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Centering Prayer: The Way Back Home

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

December 22, 2011
Cindy Schumacher , The Maui Weekly

Around the holidays, prayer is sometimes associated with a Santa list. However, that is one thing Centering Prayer is not. Centering Prayer, also known as the prayer of the heart, is a simple method of praying that sets up the ideal conditions to rest in quiet awareness of God's presence.

"Centering prayer is for all people," said Brother Jim Vorndran, a vowed Marianist for 52 years and pastoral assistant at St. Anthony Parish in Wailuku. Br. Vorndran believes that, no matter what our religion or non-religion, we are each created with body, soul and spirit, and are capable of having enriched spiritual lives.

"Praying is a compelling way of entering a deep quest to the voyage within," Br. Vorndran said. It is like a journey to a promised land. In Centering Prayer, the promise is fulfillment of a kind you cannot buy online or in any store. You must strive inwardly for it.

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Brother Jim Vorndran, a vowed Marianist for 52 years and pastoral assistant at St. Anthony Parish in Wailuku, believes we are each created with body, soul and spirit and are capable of having enriched spiritual lives.

"Life is a spiritual experience," said Br. Vorndran. "And because everyone is called to the mystical dimension of prayer, all humans have the potential to connect to the kingdom within."

Br. Vorndran, a retired nurse, has taught Centering Prayer internationally for nearly 40 years. He is a commissioned teacher for Contemplative Outreach, an evolving international community with chapters spanning over 43 countries.

"I was personally introduced to Centering Prayer in 1974 by Father Thomas Keating, a founder of the modern practice of Centering Prayer. Fathers Keating, Basil Pennington and William Meninger were all members of the Trappist contemplative monastic community that helped revive the practice," said Br. Vorndran. "Like them, I found this to be a form of prayer long forgotten in much of Western Christianity."

Br. Vorndran also teaches Lectio Divina, divine reading, as a way to pray the sacred scriptures. It helps one to enter into the quiet, simple forms of Centering Prayer. Lectio Divina, also an ancient tradition of prayer, nourishes and deepens our relationship with God through reading, reflecting, responding and resting in the Word of God.

Br. Vorndran finds that by maintaining these practices on a daily basis, his life has transformed. "It becomes a way of meeting God on a much deeper level than in vocal prayer," he said. It actually accentuates the depth of meaning of those vocal prayers. "I have witnessed unbelievable transformations in the lives of many, many people as a result of this practice," he added.

Contemplative approaches such as Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina facilitate and deepen our relationship with a higher power. They are an opportunity to invite the Indwelling Presence into everything we do.

"It gives us the eyes to see and the ears to hear God calling us to the banquet," said Br. Vorndran.

An enthusiastic practitioner of Centering Prayer, Paula Baldwin from Kihei, gives this example to explain Centering Prayer: "It feels like a time when you and a friend have been so comfortable together no words were spoken but you both knew you were very present to each other. For me, Centering Prayer is like time spent sitting with my dear friend, not talking, not doing, just being," she said.

The friend she refers to is God. "God really wants to spend time with us," she said. "God wants us to get to know Him in many different ways. Basil Pennington, one of the best proponents of the Centering Prayer technique, used to say, 'God dwells with us. He is always at home within us. But, alas, most of the time we are not home.'"

"Centering Prayer helps me find my center and a way to meet the day," said Baldwin. "I have a better chance of approaching the day's unexpected noise, the want-to, and the have-to without being thrown off balance," she said.

Basil Pennington's guidelines can help you practice Centering Prayer wherever you may be. First, sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax and quiet yourself. Be in love and faith with God. Second, choose a sacred word or phrase that best supports your sincere intention to be in the Lord's presence and open to His divine action within you. Next, let that word be greatly present as your symbol of sincere intention as you pray. Then, whenever you become aware of any thoughts, feelings or perceptions, simply return to your sacred word-your anchor. Ideally, the prayer will reach the point where you are not engaged in your thoughts but in that place to which you aspire.

Father Thomas Keating said, "Centering Prayer is the opening of mind and heart, our whole being, to God, the ultimate mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions." It takes you into the quiet depths where there is only a simple, peaceful flow from our source into the ocean of infinite love.

"It is a wonderful journey and we invite you to try it," said Brs. Vorndran and Baldwin.

For information about Centering Prayer workshops on Maui, email Br. Vorndran at



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