The Format of a Centering Prayer Support Group

Q:  I attended a Centering Prayer group at my parish for about a month.  I stopped going because, after the final oral prayer and reading, the leader’s wife asked for feedback in our lives during the recent week.  She also proceeded to air their family problems to the rest of us for many, many minutes. This was distracting and upsetting. My belief was that, after our communal Centering Prayer, we were to be released to continue our lives and allow the benefits we received to “soak in”.  I don’t mind the feedback, but there are several venues in our parish for addressing problems in our lives, not during or after Centering Prayer.

A: Thank you for sharing your experience. The Centering Prayer groups around the world are so varied in how they meet together to fit the many needs of those who attend. It seems sharing life circumstances may be a need for the group in your parish, at least for this moment in time. 

The suggestion is to have a period of Centering Prayer followed by a period of Lectio Divina (praying of the Scriptures) or taking in some form of spiritual enrichment together  — watching a DVD segment by Fr. Thomas Keating, reading from his book Open Mind Open Heart, or something aligned with the contemplative Christian tradition.  Faith sharing may follow about what touched people relative to their spiritual journey, or how the Spirit is speaking to their hearts through the material or from what is arising from others in the group. The groups are not meant to be counseling or problem-solving sessions, not as an ongoing pattern. However, there are times when that may occur ‚Äì when people may need a listening presence.

I feel sorry you stopped going; the support of a prayer group is so important for maintaining one’s practice. You might consider going back to the group and let them know you will be leaving after the Centering Prayer period in order to maintain the silence within yourself, or asking the group to enter into discernment together to come to some agreements for the group time. 

In this year of Mercy,
Fr. Carl