From the Sept 20th edition of The New York Times Magazine
"Most people don’t live in churches. And these days, most laypeople tend to do more contemplative prayer and less confession. The sacrament of penance has radically diminished since Vatican II.” In today’s American Catholic Church, in Rabbi Gellman’s terms, Oops! is being replaced by Wow! There is a renewed popularity to the mystical component of prayer, and it is found especially in the retreat movement.
Ruffing explained to me that retreats, particularly for laypeople, are like marathons; you have to train for them. Beginners usually start with a weekend. Eight-day retreats are the next step, and for those with sufficient spiritual stamina, there is a full month of exercises. One technique used on some of these retreats comes from the Contemplative Outreach movement. Retreatants are given a single word, “like a mantra,” Ruffing says, and urged to return to it when their minds wander from prayer and contemplation. Some Catholics (and many Episcopalians) use the John Main method, named after a Benedictine monk. This is essentially Hindu chanting, which Main, who introduced the method, learned in Kuala Lumpur in the 1950s from a swami who gave him what Main called a “Christian mantra.”
“There has been a watershed recovery of mystical theology in our lifetime,” Hinze says. “The church is experiencing globalization. Buddhism and other Eastern practices are increasingly influential, and we are at an early stage in our understanding of them. The fear among some is that Christians will develop an enthusiasm for Eastern traditions without discovering their own mystical sources. Still, this is the way a significant portion of American Roman Catholicism is moving. The old us-versus-them doesn’t work anymore.”
Click here to read the full article "The Right Way To Pray", on the practice and theory of contemporary prayer, by contributor Zef Chafets