chicago, we suggest the following:
- Attend an Introductory Workshop on Centering Prayer (see below)
- Read Fr. Thomas Keating’s book on Centering Prayer entitled Open Mind, Open Heart. You may also be interested in his books Invitation to Love and Intimacy with God.
- Go to the Events section on this website and read about our upcoming events. We’d love to have you join us.
Introduction to Centering Prayer
Introductory workshops held throughout the year are held at a variety of sites. The presenters are specially trained and commissioned in teaching this short course which covers the essentials of the method and conceptual background of Centering Prayer. After the first six-hour workshop, typically held on a Saturday, the program continues for 5-6 weeks with 90-minute gatherings to pray, view and discuss a video presentation by Fr. Thomas Keating and to support an emerging daily practice of Centering Prayer.
Introduction to Lectio Divina
The four movements of Lectio Divina, Latin for “divine reading,” is explored in this short workshop and its following sessions. The slow, contemplative praying of the scriptures enables us to discover an underlying spiritual rhythm increasing our ability to open to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. Through lectio (reading/listening), meditatio (meditation/reflection), oratio (responding/speaking with God) and contemplatio (resting in God), we learn to listen with the “ear of the heart” for that “still, small voice” that is guiding and transforming our lives.
Centering Prayer Groups
Participants who attend the Centering Prayer or Lectio Divina introductions may decide to join an existing prayer group or form one of their own. The groups generally meet weekly or every other week to share their experience of Centering Prayer or Lectio Divina and growing relationship with God. Many groups decide to view videos or read and discuss books to deepen their individual understanding of their spiritual practices. Formats usually include a session of Centering Prayer, discussion and sharing led by an experienced facilitator. These small faith communities build trust and unity while encouraging service within the chapter.
Centering Prayer Retreats
The Chicago chapter currently offers a prayer workshop day in October which includes a variety of topics to choose from. Please see our Events page for more specific information on this workshop.
We also offer a February weekend retreat in our local area that focuses on a special topic in contemplative prayer and spiritual development. Retreat facilities currently are at the Portiuncula (“The Port”) in Frankfort, IL. The retreat provides Centering Prayer practitioners an opportunity to deepen their practice and relationship with God. Centering Prayer periods are balanced with teaching by the retreat director as well as exercises that examine each person’s relationship to the spirit within.
Other longer retreats of five, eight, or ten days, known as Intensive or Post-Intensive retreats, introduce many more periods of daily prayer and total silence (even at meals). These retreats have a prerequisite of an established daily practice of Centering Prayer and attendance at a shorter retreat. We try to accommodate all requests for special dietary or accessibility needs. Retreat leaders and staff are trained to facilitate and guide participants in these unique spiritual experiences.
Many retreats are offered nationally by Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. We encourage you to visit their webpage for a more complete description.
This popular morning program (9-11:45 AM) offers three, 30-minute Centering Prayer periods with one optional meditative walk and a ten-minute break. We call the program a “mini-retreat” for those who might not be able to attend a weekend retreat.
Welcoming Prayer Practice
The Welcoming Prayer is an appropriate practice to add after one has been practicing Centering Prayer for a minimum of one year and as a complementary practice to Centering Prayer. It helps dismantle the emotional programs of the “false self” value system in everyday life and heal wounds of a lifetime by addressing them where they are stored–in the body! This practice is presented in a one-day, weekend or five-day immersion experience.
Centering Prayer and Twelve Step Programs
For those who live by the 12 Steps found in Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, SCA, OA, DA, NA, GA, and other programs, a Centering Prayer practice can be a key support system in the process of recovery and transformation. Centering Prayer can help deepen one’s application of the 12 Steps generally, and the 11th Step specifically, through daily immersion in prayer and meditation. For more information on the role of Centering Prayer in the 12 Steps, please visit http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/category/category/twelve-step.
Contemplative Outreach Chicago hosts a “United in Prayer Day” each March when we gather to pray with other Centering Prayer practitioners around the world. Other programs that are offered on a periodic basis include:
Spiritual Journey Video Series (SJVS)
A yearlong program of study that uses the teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating on the Christian contemplative spiritual journey.
Formation for Contemplative Outreach Service
Training to help participants move towards greater clarity in their understanding of the essence of Centering Prayer. All who present Introductory Workshops in Centering Prayer must go through this training.
Basic Skills Facilitator Formation Workshop
This workshop develops the essential skills to facilitate a Centering Prayer Group.
Coordinator Servant-Leader Formation Workshop
This national week-long program is an orientation and formation for those involved in service in a chapter or those interested in becoming a coordinator or contact person for an area.
Visit the national website at www.contemplativeoutreach.org to find out about other national-level programs offered in a variety of formats–from retreats around the country to online courses, home study courses, etc. A calendar of events and local contacts around the world are provided on this site, as well as offerings for special-interest groups such as the Twelve Step Program, Prison Outreach , and Extension Comtemplitiva Internationale, serving the needs of Hispanic communities.