I am honored to be the “educational coordinator” for Central Illinois Contemplative Outreach (CICO). As part of my responsibilities, I am participating in the online yearlong retreat “The Spiritual Journey, Formation in the Christian Contemplative Life” offered by Contemplative Outreach in conjunction with Spirituality and Practice.com (https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/2018-spiritual-journey-online-program?utm_source=CO+Constituents&utm_campaign=d1ecd578ff-Nov+enews_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b11e0b2045-d1ecd578ff-309497573&mc_cid=d1ecd578ff&mc_eid=897f7434f4).
The reason for this blog is to share with the CICO community the ideas and resources I am learning about as I take part in the “Spiritual Journey” retreat.
The online sessions of the Retreat are posted twice each week and my plan is to summarize the main points of the retreat offerings and to give you the resources recommended. In this way, I hope to provide you with ideas and resources for your own “spiritual journey.”
The First Session
The first session focused on orientation to the retreat online site, a “how to” guide for retreatants, showing how to log in, how to maneuver through the retreat links, and how to join the discussion group that serves all the retreatants. It also asked all of us to post an introduction of ourselves and an intention for the year.
There are over 300 people taking this online retreat, from countries such as Ireland, Norway, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the good ole USA. Amazing. The shortened version of the intention I posted is “to learn.”
Father Keating shared a blessing for the retreat and noted, “God’s divine therapy speaks directly to our needs as our individuality and personality is developed.” Part of Father Keating’s blessing was “Dear Lord, I believe and trust in your incredible love for me that heals the wounds of a lifetime - body, soul, and spirit - and which calls us into a share of your divine life, even in this world. May this course we’re taking . . . help us to face what needs to be healed and also create the longings in us for deeper and deeper communion and union with yourself, dear Lord. “
Mary Dwyer, one of the retreat directors, gave a 10-minute video on “What is Centering Prayer and How Do We Do It” so you can see the retreat is for people in all stages of their journey.
The Second Session
The Second Session provided a video of Father Keating discussing “The Pursuit of Happiness.” It was an excerpt from an interview “Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ” by Betty Sue Flowers talking with Father Keating.
Keating begins with the powerful message, “Happiness or the desire for happiness is itself an infallible sign of God’s presence.” He notes that we pursue what we perceive as our “needs” by going in the wrong direction, through our false self because this is the only way we know how to satisfy the longing for “something more.” We don’t realize that we are trying to satisfy our desires for safety and security, affection and esteem, and power and control with methods that will not fulfill these desires but they are the only methods we know. When failure is the end result, this is the beginning of “repentance” or “changing the direction in which we look for happiness.” We must be willing to alter how we usually think.
Flower asks Keating, “Then how do we get to the prayer, ‘Thy will be done,’ which really does, then, enable us to see the help that is already there?”
“By Silence” he affirms. And not through our efforts, but through the grace of God. Keating says that we think we can find happiness through our own efforts, but instead,
"Effort is designed not for success, but to find out that that it doesn’t work. That’s its chief contribution to the spiritual life. Now, as soon as you let go of this, even a little bit, a crack occurs in our consciousness and some of the divine presence insinuates itself. The purpose, then, of silence, is to give an opportunity for the longing for God to break through the crust of the false self and our defense mechanisms so that we can be motivated by that hunger and that love to pursue the transformative process untiringly.
From this perspective, it’s easy to negotiate the entire spiritual journey, because all you have to do is accept it. It already is. It’s been done. It’s accepted. It’s been communicated to us. It’s put into our hands. It’s put into our mouths. It’s poured into our souls by the Holy Spirit. And the only request is to let God love us this much with this much absolutely free and undeserved and unmerited gratuity."
Additional resources suggested for this week:
1. The brochure “The Method of Centering Prayer”
2. Open Mind, Open Heart, the Introduction and chapters 1, 2 and 9 from the 20th Anniversary edition, or the Introduction and chapters 2, 4 and 10 from older editions.
I hope this week’s summary provides you with the assurance of God’s Great Love for Us.