St Francis Q&A

Friday, March 02, 2007

Meditation and contemplation

Tonight, all are invited to join us in the SAA Church for:1) Stations of the Cross, 7 pm2) Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, 7:30-8:30 pm
Anon wrote: "I find Eucharist adoration a kind of meditation. What is the difference between centering prayer and meditation?” Wow, deep question! I remember taking a class years ago offered by Fr. Thomas Dubay who has written much on the different types of prayer. He explained that meditation is essentially putting ourselves in the presence of God, and contemplation is when God infuses his Spirit within us. As described below by, centering prayer is commonly associated with contemplation.

I recommend Father Dubay’s book, “Fire Within”, for those who wish to learn more about meditation and contemplation. He has a new book out, “Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within”, which I have not read, but it looks very good. I have included a quote from “Fire Within” in which Fr. Dubay depicts St. Theresa of Avila’s down-to-earth description of contemplative prayer.

“Centering Prayer is a method of prayer, which prepares us to receive the gift of God's presence, traditionally called contemplative prayer. It consists of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God’s presence and action within. It furthers the development of contemplative prayer by quieting our faculties to cooperate with the gift of God’s presence.Centering Prayer facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer — verbal, mental or affective prayer — into a receptive prayer of resting in God. It emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God. At the same time, it is a discipline to foster and serve this relationship by a regular, daily practice of prayer. It is Trinitarian in its source, Christ-centered in its focus, and ecclesial in its effects; that is, it builds communities of faith.

Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts” (

“For her, contemplation is an experienced, mutual presence, ‘an intimate sharing between friends,’ a being alone with the God Who loves us. Hence, this prayer is a mutual presence of two in love, and in this case the Beloved dwells within. Actually, it is an interdwelling, a mutually experienced indwelling. She relates about herself how ‘a feeling of the presence of God would come upon me unexpectedly so that I could in no way doubt He was within me or I totally immersed in Him’ (Fire Within, 58).


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