Approaching Clergy about Centering Prayer

Q:  What are the best means of getting your local priest involved in Centering Prayer?

A:  Your question is lacking in details so let me respond in a generic way. We can dialogue further if need be.

First and foremost, it is necessary that you have an established practice of Centering Prayer before you approach the priest. There is a different energy that is present within you when you are transmitting a request versus just making a request. So, the number one most important thing is to have a faithful practice.

Because parish priests have many responsibilities, it is important that they have a sense that you are an active member of the parish and that you are assisting them with their projects and programs. In other words, your request won‚Äôt be the first time they have seen or heard from you.  With this working relationship already in place, you need to make an appointment. Don‚Äôt just ask about Centering Prayer while the priest is greeting the parishioners after mass. During this appointment share your desire, the plan you have, the willingness to do whatever it takes to make it work, with their blessing.  You are doomed if you are asking them to initiate it or do the work. You are the messenger and you need to be the implementer. All you are asking for is space to give this gift to the parish. In Open Mind, Open Heart, Fr. Thomas Keating says “‚Ķ If Centering Prayer is to continue it will be the responsibility of the laity.” Before the meeting, you should contact the local Contemplative Outreach volunteers in your area for their input and support. 

If the priest says yes to your suggestion, then move forward with commitment, inspired by the fruits of the prayer in your own life.  In time, the priest will see the fruits of your work and will gradually show personal interest as well as pastoral interest.

If after going to the priest he is not interested or says there is no room to meet in the parish, you might consider approaching other denominations to ask their interest; Episcopals, Lutherans and Methodists have been very open to this in most of the USA, for example. It is good to be prepared for the reality that many priests are not interested. Most priests in their formation received a very academic presentation on the levels of prayer, however the weakest presentations were on the unitive level, which is the contemplative dimension.  Here the laity can give them the life-changing gift of Centering Prayer, a prayer of consenting.

Remember we are the sowers, God creates the growth.  It is always worth trying.

Fr. Carl
(along with input from Marie Howard, long-time practitioner and chapter consultant)