[Editor's note: Since this invitation was originally sent by the Chicago CO chapter to their mailing list in early October, numerous other tragedies have occurred worldwide, making the message and invitation all the more poignant and relevant. Other chapters or prayer groups may feel moved to create similar invitations locally. This article is re-posted here with permission from the author.]
The tragedy of the Las Vegas shootings would be devastating enough on its own. But this unfathomable trauma has happened in the midst of other tragedies—such as the recent hurricanes affecting Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean, the major earthquake in Mexico, and the usual level of local and global violence. Many of us feel shaken to the core, awakening in us a depth of sadness not just for the victims, but also for all of humanity.
Yet what can we do? We feel helpless, distant, isolated, and also needing to carry on with our own lives.
There is something meaningful we can do. The Monday evening Centering Prayer group at St. Michael’s Church in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago invites as many of us who are able to gather together to pray in meditative silence, to chant, and to share in light refreshments following our prayer time. We invite you to join us Monday, October 9, at 7pm in the Parish Center at 456 W. Eugenie St., Chicago 60614. ...
Centering Prayer is a contemplative prayer that opens us to a larger reality and deeper connections. It brings us to a place where we see ourselves as if in a vast space, yet we are held, sustained, and loved. In this place we see others as well as our own being all connected to the same source, in the same ground. When we release our grip on the thoughts which dominate our mind, we open to the space of our heart, which can embrace our larger human family.
The immediacy of trauma cannot just be let go of. There is pain, hurt, and violent death. In the light of the violence perpetrated in Las Vegas on Sunday, we need the touch, companionship, and connection in a physical room together with those who are willing to attempt to allow our hearts to open to the loving embrace of the human family, even while we acknowledge its violence, pain, and aggression. This work of opening, holding, and praying will create a healing energy that we can all share in.
Out of the energy and force of holding our human family in our heart, we will together be able to move forward and allow our mind to serve our heart and lead us to right and mindful actions for the betterment of us all. Let’s briefly pause from our busy schedules, gather together in a sacred space—there is no substitute for praying with our feet in this way (by coming together in physical presence)—and uphold both the particular victims and all of humanity in remembrance, by opening our hearts in contemplative prayer. Gathered together in contemplative chant and prayer, we find the courage to open our hearts to embrace both lament and hope. Our lives may seem too small for the task, but our hearts are vast—a reality we learn by quieting our minds—vast enough to uphold all of humanity. And there is strength in numbers. We are not alone!
If your [Chicago area] group or church decides to have a similar gathering, please let us know and we will communicate the details through our channels.
In great love,
Contemplative Outreach Chicago
No speech, no word, no voice is heard
yet their span extends through all the earth ...
- Psalm 19: 4, 5
"Once we begin the spiritual journey, there is no longer merely private prayer. Our prayer becomes a participation in the groanings of the Spirit for all the intentions and needs of the human family. ... [D]uring the periods of Centering Prayer we enter into a sense of oneness with everyone else who is experiencing grace, and with the whole human family. ... This bonding is the heart of the Christian community. ... Every little drop of that experience is of almost inconceivable value and vastly transcends the assembled community itself. In other words, the divine energy that is accessed by each one's participation ... becomes a kind of universal prayer for the needs of the whole human family. It has a radiation that is truly apostolic in the sense of transmitting the grace of Christ into this world. ...Through contemplative prayer, we are moving into a realm of reality that influences the past and the future perhaps more than anything else we could do."
- Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God