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Is Centering Prayer Catholic?: Fr. Thomas Keating Meets Teresa of Avila and the CDF Paperback – September 3, 2015
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About the Author
Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. Her posts have appeared on Catholic Lane and elsewhere. She moderates the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.
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Top Customer Reviews
With the utmost charity and detached consideration, Connie Rossini has given us a simple, clear, and practical way to compare authentic Catholic prayer and centering prayer. She places the words of St. Teresa of Avila (Doctor of the Church and prayer master) and the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the office which spreads and defends sound doctrine) side-by-side with Fr. Keating's words on centering prayer.
The results are astonishing and, frankly, frightening for anyone practicing or considering centering prayer.
While Fr. Keating and his supporters claim that centering prayer is compatible with Catholic prayer traditions, it becomes clear early on in the book that such a claim is impossible. In fact, true Catholic contemplation stands in stark contrast to the methods and goals of centering prayer, which is simply eastern transcendental meditation under a "Catholic" label.
For example, Fr. Keating "states repeatedly that one should ignore every thought during prayer, and every type of communication and inspiration coming from God himself. He urges his followers to use a 'sacred word' during prayer, but not only can that word be something completely secular if one chooses, Fr. Keating says that 'the less the word means to you, the better.'"
Contrast that to what we read about prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ..."
And St. Teresa utterly contradicts Fr. Keating's directive of "letting go of every kind of thought during prayer, even the most devout thoughts” when she says:
"Taking it upon oneself to stop and suspend thought is what I mean should not be done; nor should we cease to work with the intellect, because otherwise we would be left like cold simpletons and be doing neither one thing nor the other."
Chapter by chapter, subject by subject, we see clearly how Fr. Keating's centering prayer theologically confuses almost every aspect of Catholic meditation and contemplation. By the end of the book, we have seen that...
"...Centering Prayer proposes an unorthodox relationship between God and the soul. It speaks of the spiritual life as coming to a greater consciousness, rather than conquering sin and learning to live according to God’s will. It misconstrues the place of the intellect and will in prayer. It sees no real distinctions between Catholic theology and Eastern religions. It denies the real change that takes place at death, sees growth in emotional freedom as the primary sign of spiritual growth, tells practitioners to ignore thoughts of God or inspirations from him during prayer, and urges the use of a 'sacred word' that might as well be gibberish. Centering Prayer takes Buddhist and Hindu meditation techniques, adds a few Christian terms, and calls it a new expression of the Catholic contemplative tradition. Its focus, its purpose, and its practice are all out of step with the teachings of Teresa of Avila, the unrivaled master teacher of the contemplative life." [And the teachings of the CDF and the Catechism as well.]
The phrase "accept no substitutes" comes to mind when I think of those tempted to centering prayer. If you desire to move through the stages of holiness and prayer and to achieve true spiritual union with God through infused contemplation, stay on course with Catholic tradition and teaching presented by the masters of Christian prayer and by the Church herself, and stay far, far away from the New Age philosophies and emptiness of centering prayer.
The book focuses most sharply on what the goal of true prayer is and how to approach it with a spirit of humility so that we can be open to receiving God’s grace. True prayer is an active dialog and conversation between Christ and the soul. Though, as with any good conversation, there may be a time of silence, there is never emptiness. The mind and heart should stay recollected on Christ. Connie also spends some time explaining the difference between recollection, our action, and infused contemplation, God’s action. There is room for much more depth here, and if we are fortunate, Connie may write another volume dedicated to this subject alone
Connie is quite clear throughout on her position on centering prayer, but she also leaves her readers free to raise questions and concerns. The controversy is far from over, but here we have a valuable tool for our own discernment.
In Connie Rossini's newest book, the author takes a deep look at Centering Prayer and its practices and demonstrates to us why Christian prayer and Centering Prayer are diametrically opposed to one another. To substantiate these differences, the author draws from a variety of sources such as the rich text of the Catholic document, "Jesus Christ: The Bearer of the Water of Life" and the writings of the Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila. The topics covered in this book include:
~ The origin of Centering Prayer
~Teresian prayer versus Fr. Keating's Centering Prayer
~What the Catholic Church teaches about prayer
~Why Centering Prayer misses the mark when it comes to building a trusting relationship with God and its opposition to forming a Christ-centered life
There is a spiritual danger inherent in Centering Prayer: that one might be led away from Christ rather than toward Him. Many people that I know who practice Centering Prayer have deep leanings toward The New Age Movement and a number of them have left the Catholic faith. If Christ is not the center of Christian prayer then what might that center be? If you are going on a journey and while getting directions fail to realize that your base starting point is off, wouldn't that affect the entire journey? There are numerous difficulties associated with centering prayer and Connie Rossini addresses many of the problems concerning this form of "prayer" and the reason it fails as an avenue towards union with God.
Why engender such confusion when there is a better way to pray? In this book, the author speaks brilliantly of this "better way" and proves that Centering Prayer cannot be seen as something merely innocuous and harmless but that it may actually be a hindrance to the soul seeking union with God.
As the CDF states:
"All meditation techniques need to be purged of presumption and pretentiousness. Christian prayer is not an exercise in self-contemplation, stillness and self-emptying, but a dialogue of love, one which implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from 'self' to the 'You' of God."
With great clarity, the author of "Is Centering Prayer Catholic?" shows us why Centering Prayer is incompatible with Christianity. I highly recommend this book to all those seeking a closer relationship with God.