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Introducing Centering Prayer and the Practice of Silence to Young Adults
At the end of October 2018, we attended the first retreat at Snowmass after the passing of Fr. Thomas Keating and Abbot Joseph Boyle. The retreat began just five days after Fr. Thomas Keating died and three days after the monks of St Benedict’s buried their beloved Abbot. It snowed the evening we arrived and continued to snow almost every day. During the retreat it felt like we were enveloped in a protective cocoon of glistening whiteness with sunshine peeking through. As customary, at the end of the retreat, we sat in a circle and shared our thoughts and experiences from the nine days of silence and meditation. There was a deep sense of sadness and mourning, and at the same time there was joy, inspiration and gratitude that our lives had been blessed with the presence of these two holy men. At one point, we noted that we were all over 50, and many of us were 65 plus. We talked about the need to include young people in our Centering Prayer groups and about ways to introduce them to the practice of silence, which seemed especially important in this digital age with constant, instant feedback.
In an interview in 2017, Thomas Keating reflected on the need to reach young people. When asked about the obstacles to the spiritual journey in our hectic times, he replied:
“The spiritual journey is not something we learn about all at once. The journey takes time. The present-day interest in spirituality is not necessarily rooted in a religion. What discipline is going to be used to train people in practices that are normally necessary to receive divine communications in an experiential way? Another issue is how to reach young aspirants at a deep level. Many young people read nothing except what is on the internet and then reply immediately. There is little time for reflection. The capacity to relate to others is necessary to relate to God, who might be defined as Relationship itself. God is present to everything and to everyone and is prepared to give Himself to us if only we are willing to consent.” Thomas Keating and Joseph Boyle with Lucette Verboven, World Without End, 2017, p. 40 (emphasis added.)
After our retreat at Snowmass, a group of us met via telephone conference and email. These meetings resulted in the creation of a 10-day Centering Prayer retreat for young adults (in their 20’s & 30’s) at St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado. The retreat is scheduled for June 16-25, 2020. It is designed for young adults who are interested in exploring the value of Centering Prayer as a spiritual practice. People of all beliefs are welcome. The retreat will include an in-depth explanation of the practice of Centering Prayer, which will be introduced through videos and readings from the teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating. In addition, retreatants will practice Centering Prayer about three hours a day and share experiences in small group discussions with other young adults. This retreat is intended for those who are new to the silent retreat experience, as well as those who seek to deepen their practice of silence. The recommended reading prior to the retreat is Open Mind, Open Heart by Fr. Thomas Keating.
Request For Your Input: If your group has created ways to include young adults in the practice of Centering Prayer, please send us information about what your group is doing. We will collect it and summarize it with the intention of highlighting what is currently being done and with the hope of inspiring others to create similar efforts.
Young adults in their 20’s and 30’s, fall within the Millennial Generation (born 1981-1996.) There are about 73 million Millennials in the United States. Much has been written about Millennials in the workplace. Among other characteristics, Millennials are creative, optimistic, collaborative, entrepreneurial, digitally savvy and connected through social media. They want to contribute, have a voice and make decisions. They value lifestyle and relationships over career.
We are hoping that the Snowmass retreat for young adults in their 20’s and 30’s will encourage other Centering Prayer groups to find ways to introduce young adults to Centering Prayer and the practice of silence, either through short or long retreats, or through other workshops, introductory days, etc. We view this as a grass roots endeavor. If each Centering Prayer group would find just one way to encourage young adults in the practice, little by little we can introduce them to this essential practice, and these young adults, in turn, will be available to inspire the next generation (Gen Z, born after 1996 and just entering the workforce.)
In addition to describing the retreat or program that you offered to young adults, these are some questions that you might consider answering according to your experience.
- If anything, what was unique or different about your offering to young adults that you felt was successful?
- If you’ve offered a retreat or other program intended for young adults, are there things you would do differently?
- How would you characterize interests or backgrounds of the young adults drawn to contemplative practice and Centering Prayer in particular?
- What did you do to identify and reach out to young adults who might be interested in Centering Prayer or other contemplative practices?
Please email your input and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
+ New Weekly Group for Young Adults on The Meditation Chapel: This free group is open to all, but is especially for young adults who want to explore Christian contemplative prayer and practice it in community. The groups starts Monday, April 22 at 7:00-8:30pm Eastern Time and continues for eight weeks. For more information, go to the April 22 group listing on the calendar and click on it for a description of the group. Register on The Meditation Chapel here.