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The Centering Prayer Phenomenon Is "New Age"
Susan Beckworth

            Christian meditation has always been about entering more deeply into union with the Lord Jesus Christ and with Him, God the Father and the Holy Spirit. It consists of turning our thoughts, our hearts, our desires and our love to the Living God. In stark contrast, “Centering Prayer” focuses on emptying the mind of all thought through the repetition of a mantra (though proponents of centering prayer don't use the term "mantra" and would object to me using it). Centering Prayer by emptying one’s mind seeks to achieve an ALC (Altered Level of Consciousness.)

            Authentic Contemplative Prayer, however, has its goal which is union with God. It fosters holiness in the individual. In the Church if meditation is truly authentic it will possess the following characteristics:

  1. It is Christ-centered and Trinitarian.
  2. It will acknowledge the cross of Christ and suffering.
  3. It will encourage an awareness of sin, a turning away from it, and a trust in God’s mercy.
  4. It encourages a sacramental life, especially the Eucharist.
  5. It encourages a disposition of obedience to Church teaching.
  6. It is Marian.
  7. It looks beyond this world to eternity.

 

             Centering Prayer is a method or technique its advocates claim will result in contemplation for those who practice it. This is why it is often confused with contemplation, contemplative prayer, or mental prayer. But contemplation is not something we do; it is something we receive, not because of a method we follow, but because of the life that we lead. Infused contemplation is a gift from God and most often the result of a life that has grown faithful through prayer and reflection on God's word.

            Some people have confused the Eastern Christian practice of the "Jesus Prayer" with "Centering Prayer.” The "Jesus Prayer" involves emptying ourselves of all that is self and all that is sinful and filling oneself with Christ. The Jesus Prayer is: "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

             Centering Prayer is neither Catholic nor prayer, yet it is offered at most retreat centers. Nowadays, most retreat centers can scarcely be called Catholic but are notorious for adopting New Age and other non-Catholic techniques and philosophies.

            The New Age practices offered at retreat centers are insidious, but remember, Satan thrives in subtlety. An additional problem with retreat centers is that they often promote universalism (everyone is saved). In a short article by Fr. James Behrens, a universalist and Trappist at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia (where centering prayer and yoga retreats are offered), he asserts his belief in universal salvation by saying: "Salvation is a given...no one is left out... all the Bibles could be destroyed tomorrow and it would not make a difference." What is the connection between Centering Prayer and universalism? At the root of Centering Prayer is the belief that we are all already saved and because of this belief, we do not need to pray to God for salvation. New Agers believe that we are God and God is everything, so we do not need to pray to God in a relational way (as someone apart from ourselves), but rather to the God within.    

            Centering Prayer is typical of New Age meditative practices. The soul becomes the center, energy replaces grace, God actually becomes a pantheistic energy. Fr. Thomas Keating, founder of the Centering Prayer movement, has this posted on his "Contemplative Outreach" website:  When we go to the CENTER OF OUR BEING, and pass through the center into the very CENTER OF GOD, we get in immediate touch with this divine creating energy. Other evidence of Fr. Keating’s New Age ties include his writings and books. All throughout Keating’s books he states that the goal of Centering Prayer is to find the True Self; to find out who we really are. What exactly is true self? Fr. Keating states "God and our true self are not separate." Since he describes the true self as the human soul, how can it be the same as God Almighty?

            The Hindus, Shirley MacLaine (in her book Going Within) and Fr. Thomas Keating all claim the True Self (human soul) is God. As Catholics, we know this statement is not truth. We know the soul is created by God, is inferior to God and is tainted with sin. We know the soul will come before God on Judgment Day.  
Fr. Keating also gave his endorsement on the dust jacket for the book Meditations on the Tarot: The tarot is a deck of cards used in fortune telling. Fr. Keating calls the book, "the greatest contribution to date toward the rediscovery of the contemplative tradition." The heavily New Age publisher is Amnity House. The book has been classified under "Occult Sciences" and "Cartomancy" by the Library of Congress.

            Throughout his newsletters, Fr. Keating advocates use of the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a new age tool used to determine personality traits. Fr. Keating states: "As we practice Centering Prayer, we begin to get insight into the dynamics of our unconscious; perhaps through the Enneagram, we can become aware of our personality traits, which is useful." Getting insight into the" dynamics of our unconscious", as Fr. Keating states, is just another phrase for hypnosis.

            Tarot card reading and use of the Enneagram are witchcraft and purely demonic; yet most people do not even know that all of these "New Age" practices are ENTIRELY forbidden by God in the First Commandment. What does the Church teach about Centering Prayer? Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, states: In prayers that produce a trance-like state, it would be wrong to take such feelings as authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism describes reaching a mental void as an erroneous notion of prayer (#2726). 
St. Teresa of Avila was well aware of the tendency to stray off course and so she insisted that meditation always be directed to and with Christ. We have a major crisis in the Church today with Centering Prayer. There are powerful people behind it, so we must keep speaking the Truth.

            "Happiness springs from the knowledge of Truth"- John Paul II.

Susan Beckworth

Susan Beckworth grew up as the youngest girl and one of five children in a Traditional Catholic family.  She attended all parochial schools and developed a fervent love of Traditional Catholicism from her Uncle, a very Traditional Roman Catholic priest (stationed as a missionary in Tanzania, East Africa.)  She is a wife and mother of two sons, the youngest of which is home schooled.  Susan is member of the Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta, Ga. and a Eucharistic Adorer at St. Mary's Chapel.  In her leisure time, in addition to defending the Catholic faith, she pursues her fervent passion for drawing and painting.      


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