Our Centering Prayer group has recently finished watching the Sounds True Centering Prayer DVD series featuring Fr. Thomas Keating, Gail Fitzpatrick- Hopler and Fr. Carl J. Arico. A number of the group were impressed by the relaxed charm of Fr. Carl in particular, probably because we have not seen so much of him before.
So it was with much pleasure that I obtained during the year a pre-used copy of Fr. Carl‚Äôs book A Taste of Silence [1999 edition, Continuum Press] from an online bookseller. Imagine my surprise when the book arrived, the bookseller had inserted “The Method of Centering Prayer” brochure. Someone on their staff is into Centering Prayer too!
I am pleased to say that Fr. Carl writes with the same warmth and clarity as he speaks. Indeed, his book has now joined Open Mind, Open Heart and Intimacy with God as my essential reading materials on Centering Prayer.
A Taste of Silence complements the best works of Fr. Thomas Keating without merely paraphrasing him. Fr. Carl instead provides the reader with his own fresh insights on Centering Prayer in particular and the spiritual journey generally. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.
At pages 60-61 of my edition, Fr. Carl relates a poignant story of a little boy disappointed by the decision of a baseball umpire, and the writer goes on to comment:
“Life is life. We try to make it fair, just, honest, good, neat, and happy. And we get exhausted making it fair and just and honest and all the rest, rather than just living life. Life is messy. We‚Äôll never get it neat. Remember, nothing grows in sterile soil.”
We all have to confront that lesson, often the hard way and with or without the gift of Centering Prayer. God often comes into our lives as an unwelcome visitor, upsetting our best laid plans and hopes.
I was glad to see at chapter two that Fr. Carl rates as one of the “superstars of the Christian tradition” one of my favourite spiritual writers, Jean Pierre de Caussade, the 18th Century French Jesuit upon whose writings the late Mary Mrozowski relied in formulating The Welcoming Prayer that we try to practise each day.
Chapter four is devoted to “Thomas Merton as Paradigm of the Spiritual Journey.” Thomas Merton‚Äôs flaws of character give hope to us all as we struggle on our own spiritual journey. His Abbot at Gethsemane Abbey described Merton in a 1955 letter to the Abbot ‚ÄìGeneral of the Order as a “fickle neurotic.” The rest is history as the “fickle neurotic” went on to become one of the great spiritual masters of the 20th century.
Chapter five is an excellent short treatment of Lectio Divina, its various forms, its relationship with Centering Prayer and some useful practical suggestions for group Lectio.
Chapter six is entitled “The Method of Centering Prayer.” The writer gives a good example of consenting to God‚Äôs presence and action in our lives by using the comparison of a patient submitting to the unknowns of surgery. Fr. Carl asks if we can trust a surgeon and medical staff to make our lives better, is it not reasonable to let go and submit ourselves to God‚Äôs will for us?
The insights and illuminations throughout this book are too numerous to cover in this short review. My advice is to buy your own copy. Like me, you will find yourself referring back to it frequently. I was so impressed by A Taste of Silence that I wrote to Fr. Carl and complained [the human condition again?] that the book was out of print and a bit harder to get. Well the good news is that a new edition is expected to become available before the end of 2015. So do yourself a favour: buy your own copy. You won‚Äôt regret it.
Canberra ACT Australia