Centering Prayer

“Centering prayer is an exercise in letting go. That is all it is.”
— Thomas Keating

centeringprayerAbout Centering Prayer
Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer or meditation which prepares us to receive the gift of God’s presence. It consists of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God’s presence and action within. Quieting our mental faculties, even for a short period of time, allows us to realize the gift of God’s presence.

Founded on the ancient prayer practices of our Christian contemplative heritage and emphasizing a personal relationship with God, Centering Prayer fosters this relationship through the regular, daily practice of silent prayer. The principal effects of Centering Prayer are experienced in daily life, not during a Centering Prayer session. Daily 20-minute sessions, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon or early evening, are recommended.

Consisting of novice, intermediate and experienced practitioners, the Holy Family Centering Prayer group’s weekly sessions provide an excellent ongoing opportunity for developing and deepening one’s contemplative practice. We welcome practitioners of any form of silent, sitting meditation. Please join us.


  • 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month
  • Centering Prayer, 7:00 p.m. in the Pope John XXIII room of the Pastoral Center

Guidelines for Centering Prayer

  • Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. To choose a sacred word sit quietly and ask the Holy Spirit to inspire one especially suitable for us.
  1. Examples: God, Jesus, Abba, Father, Mother, Mary, Amen, Love, Peace, Mercy, Listen, Let Go, Silence, Stillness, Faith, Trust, Yes. One or two syllable words seem best. For some, simply noticing one’s breath may serve the same purpose as a sacred word.
  2. Do not change your sacred word during the prayer period, as that would be to start thinking again.
  • Sit comfortably with your back straight and eyes closed. After a few breaths introduce your sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.  At Holy Family it is our tradition to have a participant read aloud a brief prayer and then a bell is intoned beginning our prayer period. We sit in silence for about 20 minutes.
  • During Centering Prayer when thoughts arise, simply and ever-so-gently resume your sacred word.
  1. “Thoughts” is an umbrella term for every perception, including sense perceptions, feelings, images, memories, plans, reflections, concepts, commentaries, and spiritual experiences.
  2. Thoughts are an inevitable, integral and normal part of Centering Prayer.
  3. “Ever-so-gently resume your sacred word” indicates that a minimum of effort is used. This is the only activity we initiate during the time of Centering Prayer.
  • During the course of Centering Prayer, the sacred word may become vague or even disappear.
  • At the end of the prayer period, a bell is again intoned and following the facilitator’s cue, we pray aloud together the Lord’s Prayer.

For more information on Centering Prayer, please read Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel (New York: Continuum, 2006), especially chapter 5, and William A. Meninger, The Loving Search for God: Contemplative Prayer and the Cloud of Unknowing (New York: Continuum, 1995). These and other books on Centering Prayer are available in the Holy Family Bookstore.

If you are new to Centering Prayer, please read the Method of Centering Prayer

Christian Meditation Links
Contemplative Outreach
The Process of Lectio Divina
World Community for Christian Meditation

Brian O’Neil,
phone: 626.482.9239

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