As we make our way thru the Triduum and Easter season, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus, I’m thinking especially of spiritual practices that companion us. Centering prayer is one such practice. As a surrendering, self-emptying form of prayer, it helps carry the gifts of Easter beyond the season into ordinary time and the everyday circumstances of life. It is, in its simplest form, a contemplative practice of death and new life.
As a member of a 12-step recovery group, and grateful participant in Saturday’s 12- Step Spirituality.org meeting, I was recently invited to share a story of my “Experience, Strength and Hope and the practice of Centering Prayer.” What follows is an excerpt from that sharing.
I was in my fourth year as a public-school teacher when I was introduced to centering prayer.
My priest at the time, Father Greg Tolaas, had invited all the members at the Church of St Phillips, to join a small faith sharing group, geographically oriented. As a St. Paul resident attending this north Minneapolis faith community, just a few blocks from where I taught, I found kinship with other East-of-the-river residents. Once a month, we’d gather and pray, share updates from our faith journeys; entertain ways we were being called by the Holy Spirit.
In my group was a new friend named Brian Mogren who was always bringing spiritual readings and practices to our circle. Brian introduced me to Fr. Richard Rohr, the Center for Contemplation and Action, the “enneagram,” and this quiet meditation called “Centering Prayer.”
I remember thinking, “Wait, we are supposed to gather and be silent together?”
Like many things Brian brought to us, I resisted. But after he founded the St Jane House in North Minneapolis and convened a weekly centering prayer group, I made my way and found a spiritual practice and home for my budding contemplative self – just a stone’s throw from my classroom and the Visitation Monastery where I found a deeply resonant spirituality and sisterhood.
As a member of Co-Dependents Anonymous, Centering Prayer plays in a significant role in my recovery journey. Reflecting on this prayer practice during Holy Week, I celebrate the convergence with Jesus, as a God of my understanding, His death and resurrection; it’s not unlike the sacred recovery story addicts all over know in working the 12 steps. It’s a path for letting go and experiencing new life. Centering Prayer is a daily recovery prayer. Entering into silence, noticing all the stuff that rumbles within as it comes to the surface, and moment by moment, setting it down before God. We surrender and consent to God’s Divine action within.
In centering prayer, we take up a sacred word and let it be gently present. Our sacred word is a symbol of our intention to be with God who dwells in the center of our being. Whenever we get distracted, we simply and gently return to our prayer word. We let go of our wills, any need for power, control, affection, approval, and consent to God’s divine action within.
In twelve-step speak, it’s the first three steps repeated over and over, “I can’t. You can, God. I will let you.” Or as another spiritual leader has offered in their centering prayer phrase: “Not me, but Thee.”
What paschal mystery prayers are part of your Easter rhythms? Do you have a recovery journey that seeks a deepening experience of God in your life? Is Centering Prayer calling you to explore the depths of Love’s sacred silence? Consider joining Loyola at 8am every Thursday for an online zoom experience of this kind of prayer.