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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Connie Rossini on Centering Prayer

Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. ThereseA Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholicof the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. She manages the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.


I recently ran into Centering Prayer. There seemed to be something off about it. Fortunately, I ran into Connie Rossini's book "Is Centering Prayer Catholic?" at the same time, and I found the answers I was looking for. Connie has graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions here on the blog.

Welcome Connie!


Could you first briefly explain what Centering Prayer is?

In Centering Prayer, you begin with the intention to be present to God. Then you sit in silence, turning away from every thought, feeling, or impression. When you find yourself following a thought or emotion, you silently focus on a "sacred word" you have chosen ahead of time. This word is supposed to be only one or two syllables long. You do not think about the meaning of the word. Once your mind has quieted down, you drop the word and go back to silence. Then at the end of your 20 minutes of practicing this, you sit for a couple of minutes longer to transition back to your everyday life. 

Is Centering Prayer "a Catholic thing", or do other Christian denominations use it?

Centering Prayer was created by three Trappist monks, Fathers William Meninger, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington. However, it is popular with some Protestants, especially Episcopalians.  Ecumenical Centering Prayer retreats are common.

What drew you to the subject of Centering Prayer?

I blog on the contemplative life, so people regularly ask me about prayer. I began looking into Centering Prayer in depth when my brother's friend asked me about it. The more I write about it, the more confusion I see among my readers about what prayer truly is for the Christian. I want my readers to grow in intimacy with God, which is impossible without prayer.

What is the difference between Centering Prayer and St. Teresa's infused contemplation?

Infused contemplation--which has been recognized since the early centuries, so long before St. Teresa--is a pure gift of God. Centering Prayer is a technique or method. Some methods can prepare us to receive infused contemplation, but none can make us contemplatives. Fr. Thomas Keating has said that Christian contemplation is really the same thing as eastern meditation. This is completely false. 

What do you see as the biggest danger to Centering Prayer?

There are two interconnected dangers. First, that people will be led off course, pursuing interior silence instead of pursuing intimacy with Jesus. Getting to know and love Jesus is the way we grow spiritually, and traditional Christian prayer methods help us do this. Centering Prayer, in contrast, rejects using the mind or the heart. You cannot get to know or love God by turning away from your thoughts and feelings about Him. 

Secondly, prayer and theology are intertwined. The theology taught by Fr. Thomas Keating is more influenced by eastern religions than by Christianity. For example, he teaches that there is no real difference between God and the human soul. That is pantheism, not Christianity. The practice of Centering Prayer supports and is supported by this bad theology. So people who start without considering the theology behind it can nevertheless be led towards unorthodoxy in their beliefs. I have seen this in conversations I have had with Centering Prayer practitioners.

 What would you tell someone who says that if three priests came up with it and Catholic retreat houses are teaching it, Centering Prayer must be alright?

 Unfortunately, many priests over the centuries have taught error. In fact, most of those whose teachings have been officially condemned by the Church have been priests. So being a priest is certainly no assurance of orthodoxy. The Church has not yet condemned Centering Prayer by name, but it has issued two documents on New Age errors that describe some of the very things taught and practiced by Centering Prayer proponents. When you compare these documents and the Catechism to Fr. Keating's teaching, as I have done, you see clearly that he is teaching error.

How can a person who wants greater union with God get started? What should be his or her goal?

 Greater union with God has a twofold component: prayer and virtue. If we want to advance in prayer, we must dedicate ourselves to resisting temptation and being obedient to God's will. Growth in prayer also gives us the grace to do this. Prayer and virtue support each other. My advice is to set aside time each day to prayerfully read the Gospels and talk to God about what you read. In addition, frequent the sacraments, work on avoiding even the smallest sin, and begin making small sacrifices out of love for Christ. Union with God is really an intimate love relationship with Him. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the beginning and end of our faith.

I understand you will be coming out with a paperback edition of your book.  When can readers look for it to be available? 

I released the paperback a couple of weeks ago. It is now available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and Createspace, among other retailers.

Thank you Connie!  Please read on for a brief review of Connie's book. 


Is Centering Prayer Catholic?: Fr. Thomas Keating Meets Teresa of Avila and the CDF

by Connie Rossini
Four Waters Press
Paperback $9.95
ebook $2.99

Synchronicity in religion can be a dangerous thing. Catholics have been known to mix their beliefs with anything from  voodoo and witchcraft to New Age beliefs, which is like mixing oil and water. Unfortunately, when the person doing the mixing is a Catholic priest, Catholics can be fooled into believing that the outcome is okay, and that's what happened when Father Thomas Keating mixed Catholic meditation with Eastern meditation. The result was Centering Prayer. 

Author Connie Rossini, a 3rd order Carmelite for seventeen years, uses the prayer practices of Teresa of Avila to demonstrate where the practice of Centering Prayer leaves the path of Christianity and enters dangerous territory. 

Her writing style is conversational, and she includes comments and  exchanges from her various social media sites as well as from her blog at the beginning of each chapter, which clearly shows the confusion that people have about this prayer technique. 

The author lays out Father Keating's philosophy on Centering Prayer as a counterpoint to the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church for her writings and teachings on prayer as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on New Age spirituality. By the end of the book, the differences between Centering Prayer and Catholic prayer are cleaer. 

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