- Our November issue begins with a heartfelt Thanksgiving reflection and an invitation from Alan Krema.
- Next, we announce the dates and details for Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats we’re planning for next June. Save the dates!
- Deborah Marqui offers Golden Glory — a poem inspired by an exuberant burst of fall color.
- Our monthly listing of additional online and in-person contemplative events includes several Advent activities, a free Introductory Workshop, and also lets you know about one important postponement.
- This month’s Insights come from Yolam Ottolenghi, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Tennessee Williams, and Thomas Keating.
We love to hear from you! Please give us your thoughts on Spirit Journal by emailing the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, and an Invitation
by Alan Krema
Happy Thanksgiving and we wish you a blessed Advent season!
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to express our gratitude to every person who has played a part in our Chicago chapter of Contemplative Outreach over the years: those who have participated in our events, read or contributed to this journal, joined or led prayer groups, volunteered in any capacity, or made financial contributions.
Whether you’re a longtime friend or a newcomer, you are a blessing to our contemplative community, and we are very grateful for every one of you! If you feel an urge toward deeper involvement in our work and would like to speak to me about your interest, I would be honored. We can speak by phone or on a zoom chat. You can always email me (email@example.com) to get clarifications, to ask questions, or to get the process started. I’ll say a bit more about this invitation at the end of this reflection.
Silence is God’s first language, and ours as well. I have heard a striking description of human formation from the science of embryology: When a human egg is fertilized by a sperm cell, there is union and for 24 full hours, the two cells sit united in complete stillness. There is no discernible activity in this realm that we can see, only Silence and Stillness.
Years or decades later, as we sit in Centering Prayer, we arise out of the silence, and grow into our True Self. We are called to become the form of the prayer itself. We, in our transformation in Christ, are the form and manifestation of Centering Prayer.
Of course, our Being does more than sit in meditation. We have extensive relationships which structure our day and our life. The practice of Centering Prayer provides a relationship with the divine Silence that formed us and from which we have arisen, yet we only know our relationship with God through our relationships with our neighbors.
Thomas Keating pointed out that contemplation involves “consenting to God as God is.” He said that “along with Centering Prayer, we consent and surrender to God’s presence and action within all our activities.” And also, “your letting-go process…enables the space inside to open to God’s presence. It is a longing for God’s presence that follows us around from morning to night.”
We are called to transform our Being into one that makes all our relationships sacred. As Father Keating taught us, this means dismantling the false self and its drives for affection, esteem, and control. Then, we sense our Being as expanded into a larger and more spacious Self. In this space, there is room for the other and we see the other as sourced from the same divine ground as we are. We can love our neighbor as our Self.
There are many practices we can use to help us know, sense, and embody our inner Being in all of our activities, for example, the Welcoming Prayer, the Active Prayer, and the Guard of the Heart are practices developed by associates of Contemplative Outreach. While such practices certainly help, to some extent this seems to be a mysterious process that evolves naturally as our awareness deepens.
I engage the Welcoming Prayer as I arise from my meditation period, sensing what my body is holding in me for the day to come, and welcoming what might happen in its anticipation and its fears, allowing my presence and awareness to be open instead of shut down by the emotional programs. Throughout my day, I practice self-observation, trying to keep an inner awareness of myself even while I am externally active and engaged with others and my work. Throughout the day we maintain conscious awareness while working. We come to parts of our day to reflect on scripture, even if only the psalmist’s phrase; “God, come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me.”
My own vision for our local chapter of Contemplative Outreach is to help bring this fuller and more constant awareness of our Self to all who might cross our path and show interest in growing into their divine nature.
As I look forward, I have 20 months left in my term as coordinator of our chapter. I want to help open us all to an even greater expansion of growth and transformation. In order for this desire to bear fruit, we need a greater community of participation in the work of our chapter. This work is not an individual exercise and the fruit of the work is not borne by individual transformation. We need transforming individuals to serve the mission of transformation in Christ which only happens in communion with others.
I hope that you might consider joining our circle of service on this path into the future. There are many things to be done and many areas to explore. But what comes first is Silence, then Presence, then Communion. Out of this all right action flows.
Perhaps you have a specific interest, and that is wonderful. Perhaps you simply want to be with us in the Presence. That is also wonderful. You are invited to explore, wonder, and seek what actions might flow from you with us.
Again, if you would like to speak to me about your interest, I would be honored. We can speak by phone or on a zoom chat. You can always email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get clarifications, to ask questions, or to get the process started.
Save the Dates: 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.
Golden Glory outside my window,
I have missed you.
But here you are!
How could I doubt your return?
Weather weary and wounded,
you rested and waited
until this moment to share your sunny nature.
With your arms waving to me in the gentle wind,
I laugh, gratefully accepting and
soaking in this blissful gift from heaven
for I know you must leave soon.
In this moment, you are God’s face and Presence
shinning upon me and the world. All is well.
Highlighted Events and Resources
You may wish to participate in some of these additional local, regional, and online events:
Lux Divina e-Retreat Starts This Friday
Contemplative Outreach’s national organization invites us to join in global community to affirm and celebrate the Divine Light of Advent and Christmas — with us and within us always. This e-retreat will be reflective and enlivening through the teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating, art, music and other contemplative voices. Three live Zoom prayer groups will also be offered each week for practice in community.
The event begins this Friday November 27 and continues through Christmas day. Click here for more information and to register.
Advent at Home Retreat from The Well Starting November 30
The Well Spirituality Center in La Grange Park currently offers an ambitious 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.” The Well’s Advent at Home Retreat runs November 30-December 14. For information on this and other offerings, please visit The Well’s website.
Free Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop via Zoom Starts Dec. 5
Contemplative Outreach of Atlanta offers the initial session of an Introductory Centering Prayer workshop via Zoom on Saturday, December 5 from 9:00am-noon Central time. There will be four weekly follow-up sessions on December 12 and 17 and January 9 and 16. This short course covers the essentials of the practice and the conceptual background of Centering Prayer. The presenters are specially trained and commissioned by Contemplative Outreach.
There is no charge for this program. Click here for further information and registration.
POSTPONED: Contemplative Outreach of Wisconsin’s Three-Day Advent Retreat
This onsite Advent retreat at the Siena Retreat Center, originally scheduled for next month, has been postponed until December 9-12, 2021, due to the pandemic. (Another opportunity to plan ahead!) For further information, please visit the Contemplative Outreach of Wisconsin website.
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 email@example.com
- St. Katharine Drexel Church every Tuesday 8:30-9:30am. Contact Lori Dressel at firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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 email@example.com 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 – 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. 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. 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 email@example.com.
Please let us know about any additional events and resources you’re aware of. Write o: firstname.lastname@example.org
It shouldn’t take a pandemic to make us realize that it’s the simple things in life that matter.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Has it ever struck you that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going?
Transformation is completely God’s work. We can’t do anything to make it happen. We can only prevent it from happening.
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.