Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Right Way To Pray?

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

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Sweet Savor Of Liberty

From The Seven-Story Mountain by Thomas Merton

The monastery is a school-a school in which we learn from God how to be happy. Our happiness consists in sharing the happiness of God, the perfection of His unlimited freedom, the perfection of His love.

What has to be healed in us is our true nature, made in the likeness of God. What we have to learn is love. The healing and the learning are the same thing, for at the very core of our essence we are constituted in God's likeness by our freedom, and the exercise of that freedom is nothing else but the exercise of disinterested love-the love of God for His own sake, because He is God.

The beginning of love is truth, and before He gives us His love, God must cleanse our souls of the lies that are in them. And the most effective way of detaching us from ourselves is to make us detest ourselves as we have made ourselves by sin, in order that we may love Him reflected in our souls as He has remade them by His love.

That is the meaning of the contemplative life, and the sense of all the apparently meaningless little rules and observances and fasts and obediences and penances and humiliations and labors that go to make up the routine of existence in a contemplative monastery: they all serve to remind us of what we are and Who God is-that we may get sick of the sight of ourselves and turn to Him: and in the end, we will find Him in ourselves, in our own purified natures which have become the mirror of His tremendous Goodness and of His endless love...