This was the theme for the Contemplative Outreach annual conference this fall, which was held in Chicago from September 24-27. Consenting to Divine Love…who would have thought that a simple request by a handful of people 25 years ago would lead to a world wide movement that continues to touch and transform the lives of so many people! A small group of spiritually hungry people asked Father Thomas Keating to lead them in a retreat on contemplative prayer 25 years ago, and he said "yes". They were so touched by his presentation on the dynamics of contemplative prayer, and by the actual practice of centering prayer as he presented it, a prayer that opens us to the gift of contemplative prayer, that they asked for a second retreat. And the rest is history, a rich history of the Spirit’s work among countless people all over the world these past 25 years. At the very heart of this movement is the consent and surrender to Divine Love by people who are saying yes to the Spirit, yes to transformation in their daily, ordinary lives.
Although Father Thomas Keating was not able to be with us for this 25th anniversary conference, we felt his presence with us in a very real way. As we held him in prayer for a full recovery from his illness, Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, president of Contemplative Outreach, shared with us her phone conversations with him each day of the conference. In addition to this, we were able to view selections from two new resources on centering prayer.
Contemplative Outreach partnered with “Sounds True” earlier this year in filming Father Thomas Keating, Father Carl Arico, and Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler as they presented an introduction to Centering Prayer. In these DVD’s, centering prayer is described as a silent prayer practice that can move us toward a profound relationship with the Spirit of God within, a way of praying that opens the door to the Divine Indwelling-the ground of our being. This is the first in-depth home study course of centering prayer, a method of prayer for deepening our intimacy with God, which leads us ultimately to consenting to the presence and action of the Divine in all aspects of our lives. These presentations are a beautiful, prayerful and inspiring presentation of centering prayer meant to be made accessible to all people who seek a deeper relationship with the Divine, with the God who has “first loved us.” (available from soundstrue.com or from Amazon books).
The second resource that was shared was a selection from "Heartfulness, Transformation in Christ". In this new series of DVD’s Father Thomas Keating is being interviewed by Dr. Betty Sue Flowers. In these interviews Father Thomas talks about the importance of silence and contemplative practices as a means of opening the mind and heart, one’s whole being to God, the Ultimate Reality. He guides the viewer toward an understanding of the contemplative dimension of the Gospel and its extraordinary implications and applications for personal freedom and global peace. He says that the inherent human quest for happiness is in itself the greatest proof of God’s existence. But because we feel we are separate from God, we often seek happiness in other ways: we seek to be more clever, to know more things, to influence others, to attain power and authority, to have more money, a famous name, an attractive appearance, all maybe good things, but ultimately unsatisfying in themselves. This series goes on to say that “Rather we are called by God to open to a new reality that is our True Self…the image and the likeness of God. The path to this True Self and all its fruits and gifts is the challenge of becoming fully human. And to become fully human is to become fully Divine. This is the fullness of life itself, a life abiding in the grace and truth of Christ.”
The conference ended with a moving film of the gift that St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado has given to Contemplative Outreach, a gift of all the "intellectual property" of Thomas Keating. Translated this means that the many gifts of wisdom and understanding that Father Thomas Keating has shared with us these past 25 years via his writings, books and filmed presentations will continue to be available through Contemplative Outreach to any seeker who is hungering for a deeper relationship with God.
("Heartfulness" DVD series available at the Contemplative Outreach online store.)