Contemplative practices for laypeople?
#21
The founders of Centering Prayer were enamored with Zen Buddhism and sadly the Trappists strayed far from their Catholic roots and started looking to Buddhism, Hindusim, Enneagram, Jungian psychology and practically everything except traditional Catholic sources for prayer in the last century. I personally find the Cloud of Unknowing to be difficult to read and understand and would rather say the Jesus Prayer or the Rosary. Many Catholics who defend books like the Cloud of Unknowing, at least in my experience, are liberals enamored with Zen, Hindusim, neo paganism, whatever, anything but Catholicism in the traditional sense. Perhaps it's salvageable(the Cloud of Unknowing) but when there are already plenty of great Catholic devotions and prayers both from the traditions of the East and the West (and by East I do not mean Buddhism and Hinduism) why go for a practice set up by post Vatican II monastics who were known to have Zen monks give retreats in their monasteries?
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#22
(05-26-2011, 03:27 PM)Graham Wrote: The Cloud of Unknowing

Thank you for this!
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#23
As others have mentioned, The Imitation of Christ is an incredibly simple, yet edifying, read. I highly recommend it. The simplicity with which the basic tenets of Christianity are presented makes them easily applicable to the every-day struggles of the layperson.
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#24
(06-29-2011, 09:01 PM)INPEFESS Wrote:
(05-26-2011, 03:27 PM)Graham Wrote: The Cloud of Unknowing

Thank you for this!

Could you (INPEFESS) or Graham provide some info about this book, please?
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#25
(06-29-2011, 10:18 PM)Joel Wrote:
(06-29-2011, 09:01 PM)INPEFESS Wrote:
(05-26-2011, 03:27 PM)Graham Wrote: The Cloud of Unknowing

Thank you for this!

Could you (INPEFESS) or Graham provide some info about this book, please?

I am sorry to say I can not. I am actually as curious as yourself, which is why I'm glad he provided it: I want to see what it is about.
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#26
(06-29-2011, 10:18 PM)Joel Wrote:
(06-29-2011, 09:01 PM)INPEFESS Wrote:
(05-26-2011, 03:27 PM)Graham Wrote: The Cloud of Unknowing

Thank you for this!

Could you (INPEFESS) or Graham provide some info about this book, please?

It was written anonymously by a late medieval contemplative. It's about 80 pages long and consists of letters of advice written to a younger budding mystic. Some are about the scriptural justification and nobility of the contemplative calling, others are about the insufficiency of booklearning and of the 'via positiva', others are about humility and charity, others are about meditation. As to the latter, he advocates placing all thoughts, and feelings under a "cloud of unknowing", and retaining only the awareness of one's naked being and God.

He also wrote the shorter and sweeter Book of Privy Counciling. Unfortunately I don't have an electronic copy of that one. His spirituality inspired St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila among others. Hope I've been of service.
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#27
+ 1 The Imitation of Christ
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#28
The Philokalia

While the formatting is sloppy, it's better than nothing.

The Way of Ascetics

Written by a Russian Orthodox (I believe), but based on the Desert Fathers. If anyone's interested.

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#29
Fraxinus,

May I suggest "The Journey from the Head to the Heart" by Fr. Stephen Valentas, OFM?

There was a copy in the adoration chapel I used to frequent before my last move, and when I struggled to silence my thoughts and be with Our Lord, I would pick it up and read 5 or 10 pages at a time before returning to prayer.  It really helped.

It is written for ordinary folks and the humility, obedience, gentleness and uncompromising orthodoxy of the writing should commend itself to a more traditional Catholic.
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#30
I PMed this to the OPer when I wasn't allowed to post to this forum, but now that I can, I'm posting my response here, just in case anyone else finds it useful:

I think your interest in contemplative prayer is obviously a good thing, but be careful that you don't go straight for the heavy stuff. We need to take baby steps in the spiritual life.

First of all, do you have familiarity with what is typically called "mental prayer" or "meditation"? Contemplation differs from these because contemplation is something that typically comes into play when one has already made significant advancements in the spiritual life. In contemplation, God calls you to prayer and speaks to you, when and where He wants to. It is a more passive form of prayer than vocal prayer or mental prayer.

But it's important to learn to walk first. Explore mental prayer if you haven't already. Employing a time-tested method would be wise. For example, you might employ the Ignatian method, which, in short, involves taking a few minutes to put yourself in the presence of God, making some bodily sign of submission to God (such as touching one's forehead to the ground), meditating on a specific theme or image, envisioning how you will apply the fruits of this meditation in your life, making resolution to change one's life accordingly, and finally thanking God for the wisdom He has shown you in prayer. The Spiritual Exercises can provide you with a more in-depth instruction.

You might also employ the ancient Benedictine method of lectio divina ("divine reading"). Put simply, this is a prayerful, meditative reading of the Scriptures. The key here is to read very slowly and deliberately, and taking breaks as long as necessary whenever you feel that God wants you to concentrate on a particular passage. I'm sorry that I can't recommend a particular commentary on lectio divina, but I know there are plenty out there.

Some books I recommend for further guidance would be St. Francis de Sales "Introduction to the Devout Life" (which is written for lay people), "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence, and, as others have recommended "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis.

When starting out with mental prayer, it's smart to start out small. Try 15 minutes to start. As you get the hang of it and become more comfortable with it, you may sense God calling you to stay with Him longer in prayer. Eventually, you may want to extend your meditations to 20-30 minutes. FYI, I've heard that traditional Discalced Carmelites make two hour-long meditations a day.

Hope this helps.
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