Month: October 2018

Remembering Thomas Keating

Fr. Thomas Keating, (1923-2018)

REMEMBERING THOMAS KEATING
Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O.
7 March 1923 – 25 October 2018
Requiescat In Pace


Editor’s Note: Father Thomas Keating¹, Co-Founder of centering prayer and a pioneer in contemplative prayer, Christian spirituality, and interfaith dialogue died yesterday, October 25, 2018, at age 95.

It was at one of his lectures back in 1998 that Fr. Keating set me on the contemplative path and introduced me to centering prayer. And because his teaching and writing have had such a profound influence on me over the years, I feel a deep, personal loss. Fr. Keating may no longer be with us physically, but there is no doubt in my mind that his ministry and spiritual legacy will continue until the end of time. May he rest in peace.



BIOGRAPHY

Born in New York City in 1923, Thomas Keating attended Deerfield Academy, Yale University, and Fordham University, where he graduated in December 1943. He entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (also known as Trappists) in Valley Falls, Rhode Island, in January 1944. He was appointed Superior of St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado, in 1958, and was elected abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, in 1961. He returned to Snowmass after retiring as abbot of Spencer in 1981, where he established a program with retreats in the practice of Centering Prayer, a contemporary form of the Christian contemplative tradition through the auspices of Contemplative Outreach.²

LOCALLY
I remember it like it was yesterday. While serving a local Baptist church as associate pastor back in 1998, I received a sign from God. Well, in a manner of speaking. As I recall, it was a tiny classified ad in the Houston Chronicle’s Religion Section that, at first glance, appeared to be either a typo or an oxymoron announcing that a Trappist monk would be speaking at a Baptist church. As it turned out, the ad was legit. The church was River Oaks Baptist Church. The monk? Also, legit – Thomas Keating.

Intrigued, I attended Father Keating’s lecture on prayer that evening where he stood front and center on the stage, his hands gently folded as in in prayer, speaking for about ninety minutes without the use of a podium or notes. He spoke both extemporaneously and compellingly to a packed-out church on the importance of taking the time out of our busy daily lives and schedules to make a connection with God. (Keating likened it to sending God many short emails throughout the day. Today we would just text or FaceTime God.) To my ears, it sounded like a Christian version of meditation; he referred to it as centering prayer. I left the church that night in amazement of what I had just heard with a well-fed soul, an armful of Keating’s books, and a commitment to God to learn more. And learn more I did during the next several years through his lectures, more than 40 books and videos, and dozens of centering prayer and silent prayer retreats I participated in at Villa de Matel, in Houston.

LEGACY
Today, with more than twenty years having now passed since my introduction to Christian “meditation” (thank you, Fr. Keating), I’m now the one standing in front of people teaching and spreading the “good news” of contemplative prayer.  And along with thousands of other disciples and people all over the world, I express my appreciation for the profound influence of Father Keating on my life and give thanks to God for the enormous spiritual legacy he has left behind for generations to come.


 NOTES & REFERENCES

1 R.I.P. Father Thomas Keating | National Catholic Reporter (NCR)

2 Thomas Keating Bio | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

3 Photo Credit: Fr. Thomas Keating | Public Domain by Christopher [CC BY 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m a Candidate. Vote!

I’M A CANDIDATE!
Once again it is election time in America. Pray for me because I am now a candidate. A candidate for what you may ask? Please continue reading…

UNITED STATES MIDTERM ELECTIONS
Yes, at the time of this writing, midterm elections are exactly two weeks from today with the million-dollar question being: “Who will control the House and the Senate?” once the last ballot has been cast and the votes tallied. Of course, as Christians, I believe it is our daily duty to pray for our President, elected leaders, and our country…and I do. But over the next two weeks we must prayerfully consider the candidates, their proposed policies and platforms, then GO VOTE!¹ The results? Only God knows. But something else that only God and a few select individuals know is that I, too, am now a candidate, but not the kind you may be thinking of. Please let me explain.

CANDIDATE ALLEN
As many of you know, for more than twenty-five years I have considered myself a contemplative Christian with a heart for prayer (which is partially responsible for the birth of Nexus Prayer.) I am also very active in my local parish and serve as an advocate for various local causes in my community and beyond. But following a season of prayer this past January, I heard God calling me to deeper waters by joining a religious order and making vows dedicating myself to serve the most vulnerable of our society. Yes, I am already heavily involved at church, and in teaching, and sharing nexus prayer wherever I can, but I believed God was inviting me to a higher calling – a calling to a vocation that took into consideration the needs of “the least of these” – especially with all that is happening on the political and social fronts of America today. Us versus them. Matthew 25:40-45

MONK OR FRIAR?
That part was easy. I desire to serve. The hard part was narrowing down what “kind” of religious order would be the best match for me and me for them. Generally speaking, friars are different from monks in that they are called to live the evangelical counsels (vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience) in service to society, rather than through cloistered asceticism and devotion. Whereas monks live in a self-sufficient community, friars work among laypeople and are supported by donations or other charitable support. A monk or nun make their vows and commits to a particular community in a particular place. Friars are often part of a dispersed community (a monastery without walls as I like to think of it.) Friars may also commit to a community spread across a wider geographical area known as a province, and so they will typically move around, spending time in different houses of the community within their province.²

St. Francis of Assisi (1182-​1226)

BROTHER CANDIDATE: A FRIAR IN FORMATION
When it came to my personal decision, dozens of orders were considered, but God helped me narrow it to two: the Benedictines and the Franciscans – the first known for their dedication to prayer, silence, and solitude (a good match for me) and the latter known for both their prayer life and service. The Benedictines serving God within the confines of the cloistered monastic walls (monks), and the Franciscans serving both God and man outside the same walls (friars) – even helping tear down the walls of intolerance, hatred, injustice, bigotry, racism, poverty, and more. In the end, God showed me that the Franciscans and Franciscan Spirituality were the path and The Way God intended for me. But then… which Franciscan order?

Since the time that Saint Francis founded his first order of brothers some 800 years ago (The Friars Minor, OFM, or the Lesser Brothers as they are sometimes called), many diverse Franciscan orders with different charisms have emerged in both the Roman Catholic Church, as well as orders of friars (and sisters) that exist in other Christian traditions, including the Order of Lutheran Franciscans, the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans and the Order of Lesser Sisters and Brothers.

In the Anglican Communion there are also a number of mendicant groups such as the Anglican Friars Preachers, The Society of St. Francis, and the Order of Saint Francis. It is this last (but certainly not the least) order, The Order of Saint Francis,³ that has both accepted me as a candidate and placed me in formal formation.

The Order of Saint Francis 2018 Convocation | Photo Copyright ©2012 in perpetuity by Order of Saint Francis (OSF). All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

ORDER OF SAINT FRANCIS
As a contemporary expression of Franciscan tradition within the Anglican Communion, the Order of Saint Francis is unique among other Franciscan orders. That’s because although it is an active, Apostolic Christian religious order within the Anglican Communion and in communion with the See of Canterbury, it is not based in an enclosed communal setting, Instead, OSF brothers live independently in different parts of the world, with ministries based on the needs of their local communities. Members are baptized men who have been confirmed within the Anglican Communion who voluntarily commit to live by a set of professed vows for a term of years or for life. Like all Franciscan orders, every OSF Brother continues his spiritual pilgrimage under formation within the order regardless of their status: candidate, postulant, novitiate, professed, or life professed. The order was founded in 2003 by Br Nicholas Kis and is currently blessed to have about 40 vowed brothers serving Christ across the world.³

Needless to say, although I am quite humbled and joyful about this exciting development and personal transition, there is much more to share, and I will do so here soon. I certainly would appreciate your prayers. But for now, … GO VOTE!

NOTES & REFERENCES

1 GO VOTE | League of Women Voters of Texas (Non-Partisan)

2 Monk or Friar | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia

3 Order of Saint Francis | OSF Summary Content Copyright ©2012  in perpetuity by Order of St. Francis (OSF). All Rights Reserved. Used by Nexus Prayer International with express written permission of the Order of Saint Francis.

4 Photo Credit: “I Voted” by Parker Johnson via Unsplash in Public Domain. |Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.

6 Photo Credit: Saint Francis of Assisi |The oldest surviving depiction of Saint Francis is a fresco near the entrance of the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, painted between March 1228 and March 1229. | In Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons and License Art Libre.

7 Photo Credit: Order of Saint Francis 2018 Convocation | OSF Photo Copyright ©2012  in perpetuity by Order of St. Francis (OSF). All Rights Reserved. Photo used by Nexus Prayer International with express written permission of the Order of Saint Francis.

Il Poverello Library

THE POVERELLO | HERMITAGE LIBRARY OF SAINT FRANCIS

As many of you know, this past summer I began a new leg of my spiritual journey with God –a pilgrimage that continues to follow the steps and gospel trail of Jesus, but now also includes St. Francis as my walking companion. An announcement about this new direction and my advocacy work will be made here very soon, but today I’m pleased to introduce The Poverello Library at Humble Hermitage.

THE POVERELLO | HERMITAGE LIBRARY OF SAINT FRANCIS
The Poverello Lending Library was launched last July (July 12, 2018 to be precise) with a gift of four books on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi from my good friend and brother in the Lord, Fr. Randall Trego. Since that short time, more than twenty books about “the little poor man” ¹ have been added, with new volumes on St. Francis arriving every month.

Now keep in mind, this humble library (it seemed only apropos that in the spirit of St. Francis my little library have humble beginnings) is no Lanier Theological Library. Yet. Truth is, at the moment, the entire library fits comfortably on a single shelf in my prayer closet. (Yes, I actually have a literal prayer closet.)

All of the books in The Poverello Library are exclusively written about Saint Francis of Assisi or Franciscan spirituality and include biographies, non-fiction, and fictional works. These hardback, paperback, or occasional leather-bound books may be new, used, or even ex-library, but all are clean with no markings, notes, or underlining. Some are First Editions, and many are out-of-print. All are in very good or new condition.

LENDING LIBRARY?
But this is no ordinary private library where I plan to hoard books on the life of St. Francis for my own use, benefit, and pleasure. Rather, my sincere desire is to share these books and the spiritual lessons they convey about St. Francis with you, dear reader.

HOW IT WORKS
The system is simple (that’s Saint Francis looking over my shoulder with a smile of approval) and easy to use. The Poverello Library is offered as a ministry and gift to anyone with a sincere desire to learn more about Saint Francis and Franciscan spirituality and is offered completely FREE of charge on the honor system. (The library mails you a book and you return it in the same condition within 30 days.) Here’s how it works:

  1. Look at the list of books in the current library catalog that are sorted alphabetically by title.
  2. Select one book that you would like to borrow (check out) for up to one month.
  3. Contact Me to verify current availability.
  4. Register yourself with the librarian (that’s me) by providing your full name, mailing address, phone number, and email. (Sorry, residents of USA only.)
  5. Accept the library book loan agreement. (Books are free to borrow, but you pay the return postage.)
  6. Your selected book on St. Francis will be carefully packed and mailed to you via U.S.P.S. free of charge.
  7. When finished, you return the book to the library at your personal expense. (First Class mail is recommended, but Book Rate is acceptable.)
  8. Time to check out and read another book about St. Francis!

GIFTS & DONATIONS
All books listed in the library catalogue were either purchased out of my own pocket or gifted to the library. Use of the library system is 100% FREE of charge (other than return shipping), but your financial offerings, purchase of a book, or books on Saint Francis gifted to the library from your own personal collection are all welcome and appreciated. To purchase a book for the library as a gift, please refer to the suggested titles below:


THE POVERELLO LIBRARY WISH LIST

  1. St. Francis of Assisi: Omnibus of Sources
    St. Francis of Assisi
    Publisher: Franciscan Herald Press January 1973
    Date published: 1973
    Format: Hardcover
  2.  (To be decided.)
  3. (To be decided.)

NOTES & REFERENCES:

1 Il Poverello (The Poverello) | Francis of Assisi was commonly known as “Il Poverello” (the little poor man) due primarily to his personal embracing of the virtues of poverty, charity, humility, and simplicity in his life.

2 Photo Credit: The Poverello Bookshelf | Copyright © 2018 Allen Aaron White. Used by permission. | Nexus Prayer International.

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