- This issue begins with the announcement of an online workshop entitled What Would Thomas Merton Say about the “New Normal”? We are collaborating with the International Thomas Merton Society to present this workshop on August 16.
- Next comes Alan Krema’s reflection on the current era of transformation.
- We provide a listing of many online and in-person contemplative events and retreats available to us this summer.
- In lieu of the usual monthly feature Insights, we offer a poem by Tsunekichi Suzuki.
It would be wonderful 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.
You’re Invited to a Zoom Workshop August 16: What Would Thomas Merton Say about the “New Normal”?
The voice of Thomas Merton reaches across time with clear-eyed guidance that speaks directly to many of the struggles we are facing in our world today: Conflict. Injustice. Division. Disease. Fear. Separation. Racial Tensions.
In this special workshop, presented by the International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS) and Contemplative Outreach Chicago, author and ITMS board member Judith Valente will lead us through a guided meditation on insights we can receive from the works of Thomas Merton to help us weather this difficult time.
The program will be conducted via Zoom on Sunday August 16, 2:00-3:30pm Central, and will include a presentation by Judith followed by time for discussion. With in-person gatherings still carrying risk, this is a chance for our members to enjoy each other’s company virtually and to hear and discuss a stimulating talk. The program will last approximately an hour and a half.
There is no charge for this workshop; you will have the option of making a free-will donation, if you like, during the registration process.
About Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was one of the most influential contemplatives of the 20th century. He was an American Trappist monk, best-selling author of more than 50 books, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. Merton wrote about spirituality, social justice and pacifism; his best-known work is probably his compelling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948). Merton’s work helped to jump-start renewed interest in Christian mysticism and drew strong linkages between contemplation and social action. He was also an effective proponent of inter-spiritual dialog and understanding.
According to Alan Jacobs, distinguished professor of humanities at Baylor University, “Merton was a remarkable man by any measure, but perhaps the most remarkable of his traits was his hypersensitivity to social movements from which, by virtue of his monastic calling, he was supposed to be removed. Intrinsic to Merton’s nature was a propensity for being in the midst of things.”
About Judith Valente
Judith is a former reporter for PBS-TV and the National Public Radio affiliates in both Chicago and central Illinois and the author of several spirituality titles including, “How To Live: What the Rule St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community” and “The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed.” She is a popular speaker and retreat leader on the theme of living a more contemplative life in the secular world, an award-winning poet, and board member of the International Thomas Merton Society. Some Contemplative Outreach members may recall Judith’s excellent workshop on The Art of Pausing: Lessons from Merton and Other Monastics at our Annual Fall Workshop in 2015.
When and Where
The program will be conducted via Zoom on Sunday August 16, 2:00-3:30pm Central.
To register, click here. There is no charge for this workshop; you will have the option of making a free-will donation, if you like, during the registration process. Log on credentials will be emailed to registrants two days prior to the workshop. Questions? Please contact the registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Era of Transformation
by Alan Krema
First, I would like to highlight this touching portrait of Fr. Thomas Keating which was painted by Mary Haas. Mary is a long-time member of our chapter and attends many of our events. She serves as a host on our Facebook page, offering various posts about spirituality. Mary is a talented artist and maintains a website of her work. You can visit her website here.
An old world is dying, and a new one, kicking in the belly of its mother, time, announces that it is ready to be born. – James Baldwin
Recent months have been a very transforming era for our society and the entire human family. We are in a very different space than we were four months ago. Transformation is at the core of Contemplative Outreach’s mission statement: “We embrace the process of transformation in Christ through the practice of Centering Prayer.” There is most certainly a lot of transformation happening and it is worth a look at how we open ourselves to the process.
The theological foundation of Centering Prayer is the Divine Presence in every member of the human family. This statement stakes us all into the source of our very being. We share the source of our being with each member of the human family in the divine nature abiding in us. The teaching of the vine and the branches shows our relationship to God as one of “symbiotic unity.” We are each a person and personality flowering out of the sustaining and nurturing flow of love from the vine. We also give the fruit of our life back to the earth which in turn sustains all of us.
As we experience the sensation of the nature of our being, our mind is too small in its thoughts to contain the vast spaciousness of our living in union with the source of our being, which we share with each other. We expand our sense of Being by allowing our embodied nature to keep us present and aware of it, allowing us to access heartful awareness.
Through our practice of Centering Prayer, we learn to put aside thoughts that can grip us and lead us into reactive behavior. As the false self diminishes in its power over us, we become aware of the larger, spacious True self. In this space, we hold others as our Self, sharing the same source of Being. The unity we feel with others allows each individual person to be themselves, and the being of each unifies us as a human family. The more we experience an overarching unity, a structural unity that binds the whole together, the more we can appreciate and sustain differences and diversity within the parts.
As I talk to many of you during various online sessions, there is great hope that our human family is undergoing an evolutionary development in consciousness, folding in on a finite spherical earth. Our future must be in greater consciousness because there are no more resources for unchecked expansive growth. Human society is creating new forms and relationships.
We are all created from the same source, physically and materially, not just conceptually. Our feet are our interface to the earth. They are the means by which we impress our being upon the earth. They are the interface to our source which sustains us, holds us upright, and nurtures us. May we hold each member of the human family in our heart, sensing that their being arises from the same source as ours. We are sourced in, through, and with each other. In this space may we come to love one another as our self.
Working to Bring You Online Events
Somewhat saddened by the impossibility of hosting in-person contemplative events this year, our volunteer team has been working to put together as many online sessions and experiences as possible for our chapter. The first thing we noticed is that much of what we would think to offer is already being implemented by other groups. The meditation chapel and the welcoming prayer sessions offered by the national Contemplative Outreach organization are really working well for so many people. We have held sessions of the Living Flame program on Zoom conference and are considering that in the future as well. I hope to offer online sessions on the Wisdom Way of Knowing topics that we covered in our Living Wisdom program a few years ago. Look for these in the near future.
We have also put forward some information in our newsletter about other online experiences that are not necessarily method-based but deepen and broaden our experience of contemplative living and the mission of Contemplative Outreach. Some examples of these are the online teachings on “Dame Julian” by Fr. William Menninger, a presentation on “What Would Thomas Merton Say about the New Normal” that we are co-sponsoring with the Chicago chapter of the ITMS (International Thomas Merton Society), a range of offerings from The Well, and Enneagram workshops at Healing Gardens.
We then realized that there are so many great ideas for online gathering as well as virtually no limit on attendees and geography. We are currently looking into the possibility of other chapters sharing their online sessions with us and inviting them to ours.
Charlie Welsh has been putting together an extensive calendar of these online experiences, which we plan to make available to you soon. We hope you may find it helpful to have this information at a glance. It is impressive how much we have available to us and seeing this in one place makes me feel very grateful for all of the opportunities.
As always, if you have any comments about the offerings we highlight or if there’s anything else you would like to see us offer, please let us know.
I heard Fr. Menninger say the other day that though he is 88 years old, virtually blind, and in need of assistance to walk, he has never been happier in his life. That made me appreciate our communal situation of great suffering and uncertainty as a tremendous opportunity for deepening our contemplative living and to broaden the flowering of the mission of Contemplative Outreach. For this I am very hopeful and grateful.
In Great Love,
Contemplative Gatherings, Events, and Activities Continue All Summer!
You may like to participate in some of the following opportunities for spiritual growth during what we hope can be a peaceful and productive summer.
July 25 via Zoom: Father William Meninger Discusses 12th Century Chinese Buddhist Ox-Herding Pictures
Father William Meninger, presents the Christian spiritual journey as seen through the 12th century Ox Herding Pictures drawn by the Chinese Zen master, Shiyuan. The pictures transcend cultural differences. Fr. William states, “The ox herding idea is both unusual and somehow familiar, embodying as it does the traditional stages of the journey to God as found in the Christian mystics. It concretizes the mystical journey, emphasizing its basic reality as an experience to be lived rather than a theory. It would be difficult to find a metaphor more concrete than capturing a water buffalo!”
Father Meninger is 87 years of age. He is one of the originators of Centering Prayer, along with Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington. He is the author of “Julian of Norwich: A Mystic for Our Times” among other classic spiritual books. His recent talks in this series (Easter Joy and Julian of Norwich, A Mystic for Today) as well as future talks, may be found on his YouTube Channel.
Summer Lineup of Events from The Well Continues
The Well Spirituality Center in La Grange Park has been offering an ambitious summer program of contemplative retreats and special events via Zoom. Their intent is “to connect with new people, fascinating ideas, and expansive spirituality from all over the country and around the world.”
Here’s a summary of the remaining summer lineup:
Retreat With Mark Burrows
The Sense of Wonder: Learning to Thrive in a Time of Pandemic
Monday, August 3 – Friday, August 7, 2020
This retreat will develop simple practices of attentiveness that encourage us not simply to reduce ourselves to “managing,” but to go further in thriving. For, in the midst of all the uncertainties facing us lies a greater certainty, one rooted in the deep and inviolable beauty of this life.
Practicing Wonder in a Time of Pandemic
Or, how our “sixth sense” might still save us
Wednesday August 5
This talk is an invitation to learn again how to hone our “sixth sense,” the capacity to wonder. In this mid-retreat reflection, Mark Burrows will share in condensed form some of his learnings and teachings on this “sixth sense.”
For details and pricing on all programs, please visit The Well’s website.
Online Retreat with Susan Komis Presented by the Benet House Retreat Center at St. Mary Monastery
Benet House is currently closed to in-person retreats but in August Susan Komis will lead a virtual online Post Intensive Centering Prayer Retreat, From Seeker to Sage, based on the teachings of Thomas Keating. Two-hour online sessions will take place on five successive Wednesdays beginning August 16.
The “Spiritual Journey” is a metaphor for how our beliefs change and develop throughout life. This 5-week virtual retreat provides an opportunity to come together to reflect upon:
- Our personal spiritual journey: from Seeker to Sage:
- Exploring stages and seasons of the various paths we have traveled
- Our relationship with Divine Being
- Realization that we have been led every step of the way by a loving, mysterious unknowable God.
- Session 1: Introduction and Centering Prayer; Session 2: The Awakening; Session 3: The Seeker; Session 4: The Servant; Session 5: The Sage.
The retreat will provide Centering Prayer in community, presentation, interactive experience, small group process and periods of silence and solitude.
Susan Komis has led many retreats and workshops for Contemplative Outreach Chicago and is returning for her third year of directing the August Post Intensive Prayer Retreat for the Benet House. She has served Contemplative Outreach since 1990, first as a volunteer, then as a Coordinator for the St. Louis, MO Chapter, and for many years as Director of Chapter Programs and Services (CPS) providing support to the Contemplative Outreach spiritual community. Recently retired she continues to serve as a presenter and retreat leader. Susan is a certified Pastoral Minister.
To register, contact: email@example.com or call 309-283-2108. The cost is $150 for the series; scholarships are available. Once registration is complete, you will receive information on how to access the virtual retreat.
Workshop on the Enneagram at Healing Gardens on October 17
This workshop will help you gain a greater understanding of yourself and others using the Enneagram – a powerful, spiritual tool for transformation that will help you overcome inner barriers and realize your unique gifts. The presenter will be Enneagram expert JoAnne McElroy, life coach/spiritual director. Attendance is capped at 14 participants, so you are encouraged to register early.
For further information and registration for this and other events, please visit the Healing Gardens website.
Participate in Centering Prayer Groups via Zoom
Here are to three 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. Contact Deb Marquis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Epperly has also invited everyone to Interspiritual Sundays which gathers Sunday from 9:00-10:00am and Mindfulness Tuesdays 7:30-9:00pm. You may contact Bill at email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
Meditation Groups – 130 meditation groups meet weekly! They 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.
Two new Welcoming Prayer live sessions – These are 30-minute practice experiences of the Welcoming Prayer. Experienced Welcoming Prayer facilitators will guide you in this practice of consenting to God’s presence and action manifesting in what you are experiencing in your bodies in this moment. As the body is the warehouse of the unconscious, this practice supports each of us in embracing what we are experiencing and letting it go. No prior experience is needed. The sessions are offered every Tuesday 9-9:30am Central Time, facilitated by Mary Dwyer in the Peace Chapel and every Thursday 7-7:30pm Central Time, facilitated by Therese Saulnier in the John Main Chapel. Please go to the Meditation Chapel to register and receive links to these sessions.
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 email@example.com.
This month instead of the usual “Insights” feature, here is an insightful poem (song lyrics, actually) by Tsunekichi Suzuki. To hear the beautiful song in the original Japanese, click here. It is used as the theme for the Netflix series Midnight Diner – Tokyo Nights.
That white breath of yours now drifts with the wind
Within the clouds in the sky, little by little, it dissipates
Far away in the heights of the skies, white clouds reach down
They inhale your breath and lightly rise, ever upwards
The olden days, it seems, are clouds flowing above a river
Avoiding the rays of the sun, a dog sleeps beneath the eaves
Memories, too, in that faraway sky, dissipate little by little
On the other side, yet more blue
Deep within the empty sky, they lightly rise, ever upwards
The olden days, it seems, are clouds flowing above a river
That white breath of yours now drifts with the wind
Within the clouds in the sky, little by little, it dissipates
– Tsunekichi Suzuki
Please write in to contribute your ideas or to comment on any of the items in 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.