This month’s Spirit Journal begins with Alan Krema’s appreciation of the abundance of spring and the similar abundance of activities Contemplative Outreach Chicago has planned for the coming year. We also link you to information and registration for two of those programs: the Eight-Day Intensive/Post Intensive Retreats in July and the Living Flame program starting in October.
In addition, we provide information about one new and many existing prayer groups to support your individual centering prayer practice, let you know about several other contemplative activities that are coming up soon and may be of interest, and offer Insights from Cynthia Bourgeault, Ram Dass, Bob Marley, and Maya Angelou.
Please give us your input about any aspect of Spirit Journal by emailing the editor, using the address provided at the end of the newsletter. We look forward to hearing from you!
Spring, Abundance, Love and Grace
by Alan Krema
For the last six weeks this spring, I had the beautiful opportunity to watch a pair of robins nest three eggs, hatch them, and nurture and feed the chicks until they each flew the nest to begin a new life.
I was so fortunate to have this nest just outside the window where I have my desk and work. The nest was about four feet from my eyes and they were all oblivious to my observation. My eyes would catch a movement and look at the nest. Love and life are given in so many activities. I first noticed the activity of building the nest, the mother nesting and the father protecting. Eggs gestating, and little chicks being hatched. The mother constantly goes for food and returns to feed them. Three sibling chicks all sharing a small cozy place, sheltered in the evergreen from the elements. They grow so fast into small birds who can fly away, leaving the nest to my memory.
We are blessed with an abundance of love and grace. This is always so prevalent in springtime. Longer days, growth of green trees and grass, rain flows into our fields, warm days, graduations, wedding announcements, and all our plans and hopes. How this reflects in our lives is shown in our personal relationships, our associations, our planet, and even our cosmos.
The practice of centering prayer gives us the means by which we hold our relationships in an expanded awareness beyond our intellect’s ability to know ourselves and our place. We develop a larger awareness, a greater field of awareness, and our Being elevates and grows in this field.
Looking out from this springtime, we have a great abundance of programs and events just associated with our Chicago chapter of Contemplative Outreach. We are hosting an Eight-day Intensive Retreat in July, which is a wonderful opportunity to engage deeply with the Spirit’s presence and calling within us.
We are also hosting a wonderful program called the Living Flame beginning in October. This is an offering of the Contemplative Outreach national organization. One Saturday each month we will gather to share in a topic of depth and wisdom from the contemplative tradition. Each of these topics has been touched on by Fr. Thomas Keating in his lifetime of teaching. Each session will be presented by a different facilitator who has worked with the topic over years in the spiritual journey.
We are preparing another Annual Fall Workshop for Saturday, November 2, with a host of in depth presenters on a variety of topics in the realm of contemplative life and prayer. We will have the program announcement very soon and will open registration in June.
Last month I described a retreat I attended called “Enter the Chaos.” This workshop creates a field of awareness through centering prayer in combination with study of the stages of human psychological growth. Its purpose is to help us hold other people in our lives lovingly and supportively even when the statements and positions held by those people are polarized from our own. It is a very engaging and enlightening experience that enabled me to find a new way to live into our current societal issues, which are energized in daily concerns. We will host this retreat on February 20 – 23, 2020. We will have registration open in June.
This retreat/workshop was designed and developed by the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue (ICCD). The program Enter the Chaos: Engage the Differences to Make a Difference reflects the commitment of the ICCD to communal contemplation as a powerful transformative practice that develops within us a new way of seeing ourselves and the world with the power of dialogue to engage each other across differences and generate creative new responses. For more information and a retreat description, please take a look at the ICCD website.
May you have a joyous spring and a lovely Memorial Day.
The Living Flame Program Starts October 12
Registration is now open for the Living Flame Program, which was last offered here in Chicago more than ten years ago. The program has been updated and re-designed by Father Thomas Keating and the national circle of service in recent years. It includes seven full-day offerings of in-depth spiritual study presented over a seven-month period by commissioned presenters from the various Contemplative Outreach Service Teams.
Designed to teach the vital conceptual background needed to support a faithful practice of Centering Prayer, the program also offers encouragement and support in a small community setting, heightens the awareness of the purification process, helps discern when psychological skills can be helpful tools, and provides the opportunity to give and receive spiritual companionship.
Advance registration for the Living Flame Program is now available for $235. A few weeks before the program begins, the price will increase to $260. Please consider signing up early to take advantage of the savings.
All Living Flame workshops will take place at Mary Seat of Wisdom Church in Park Ridge, one each month (except January) October through April. For specific dates, topics and an opportunity to register, please visit the event page.
Eight-Day Intensive/Post-Intensive Retreat, July 14-21 at the Beautiful Portiuncula Center
Contemplative Outreach Chicago is hosting an Intensive and Post Intensive silent retreat July 14-21. Registration is open through Friday, July 5.
This is an event we host every other year, with the alternate years hosted by the Milwaukee Chapter. The retreat is held at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer in Frankfort, Illinois, which is a beautiful setting for time to sit in prayer and listen to the voice of God in your heart. The Intensive and Post Intensive Retreat share the same venue and the majority of the format. The Intensive is meant for those who are participating in this extended retreat for the first time.
Our guides this year, John Holmes and Sandy Janowski, are both deeply experienced in centering prayer and spiritual direction and will form a warm, sustaining space for a contemplative experience. I welcome you to consider joining us this year. It is a powerful experience.
For more information and a chance to register, please visit the event page.
New Prayer Group in Naperville, Other Groups Throughout the Region
by Alan Krema
Many people who practice centering prayer find it beneficial to be part of an ongoing prayer group. These small faith communities build trust and unity while encouraging and supporting individuals on their spiritual journey.
For some time now, people have been asking about forming a weekly centering prayer group in Naperville. Several people I have spoken with are interested and I would like to support a new group. Before a few of us determine a day, time, and place, we would like to hear from you if you are interested in attending.
It would be nice if we had a meditation chapel somewhere. If you know of one, please let me know. If you would like to participate or have any questions, please email me at email@example.com.
And, if you are not form the Naperville area but would like to find out about existing groups in your area or about starting a new prayer group, please take a moment to visit the prayer group page.
Other Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences
Here are some additional contemplative activities that may be of interest to you:
Eight-Day Intensive/Post-Intensive Retreats near St. Louis, June 7-13
If our July retreat dates don’t work for you, or if you just feel like taking a little trip to the St. Louis area, you may want to consider these extended retreats offered by Contemplative Outreach of St. Louis at the Marianist Retreat Center in Eureka Missouri.
The retreat director is Fr. Bill Sheehan, OMI. Fr. Bill has been involved with Contemplative Outreach since 1983. During that time he has led many Centering Prayer workshops and retreats in different parts of the country. With a Masters degree in Formative Spirituality from Duquesne University, Pittsburg, PA,
Fr. Bill has broad experience in pastoral ministry, serving the Archdiocese of Miami, Florida in the Office of Lay ministry, and as Director of Ministry to Priests. Fr. Bill has served as provincial of the Oblates Eastern America Province as well as Oblate Formation Director and Novice Director.
For further information and registration, please visit the Contemplative Outreach of St. Louis website.
Healing Gardens Spring and Summer Programs Include Silent Saturdays, An Enneagram Workshop, an Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop, and an Awakening in Nature Retreat
Healing Gardens at Stonehill Farm invites you to enjoy two acres of perennial gardens in a quiet wooded setting in St. Charles. Many contemplative activities take place at Healing Gardens, including the following:
Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop, Saturday June 22, 9:00am – 3:30pm
Awakening in Nature Retreat, Sunday July 21, 8:45am-3:00pm
Silent Saturdays, July 13 and August 31, 9:00am – noon
Level 2 Enneagram Workshop, Saturday October 12, 8:45am-3:30pm
For more information and registration, please visit the Healing Gardens website.
Ongoing Centering Prayer “11th Step” Program – 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, an ongoing Centering Prayer-based 11th step group 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 — firstname.lastname@example.org.)
It’s very, very simple. You sit, either in a chair or on a prayer stool or mat and allow your heart to open toward that invisible but always present Origin of all that exists.
– Cynthia Bourgeaux
Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story, instead of the actor in it.
– Ram Dass
None but ourselves can free our minds.
– Bob Marley
If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present. Gratefully.
– Maya Angelou
As always, you are invited to write in to comment on or add to 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 email@example.com