- The May issue begins with Sue Fox McGovern’s description and appreciation of the recently completed Living Flame program.
- Phil Jackson offers a reflection on how the current pandemic has affected him spiritually.
- Another set of suggestions for activities that may help deepen your contemplative practice while we need to stay safely at home.
- A poem by Bruce Sanguine.
- May Insights come from Cynthia Bourgeault, Ilia Delio, Julian of Norwich, and Stephen Sondheim.
It would be wonderful to hear from you at this time. Please give us your thoughts on Spirit Journal by emailing the editor at the address provided at the end of the newsletter. We look forward to hearing from you!
Zooming in to Living Flame
by Sue Fox McGovern
Who could have imagined last October that Contemplative Outreach Chicago’s Living Flame 1 program would have ended by meeting over Zoom because of a deadly disease gripping the globe. But what better time for the seven-month series to conclude, giving all 40 participants the opportunity to deepen their prayer lives during this challenging time of COVID-19 and incorporate practices they learned through the program?
Phil Jackson, the former coordinator of Contemplative Outreach Chicago, facilitated the presentations that ran monthly on Saturdays from October 2019 through April 2020 at Mary, Seat of Wisdom in Park Ridge. Topics included Deepening Our Centering Prayer Practice, with Kathy DiFede; Lectio Divina, with Sr. Kathryn Ann Kobelinski; The Human Condition, with Fr. John Ettensohn; Divine Therapy, with Jenny Adamson; The Dark Night of Sense, with Susan Komis; The Welcoming Prayer Practice, with Therese Saulnier; and The Discernment Practice, with Maureen Hanley.
“I enjoyed the Living Flame series of workshops,” said Gail E. Inman. “It helped me become familiar with the practices of different aspects of the contemplative process. The workshops built on each other and dovetailed their content. The presenters knew their material and how to present it. I developed skills and techniques which enrich my prayer life and encourage me on my spiritual journey.”
Sandra Janowski attended Living Flame 1 the last time it was held in Chicago, which was about 15 years ago, and is grateful she registered again. “I attended the first series and was hesitant to sign on again,” she said, “but I am happy to say that participating again has been fruitful. Revisiting Father Keating’s wisdom teachings spurred me on to reread The Human Condition and kindled not only my fondness for his brilliance but the desire to go deeper. The longing to be closer to the living presence of God grew as each theme—like a signpost—pointed the way.”
Some participants said they are better informed about the spiritual journey and feel more in love with God after centering with the group and absorbing each speaker’s wisdom. One man said that he was deeply touched and looks forward to see how God will use him now that the program is over. And another person commented a couple weeks after the final session, which was one of two hosted on Zoom, “I realize now that Living Flame 1 was essential to my commitment to the journey.”
As the weeks and months pass, all of us remain grateful to Phil Jackson for managing the group in person and online. We grew together in faith and friendship and hope to attend Living Flame 2. May we continue to consent to God’s presence and action within.
Cloistering in Place
by Phil Jackson
[Phil has written this thoughtful reflection on how the pandemic has affected him spiritually. We hope it will inspire others to submit thoughts we can include in the next issue. – Ed.]
Early in this unique time that we are experiencing, my friend Carl told me he chose to describe his time not as being in Lockdown but as Cloistering. The way we look at things, our attitude, often makes more difference than the circumstances; I was fortunate to hear this phrase early into this new life.
I never lived in a Cloister but have been on retreat among the Trappists in their Monastery for weeks, and read of their lives like many of you. Now, like cloistered monks, we are shut out from much of the world, still have to support ourselves with some work, and many of us still live in community. Monks do this very well. How monks and nuns adapt and organize their time, which is amazingly similar across different Cloistered orders, denominations, and even different religions, can give us key take-aways.
“Here be dragons” explorers wrote on maps to designate uncharted territory where there may be danger. We live in such territory now, the definition of uncertainty, leading to doubt and fear. Yet this is life as it has always been, only more so.
Like many people, I assume, I read what came across about living in isolation. A British nuclear submarine Captain said the keys were: Routine, cleanliness, and conflict resolution. So I wrote out a routine that I tried to keep, I stayed on top of cleaning, and, living alone, decided to have less conflict with myself! (Fascinating, how much more honestly I see my internal moods and foibles when there’s no one else to pin them on). But nothing I had read helped me as much to map a way through this as Carl’s word, “Cloistering”.
Carl understands. He was the VP of theology and ethics at a major hospital chain, but early in life Carl spent years in seminary in a contemplative order. Cloistered monks and nuns have a routine that is usually based on the Rule of Benedict: Work and Pray being key, Ora et Labora. Praying and mass early in the morning, then eat, work for their community and their needed income during the day, interspersed with more prayer, then some downtime, community meals, reflective time. They end their day with prayers before retiring. They live in rhythm with nature, something we can’t do in normal work hours — awake during sunlight, noon truly being mid-day, sleeping when dark outside. And for those of us who may wake midway through the night, their time of prayer (Vigil) may be what we need. I know one nun, living outside community, who purposely wakes at 3:30am and prays for those needing prayer, then with clear mind goes back to sleep every day.
Cloistered monks and nuns have key elements to living contentedly and meaningfully in isolation: a routine and a higher purpose to life. In your reflection, may you find your own higher purposes. For me, I am prioritizing finding more to be grateful for. I am indeed feeling God and God’s providence more clearly as I get myself out of the way. Hopefully I can become a better person, and trust, and help those clearly in need. We know now more than ever we need each other, and for others to be heathy themselves. Hopefully, we can become a better species on a better planet.
I’d love to hear others’ pandemic take-aways and resolutions. I’d love to hear others’ commitments and use of their talents. Will you write something on this topic for the next Spirit Journal?
Meaningful Gatherings, Events, and Activities – Mostly Virtual
In March and April, Spirit Journal offered lists of recommended online resources we hoped would help you find ways to maintain a sense of contemplative connection, until we can be together again. Please click here for the March edition or here for April if you would like to review those suggestions. Here are a few more:
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 Marqui at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Epperly has also invited everyone to Interspiritual Sundays, which gathers Sunday from 9:00-10:00am and Mindfullness Tuesdays 7:30-9:00pm. This Sunday morning’s session will focus on an interspiritual message spoken by Thomas Keating shortly before he died in 2018. 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 Thursday 7-7:30pm Central Time, facilitated by Therese Saulnier and every Tuesday 9-9:30am Central Time, facilitated by Mary Dwyer in the Peace 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.
During the month of April, Gravity offered 15 free webinars that were joined by more than 1,500 participants from 23 countries. Topics include whole health, spiritual practice, and contemplation for kids. The webinars are available for playback at both Vimeo and Youtube.
Workshops on Centering Prayer and the Enneagram at Healing Gardens
[Note: For now, these two workshops are planned as in-person events, although plans may have to change depending on the public health situation this summer.]
Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop on June 13 – This one-day course covers the essentials of the method and conceptual background of Centering Prayer. The presenter, Deb Marquis, is specially trained and commissioned by Contemplative Outreach. After the first workshop, the program continues with optional gatherings to pray, view and discuss video presentations by Fr. Thomas Keating and to support an emerging daily practice of Centering Prayer.
Level 1 Enneagram Workshop on July 11 – 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 these and other events, please visit the Healing Gardens website.
Please let us know about any additional resources you are finding to be especially helpful at this time, so that we can share the links with the Contemplative Outreach Chicago community. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Thanks to Lori Dressel for submitting this poem. It comes from If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics by Bruce Sanguine.]
The Peace that Passes All Understanding
We open now
to a peace that passes all understanding,
discovered not only in that rare state of a still mind
but also in the midst of chaos, in the disequilibrium of growth,
in the the push and pull of circumstance–
and through it all, an awareness
that is not rattled
but rather, deeply curious.
We are open now
to a peace that passes all understanding,
in the street-corner prophet
passing out handbills of hope,
repaid with the derision of passersby;
and in the soldier
defending with bullets and bravery
the right of a little girl to go to school;
and in the labour of lawyers
writing policy to save the spotted owl;
and in the priest’s choice
to empower a peasant with the Nazarene’s legacy.
We are open now
To a peace that passes all understanding,
in the solitude of a monk
holding a broken and blessed planet
in constant prayer;
and in the heart of the Christ,
who transforms violence into His own suffering,
abundant life flowing from His wounds
to the heart of perpetrators
and the likes of us,
who proclaim Him Prince of Peace.
To mourn is to touch directly the substance of divine compassion.
– Cynthia Bourgeault
Only prayer, the Spirit of God breathing in us, dwelling in our hearts and joining us to Christ, can lead us, like Francis, to the contemplative vision of God’s goodness in every creature and in every living thing.
– Ilia Delio
May you be well. And may all manner of things be well.
– Julian of Norwich
Feel how it quivers, on the brink … Everything! Gives you the shivers, makes you think. There’s so much stuff to sing!
– Stephen Sondheim
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 email@example.com.