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Who is Father Thomas Keating?


"The modern world lies under a pervasive sense of anguish, of being abandoned, or at least experiencing God as absent. Yet events that seem to turn our lives upside down and inside out are part of God's redemptive plan, not only for us, but for the world in which we live. God may be preparing a great awakening for the world, if God can find enough people to cooperate in this mysterious plan."

Father Thomas Keating, a writer and teacher considered by many to be one of the few genuinely realized Christian saints in the world today, is a founding member of the Spirituality branch of Integral Institute. At the age of eighty-one, he continues to be a prominent voice in the Christian Centering Prayer movement through the organization he founded, Contemplative Outreach, an international network committed to renewing the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in daily life.

Keating, born in New York in 1923, entered the Cistercian Order in Valley Falls, Rhode Island in 1944 and was appointed Superior of St. Benedict's Monastery of Snowmass, Colorado in 1958. Three years later he became Abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey of Spencer, Massachusetts, before retiring to Snowmass—a small mountain community of just over a dozen monks—in 1981, where he remains today.

Although the Centering Prayer movement did not officially take off until the late seventies, Keating had been interested in the mystical roots of Christianity since the early 1940s while a student at Yale, where his entire Roman Catholic worldview was shaken by a freshman philosophy class. While studying Thomas Aquinas's Catena Aurea, a line-by-line exposition of the four Gospels, Keating had a sudden intuition of the importance of Scripture as spiritual metaphor—a metaphor pointing to the possibility for all men and women to experience a direct union with the Divine through spiritual practice.

One such example of Scripture—Matthew 6:6, where Jesus says, “If you want to pray, enter your inner room, lock the door and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father, in secret, will reward you”—became the rallying cry of the Desert Fathers of the third and fourth centuries who further developed the practice of “pure prayer,” named for its ability to circumvent thought to rest directly in the presence of God.

The contemporary form of centering prayer was initially developed during Keating's tenure as abbot at St. Joseph's, where he was inspired by the Second Vatican Council's call for spiritual renewal in the Catholic Church. Keating would soon seek ways to keep young Catholics from leaving the Church in search of more contemplative—and Eastern—paths.

With the help of Keating and other Christian contemplatives like Thomas Merton, John Main, and Basil Pennington, the movement struck an obvious chord, drawing thousands of Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, and others to workshops and retreats, especially the ten-day retreats at St. Benedict's, which often fill up a year in advance.

It helps that Keating also has an unusually open-minded attitude towards the meditative practices of other traditions and has studied with spiritual teachers from a variety of Hindu and Buddhist lineages, for this lead to the creation of the Snowmass Interreligious Conference in 1982, where teachers from diverse paths meet regularly to compare notes and evaluate the successes and failures of their respective practices. Other organizations graced by the presence of Keating include the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (which sponsors exchanges between the monks and nuns of every religion), and the International Committee for Peace Council.

Keating is also a best-selling author, having penned, along with many other publications, the best-selling Open Heart, Open Mind in 1986, a clarion call for many to the need for transformational practice within the Christian tradition.

Amazingly, within this flurry of activity Keating has nevertheless found the time to deepen his own relationship to the Divine—which he likens "to two friends sitting in silence, being in each other's presence"—to such a degree that he is sought the world over for his extraordinary warmth, humility, and deep-centered love.

Thomas Keating‘s extensive bibliography includes:

Finding Grace at the Center (with Pennington, B. & Cark, Thomas E.)
St. Bede's Publishing, 1978

Open Mind, Open Heart
Continuum Publishing, 1986

The Mystery of Christ
Continuum Publishing, 1991

Crossroads, 1991

Intimacy with God
Crossroads, 1994

Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love
Continuum Publishing, 1995

St. Therese of Lisieux
Lantern Books, 2001

Father Thomas has appeared on Integral Naked:

When Ethnic Blood Runs Deeper than Baptismal Water6/2/2008
On-the-Spot Practices: Welcoming Prayer and Shadow Work5/12/2008
Cultural Shadows4/28/2008
Self and Shadow4/14/2008
A Brief History of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Part 3.11/27/2006
Brief History of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Part 2.11/20/2006
A Brief History of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Part 1.11/13/2006
The Role of Faith9/25/2006
The Two Poles of Religion9/18/2006
The Use of Religion in Spirituality9/11/2006
Shadow, States, and Stages. Part 2. ILP, 3-2-1, and the Conveyor Belt.7/31/2006
Shadow, States, and Stages. Part 1. Meditation, Interpretation, and the 1-2-3 of God. 5/29/2006
The Church. Part 2. Myths, Meditation, Means9/27/2004
Lectio Divina. Listening, Levels, Practice9/20/2004
Intention, Attraction, Penetration9/13/2004
Love: Eden, Sex, Evolution9/6/2004
The Church. Part 1. Fundamentalists, Heretics, Lovers.8/16/2004
A Prayer, A Process, A Kiss8/2/2004
Jesus: Faith, Formula, Trikaya7/26/2004
A Prayer, A Presence, A Secret7/5/2004
Centering Prayer: Its History and Importance2/23/2004

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