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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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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.
This book destroys any legitimate claim centering prayer adherents have made as to its validity with being a form of contemplation within the Catholic tradition.
Having said that it (centering prayer) could save its-self by changing focus from silence to focus on God - failure to do this relegates it to "self-help".
Kudos to the author as I have long wanted to understand clearly the discrepancies between centering prayer and traditional contemplation - now finally resolved!
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.