This month’s issue includes information on local and national resources, upcoming workshops and retreats, a website recommendation, and insights from Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr – all to help support your contemplative practice.
We hope you’ll enjoy it, and invite your feedback.
The Center for Action and Contemplation’s “Living School” Program
by Al Krema
The Living School is a two-year study of the Christian contemplative tradition and its integration into modern daily life. The Living School is presented by the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque NM, the institute founded by Franciscan Richard Rohr.
The program is an in-depth study of Christian mystics such as Bonaventure, St. John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, and many more. In addition to reading and studying the works of these saints, much emphasis is given to interpreting and living these teachings in daily life. Students are asked to form a method and practice that provides both individual contemplative development as well as engaging in contemplative action in our community.
The Living School work consists of online teachings from three core faculty: Richard Rohr, James Finley, and Cynthia Borgeault. In addition we have several workshops and retreats, onsite as a group at the CAC in Albuquerque. I recently attended a five-day intensive with about 40 classmates led by Richard Rohr. It was an in-depth teaching of scripture, spirituality, and religion for our times — a moving experience of study, prayer, and community engagement.
The CAC website has more detailed information on the Living School.
(Al Krema has been a member of Contemplative Outreach Chicago for 15 years and is currently enrolled in the Living School. Al is a presenter of Centering Prayer for Contemplative Outreach and serves on the Chicago Chapter circle of service.)
Invitation to Healing Gardens: A Special Place for Contemplation in St. Charles
by Deborah Marqui
St. Bernard de Clairvaux said, “Believe one who knows; you will find something greater in woods than in books. Trees, and stones will teach you that which you can never learn in books.” I credit two activities that helped me heal body, mind and spirit from cancer: becoming attentive to Nature and practicing Centering Prayer.
I “happened” to begin Centering Prayer in a room that overlooked a wooded area. After Centering I often sat in silence, journaling and observing Nature. I began to see metaphors in Nature that taught me about God, life and myself. After treatment was over I wanted to be outside in Nature and so I started to create different perennial gardens around my home at Stone Hill Farm in St. Charles, Illinois.
What I quickly realized is that being intentional and attentive in Nature takes you back to your senses. When you are fully engaged using your senses, time stands still and a miracle occurs – you find yourself in the present moment – not doing but being. I found myself immersed in what the Greeks call “Kairos time” or “God’s time,” a sacred time filled with a sense of wonder.
Cancer-free from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since 1996 and in remission from breast cancer since 2002, I created Healing Gardens on the land where we have lived and raised four children since 1972, so that my husband Buzz and I could connect others to the restorative power of Nature. We’ve opened to the public the two acre expanse of woodland and perennial gardens that surround our home. Visiting individuals or small groups are welcome to do as they please. No activity is required or requested. People are welcome to read, nap, draw, meditate, journal, swing or walk or simply do nothing.
The gardens are open to the public on the second Sunday of each month from April through October. The admission fee is $5 per person and $10 per family. Cancer survivors are free, although donations of time or money for upkeep are appreciated. Groups are welcome to schedule and reserve special days to visit the gardens. (Call for lower group rates.)
I also lead day retreats, host Silent Saturday Mornings, and I’m a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer. Along with Al Krema, I will be offering an introductory Workshop on Centering Prayer at Healing Gardens, 9:00am – 3:30pm on Saturday June 27.
Healing Gardens is located at 37W249 Dean Street, St. Charles, IL. For more information visit the Healing Gardens website or call 630-377-1846
Annual Fall Workshop Set for October 3 in Western Springs
Contemplative Outreach Chicago’s fourth annual Fall Workshop will take place Saturday October 3, 2015 at St. John of the Cross in Western Springs, Illinois.
As always, the event will offer in-depth introductory workshops on Centering Prayer, opportunities for silent contemplation, and a fascinating range of other topics for attendees to choose from. This year’s agenda includes sessions on Thomas Merton, Cosmology and Teilhard de Chardin, ways of listening and speaking to the Divine within, the thoughts of Thomas Keating on Archetypes, and more.
This annual event has become a wonderful opportunity for Chicago-area contemplatives – both newcomers and those with long experience of Centering Prayer – to connect in person and deepen their spiritual practices.
For full details on this year’s Fall Workshop, see the Events Calendar.
Update: Midsummer Retreats at the Port
There is still a little time to register for these eight-day retreats at the beautiful Portiuncula Center for Prayer in Frankfort, IL.
Two different retreats are offered simultaneously:
The Intensive Retreat provides an opportunity to deepen the practice of Centering Prayer in an atmosphere of profound silence and community support. There are up to six thirty-minute Centering Prayer periods daily. This prayer is supported with viewing a selection of the Spiritual Journey video series by Fr. Thomas Keating. Private interviews with the retreat guides may be scheduled.
The Post-Intensive Retreat provides an opportunity to deepen the practice of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina in an atmosphere of profound silence and community support. There are up to seven thirty-minute periods of Centering Prayer daily. Participants observe Sacred Silence four days during the retreat. Previous participation in an eight- or ten-day Intensive Retreat is a prerequisite for the Post-Intensive.
For further information, costs, and registration, see the Events Calendar.
You will never find interior solitude unless you make some conscious effort to deliver yourself from the desires and the cares and the attachments of an existence in time and in the world.
– Thomas Merton
The light is more important than the stuff it reveals. In your everyday life, each time a thought arises which is repetitive, useless, or negative, replace it with inner silence. This practice is invaluable!
– “Jean Paul in Switzerland” via the Insight Timer smartphone app
God can save sincere people of faith inside any system or religion, if only they can be patient, God-trusting, and compassionate in the presence of misery, failure, or imperfection—especially their own. This is life’s essential journey. These trustful ones have surrendered to the Eternal Christ Mystery, very often without needing to use the exact word “Christ” at all (Matthew 7:21). It is the doing not the saying that matters (Matthew 21:28-32)
– Richard Rohr
Website Recommendation: Contemplative Outreach (National)
If you don’t already have it bookmarked, you should definitely take a look at the outstanding website of the national organization of which we’re a part: Contemplative Outreach.
The site is a great resource for contemplatives, offering frequently updated in-depth information – in video, audio, and print media – about Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, the Welcoming Prayer, and other methods. The site also provides background on the organization’s three-decade history, unique vision, and important mission. There’s a national calendar of workshops, retreats, and other events sanctioned by Contemplative Outreach, a helpful FAQ page, and lots of other useful information to explore.
Do you have a comment on any of the items in this month’s newsletter? An upcoming event you think Chicago-area contemplatives should know about? An inspirational quote you’d like to share? A book, website, podcast, or video to recommend? Please contribute by emailing the newsletter editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.