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Monday, May 28, 2007

Centering Prayer vs. Contemplative Prayer

This is a hot topic in the Church these days, and unfortunately, the former is being touted as being the same as the latter, however, even a slight amount of research helps those who are discerning the Truth realize that they can't even be compared.

It was Fr. Keating who first developed and introduced Centering Prayer. His intentions were good; he was looking for similarities in the practices of Hindu/Buddhism to Christian prayer as a way of assisting converts to the Christian faith. (1.) Unfortunately, through his dabbling in the Eastern Meditative arts, he was drawn in and deceived, and introduced an insipient poison into the Church; a poison people are all too ready to consume and perpetuate.

"Prayer" is a conversation with God, involving the entire person, body and soul, during which we interact with God from the center of our souls...not within our souls.

"Centering Prayer" is a practice whereby the individual uses a technique, involving breathing exercises and/or a "mantra" of some sort to aid in emptying the mind, in an act to create an interaction with God WITHIN the center of ourselves.

"Contemplative Prayer" is a gift from God, pure and simple. It cannot be enforced or manipulated. It cannot be created, for God alone initiates this experience to the souls that are ready for such union.

In the Church, we have a wealth of experience involving commune with God, and Saints from all ages have written of it, most prominently St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, but by far they are not the only ones to experience contemplative prayer.

Unfortunately, all too often Centering Prayer is being compared to and being marketed as Contemplative prayer, but as you can see by definition alone, they are not the same.

In Centering prayer, the individual is instructed to empty their minds of anything, using a sort of mantra (which is a pagan practice), focusing on the word while breathing in a certain manner. It is actually a form of self-hypnosis; common sense alone tells us that such acts can lead to an altered state of consciousness. (2) The problem continues when the individual, thus impaired, is open not to God, but to whatever type of entity happens by. Apparently when Fr. Keating began this practice, the monastery began to be "haunted" and strange occurrences happened; things that had never manifested prior to this, and they were so caught up that they did not discern the origin of the disturbances!

My friends, you will know the tree by the fruit.

Contemplative prayer, by contrast, cannot be created. God is familiar with each and every one of us, whether we are beginners in prayer, whether we are experienced, whether we are "dry", whether we are reluctant, in mortal sin, in a state of grace...what have you. God knows us far more intimately than we know ourselves, thus He and He ALONE is in a position to grant a soul the gift of Infused Prayer. We cannot do anything to create this experience.

I've seen it argued that the Rosary is a form of centering prayer, however, such an assertion only betrays the ignorance of one who makes such a claim. The Rosary is a "Meditative" prayer, which can be an aid to contemplation. However, there are those who have trouble meditating on a particular idea, but who have a certain relationship with God allowing them to enter into Contemplation. In the Rosary, we are asked to consider something specific: for example, in the Sorrowful mysteries we are asked to consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. What was he praying about? What was his "agony"? Can we enter into the sorrow for the sin of the world he was experiencing at that time? Can we travel with him to his scourging? If we use Ignatian exercises, can we see ourselves there as a character, whether as an Apostle or simply a bystander? This involves active thought...not contemplation or centering prayer.

Meditation CAN lead to Contemplation, but as these things are according to God's will, it is up to God to provide the proper union with the soul in question.

I have often seen Father Thomas Dubay, Priest, Author, and Spiritual Director to cloistered contemplatives cited in reference to centering prayer, which is simply ridiculous for he spoke against it.

In "Prayer Primer, Igniting a Fire Within", he makes three points:

1. "One should beware of techniques of emptying the mind to prepare it for contemplation. This is unnatural. Our minds are made to be filled, not emptied. Nowhere does scripture advise this. Rather the beginner is told to fill his mind by pondering the Word of God day and night. (Ps 1:1-2)This is meditation, not emptying our minds. St. Teresa rightly said that when we are ready, God gives us something better than our efforts can produce, namely infused communing with himself."

2. "Secondly, it is an illusion to think that techniques can produce an immersion in God. he is not one to be manipulated as one can manipulate a machine or appliance."

3. "And thirdly, emptying methods can frustrate both the beginner who needs input on which to reflect and the advanced person who needs freedom from human efforts to be able to receive the light and love God wishes to communicate." (3)

Let's consider this; prayer is a conversation with God. Throughout history, although it has been Man who ruptured the union with God, it has always been God who sought to restore that intended union, even unto the death of His only beloved Son, sent to heal that rupture. And it is always Man who questions God and does not trust God.

Centering prayer is a form of questioning God and His methods, insisting, as always, that Man can do it better. How arrogant!

God is faithful! He seeks for our reunification with Him, but we cannot enforce it for all too often we are not ready for such union. We would be destroyed completely if God gave us the gifts he has given to souls such as St. Therese of Avila!

So He waits, and he grants what it needed and ready when the time is right. We cannot force this gift. We cannot rob God.

As Father Dubay pointed out, our minds are made to be filled. The point of prayer is communication with God, whether done at a very basic level or in mystical contemplation. God comes to us on human terms; only look to Jesus for this reality, and look to the Sacraments, as each of them involve a physical act. When we speak to one another, our minds are full of what we want to say or in processing what is being said by the other person.

God comes to us in the same way, but so often we miss it because we are so caught up in our own problems that we forget to listen. In prayer, our minds should not be empty; we should not be using a "mantra", which is a pagan act, but rather, we should pray to the Lord for protection from USELESS distractions, leaving our minds and hearts open to the "distractions" He wants to give us.

For example: have you ever prayed the Rosary, finding your mind wandering instead to an incident of the previous night in which you had a falling-out with a friend or relative? And no matter how hard you try to think about Mary's fiat in the first Joyful Mystery, instead you are meditating on your own harsh words you wish you could take back?

HELLO!? This is God assisting you in reconciliation! This is God speaking to you, forming your conscience, reminding you that you are not so pious as you think, you are not Godly, you are not fact, He is reminding you that it is necessary to go to Confession and perhaps seek advice as to how to heal the rift created by the cited argument.

"Scripture says not a word about techniques for prayer, not a word about oriental or centering ways to empty the mind. Rather our Christian meditation aims at filling our minds and hearts with pondering God's word in the books of creation and revelation. It is meant gradually to lead the beginner to something better, namely, to drinking the goodness and beauty of God in wordless way. We are to grow to a radiant absorption in him farther down the road. Meditation prepares the novice for contemplative communion with the indwelling Trinity." (4.)

We have 2,000 years of history in the Church, history involving real communion with God in the form of authentic prayer. Why, then, are people seeking a cheap copy of prayer? It seems to me that this is just another manifestation of Original Sin, seeking to control as opposed to allowing God to enter into our lives and into our souls on his time, not our own.

We have verified Saints to emulate to from whom to learn; why are people grasping new forms of "theology" that are untested, untried, and clearly contradictory to authentic Catholic spirituality?

Centering prayer is naught but a lie; if you are seeking true union with God, expect to work for it for His process is to test us in fire and hold us to the flames before He considers us worthy for such discourse. If you want union with God, go to Daily Mass (there is no greater form of prayer), go to frequent Confession, admit you are unworthy, and study the Scriptures. And take time to be silent in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, whether exposed for Adoration or hidden in the Tabernacle. Come to the Lord in humility, and let Him choose the time, let Him choose the gift, and let Him love you in the way He chooses. None of us has control over God; if we are seeking this control, we are doing nothing more than imitating Adam and Eve's rejection of God's love.


1. Dreher, John D., "This Rock", The Danger of Centering Prayer Catholic Answers, 1997, Vol. 8, Issue 11
2. Ibid
3. Dubay, Thomas, S.M., "Prayer Primer", Ignatius Press 2002, p. 155-156
4. Dubay, Thomas, S.M., "Prayer Primer", Ignatius Press 2002, p. 73


Warren said...

Bingo. You so totally rock!

Did you write that? It's brilliant.



Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great post. I need to study it like I would a college paper. How long did it take you to write it?

Adoro, you are SO SMART!

Emily said...

That is an awesome post. I have never thought about the distractions I receive when I pray the rosary in that way before! I just discovered your blog and I love it! I am especially interested in you Theology MA program; I'm in the same boat. I'd love to get one but I don't know how I can and hold down a full-time job. Keep up the fantastic writing. :)

Anonymous said...

thank you for the footnote acknowledgements ... great article.
is this research for a paper you're working on, or just by way of interest? being able to compile views, like those of Dreher and Dubay, is quite a work. when do you sleep? i know you have a job, too.
how do we mainstream your article?
got any connections any print mags? keep on keepin' on ... you'll get there! ;)

Adoro said...

W. ~ LOL! Thanks! Give glory to God because He inspired me through a question at CA forums. It's actually a topic that's been on my heart for a long time.

Potamiaena ~ It took me maybe 30 min or so to write this, all said and done. I unfortunately had to write it among other necessary distractions. But I knew what I wanted to say before I said it and I had the materials immediately available to quote. As I said, this issue has been on my mind for a long maybe the real answer is that it took MONTHS or YEARS to write.

And I'm not smart...God is, and He is so MERCIFUL!

Emily ~ Thanks for stopping by!

I actually read a blog post sometime back about distractions in prayer, over on Happy Catholic (on my sidebar). Unfortunately I can't provide the link or the context, but I realized that whatever it was was true and ever since then I've approached my distractions in this way. Some distractions are just that; distractions. But some "distractions" are meant to act as a reminder for prayer for someone or a situation or...something to be discerned in that conversation with God.

As far as the MTS program...I don't know how I'm going to do it, either. That's all God's will.

If you'd like to email me with any questions, I'd be happy to share what I have learned and the programs I've considered. My email is:

In general, there are different programs, and the one I have chosen caters to those who are working Full time, and you can actually take one course per semester, which can range from 1 - 3 credits.

If you have Ave Maria available in your area, I highly recommend it.

Adoro said...

Uncle Jim ~ Let's just say God put the resources in front of me, gave me the inspiration...and I wrote the paper. I didn't do this for a class, although in a couple weeks I'll be speaking at Theology on Tap about New Age and the Occult. I don't know that I'll bring up Centering prayer as Occult will be my main focus, but it has been a topic on my mind for a long time. A lot of people are being mislead by this method of "prayer", and if we can reach them and help them know that prayer is a gift, then how pleased will God be!?

All I want is to please God, and so often I do the opposite.

Leticia said...

Well, you did beautifully here, I learned exactly why reliable sources within the Church warn against Centering Prayer. Unfortunately it's practiced in my parish. I'm going to link to this post to inform my readers of it's dangers.

Lynne said...

A great post. Our parish has a Centering Prayer group too.

Anonymous said...

Very educational; nice post. Well researched.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Great post, Adoro! I've wondered what the difference is and how to explain it. Your post helped me with that!

Melody K said...

Back in about 1980, I bought a book, "Centering Prayer", by M. Basil Pennington. I attempted to practice centering prayer, but was never very successful, and after a while gave it up. Maybe it was my guardian angel looking out for me, that I was unable to practice it. Even at the time the part about emptying one's mind, even of thoughts of God, didn't make sense to me. Similar to your comments about Fr. Keating, I believe that Fr. Pennington had good intentions, but got off on the wrong track. I have heard the term "centering prayer" used incorrectly, when what was actually being discussed was Ignatian meditation or Lectio Divina. We'll hope that is the case with parishes which offer centering prayer classes, though I wouldn't depend on it. In the years since my centering prayer attempt, I have come to feel that my time would be much better spent in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

Anonymous said...

you guys are right on the mark ... there is hope for the Church renewed.

Unknown said...

Brilliant, Adoro.

I have struggled with the distinctions between contemplation and centering prayer and meditation for a long time, early on not believing that there were any at all.

Thank you for posting that.

Fortunately for me, I have taken up the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet as my two main prayer practices while increasing attendance at Mass and my reading in the Holy Bible.

I believe that I am far safer that way.

Anonymous said...

Great article. Thanks for compiling it! I am not completely clear on this fine distinction. I think that the Buddhists are definitely pursuign a valid path to god, so I hope this isn't just anti-eastern religion? That being said I agree very much with not trying to empty the mind. I do think that meditating on the mysteries, and then occupying the mind with prayers like the Hail Mary, is a form of mantra and we shouldn't demonize that. Occupying the mind so that we can 'feel' the Holy Spirit is different, I think, than emptying the mind. It's like there are 3 or 4 channels of thought available and if you don't give them all something to do, you end up getting distracted with worries and the like.

As JPII once said, "Be not Afraid!" The important thing is to pray in Christ's name, who promises not to hand as a serpent when we ask for bread. To much fear of hell should not scare us away from heaven.

Just my 2 cents! B

Adoro said...

WC ~ Yes, this is anti-Eastern religion, reason being that their forms of prayer are seeking union with a deity that is not God. Buddha was a man, and in Buddhism, they do not seek God...they seek to be one with the universe, basically, they seek to pop out of existance as part of some universal consciousness. This is not God, this is not of God. Hinduism in a pantheistic religion, and in Transcendantal Meditation (which is Centering Prayer), they are seeking union with their deity, again, not God.

Pick up Father Dubay's books on prayer, first Prayer Primer, and then The Fire Within. If I get a chance later tonight I will try to post a quote I read just last night which happens to explain this very well.

Additionaly, prayer is not about 'FEELING" Feeling isn't even part of it. God often communicates with us in the absence of emotion or sensation or anythign else. Don't get hung up on the idea that prayer is only valid if feeling is involved.

BretonHobbit said...

very interesting post, which has given fruit to some insightful comments as well. i think that i, too, am still a little fuzzy on the distinction...incidentally, i've written about this before, only because it's a bit of an inside joke in my family that i'm always "trying to find my center". i wrote about this (in a light hearted kind of way) here:

and in more serious detail here:

not to dwell on tags or labels, but i'm curious to know how these posts would be interpreted in light of the information you've presented. thanks for your blog, i check it out pretty regularly!

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

Yes, wonderfully instructive post. I would point that the Papal Magisterium has not been silent on this matter. To that end, I'd like to draw attention to The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, the text of which is not available on the Holy See's website, but it can be referenced from EWTN's Document Library:

Adoro said...

Brentonhobbit ~ As a quick answer:
* Centering "prayer" is not a coversation with God. It is a pagan technique seeking a type of union with a diety-consciousness, completely manipulated by the person who is "praying". It is actually completely self-focused and involves emptying oneself.

* Contemplative prayer is a gift from God. God initiates it, God chooses the souls to whom to give this gift, and it cannot be learned by technique. It is completely other-focused, not focused on onself.

I see here that others have posted links, so I'd encourage you to read them for more information. Thanks, Deacon! I also realized I need to edit this post as I can add a link to the "This Rock" article I cited, and that may assist you as well.

I am not speaking from my own "insight" here, but from the insight of those wiser than I, and with the voice of the Church which HAS spoken on this.

And seriously, read Father Dubay - he will clear things up for you in a hurry!

Adoro said...

Thank you, Deacon, for that link to the document. I found the endnotes to be especially enlightening.

and brentonhobbit ~ I'm really unable to comment much, but I do want to draw your attention to the fact that there is a diffeence between relaxation techniques and Centering "prayer". They are not the same. The EWTN article also does discuss relaxation a little, too, so that may help you.

God bless!

Anonymous said...

Great article. Thank you for saying what needed to be said about "centering prayer".

JesusFreak84 said...

Loved this!!!!!!!!!!!

Sad to see how many religious orders support this "prayer" sham at retreats and such. People let their natural guards down because those promoting it are professed religious, and sadly we cannot afford to do that anymore.

God bless! =-)

Mark said...

my letter to the editor at Catholic Answers to their cover story in THIS ROCK about centering prayer in 1998 is PAYING ATTENTION TO INATTENTION

The Crescat said...

angela messenger gave me this book, prayer primer, and its another one of those I started 50 different times. I think its time to finish it through.

Great post! very well thought out & clear.

Alice said...

Thanks Adoro,

I remember the last time I had to 'empty my mind' at school (not THAT long ago) just before our final exams, the counsellors were trying to teach us relaxation methods (not prayer,meditation or contemplation).
We had to all lie down on the floor, close our eyes and listen to this really way out story about nothing while trying to 'empty our minds'.
Granted, it wasn't meant to be prayer, but the idea of emptying our minds was so hilarious to my friend and I that we promptly burst out laughing and spoilt the 'experience' for everyone else.
We reached a compromise and agreed to falling asleep for the half hour instead.
That did more good for us than listening to a story and trees with clothes hangers and birds and flowers etc...

Well done again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Adoro,

That really helps clarify. I've always had an inborne suspicion of it, especially as it seems to be associated with the retreats on Enneagrams, etc, in our neck of the woods. However, I never got around to doing an in-depth investigation of it.

Great job!

Embattled Catholic

Adoro said...

Anon ~ If you haven't done so already, pick up Fr. Pacwa's book, "Catholics and the New Age". He also has other recommended resources in the back of the book - both sources to avoid and sources to pick up.

God bless!

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Has St. Teresa of Avila been whispering in your ear? :-)


Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

"Buddhists are definitely pursuing a valid path to god..."

er, no, a valid path to Hell. They seek non-being, the anithesis of what we are called to seek, that is, Being.

If the Hail Mary, even any litany, "is a form of mantra" you are "doing" it wrong! The last thing it is is a "mantra". What's next, citing protestant exigesis (eisegesis actually, in fact, doctoring) of scripture, i.e. "vain repetition"???

Good post: how anyone can be confused by "centering" prayer has been another source of amazement: it is what it is, and what it is is the prayer form proper to the heresy of immenentism (the modernism Pius X was condmening is actually a form of immenentism) as condmened by Pope St.Pius X.

Just observe the "company" that people who practice centering prayer keep...that should tell you all you need to know.

Good job defending Teresa de Avila.

Infused prayer, being a total gift, and requiring complete humility ("let it be done to me according to Thy word") is not popular...kind of like kneeling and receiving on the tongue...


Meg said...

Adoro, thank you so much for writing this, as I can see by reading the comments it's serving as a resource for so many. It's very well written, must have taken you a while, especially since so few (including myself) bother to cite sources to support our ideas.

I couldn't believe my ears when I spoke with the Archdiocese's Vocation Directress last year, and she suggested Centering prayer. I took a glance at it, and haven't bothered to use it at all.

"Centering" is just as it is named; it brings a person into oneself rather than bringing them out of themselves and into God. Prayer is not to be selfish, but selfless and opening up to God, and letting Him in.

Thanks again for a wonderful post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Adoro,

I have some audio tapes of Fr. Mitch Pacwa, which go more into the enneagrams. This is very much in vogue around here--we have to put the pamphlets in our Church from time to time for these "retreats". Put on in the Diocesan retreat house. By 2 Felicians.

Fr. Mitch is very good, as is his reversion story.

Anonymous said...

I see your point, but disagree. I use centering prayer as a way of combatting SSA. (That's same-sex attraction, for those who don't have to know its definition.) I've found that it has deepened my relationship with Our Lord, not damaged it. In fact, when I first began using that technique, I was convinced that "gay is okay", and was pretty much anti-Magesterial. I assumed that God must approve of homosexual relationships, since they seemed so "natural". How far He's brought me! I think that centering prayer can be used by God to rescue souls-- but only if done in the proper spirit of true humility and an openness of heart to God.

Adoro said...

michael ~ I agree God can use anything to rescue souls...he indeed rescued mine through different means, including the "Left Behind" series. (What a bunch of hokey books! LOL!)

Here's the key, could be that what "centering prayer" was for you was really a relaxation technique, perhaps the Lord preserved you from the pantheistic worship that actual Centering "prayer" is....and perhaps because you were truly seeking God, he rewarded you.

I don't know enough about yoru experience, nor am I an expert on prayer - not by any means!, but I would encourage you to read the Saints, and read Father Dubay.

I have not spoken of my own opinion, but of that of the Saints, of the opinions of those far far far greater than I'll ever be. I speak here for the Church. Centering prayer is a New Age is neither Catolic nor is it prayer.

You, my friend...I believe you were seeking a true conversation with God, and even through the use of a bad medium, God can bring grace. He transcends all things and saves us from our own folley.

Believe me...I know. I'm a complete fool.

God bless!

Anonymous said...

for many years, i struggled, not very successfully, against sins of the flesh. I tried daily mass, the rosary, charasmatic prayer, etc. etc. Nothing has been as powerful as centering prayer in helping to free me from strong addiction. I met Fr. Keating, and highly recommend his books, and video " The spiritual journey".Centering prayer is based on "The Cloud Of Unknowing", which influenced St. Teresa, and St. John of the cross.

Adoro said...

Centering prayer is not based on "The Cloud of Unknowing" although that's a myth that's touted a lot. It's based on Transcedental Meditation, a pagan practice.

Big red flags go up when you say you "tried daily Mass". Remember Satan can heal, too, but his power carries strings, and ultimately work for your undoing.

I pray you are still attending Daily mass, praying the Rosary, etc? If not, then please continue.

And read St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross for yourself...although I'd strongly encourge you to read Father Dubay's "Prayer Primer" and "The Fire Within", as well as a few other books he has out on prayer.

Centering prayer is not Catholic, no matter how they dress it up to be so. I understand where you are coming from, however, what do you have to lose by reading authentic Catholic works?

Anonymous said...

Let us be clear that the mind has several functions such as reasoning, memory, judgment, willing, interpreting the senses, but supporting them all is a basic attentiveness, alertness or awareness. In contemplation one is brought to this basic awareness of God in whom we live and move and have our being without the distraction of these other functions. CP is only one way of practicing availibility to God. It is a poverty of our own agenda, a making space for listening.

I don't practice CP but I do sit in silence and open myself to God without words. It is pure and simple attention to God in that present moment where words and thoughts just fall away.

Adoro said...

anon ~ sorry for the delay in responding...I had no idea there was a comment as blogger has not been sending me emails consistently to notify me of comments.

What you are describing is not Centering Prayer. What you are describing is far different, for what you are doing is simply being open to God's initiation to bring you to a higher level of communion with Him.

Centering prayer is a manipulation...and this is what's so misunderstood. It's Transcendental Meditation, which is a worship of the Hindu god Brahmin. Just sitting there, being available to the God you love so much is actual true prayer, even if it is wordless. God doesn't speak in words, and He acts without our conscious knowing.

Anonymous said...

This is a mis-informed post. There are numerous errors. I have been a long term practitioner of Centering Prayer (15+ yrs). If one is not interested or have an inclination for it, then why try to degrade it? Very sad....

Peadar said...

I notice there was no comment after Anon who has been practising Centering Prayer for 15+ years. Very interesting. So, I do not know if after a year Adoro you might read my response but I have a question to ask you. Could you let me know please the books and articles you read and have you read any of Thomas Keatings books? He is still alive so you could always ask him one and one. Since I have been trying to understand both sides, I do find that some of what you write as NOT being CP,Fr Keating is saying the same as what DOES constitute Centering Prayer.Hmm.. I am still trying to learn about all this.

Adoro said...

Peadar ~ Thank you for your comment. About not responding to the above post...while all comments are SUPPOSED to be emailed to me, sometimes blogger hits glitches and I don't get notifications. Given this post is a year old...well, I'm not in the habit of going back over old posts randomly looking for comments. Would you? resopnse to Anon above - I've posted my position based on experts who think WITH the mind and heart of the Church, and so I am aligning myself with their position. I have supported my opinion with documentation.

So, to Peadar - I'd refer you there as well.

No , I have not read Keating's work as I am a student and my time reading is dedicated these days to things that I am required to read for class. I have chosen not to read things that through my own discernmentn I believe would be harmful to my own spiritual life. If the time comes and I am directed to read such works, then I will do so. Until then...I prefer far more spiritually edifying things.

That said...Fr. Groeschel on a re-run yesterday happened to address the topic of "centering prayer" which at times, is really just a meditative technique, and so in some contexts, there's nothing wrong with it. However, if it is as I described in my post, given the information provided by solid theologicans and spiritual advisors, I hold to my position.

The importance for you as you are researching this is to clarify the terms in each source you read. Some people MEAN "contemplative prayer" but call it "centering prayer" because they don't know different. Some people have been falsely taught that "centering prayer" is "contemplative prayer." And some people simply mistake meditation or relaxation techniques that have been around since the beginning of time to be a form of centering prayer. So the term has a huge umbrella...make sure the terms are defined so you know what you're reading.

And that's all the advice I think I can offer you at this point.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

when you sit for 30 minutes in front of the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic adoration, and you realize you are thinking about the basketball playoffs, what do you do? You let go of that thought, and return to silence, and being still, and present. That is centering prayer.We have all done it, hopefully. It is a good thing.

Adoro said...

Anon ~ No, that is not what is commonly defined as "Centering Prayer". We do need to remain recollected and continue to work on that, but that practice is NOT "Centering Prayer", although you may have come up with your own definition of it.

I wrote this post, back in what...2007? to address the definitions and practices. It is important for us all to know what those definitions are and what those practices are so that we may use the terms properly and not confuse others.

What you are talking about is remaining in or returning to recollection, an ancient practice in Catholicism that long pre-dated the modern Eastern-influenced practice of "Centering Prayer".

Jose said...

This IS a great post, and very informative. I have been trying to "learn to pray" of late and find myself often confused between Catholic Meditation and the mix of Chistian-Eastern practices. I do have one question. The Saints and others say that one must LISTEN for God when one prays. I also recall the story of the Old Testement prophet who heard thunder, and earthquakes but didn't find God. He DID find God in a whisper. And, one must clearly listen for God to hear him in something as subtle as a whisper. So...What's the difference between emptying ones mind and listening for God? I feel as if I can't really listen to ANYONE if my mind is elsewhere and busy. If you were in a conversation and your mind is filled, your friend would accuse you of not really paying attention. Can someone explain the difference between the emtying of the mind and listening for God? I feel as if one can't listen without a quiet mind. It's truly confusing. God Bless and thank you!

Adoro said...

Jose ~ Thanks for your question. Because it dovetails so nicely with one of my recent posts, I'm going to answer your question in a post of it's own.

I'll try to come back and post the link here, but otherwise, just keep an eye on my blog's main page at

I'll try to respond as quickly as possible. :-)

Adoro said...

Jose (and anyone interested) I answered your question here:

God bless!

Jose said...

Thank you, Adoro. You're help is truly appreciated. God bless!


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to thank you for this post. I had experienced centering prayer in a variety of supposedly safe places, and I was thinking about the Jesus prayer, I wanted to make sure I would be praying it appropriately. I was definitely confusing meditation (in the Catholic sense) with centering prayer (emptying of the mind). There are so many good and helpful things in this article, and just wanted to say thank you!

Raven said...

I went to a centering prayer weekend many years ago at a Catholic retreat centre.

I did not like it at all. It actually scared the life out of me, sitting there with my mind 'emptied' and not knowing what was - or might - come through at any given moment.

I mean how can one trust what the subconscious is going to do at any moment?

Anyway I never went back or continue to practice it for long.

As a beginner on the path of prayer, I have taken to rosary meditation and I think it is lovely. I feel much better with it and it feels far more natural and not at all dangerous.