CREDOS: Empowerment - I

The 1960s did not penetrate very deeply into the small towns of central Massachusetts. Even so, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, couldn’t help noticing the attraction that the exotic religious practices of the East held for many young Roman Catholics. To him, as a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature. Surely, there must be a precedent within the church for making such simple but powerful spiritual techniques available to people.

His Trappist brother Father William Meninger found it in one day in 1974, in a 14th-century guide to contemplative meditation, “The Cloud of Unknowing.” Drawing on that work, as well as the writings of the contemplatives Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila, the two monks began teaching a form of Christian meditation known as centering prayer. Twice a day for 20 minutes, practitioners find a quiet place to sit and surrender their minds to God. In many books, speeches and retreats, Keating has spread the word to “hungry people, looking for a deeper relationship with God.” That’s exactly what most people have been looking for. Everywhere we looked, we found a flowering of spirituality: in the hollering, swooning, foot-stomping services of the new wave of Pentecostals; in Catholic churches where worshipers pass the small hours of the night alone contemplating the Eucharist, and among Jews who are seeking God in the mystical thickets of Kabbalah. —