TC writes: “I heard Johnette warn us about Centering Prayer. I am a fan of John Michael Talbot and went to his presentation last night and now see by surfing that he is teaching a form of centering prayer. Is this ok for Catholics?”
Yes, John Michael Talbot does appear to be involved in centering prayer, and has even allowed a retreat at the Little Portions Hermitage by the founder of centering prayer, Fr. Thomas Keating. (See this article appearing in the Arkansas Catholic)
On his website, Talbot claims that he came to centering prayer after becoming worn out in spite of being a practitioner of Catholic Christian contemplative and charismatic prayer.
“Personally, I have found the Christian use of such techniques as centering prayer most helpful in entering more fully into the peace of the contemplative experience as described by the Christian mystics,” Talbot writes. “While our own tradition does well in describing the theology and steps of such contemplation, the non-Christian traditions often do better in treating the actual mechanics of meditation, such as breath, posture and specific mental focus etc. We possess the fullness of the gift theologically through Christ, but others often do better at pastorally using the gift than we do. An integration that keeps Christ at the unquestioned beginning, center, and end of the experience has been most helpful to me. I have discovered a deeper experience of contemplation that helps me remain calmer and Christ like in the midst of the ups and downs of fulfilling my leadership responsibilities.”
However, Talbot does give some sound qualifiers about the use of centering prayer in this statement that appears on his website.
We believe centering prayer is wrong for several important reasons, not least of which because it focuses too much on ridding the mind of all thoughts rather than on dialogue with God, which is the true intent of Catholic prayer. While serving as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict XVI said it is not wrong to adopt what is good from other religions, “so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured.” (Letter to the Bishops on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation)
Our Learn to Discern series includes a booklet with much more detailed information on Centering Prayer. Click on “New Age Resources” on the navigation bar above for more information.