- Our September issue begins with the announcement of an online workshop entitled Facing Our Crises with the Help of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day. We are again collaborating with the International Thomas Merton Society to present this workshop on September 20.
- Next, we provide links to video recordings of Cynthia Bourgeault’s recent conference on The Secret Embrace – Thomas Keating’s Poetry, now available to all on YouTube.
- Jeff Ediger offers his in-depth reflections on The Power of Persistence as Prayer.
- We announce and provide a link to a new nationwide calendar of contemplative events and retreats – most of them available online – compiled for Contemplative Outreach Chicago by Charlie Welsh
- Next comes our monthly listing of additional online and in-person contemplative events and retreats in our region
- This month’s Insights come from Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Cynthia Bourgeault, and Thomas Keating.
We want 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.
On September 20, You’re Invited to a Zoom Workshop on Facing Crises with Help from Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day
Later this month, we will pass the fifth anniversary of the day Pope Francis called attention to Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day when he spoke to the US Congress. Merton and Day are especially significant sources of wisdom in our current perilous moment.
This virtual workshop, entitled Despite Everything, and Because Everything Is at Stake: Facing Our Crises with the Help of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, will be presented by Julie Leininger Pycior.
The timeliness of Merton’s and Day’s calls for social justice witness, informed by contemplative practice, is revealed in findings from Pycior’s book, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and the Greatest Commandment: Radical Love in Times of Crisis, which actually was instrumental in Pope Francis spotlighting this inspiring pair. The book features a foreword by Rowan Williams and endorsements by, among others, Merton Scholar Christine Bochen, Pope Francis biographer Austen Ivereigh, James Martin, SJ, and Bill Moyers.
When and Where
The program will be conducted via Zoom on Sunday September 20, 2:00-3:30pm Central.
To register, click here. The program is presented at no charge by the International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS) and Contemplative Outreach Chicago. (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 prior to the workshop.
Questions? Please contact the registrar at email@example.com.
Now Available to All via YouTube: Cynthia Bourgeault’s Conference on “The Secret Embrace – Thomas Keating’s Poetry”
In three videos, Cynthia Bourgeault presents Thomas Keating’s final gift to the world, as expressed through the poetry of his later years. The recordings were made during three Zoom calls held April 30 – May 2, 2020, sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of South Africa and Contemplative Outreach International, with support from The Trust for the Meditation Process.
Cynthia deftly and gracefully presents an evolved view of the being and theology of Fr. Thomas through a review of eight poems from the book, The Secret Embrace. These profound and personal poems capture some of Fr. Thomas’ emerging and final vision — a state of consciousness/selfhood, oneness among the religions and oneness in our fragile and embattled world.
The videos include a pause for Centering Prayer, where more than 2,000 people prayed in silence together from over 59 countries, the largest gathering of the worldwide Contemplative Outreach community to date.
The Power of Persistence as Prayer
by Jeff Ediger
In two similar parables, Jesus encourages persistence in prayer. In the Parable of the Friend at Night, he describes a man who persists in knocking on his neighbor’s door in the middle of the night. After numerous protestations, the man gets out of bed to give him what he wants—a loaf of bread—solely for the sake of getting rid of him! Similarly, in the Parable of the Persistent Widow, the unjust judge honors her unrelenting appeal for justice so that he, too, may be rid of her!
But are we to conclude from these stories that God is a begrudging benefactor, needing to be driven to exhaustion before a response is given? Elsewhere, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says this is not the case. He assures his audience that God loves to give good gifts to those who ask him even more willingly than an earthly parent to a child. (Matthew 7:11)
There must, then, be some other benefit of persistence that leads to receiving a response to one’s prayer.
Many great minds have noted the power of persistence. Perhaps most well-known is Winston Churchill’s advice to “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never” to a negative force. More striking, though is William Blake’s assertion that: “Even a fool would become wise, if he were to persist in his folly.” But my favorite encouragement to persevere in worthy endeavors comes from Frederick Nietzsche’s description of persistence as “long obedience in the same direction.” “The essential thing,” he says,
“in heaven and earth is…that there should be long obedience in the
same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the
long run, something which has made life worth living.”
I, also, can attest to the power of persistence. After twenty-five years of operating a small business, I’ve concluded the most important quality accounting for my modest success has been perseverance. (There’s a reason established ventures advertise how many years they’ve been in business!) I even made a joke of it once. During the years when my work was focused primarily on developing decorative painted finishes (popularly known as “faux finishes”), I joked that the only reason I succeeded in rendering any given finish was because the right way to do it was the only one left to me…I had already tried all the wrong ways!
Could it be that persistence, itself, can become a form of prayer? And if William Blake is to be believed, persistence may be so powerful that it doesn’t even have to be rightly directed—even persistence in folly can lead one to wisdom…though one would think that what he is referring to is a kind of self-corrective persistence…what the philosopher Gabriel Marcel might call “creative perseverance”. I write, then, to describe a recent experience of persistence which surprised me because, after the fact, I had the distinct feeling that what I had been engaged in was a form of prayer.
First, a bit of backstory to set the stage.
Important Announcement: Introducing Our New Nationwide Calendar of Contemplative Gatherings, Retreats and Events
Many thanks to Charlie Welsh who has created for us an extensive nationwide calendar of events and retreats of interest – nearly all available online. The calendar includes offerings from many Contemplative Outreach chapters across the country, as well as other spiritual organizations, with topics, descriptions, and links to further information.
You may download the calendar for September through December by clicking here.
Highlighted Events and Resources
Retreats and Events from The Well
The Well Spirituality Center in La Grange Park is offering 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.”
Here are two examples:
Brother Sun, Sister Moon – A Spiritual Ecology Contemplative Retreat, Friday and Saturday, October 2-3, Maureen Wild, SC, MEd
Advent at Home Retreat, Monday, Nov. 30 – Monday, Dec. 14, Pat Bergen CSJ and other Spiritual Directors
For information on these and other offerings, please visit The Well’s website.
11th Step and Enneagram Workshops at Healing Gardens in October
On October 3, Deb Marqui will lead a half-day workshop introducing you to “a method of meditation that cannot be done wrong.” The method of Centering Prayer will be explained and practiced. The workshop is open to anyone working a 12-Step Program and will be followed up by weekly Centering Prayer 12-Step meetings at a time most convenient for the majority of the participants, led by Melissa P, a member of AA.
On October 17, Healing Gardens offers a workshop that 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.
Three-Day Advent Retreat, Racine Wisconsin, December 10-13
This onsite retreat is presented by Contemplative Outreach of Wisconsin at the beautiful Siena Retreat Center on the shore of Lake Michigan. Advent is a season of waiting, listening, and watching for God to move in unexpected ways in our lives and world. The retreat will explore the familiar characters of the Advent story from a contemplative perspective. How can these people of old invite us into a deeper contemplative stance in our advent journey?
The retreat will be facilitated by the Rev. Dr. Shawn Kafader, an ordained non-denominational Christian minister, Licensed Profession Clinical Counselor, Certified Expressive Arts Therapist and Certified Art for Healing Facilitator. Shawn has engaged in various contemplative practices for over 30 years and is a commissioned presenter with Contemplative Outreach Ministries where he has offered workshops and extended retreats. Shawn has a background in music, art, healing prayer, and spiritual guidance.
For further information and registration, please visit the Contemplative Outreach of Wisconsin website.
Centering Prayer Groups via Zoom
Here are 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. 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 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.
A Valuable New Listing of Resources from Nancy Sylvester
Nancy Sylvester did a wonderful job leading our 2020 winter retreat Enter the Chaos, along with two of her colleagues from the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue (ICCD). More recently, she offered an online teaching on Witness and Grace, sponsored by the Global Sisters Report. Following up on the latter event, Nancy has prepared a valuable list of links to information on contemplation, writers and teachers she recommends, and ICCD programs, which you may access on the Global Sisters Report website.
Please let us know about any additional events and resources you’re aware of. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.
– Dorothy Day
The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.
– Thomas Merton
We meet at the depths where the great traditions embrace each other.
– Cynthia Bourgeault
People are unhappy with authority these days and I understand why. But they shouldn’t be unhappy with direct and intuitive practices of direct relationship with God.
– Thomas Keating
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