get in touch

Spirit Journal – December 2016


Merry Christmas and best wishes for a wonderful, peaceful New Year!

We begin this issue with a Christmas reflection written by Alan Krema, the coordinator of Contemplative Outreach-Chicago.  We then provide previews of five retreats and other contemplative events that are coming up in 2017 — any and all of them provide good opportunities to deepen your spiritual development in the coming year.  Lastly, we share Insights from Martin Scorcese, Thomas Keating, Mechtild of Magdeburg, and a little child many of us associate with this special season.

Please don’t forget to give us your input and ideas for future editions of Spirit Journal: use the e-mail address at the end to send your contributions and feedback.

Christmas Memories and Hopes


by Alan Krema

Christmas is a time of memories and hopes.  I have happy memories of my childhood with a warm, loving family and the joy of toys.  I also have some sad memories of family members who did not fare well during some of the holiday times.

I have memories of our children in their childhood of Santa, trees, toys, and joyous times.  I have large hopes for my children and grandchildren.  This season of Christmas is full of special memories and hopes.  We spend this advent time of waiting in thoughts and feelings connected to all who are close to us.

Memories and hopes place us in the past and the future.  Our mind loves to oscillate between them.  All these memories and hopes are in our thoughts and as we sit in Centering Prayer, as we wait in patient consent to what is happening within, our thoughts dissipate in a sea of connection which cannot be grasped or controlled.

The days are short, the nights are long, and we sense we are changing.  The contemplative work is to open ourselves to the divine presence and action within.  In this advent, can we open to that which is being born eternally?  Can we patiently wait for the rebirth of a child?  Can we participate in this rebirth?

I recently came across this admonition from Rainer Maria Rilke in his Letters to a Young Poet:

What if we think of Him as the one who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are?  What keeps you from projecting his birth into the ages that are coming into existence, and living your life as a painful and lovely day in the history of a great pregnancy?  Don’t you see how everything that happens is again and again a beginning, and couldn’t it be His beginning, since, in itself, starting is always so beautiful?  If He is the most perfect one, must not what is less perfect precede Him, so that He can choose Himself out of fullness and superabundance?  Must He not be the last one, so that He can include everything in Himself? (Rome, December 23, 1903)

I send you my deepest wish for a blessed advent and a joyous Christmas.  I invite you to participate with us this coming year in the many programs our Chicago chapter is offering.   Living Wisdom, the Winter Retreat, Fr. Meninger’s weekend retreat, or our eight-day intensive; all offer a deepening of the contemplative experience.

Fr. Menninger sent a hopeful and beautiful Christmas message to all of us in his homily on the third Sunday of advent — you can read it here.  I hope to see you at one of our 2017 events, and I send you much love and great blessings.

Plan Now for a Meaningful 2017

With a new year about to begin, now is a wonderful time to plan for a rich and meaningful year in 2017.  Please consider whether one or more of the following activities might enhance your spiritual journey:

The Living Wisdom Program Begins in January 2017

Starting on January 21, Contemplative Outreach Chicago will present a new series of full-day workshops, each dedicated to a theme of wisdom in the Christian contemplative tradition. The vision of this program is to deepen the contemplative wisdom in each participant. Based on the core practice of Centering Prayer and the teachings of Cynthia Bourgeault, the program will increase awareness of and openness to the divine presence within us through additional practices founded in the Wisdom tradition.

The Living Wisdom program will include four full-day Saturday workshops, one per month, January-April; the specific dates are January 21, February 18, March 18, and April 8.  Look to our website now for more information and an opportunity to register for the Living Wisdom Program.

Coming in February 2017: The Winter Weekend Retreat

Simon Wa

Our annual Winter Weekend Retreat will once again be led by the Reverend Shawn Kafader, February 24-27, 2017 at the Portiuncula Center in Frankfurt Illinois.

The retreat theme is Personal Reflections on the Spiritual Journey, exploring the classic stages of the spiritual journey as reformed by Thomas Merton. Those present will be offered opportunities to reflect on the people, places and events that have served as personal invitations for spiritual transformation, fostering a grateful heart of thanks toward God.

See our website for more information and an opportunity to register for the Winter Weekend Retreat.

Coming in May 2017: The Cloud of Unknowing Retreat with Father William Menninger


Contemplative Outreach Chicago is very pleased to offer you an opportunity to learn directly from Father William Menninger, one of the originators of Centering Prayer.

Father Menninger will be basing his retreat on the 14th century spiritual classic The Cloud of Unknowing, which was one of the key sources for the development of the Centering Prayer method.

The retreat will take place May 5-7 at the Chicago Cenacle.  Watch for further information as plans are finalized.

Rebirth in Christ on the Tree of Life: a Process of Inner Transformation – a Five Day Retreat June 26-30, 2017 Marianist Center St. Louis, Missouri

Both “old wine” and “new wine,” Kess Frey introduces a Christian contemplative interpretation of the Qabalistic Tree of Life.  This living allegorical Tree is said to predate the birth of Jesus and to have its earthly roots in ancient Hebrew mysticism.  Kess, from Anchorage, Alaska, will explore the way that Christ stands in the center of creation’s Universal Tree of Life and in the soul of each individual as the divine indwelling.

Kess Frey has authored four books related to the conceptual understanding of Centering Prayer, the most recent entitled “The Will of Divine Love:  Centering Prayer & Spiritual Psychology.”  Kess serves as Coordinator of Contemplative Outreach of Anchorage, has been practicing Centering Prayer since 1989 and offers workshops on contemplative spirituality.  He is also active in prison ministry.

This retreat will include presentations, periods of Centering Prayer, silence and small group process. For information or pre-registration, contact Susan Komis – or 314-750-5100.

Eight-Day Intensive/Post Intensive Retreat in August

Also in 2017, Contemplative Outreach-Chicago will offer an eight-day intensive and post-intensive retreat in August.  An extended retreat of this kind allows a depth of contemplative experience that cannot be touched in a one-day or weekend event.  We will begin registration for this retreat early in the New Year, as well.


I don’t know if there’s redemption, but there is such a thing as trying to get it right.   But how do you do it? The right way to live has to do with selflessness. I believe that. But how does one act that out? I don’t think you practice it consciously. It has to be something that develops in you — maybe through a lot of mistakes.

– Martin Scorsese

 The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God and God in all things.

– Mechtild of Magdeburg

For human beings, the most daunting challenge is to become fully human.  For to become fully human is to become fully divine.

– Thomas Keating

 God bless us, every one!

– Tiny Tim

Your Turn

Please write in to comment on or add to any of the items in this month’s newsletter.  Let us know if you are aware of an upcoming event you think others should know about, or send us an inspirational quote you’d like to share, or information about a book, website, podcast, or video you recommend.  You are invited to contribute by emailing the newsletter editor at

Comments are closed.

Web design by cpe design