Spiritual director recommended centering prayer: what should I do?

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Dear Dan, I have recently sought the guidance of a Spiritual director which I would say was greatly influenced by your and Fr. John’s suggestions. My concern is that my Spiritual Director has suggested Centering Prayer. I’d appreciate it if you can share your thoughts on that. Thanks.

First things first – I am greatly encouraged by your steps toward deepening your faith through spiritual direction! With respect to your question, we actually get a lot of questions like this. Because of the effects of the fall and the inherent differences and nuances that effect each person’s ability to understand the other, communication is hard work. So, the key is to seek understanding by determining exactly what your spiritual director means by what they are saying or suggesting.

This matter is complicated when we approach the topic of prayer in general and is even more problematic in the area of “centering” prayer. Why is this? It is because there is no universally held definition of centering prayer. Different people mean different things when they use the term. The Church itself does not officially recognize “centering” prayer in any form. The good news, is that the time-tested prayer forms of the Church are clearly defined in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This makes things easier. When there is a misunderstanding regarding central matters of our faith, we can go to the source to clear things up.

So, the first step is to find out what your director means by the term “centering” prayer. They may simply be using it as a synonym for some traditional form of prayer. The issue becomes more problematic if your director is advocating a form of prayer or approach to prayer that the Church, in her wisdom, recognizes as problematic and leading to error, confusion, or even spiritual harm.

In the late 80s, recognizing the serious challenges with how some were developing and teaching ideas on prayer, then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote a letter to all the Bishops regarding his concerns. As you might suspect, the challenges addressed were widespread and serious enough for the Prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to issue a very precise and authoritative warning. This letter was entitled, “A Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.”

The bottom line is that if you 1) seek to understand what your director meant by what they said, and 2) seek to understand the time tested, true, spiritually safe, and efficacious forms of prayer that the Church in her wisdom recommends, you will be better able to navigate the situation safely.

No matter what, keep seeking to deepen your relationship with Him!

Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him

Dan

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