Story 95118

All of Heaven has joyfully greeted a new Saint on 10/25/2018. We love you and are in deep gratitude Dear Fr. Thomas for your many gifts to us. You have surely touched, and will continue to touch, the hearts of so many souls with your inspiration, your deep wisdom, your role-modeling, your humbleness, your gentleness, and mostly your powerful love you have chosen to share with our world. You accomplished much as you lived your calling and made us all better persons, individually and collectively, having experienced your presence in our own life journey. Being with you may be the closest to what one may have experienced being with Jesus as He walked among His many followers breaking bread, teaching, blessing, healing and mostly, loving others and bringing them closer to the creator of us all. You have taught us how let go of fear and false self and all that we are not, and welcome “nothingness", as we trustfully are held in the sacred and nourishing hands of God who loves us unconditionally and knows the magnificence within each of us. With Love, Gratitude and Aloha nui, Ed Colozzi

On a more personal note, here are some reflections about my experiences with Fr. Thomas.

During 1990, the Gulf War period, I had met Fr. Bill Meninger when he shared a brief overview about Centering Prayer at Saint Mary's Church in Winchester, MA. I approached him after his presentation and indicated I wanted to start a Centering Prayer group. He advised me to contact Fr. Thomas Keating and share my interest with him, which I did immediately. I called and had a wonderful conversation with Fr. Thomas during which he suggested that I contact a local MA person and eventually was put in contact with Sister Lorraine Pianka, who assisted me in getting a prayer group started in Winchester.

(I eventually co-facilitated this group for seventeen years in the former Sister's Convent at Saint Mary's Parish.)

Additionally, during my initial conversation with Fr. Thomas about establishing a Centering Prayer group in Winchester, I spontaneously invited him to participate in a "Pause for Peace" teleconference I had been planning at Bunker Hill Community College for college students, faculty and the President of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA, and others participating in Honolulu, Hawaii, California, and Victor Li, President of the Hawaii East-West Center, who was visiting in New York City at the time and who also had agreed to join our teleconference from his hotel room. The purpose of our teleconference was to have a discussion about peace and then experience a measure of meditation and peace at a time when a "war-oriented" atmosphere was thoroughly dominating the press and daily news reports.

At first Fr. Thomas thanked me for the invitation and indicated that he would not be able to fly out for this event, and I explained that he did not have to fly out, nor would I ever expect him to do so. Rather he could participate from his office or even his bedroom on his telephone at Snowmass, CO, just as all the others would be connecting via an ATT assisted call. Fr. Thomas still seemed a bit hesitant and was unsure about how all this would work out since he would not specifically be present to speak to the participants about Centering Prayer, and then facilitate a brief ten minute meditation experience to all the participants at the various sites. I further explained that I had done other teleconferences and was sure he could add an important dimension to our Pause for Peace teleconference with his discussion and perspective about Centering Prayer. I remember specifically sharing with him, "Fr. Tom. I know you can do this, and don't worry; just allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and you'll do a great job!" Fr. Thomas graciously agreed to participate.

After a few brief calls to Fr. Thomas and the other participant sites to iron out the details regarding the actual teleconference call, I video-taped our site at Bunker Hill Community College during which Fr. Thomas shared, what perhaps was his first-ever, coast-to-coast, including Hawaii, Centering Prayer Conference that joined many folks from various faith traditions in a simultaneous Centering Prayer experience.

My very first discussions with Fr. Thomas involved starting a Centering Prayer group in our local area and inviting him to discuss Centering Prayer and then lead us in a brief meditation, yet, I really had no idea about his background, his struggles as an emerging novitiate into the professed house he shared in Invitation To Love, his discussions about false self, his encounters with Brother Bernie who according to Fr. Thomas, "resembled sunshine more than anyone" Fr. Thomas had ever met, and how this seemed to clash directly with Fr. Thomas' austere approaches to what he describes as "the Trappist tradition that we had inherited to disapprove of any kind of enjoyment”, including birthday parties, cake and ice cream.

Not knowing any of this about Fr. Thomas, when he actually was visiting the Boston area shortly after we stated our local prayer group, I invited him to my home and arranged a chocolate birthday cake and ice-cream because Sister Lorraine Pianka indicated it was his birthday. A small group of us enjoyed sharing his birthday celebration, including singing happy birthday to him! He was very gracious of course, but only months later, after listening to his tapes and reading about his experiences with Brother Bernie in Invitation To Love, was I able to more fully appreciate Fr. Thomas' superb grace to be gracious, humble, fully present and expressing quiet gratitude for the efforts of our small group of well wishers, while simultaneously remaining unattached to all the attention for him.

I also realized that, had I known more about Fr. Thomas when we first spoke on the phone, I might not have been so bold or perhaps even causal in my initial discussions with him about encouraging his participation in our teleconference and then even celebrating his birthday, with cake, ice cream, and singing during a visit to our area shortly after we had started our prayer group.

His visit to the area was one of several in the ensuing years. Experiencing him at retreat, sharing early breakfast with no expression of words, just a quiet nod of acknowledgment every now and then, being with him in confession, receiving the HolyEucharist, and listening to his wisdom on several occasions, has been deeply moving, uplifting and humbling. Fr. Thomas allowed me to be totally vulnerable in my weaknesses and faults, and also feel his unconditional love for me and of course God’s as well.

Finally, the last time I was able to be alone with him was the day I was driving him to where he needed to be, and we had stopped for a brief lunch. We were discussing the conflicts and wars that seem to prevail through our world. I asked him a question about what Jesus might do if he was present as two huge armies were about to battle with each other to the death? I also shared with him a near-death experience I had when I was eighteen. After we spoke at length about it, he indicated that what I experienced was not a near-death experience, rather a near-after-life experience, a perspective that I have treasured to the present. Blessings, EdC