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Spirit Journal – September 2017


Happy Peace Day Chicago!

The Sixth Annual One-Day Fall Workshop is only six weeks away on November 4.  To help you get ready, this issue features personal reflections from two more of the people who will be leading workshop sessions, providing insight on the topics they plan to cover.  (For similar background on the other two workshop sessions, see last month’s Spirit Journal.)

We also let you know about other upcoming activities, events, retreats, and conferences, and draw your attention to God is Love, a major new  work from Thomas Keating.  September Insights come from Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Keating, Therese of Lisieux and Anne Lamott.

Please help 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!

Session-Leader Reflections on Two of the Fall Workshop Sessions: Sacred Chant and Taize Spirituality

Read about the other three workshop sessions in last month’s Spirit Journal

Register for the Fall Workshop now (the price goes up on October 1)

Inner Singing: A Practice of Attention and Surrender

by Darlene Franz

On November 4, I’ll be leading a session on singing as a spiritual practice for all.  We will actively engage attentional practices and vocal exercises designed to be accessible to everyone, even and especially those who may consider themselves “musically impaired.”  If you’re wondering whether this workshop is for you, it is!  My hope is that these musings may assist your decision process.

I love to sing because singing together draws us into communion as we listen, resonating within, outside, and beyond ourselves.  Though I do have some vocal training, I’m not a professional singer, and “performance” is not at all what this workshop will focus on.  Any attentive group of singers calls forth divine attributes: creating beauty, serving each other in the act of listening, responding to what emerges in the moment, resonating with expanding circles of wholeness and inclusion.  Singing as a spiritual, devotional act is the birthright of every human being.  The intent of this workshop is to provide simple, practical tools so that anyone – regardless of training or perceived ability – can enter into a deeper knowledge of this wholeness, and carry it out into the world.

It is said that “the one who sings, prays twice” and singing is indeed a profound form of prayer.

This workshop is about exploring and deepening our singing as an incarnate practice of prayer that includes the whole of ourselves.  Most of the practices we’ll be engaging together are grounded in attention to the body.  We live in a head-y, image-oriented culture, and often our thoughts and emotions can become fragmented and scattered.  The body can be a vehicle of grace when we turn our attention to a solid, reliable sense of our physical presence in the here and now.  In this way, the practice of being present to and in the body while singing helps us be more capable of saying our own “I am” in resonance with the Great I AM who holds the mystery of our very existence.

Seeking the Risen Christ: Brother Roger of Taize

by Karen Scott, PhD

On November 4, I will be leading the workshop on Taize spirituality and its originator, Brother Roger.  For now, I offer this reflection to those who may be thinking about whether this might be the “right” session for them.

The session will focus on contemplative practices inspired by the thought and experience of Brother Roger, the Founder of the Taize community.  We will explore some of Brother Roger’s writings on how we can encounter the God of love; we’ll pray with Taize songs, Scripture, and silence (no music expertise is needed); and we’ll discuss together some of the experiences that become possible through Taize modes of contemplative prayer and community encounter.

Taize is an ecumenical monastic community located in Burgundy, France.  It currently includes about 100 brothers—including Catholics and members of various Protestant denominations coming from about 30 countries. Taize wants to be a sign of reconciliation among Christians and among all kinds of separated people.  Since its founding shortly after World War II, the Taize community has developed a style of contemplative prayer characterized by the sung repetition of short and simple phrases, in many different languages, excerpted from the Bible and varied classics of Christian spirituality. Every year, thousands of young people visit Taize, attracted by this simple and beautiful worship and by the joy of making new friends and discovering that Christ can destroy every separating wall.  Taize hymns and music have been adopted and are loved today in Christian churches all over the world.


Some Additional Events, Retreats, and Conferences for You to Consider

We hope we can look forward to seeing you at the Annual Fall Workshop on Saturday November 4.  Here are some other upcoming activities that may be of interest:

New Centering Prayer “11th Step” Program Begins October 8 in Northfield

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, another new Centering Prayer-based 11th step group is forming and will meet for the first time on Sunday, October 8, 4:30-5:15pm at 319 Waukegan Road in Northfield.  For more information, please contact Leonette Kaluzny –

(Note: A similar 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 Offers a Series of Sunday Afternoon Programs, the Next on October 15

 All 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.

October 15: Shawn Storer of the Catholic Peace Fellowship on Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

November 5: David Belcastro on Merton & Camus

November 19: Paul Pearson on Merton & Humor

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.

Highlights of Fall Events at Healing Gardens in St. Charles

Lovely Healing Gardens at Stone Hill Farm in Saint Charles offers many opportunities to visit and enjoy the autumn weather, including yoga classes in the garden on October 8, an Awakening in Nature Retreat on October 22, and the last Silent Saturday of 2017 on October 28.  Other key activities during October include a stress reduction workshop and a day retreat for bereaved parents.  For complete information, please visit the Healing Gardens website.

Welcoming Prayer Workshop – November 4 in Middleton Wisconsin

Contemplative Outreach of Madison is offering a one-day workshop on the Welcoming Prayer on Saturday November 4 at the Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, Wisconsin.

The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life. The purpose of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen our relationship with God through consenting in ordinary activities. The Welcoming Prayer helps to dismantle the emotional programs of the false-self system and to heal the wounds of a lifetime by addressing them where they are stored—in the body. It contributes to the process of transformation in Christ initiated in Centering Prayer.

Mary Dwyer, from Bay Harbor, Florida, a longtime presenter of Centering Prayer and the Welcoming Prayer Practices and a member of the Recovering Community, will present the Welcoming Prayer workshop.  Mary will also be presenting a weekend retreat focusing on “The Forgiveness Prayer” in Racine, Wisconsin December 10-12 (see below).  For more information on the Welcoming Prayer workshop, or to register, click here

Looking Ahead: Events to Plan for in December 2017 and March 2018

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.

Act Now to Secure Your Place at Next Spring’s Mega Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault 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 next March is more than five 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

God is Love Series Builds on Thomas Keating’s Lifetime of Contemplation

The God is Love: The Heart of All Creation series continues and builds on the works of Thomas Keating over the past 30+ years, beginning with the Spiritual Journey series. It offers a vision of hope and a view of reality that at once integrates the sciences, religion and humankind’s place in the cosmos.

According to Father Thomas: “Everything in the universe – everything our senses observe and technology uncovers at the highest level of infinitude and the deepest levels of the infinitesimal – is prophetic witness of the Divine.  The Divine Presence … is happening in, through, and amidst every detail of life … penetrates all that exists … is in relationship to every part of creation … is trying to move humanity to the next stage of consciousness.”

The God is Love DVD package, includes two DVDs and a 197-page guide book.  The series is also available for digital download, and will be the focus of a week-long silent retreat in Garrison, New York in November.  Complete information is available through the Contemplative Outreach national website.


In the attitude of silence, the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.

– Mahatma Gandhi

Humanity as a whole needs a breakthrough into the contemplative dimension of life. This is the Life at the heart of the world. There, the human family is already one.

– Thomas Keating

Just as the sun shines on all the trees and flowers as if each were the only one on earth, so does God care for all souls in a special manner.

– Therese of Lisieux

I do not understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

– Anne Lamott

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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