This month’s issue features:
- Your final opportunity to be part of this Thursday’s Howard Thurman workshop
- Remembrances of Father William Meninger, one of the originators of Centering Prayer, who passed away on Valentine’s Day
- A reflection by Sandra Janowski inspired by a modern translation of a well-known scripture passage and a poem by Deborah Marqui inspired by the winter of ’21
- Our monthly listing of additional online and in-person contemplative events
- Insights from Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington, William Meninger, and Albert Einstein
We would love to hear from you! Please give us your thoughts on Spirit Journal by emailing the editor at the address provided at the end of the newsletter.
Last Chance to Register for Hearing the Sound of the Genuine with Howard Thurman
This Thursday Evening via Zoom
Although more than 100 have already registered, there’s still room for you to be part of this 90-minute workshop, which will introduce participants to the contemplative wisdom of Howard Thurman.
Dr. Thurman (1899-1981) was one of the most important and influential contemplatives of the 20th Century. He was a mystic, theologian, academic, clergyman and spiritual adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Howard Thurman wrote more than 20 books on theology, religion and philosophy, the most famous being Jesus and the Disinherited (1949). In a nation shaped by patterns of injustice, the wisdom of Thurman’s creative encounter with the divine provides a path forward.
Rev. Christophe D. Ringer, Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics and Society at Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago will lead the workshop, which will include a 20-minute session of Centering Prayer. Click here for more information and a chance to register for this workshop.
Everything Is Grace: On the Passing of Father William Meninger
Father William Meninger, O.C.S.O., a well-known and beloved Trappist monk, died at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts on Sunday morning, February 14. He was 88.
Along with fellow monks Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, Father William originated the practice of Centering Prayer. It was he who first recognized that a 14th century book by an anonymous author, The Cloud of Unknowing, contained the blueprint for a practice that could make contemplation available to a wider range of modern-day Christian seekers, within the monastery and out in the larger world.
William Meninger worked tirelessly right up to the end of his life, traveling widely, lecturing, and leading workshops about Centering Prayer and contemplation. He actually offered a live online presentation on the day before his death! You can see it, as well as many of his other videos here. He also wrote many books, which are widely available.
Father William visited Chicago on a number of occasions, most recently in May of 2017 for a weekend Cloud of Unknowing Retreat at the Cenacle retreat house.
The current Coordinator and the most recent past Coordinator of Contemplative Outreach Chicago both knew Father William and were influenced by him in important ways. They offer these remembrances:
Alan Krema – I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Fr. William Meninger on February 14. He was a great source of faith for me and, at times, counsel. Born, raised and educated in Boston, Fr. William had a characteristic Boston accent and when I listened to him I felt as though he was a sage grandfather telling stories. He related his love of Julian of Norwich as if he were telling a fireside story. He emanated love for God which translated into love for the variety of prayer and study that he engaged in.
I would like to share with you the simple email I received from Dan Dobbins, his dear friend:
Fr. William died a short time ago.
I spoke with him yesterday at 11 AM; we did an international Zoom conference at 4 PM and we last spoke at 7:30 PM last evening. He died a peaceful death of complications from kidney disease.
It was one of my greatest joys in life to have been his close friend and traveling companion. He loved each of you and our contemplative communities.
We give God thanks for his life, times, and teachings.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Phil Jackson – Fr. William Meninger was not only the “discoverer” of the method of Centering Prayer, he was the embodiment of its fruits. My family was lucky enough to have Fr. William stay with us on a speaking tour. My children remember his bold and happy countenance and his far-flung wisdom (which was often flung beyond our understanding).
Accepting an invitation, he even gladly attended our little Centering Prayer group, the 80+ year-old giving all his time. Driving William around I never saw him in anything but a joyful mood. He delighted in the people and action of the world. He suggested we drive the convertible top-down to a favorite activity: 25 cent slots at a local casino. Yet he also delighted and was nourished in the quiet of the monastery, communing with fellow monks and God. Fr. William brought the mystics alive with his deep knowledge of Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich and contemplation in general. He shared his wisdom and love of these topics through books, large and small talks, and homilies in the little monastery chapels.
The last time I saw Fr. William was at a dinner outside the monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts, before the pandemic. He wanted to meet in the library there, proudly showing me where he taught the first classes in Centering Prayer ever. “I’m famous you know,” he said with a chuckle, as if in wonder of how silly fame is. He spoke of how the older monks, who he had not seen in decades, all seemed to grow more expansive, more content as they aged. Certainly, he seemed to. At dinner, he seemed to have an urgency to teach that “Everything, EVERYTHING is Grace”. There is so much to that phrase; especially when it comes from a happy cherubic-looking 86+ year-old, who could hardly see, hardly walk, and knew he had cancer operations coming. Fr. William saw Grace even in the ailments.
Everything is grace. May I come to see that in your passing as well, Fr. William.
by Sandra Janowski
Recently I found this quote, taken from the book, The Message, the Bible in Contemporary Language, by Eugene Peterson. It is Eugene’s translation of Matthew 11:28-30:
Jesus says: “Are you tired? Worn Out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live fully and lightly.”
For me, 2020 was not only filled with political unrest, awakening to my white privilege, living with fear of COVID19 . . . NO, 2020 was also a journey deeper into the unconscious and the place of afflicted emotions, undigested pain; healing my relationships with mom and dad . . . healing the pain of divorce . . . a dismantling of the young self’s beliefs, expectations, and assumptions . . . stripped of her way, her desires, her passion for fulfillment of a dream of her own imagination.
The quoted passage speaks to me of Jesus’ gentleness. Jesus says, “Here, this way. Come with me, get away wIth me, walk with me, watch me.” Reassuring me, speaking to my fear, Jesus says, “The rhythms of grace are unforced. I will not ask you to do anything that doesn’t fit who you are . . . nothing heavy. You need not be filled with dread and trembling, I’m here with you, and best of all, you’ll learn to live fully and lightly.”
I look forward to Lent. Who knows what will surface during Lent 🙂 I let go and say “YES” to God’s way.
A Sensual God
Just look at Nature –
the threshold to a soul
is as close as our senses.With the recent fallen snow and
drop in temperature,
the woods have become
a mystical, magical, ethereal presence.
Every branch, every limb,
every stalk of dried foliage
is outlined in mother-of-pearl.
For three days I have walked
amidst this masterpiece
of white stillness and silence.
Nature’s snow-fresh scent
is like the smell of my grandmother’s sheets
hung outside to dry.In the woods I discover,
a narrow, winding deer path
that opens into a forest preserve.
I only hear the crunch
of my footsteps in the snow.
As I walk around the natural prairie path
and back home through the woods,
the essence of Nature
soaks into my body.
My heart is pumping,
my cheeks aflame with the cold,
my legs tingling with the effort
of walking through the snow.
All that I have taken in with my senses
saturates my body and soul with joy.Nothing is as sensual as God.
Highlighted Events and Resources
You may wish to participate in some of these additional local, regional, and online events:
Lenten Retreat: The Treasured Aramaic Words of Jesus – Saturday February 27 via Zoom
In this Lenten contemplation on the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the native language of Jesus, the sacred sound of his Aramaic words put to simple chants and accompanied by English translations become a spiritual practice that reveals authentic meanings missed by more familiar translations. In considering the Aramaic words of Jesus, taken from the bible used by all present-day Aramaic Christians, we can enter his familiar and treasured words in a deeper way and experience them more directly.
The retreat features Aramaic scholar and author Neil Douglas-Klotz of Edinburgh, Scotland, Br. Joseph Kilikevice, OP, Director of the Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality, Oak Park, and is sponsored by Rev. George Smith, Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Glen Ellyn.
Click here for more information about the retreat and how to register.
Enneagram and Centering Payer Workshops at Healing Gardens
Healing Gardens, the lovely, park-like contemplative center in St. Charles has announced a number of 2021 activities:
- Enneagram Workshop, Level 1: Saturday March 13, 8:45 to 11:30am and 12:30-2:30pm via Zoom
- Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop: Saturday, April 17, 8:45am-1:00pm via Zoom
Please visit the Healing Gardens website for more information or to register. In addition, the Gardens will be open beginning February 1 for anyone who needs a Nature “fix.” To make arrangements, text 630-740-2597.
Zoom Events from Contemplative Outreach of Connecticut
Our friends at Contemplative Outreach of Connecticut have a very active schedule of upcoming online events and they have extended an invitation to Chicagoans to participate. Planned events include the following:
- Exploring the Wisdom of the Gospels – 8:00am-3:30pm Central, Saturday February 27
- Entering the Bridal Chamber of the Heart – 8:00am-3:30pm Central, Saturday March 6
- Welcoming Prayer – 8:00am-noon Central, Saturday March 20
For complete information and registration for these and other upcoming events from Connecticut, please click here.
The Humanity of Thomas Merton and the Key to Grace for an Impossible World – Wednesday April 14 via Zoom
The Thomas Merton who lived as a contemplative monk studying, writing, and praying was also a man who could be impatient, rambunctious, charming, deceptive, in pain and in love. In other words, he was completely human and in the vulnerability of that messy humanity he most felt the grace of God. That humanity can take Merton beyond the realm of mystic/saint, making him more accessible to us so that through him we may learn how to reach for God in the midst of our own imperfections.
In this two-hour evening workshop, presented by In Via Lumen, author Sophfronia Scott considers this connection and, recognizing that so many of the issues of Merton’s time (race, peace, ambition, materialism, love) are, sometimes frustratingly so, still our issues today, will discuss how Merton’s work helps us to see through a lens of grace, allowing us to love the impossible world even as we seek to redeem it.
For further information and registration, please visit the In Via Lumen website.
2021 Intensive and Post Intensive Retreats June 13-19 at the Siena Retreat Center, Racine Wisconsin
An Intensive Retreat is an opportunity to deepen the practice of Centering Prayer in an atmosphere of profound silence and community support. There are up to six 30-minute Centering Prayer periods daily, supported with viewing a selection of the Spiritual Journey video series by Fr. Thomas Keating. Private interviews with the retreat guides can also be scheduled. The Post-Intensive Retreat is offered for those who have previously taken part in an Intensive Retreat. It provides an opportunity to deepen the practice of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina. There are up to seven 30-minute periods of Centering Prayer daily. Participants observe Sacred Silence four days during the retreat.
Next summer’s retreats are offered June 13-19 at the lovely Siena Retreat Center in Racine, 83 miles north of Chicago on the Lake Michigan shore. The retreat guides are Ann Koerner, CSA and Sandy Janowski. Ann is a Sister of St. Agnes and holds a Masters in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha NE. Since 1986 she has been a spiritual companion and retreat director. Sandy is a retired Social Worker, Addiction Counselor and Community College Adjunct Instructor. In 2009 she was commissioned by the Institute of Spiritual Companionship and has been a practitioner of Centering Prayer since 2001.
Click here to download more complete information about the retreats and a chance to register.
Centering Prayer Groups via Zoom
Here are four invitations to gather with Chicago-area Centering Prayer groups via Zoom. Listed below are the groups, times, and contact information.
- St. Clement’s Centering Prayer Group every Saturday 9:30-10:30am. Contact Bill Epperly at firstname.lastname@example.org
- St. Katharine Drexel Church every Tuesday 8:30-9:30am. Contact Lori Dressel at email@example.com
- The Healing Gardens second Friday of each month, 10:30am-12:30pm. Also, Centering Prayer with Lectio Divina, last Friday of each month, 10:30am-11:30pm. Contact Deb Marqui at firstname.lastname@example.org or text/call 630-740-259.
- Permanent Zoom group (not associated with an in-person group) Tuesday 6:00 – 7:00pm. Contact Rose Magiera for link and phone number – email@example.com
Bill Epperly has also invited everyone to Interspiritual Sundays which gathers Sunday from 9:00-10:00am. n 2018. You may contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll be happy to share more information with you.
(Other Centering Prayer groups may also wish to consider meeting online for now. If you need help in setting up, please contact Sandy Janowski: email@example.com)
Offerings in the Contemplative Outreach Meditation Chapel
The national website of our parent organization features an Online Meditation Chapel that is very easy to use and provides the opportunity to see, hear and join in silent prayer with others from all over the world. You must first register to attend the meetings in the Chapel. You can do that by using the calendar link. Once you know what chapel your desired meeting is in, use the chapel link.
Meditation Groups – Groups meet via Zoom at all hours of the day and night and are open to anyone. There is no cost/fee to attend, charging is prohibited. A friend writes: “I have been attending meditation in the virtual Keating Chapel and had a lovely experience. The facilitator was very good!” For further information, visit the calendar or chapel listing.
Healing Together: A Gathering of Consciousness – In silence we focus on an intention for peace and healing in 2020. The format is an opening prayer, a short reading, two 25-minute sessions of silent prayer with a short break in-between and closing prayer. These sessions are scheduled every Thursday from 11:00am to 12:00pm Central Time (US & Ca) in the Thomas Keating Chapel with Mary Lapham. You can contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please let us know about any additional events and resources you’re aware of. Write to: email@example.com
The commitment to the spiritual journey is not a commitment to pure joy, but to taking responsibility for the whole human family, its needs and destiny. We are not our own; we belong to everyone else.
– Thomas Keating
Monks realize well that when the consciousness of one person is raised, the whole of humanity is raised; when the quality of life of one improves, all improve. Or, to put it in another, more biblical, way, the increased health and vitality of any one cell vitalizes the whole Body of Christ.
– Basil Pennington
Our minds try to understand God. Attempts to know God have to give way to loving God.
– William Meninger
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
– Albert Einstein.
Please write in to contribute your ideas or to comment on any aspect of Spirit Journal. 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 can contribute by emailing the newsletter editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.