Q: I know my sacred word is not a mantra. It is for me to use to express my intention of attending during my prayer time and I am to return to it when I find myself caught by some distraction. That’s what I try to do and often I do that so repeatedly that my repetition of the sacred word seems to become a mantra anyway. Am I doing something wrong?
A: Thank you for your question. You are not doing anything wrong. It may be that you are doing it too often, as there is a subtle nuance in the Centering Prayer guideline #3. Years ago we said that one should return to the sacred word whenever you become ‘aware’ of thoughts. However Fr. Thomas noticed that many people seem to be returning too often. Then he decided that perhaps we would say ‘when you become engaged with thoughts, etc.’ For many that has made the difference because in a sense we are always somewhat aware of thoughts. I suggest that you be clear at the beginning of the prayer in stating the intention, ‘Oh Lord help me let go only when I become engaged with thoughts and not every time I become aware of thoughts.’ Amen.
Please keep in mind that your fidelity to the prayer, coming from a consenting heart, covers a multitude of miss-steps. God loves seeing you doing you best in spite of what is going on.
-Blessings, Fr. Carl