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Weekly Devotional

Staying Centered

Reflection by John Hargrave

One of the great Christian movements of the 20th century started just down the road from us, in Spencer, Massachusetts.

Spencer is home to St. Joseph’s Abbey, a community of Trappist monks (you may know them for their fruit preserves). During the 1960s, St. Joseph’s was frequently visited by young hippies looking for directions to the Buddhist Insight Meditation Center, located just down the road.

Thomas Keating, one of the monks at St. Joseph’s, began to engage in dialogue with these young spiritual seekers. “What are you looking for?” he asked them.

“A path, man!” the hippies replied.

Keating asked, “Why don’t you search for a path within the Christian tradition?”

They responded, “You mean Christianity has a path?!”

Keating took these conversations to his fellow monks, asking, “Isn’t it possible to put the contemplative tradition of Christianity into a form that’s accessible to modern people?” The monks knew the contemplative path well: they lived it every day. But how to share it?

Their response was to create a practice called “Centering Prayer.” I believe it’s one of the great Christian achievements of our time.

Centering Prayer takes just minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. You sit quietly, focusing on a “prayer word,” allowing your heart to open to God. As thoughts and worries distract you, you simply return to the prayer word.

Over time, you realize that we spend an enormous amount of internal energy thinking and worrying. (Anxiety is our great national pastime.) Centering Prayer offers a path to peace.

The best book for learning this spiritual practice is Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, which we’ll be studying in a new book group.

We invite you to visit any or all of our book group sessions, which will be held Sundays at 5:00 pm in the Parlor, starting October 1. Email me now at jhargrave@zug.com, and we’ll even buy the book for you.

The biggest benefit to starting off your week with Centering Prayer? All week long, you’ll find you’re staying centered.


“Silence is God’s first language.” – St. John of the Cross