#148 – Christian Meditation


In this episode, we look at the practice of Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation and talk a bit about what I’ve been up to the past few weeks.

Catholic:Under The Hood shirts and hoodies and other SQPN gear
CUTH episode on The Jesus Prayer
Great book on developing your prayer life in conjunction with Jesus Prayer – “The Art of Prayer:An Orthodox Anthology”
Videos of the Franciscan Media Conference with myself and the other SQPN podcasters

Send e-mail questions and comments to catholicunderthehood@gmail.com or leave voicemail at 1 740 936 4354

To listen, just click on the link below:

podcasticon#148 – Catholic Meditation



  1. Denis Lynch
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 1:22 am | Permalink | Reply

    I haven’t written to you in a while, but I’m a loyal listener.

    Your general comments about how Christian Meditation or Centering Prayer fit into a healthy spiritual life are good advice. I think it’s unfortunate that you spoke as negatively about these practices as you did, especially since you said that you have no practical knowledge of them.

    Three things struck me in particular. First, your notion that contemplative prayer only makes sense after spiritual dues have been paid with other forms of prayer. That seems overly mechanistic: you don’t earn your way to contemplation; it either enriches your spiritual life or it doesn’t. No one form of prayer is sufficient, and contemplative prayer should be undertaken as part of a full faith life that includes regular participation in Mass and receipt of the Eucharist and reading and praying the scripture, especially Lectio Divina. (Basil Pennington frequently writes about Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina as parts of a single practice.)

    Second, you seemed to confuse the practice of contemplative prayer with an experience of the closeness of God. As you said, only God can provide the experience of closeness. But only you can maintain the practice. More than most prayer practices, contemplative prayer involves “letting go” which includes consciously not evaluating your progress, or seeking particular feelings or states of mind. You sit in the presence of God and accept whatever fruit God provides.

    Which leads to the third point, that contemplative prayer explicitly avoids “concepts,” instead resting completely on “presence.” When you sit you try to avoid thoughts, whether they are about about God, or holy things, or your prayer, or anything at all. You just sit in the presence of God. The literature on Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation differ mainly on their description of the “intent” you talked about. Centering Prayer literature (e.g. Basil Pennington) speaks about an understanding and intent in a way that is intimately tied to orthodox Christian doctrine; Christian Meditation literature (e.g. John Main) tends to prefer to avoid discussing “concepts” of the prayer. Outside of the prayer itself, both practices have a conceptual framework that is fully in accordance with orthodox doctrine. As you said in the episode, this conceptual framework is quite different from Buddhist meditation: you are a person sitting in the presence of a personal God, not a being trying to dissolve into the universal un-being. But just like saying the rosary or receiving the Eucharist, the practice comes first and is more important than the conceptual framework that explains or describes it.

    God bless you as you keep up the good work!

  2. Dave
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 10:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    I forgot to mention this in the email I sent you, but I noticed you did not mention the book ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ at all within your conversation on Centering Prayer. Specifically, Chapter 39 holds the kernel from which Centering prayer (and its offshoots) seem to have sprung from.

    Is this book not read in the Franciscan order?

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