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.
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
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.
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