Catholic Faith Corner

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Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Centering Prayer for a Centered Lent

As we hear the latest news reports, we might wonder, Where is God in all of this? As we struggle with personal calamities or are heartbroken by hardships our loved ones are facing, we might ask, “Where are you, God?” The answer to these questions is God is omnipresent–living and active everywhere. As Paul said, “In him we live and move and have our being.” Becoming more conscious of this truth is a good goal for Lent as we strive to renew our spiritual life. One place where God dwells is in the deep center of our very selves. Jesus promised, “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). St. John of the Cross lamented that we seldom give thought to this mind-blowing mystery. Coming in touch with God in our hearts makes us more aware of his hand at work in the world. It also brings forth in us the fruits of peace and joy no matter how stressful our life.  A prayer practice that cultivates being sensitive to God at the core of our being is centering prayer.

One day a woman called who was incensed that I taught centering prayer in one of our textbooks. She argued that it was dangerous, something newfangled fad imported from Eastern religions. I explained that it was a solidly Catholic prayer method rooted in the tradition of church fathers and desert father and recommended by saints of old. It is a beautiful, profound way of praying. After a teacher taught it to her thirty-five seventh graders, on written evaluations only two students said they didn’t like the experience. Others said they would like to do centering prayer again. A Sister in our health care center confided that she prays this way for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon and loves this way of praying. So what is centering prayer?

Centering prayer is a channel opening to contemplation, the highest form of prayer in which God overwhelms us with his presence. It flows from the idea that God dwells within us. St. John of the Cross said, “O thou soul, most beautiful of creatures who longs to know where the beloved is, thou art thyself that very tabernacle where he dwells.” We believe that through baptism, God has taken up residence within us. I like to compare centering prayer to an elderly couple sitting together for hours not speaking but basking in the steady flow of their love for each other. During centering prayer you might not feel like you are doing anything and consider this a lazy way of praying. But something is happening, just as when you sit peacefully in the sun and get tanned…or burnt. God is at work in you.  Here are the steps.

  1.  Find a quiet space where you can be alone.
  2.  Think of a word or phrase that you can say when your mind wanders. It might be “I love you,” “Jesus,” or “My Lord and my God.” This you will use to bring your mind back to God like a tug on a kite string.
  3. Sit upright and close your eyes to focus inwardly. Relax by breathing slowly three times.
  4. Empty your mind of all other thoughts and any worries. Focus on God living deep within you and ponder his love for you. Be present to God and rest in his presence.
  5. When you are aware of thoughts other than God, repeat your prayer word to bring you back to the center. Don’t stop to think how you are doing. Give God all your loving attention.
  6. When you are finished, pray a prayer like the Our Father or Glory Be in order to transition out of this deep prayer.

Praying centering prayer will help you cope with the turmoil of your life and the world. More importantly, it will also deepen your relationship with God.

Have you ever prayed centering prayer? What was the experience like for you?

If you haven’t prayed this way, why not try it and then share what you thought of it?






10 Responses

  1. Yes, I have prayed Centering Prayer. My experience has been just as you described. I like that you quoted St. John of the Cross. My New Year Resolution is to read his works, which I have begun to do. The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Ávila’s spiritual masterpiece, describes the journey toward union with God, who dwells within our soul.

  2. hello Sister,
    great to meet you. got you article from Association of Catholic Bloggers. I was praying asking God to lead where I needed to be. I was being distracted for a while and wanted to get back into centering prayer and I was led to you on twitter. God is good. I was going to give up social media for Lent. But God has me hesitate about it and now here I am Social media used in the right way is good giving the Glory to God.

    Well, sorry for the tangent now on to Centering Prayer I believe it helped heal me from a few alignments. Now the are back from another medical situation. Need centering prayer and of course God. blessings Peace

  3. Sister Kathleen,

    Thank you for explaining centering prayer. It is very peacefilled.

    Maybe one day you can describe contemplation.

    May this Lenten season be truly blessed for you.


    Mary Day

  4. I hope centering prayer will lead you into contemplation, Mary. Strictly speaking, contemplation, in which God overwhelms us and we bask in his presence, is an act of God and out of our hands, but we can make ourselves open to it.

  5. I am coping with the death of a loved one and I believe this centering prayer is really what I need to be doing now. I actually mean that I probably need to stop trying to “do” so many spiritual practices and just “be” in this centering prayer first and foremost, letting the rest follow as it may. Thank you, Sister.

  6. I often use the free app “Centering Prayer”. First you turn your phone on Do Not Disturb so incoming messages don’t bother your quiet time. Then you go through the 5 steps they provide -pick a sacred word as Sr. described above, an opening prayer, opening sound, how long you want to stay in silence and a closing prayer and sound. It really helps you relax into the quiet time and not have to wonder how long it has been (it’s always less than you think!). Thank you Sr. for suggesting this option to prayer in this Lenten season.

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