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Spirit Journal – November 2017


This issue announces our 2018 Winter Weekend Retreat, looks back on the recent 2017 Fall Workshop, provides several worthwhile video links, alerts you to other events of interest, and wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!  November Insights come from Meister Eckhart, Kahlil Gibran, Thomas Merton and A.A. Milne.

Please talk back: Help us make Spirit Journal an active forum for the members and friends of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago.  We invite you to use the email address provided at the end to send in your responses, ideas and insights.  We love hearing from you!

Winter Weekend Retreat in February 2018: “From the Mind to the Heart”

Our 2018 Winter Weekend Retreat has been scheduled for February 9-11 at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer in Frankfurt, Illinois.  The retreat will focus on the embodied Wisdom dimension of the spiritual journey – we will explore attentiveness to our wholeness in mind and heart, and how this can deepen presence in Centering Prayer, Welcoming Prayer, and Lectio Divina.  Those present will be offered opportunities to access our interior being through the heart as an embodied connection to Christian contemplative spirituality.

Alan Krema will guide the Winter Weekend Retreat.  Alan is a Wisdom student with Cynthia Bourgeault and has completed the Living School program at the Center for Action and Contemplation.  He is a long time practitioner of Centering Prayer as well as facilitator of several Centering Prayer groups.  Alan currently serves as chapter coordinator for Contemplative Outreach Chicago.

We would be delighted to have you join us this February; for complete information and an opportunity to register, please visit the Winter Weekend Retreat event page.

A Day for Contemplation and Community: Recalling 2017’s Annual One-Day Fall Workshop

Contemplative Outreach Chicago’s sixth annual One-Day Fall Workshop took place earlier this month at Benedictine University in Lisle.  If you were one of the approximately 200 people who participated, thank you very much!  We hope you found the day stimulating and meaningful.

Whether or not you were able to join us this year, please save the date for the seventh annual Fall Workshop: November 3, 2018.  Next year, we’re planning something a little bit different around a well-known and very special guest speaker.  (Look for more information in Spirit Journal in the spring.)

Looking back on the 2017 Fall Workshop, about 40 people spent the day taking part in Introductory Centering Prayer Workshops, which are always an important part of the agenda.  The rest chose to enjoy two of the four half-day workshops, which covered Sacred Chant, Taize Spirituality, the Perennial Wisdom, and the legacy of Thomas Merton.  We are still collecting and analyzing feedback from the participants, which will influence plans for the future. However, it’s clear that most of the people who attended felt that the event was enriching and rewarding.

We do want to offer an apology to Linda Nachtrieb.  Linda recorded a beautiful song and allowed us to use it as part of the lead-in to Centering Prayer at the start of the day but, unfortunately, technical difficulties detracted from our presentation of her work.  We appreciate Linda’s help and we are very sorry about the glitch.  We’ll certainly strive to do better in the future.

Here are the remarks Alan Krema made at the start of the day.  May they provide inspiration and a reminder of the centrality of contemplation and Centering Prayer to our lives and community.

Welcome to the 6th Annual Fall Workshop.  As you may know, Contemplative Outreach – Chicago is part of a larger, national organization.  Since our local chapter formed in the 1990s, we have focused on the role of Centering Prayer in our personal lives, and recently ever more on the role of Centering Prayer as a societal and communal movement.

Have a Look at These Interesting Video Lectures on Merton and Nouwen from a Recent Yale Divinity School Conference

Our friends at the Chicago Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society shared links to several fascinating lectures on Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen from a joint conference about these two great twentieth century contemplatives, which took place earlier this month at Yale Divinity School.  Enjoy!

Robert Ellsberg – “The Home Where I Have Never Been: The Restless Journeys of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen”

Jim Forest – “Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen: Western Explorers of the Christian East”

Michael Higgins – “Pure and Fresh Seeing: Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton as Sacred Disrupters”

Fr. Ron Rolheiser – “Nouwen, Merton, and the Discipline and Language of Spirituality”

Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences for You to Consider

Here are some local and regional upcoming activities that may be of interest:

Ongoing Centering Prayer “11th Step” Programs in Northfield and Chicago

In AA 12-step programs, the 11th step is making a personal effort to get in touch with a Higher Power, however one understands it.  Increasingly, people in 12-Step programs are deepening their

relationships with their Higher Power using the method of Centering Prayer.

Here in the Chicago area, two new Centering Prayer-based 11th step groups have formed.  One meets on Sundays, 4:30-5:15, at 319 Waukegan Road in Northfield.  For more information, please contact Leonette Kaluzny –

Another Centering Prayer 11th step program meets on Fridays at 6:45pm in conference room “C” on the 7th floor of the Community First Medical Center, 5645 W. Addison Street, Chicago. For further information on this program, please contact Philip Lo Dolce —

Merton Society’s Series of Sunday Afternoon Programs Continues, the Next on December 10

All of these Merton Society presentations are held Sundays at 2 p.m. in the Rectory Assembly of Immaculate Conception Parish, 7211 W. Talcott, Chicago. Signs with arrows indicating “Merton Lecture” will be posted.

December 10: Kate Hennessy & Rosalie Riegle on Dorothy Day (Kate’s grandmother)

January 21, 2018: Jon Sweeney on “A Course in Christian Mysticism”

No special reading or background is required for any of these Merton Society talks, which are open to the public. Admission is a freewill offering. Refreshments will be served. For more information, call Mike Brennan at 773-447-3989. RSVPs to are welcome, but not required.

Forgiveness Prayer Weekend Retreat – December 10-12 in Racine Wisconsin

Mary Dwyer, a well-known retreat guide and long-time student of Fr. Thomas Keating, will present a weekend retreat focusing on “The Forgiveness Prayer” at the beautiful Siena Retreat Center on the shores of Lake Michigan in Racine, Wisconsin December 10-12.

To be a Christian mandates a willingness to forgive, but as the adage goes, “to err is human, to forgive is Divine.” Forgiveness is central to Jesus’s message calling us to forgive “from the heart,” yet in today’s world how does one forgive?  The retreat will explore these questions and share both the Process of Forgiveness and specific practices to forgive (including the Forgiveness Prayer as articulated by Mary Mrozowski).  For more information or to register, click here. This event is sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin.

2018 Midwest Wisdom Schools in Dubuque Iowa, the First in February

If you are longing to go deeper in your Centering Prayer practice, and perhaps yearning for a community of like-hearted seekers, you are invited to participate in one or more Wisdom Schools being offered next year at the Shalom Spirituality Center in Dubuque:

February 5-8, 2018 – Wisdom School: Mary Magdalene as Unitive Wisdom 

August 6-9, 2018  – Wisdom School: Surrendering Into Presence (Centering Prayer and Non-duality)

Oct 15-18, 2018 – Wisdom School: Placing Our Mind in Our Heart (Introductory Level Wisdom School, Part A)

All of the schools will be led by Beth O’Brien, Benedictine oblate and Founder of Contemplative Presence.  A long-time Centering Prayer practitioner, Beth has been a direct student of Cynthia Bourgeault.  In 2014, she received Cynthia’s blessing to teach and carry forth the Wisdom lineage.  Beth led a one-day workshop on Mary Magdalene that was part of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago’s Living Wisdom Series earlier in 2017.  For more information & registration, please visit the Contemplative Presence website.

It’s Time to Secure Your Place at Next Spring’s Mega Wisdom School in North Carolina

The next “Mega” Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault will take place Sunday, March 11 – Friday, March 16, 2018 at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina.

Entitled Introductory Wisdom School Part B: The Divine Exchange, the retreat will cover the Wisdom metaphysical map, the Divine Exchange, Vertical Exchange, Reciprocal Feeding, the Jesus teachings based in exchange, an introduction to Trinitarian metaphysics and selections from the Gospel of Thomas.  For complete information, visit the Wisdom Way of Knowing website.

“While March is still more than four months away, Cynthia’s Wisdom School events, including the larger-capacity “mega” retreats, always fill up quickly,” says Alan Krema, Contemplative Outreach Chicago Coordinator, who will be assisting as a facilitator at the retreat. “It isn’t necessary to have experienced the Wisdom School Part A to participate in and benefit from Part B, but it is suggested that participants have an established Centering Prayer or meditation practice.”

If you are interested in attending or have any questions about the Wisdom School, please email Alan at


As this is Thanksgiving week, these Insights all reflect the theme of gratitude.  This Thursday, let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that the source of our existence on this Earth is pure grace – it’s a gift we don’t have the power to give ourselves.  The simple tradition of Thanksgiving carries this deep meaning forward through time, and gives us a chance to feel it and express our gratitude.  Happy Thanksgiving!

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.

– Meister Eckhart

You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.

– Kahlil Gibran

To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.

– Thomas Merton

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.

– A.A. Milne

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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