This May 2012, a spiritual friend and I made a pilgrimage to Ireland. In our rented mini Nissan we drove from ancient site to ancient site, walking and praying in those places where holy men and women lived, thrived, built monasteries, taught, and led their people in the Christ-life during the Golden Age of Celtic Christianity (400-1200 AD). We were enveloped in the spiritual power of these saints (Kevin, Bridget, Columba, etc.) as we touched the stones and walked on the grounds of long-ago monasteries, churches, sculpted high crosses, and round towers.
We were not only experiencing past history, interesting as that was, but along the way we interacted with many wonderful Celtic Christians of today. I‚Äôd like to tell you about one of those experiences. It happened our first night in Ireland. It was the day after our flight from the USA and we had been awake for almost thirty-six hours. Two Sisters of Mercy welcomed us to our first night‚Äôs sleep in their little stone hermitages at Glendalough. Then Sr. Margaret said, ‚ÄúO by the way, we have a centering prayer group that meets tonight and you are welcome to join us.‚Äù We both wondered if we should go, fearing we might be snoring during the group prayer! But as two people who have been so richly influenced by this spiritual practice, we could not decline this gracious invitation just as we were beginning our pilgrimage.
Seven or eight others had already begun to pray as the two of us quietly entered the lovely prayer room and took our seats. Those of you who practice centering prayer know the routine.
We ‚Äúsat‚Äù for thirty minutes, moved together on a contemplative walk, and returned to our seats, ‚Äúsitting‚Äù for another thirty minutes. My friend and I had done this many times before. However, when it was over and we were outside, we looked at each other and said, ‚ÄúWow!‚Äù
We were overwhelmed by the power of this prayer practice to bring the world together. During that silent prayer, with strangers who didn‚Äôt say a word to us, we were invited into a unity and solidarity with them in a way that left our hearts full and our spirits grateful.
I can be discouraged about much that is happening in our world and throughout the Church. Sometimes I ask, ‚ÄúWhere are you, God, in all this mess?‚Äù However, every so often I am given a glimpse of the answer to that question, as happened in that prayer room in Ireland. The Spirit is at work, through the teachings of a contemporary monk, Fr. Thomas Keating, and Contemplative Outreach. Have no doubt about it, friends of centering prayer! We are part of a world-wide transforming movement of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God!