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Spirit Journal – July 2016


This issue features new information about our upcoming, fifth annual Fall One-Day Workshop.  It also describes two events taking place next month: an introductory workshop on the Enneagram and an advanced/post-intensive Centering Prayer retreat in Wisconsin.  We recommend a great book you may be interested in reading, and share Insights from Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, Lao Tzu, and Alan Watts.

We’d like your input!  Please help us improve Spirit Journal and turn it into an even more valuable forum for Chicago-area contemplatives.  Use the e-mail address at the end to send your ideas, contributions and feedback.

Now through August 15: Lowest Registration Price for Our Fifth Annual Fall One-Day Workshop


Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont

 “Being in the present moment” is certainly an important part of contemplative practice, but sometimes it just makes good sense to plan ahead!  We know it’s mid-summer, but please consider registering now for our Annual Fall One-Day Workshop.  Through August 15, you can register for only $45 ($10 for students).  Registration after August 15 will be $55, or $60 after October 10.

Each year, the Fall Workshop gives us a unique opportunity to gather, practice together, and interact informally while participating in a variety of fascinating workshop sessions on Centering Prayer and related topics.  This year’s event takes place on Saturday, October 15 at Benedictine University in Lisle.  For complete information and registration, please visit our Events page.

The 2016 program includes the following workshop sessions:

Introduction to Centering Prayer: This all-day program offers an opportunity to learn the method of Centering Prayer or, for those already practicing, an opportunity to deepen the practice.  In the early 1970s, Trappist monk and priest Thomas Keating and two other Trappists, Fr. William Meninger and the late Fr. Basil Pennington, worked to bring people living outside monasteries a form of silent prayer now known as Centering Prayer. With roots in the fourteenth century book, The Cloud of Unknowing, this kind of prayer allows people to sit silently and become receptive to God’s gift of contemplation.  Of course, contemplation has been an important part of Christianity from the beginning; Centering Prayer presents the teachings of earlier times in an updated form.  This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

The Wisdom Way of Knowing: A “Wisdom” perspective can provide a framework for deepening the contemplative journey.  This interactive presentation will provide a beginning Wisdom framework for contemplatives, drawing on the lineage of Cynthia Bourgeault.  A commitment to Centering Prayer and the contemplative life can sometimes feel at juxtaposition with much of contemporary Christian life and worship.  Wisdom teaching is based on awareness of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit throughout our daily life activities.  This teaching brings ways to enhance awareness of divine presence as we go along our daily path.  One of the pillars of the Wisdom School is to articulate a rhythm of daily living, taken from one of the oldest traditions in Christianity, the Benedictine rule for monastic life. 

Introductory Enneagram Workshop August 20 at Healing Gardens in St. Charles

220px-Enneagram.svgMany people find that the Enneagram is a powerful tool for personal insight and collective transformation. Acting as a “mirror of the soul,” the Enneagram presents nine ways of experiencing ourselves, others and the Divine.  Each of the nine Enneagram “types” has a different pattern of thinking, feeling and acting.

“Through the exploration of the Enneagram we discover who we believe we are, what is underneath those beliefs, and what moves us toward or away from Divine Essence,” says JoAnne McElroy, who will facilitate the upcoming workshop. “By identifying our primary type, we are able to appreciate our unique gifts while moving to overcome our inner barriers.”

Through Centering Prayer, presentation, and discussion, the goals of the workshop are:

  • To provide a basic introduction to the Enneagram as a system.
  • To define the nine types and help the participants identify their own type.
  • To explore the implications for spiritual growth for each type.

The Enneagram workshop will take place on Saturday August 20 from 8:45am to 3:00pm at beautiful Healing Gardens in St. Charles, Illinois.  The cost is $65 per person (scholarships available).  For further information or to register, contact Deb Marqui at 630-377-1846 or visit the Healing Gardens website.  Attendance at this workshop is limited to 12 participants, so please act quickly if you are interested in learning about the Enneagram. 

Advanced/Post Intensive Retreats August 12-18 in Lake Bennet Wisconsin

Sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin, the Advanced/Post Intensive retreats will take place at St. Benedict’s Abbey and Retreat Center, about 90 minutes north of Chicago.  These retreats will immerse participants in the practice of Centering Prayer. Participants will come together for prayer, liturgy and meal times, and the retreat will provide an atmosphere of silence, solitude and community. (A prerequisite for attending an Advanced/Post Intensive Retreat is previous attendance at an Intensive Retreat.)  To find out more or to register, download this summer retreat flyer.

Book Recommendation: New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

In thirty-nine short chapters, this modern spiritual masterpiece offers inspiration and instruction for deepening the contemplative experience.  Here are a few of the chapter headings to suggest the variety of the book’s insights, which are based on Merton’s own experiences of deep mystical awareness and divine union:  What Is Contemplation?, What Contemplation is Not, Solitude Is Not Separation, The Pure Heart, Detachment, Pure Love, The General Dance.

Merton writes, “Every moment and every event of every life on earth plants something in the soul.  For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the mind and will.”  Especially if you have been practicing Centering Prayer for some time and are interested in deepening your insight, this book is highly recommended.


Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.

 – Alan Watts

 Not surprisingly, we cannot see what we were not told to look for or told to expect. So our job is to tell people to look and see! If we were told to look at all, it was for some divine object outside ourselves instead of realizing that the divine presence is also within us. This is the staggering change of perspective that the Gospel was meant to achieve. This realization is at the heart of all religious transformation.

 – Richard Rohr

God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of Himself. A word will never be able to comprehend the voice that utters it.  But if I am true to the concept that God utters in me, if I am true to the thought of Him I was meant to embody, I shall be full of His actuality and find Him everywhere in myself, and find myself nowhere.  I shall be lost in Him: that is, I shall find myself.  I shall be “saved.”

 – Thomas Merton

The highest truth can never be put into words.  Therefore the greatest teacher has nothing to say.  He simply gives himself in service, and never worries.

 – Lao Tzu

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

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