Four Sessions to be Held in Livingston
Bishop Marconi, who this year will celebrate 55 years in the priesthood, will conduct the seminars Feb. 12, 19, 26 and March 4 (all Tuesday dates). Each session begins at 8 p.m. and runs for 90 minutes.
There is no fee to attend any or all of the programs, however those planning to participate must register in advance. To register, call Bishop Marconi's residence in Chatham no later than Jan. 29 at (973) 635-8777-9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
While the program dates are open as individual sessions, it's recommended that participants attend all four workshops in order to gain the full benefit of the spiritual instruction. During the sessions Bishop Marconi will describe Centering Prayer and encourage participants to experience it.
"There are many ways that a Christian can be in touch with God," Bishop Marconi wrote in a prepared statement. He said Centering or Contemplative Prayer allows a person to seek God in an open, quiet and loving manner. "You use Centering Prayer to bring yourself to a deeper relationship with the Lord," Bishop Marconi said, noting that while the Eucharist is the greatest prayer experience, priests and bishops still need to teach people how to pray. "My task as a priest is to connect you to your calling."
Bishop Marconi also led Centering Prayer workshops at Saint Philomena's Parish two years ago. Like all prayer, Centering Prayer is an invitation from God to explore a deeper level of faith, he explained. He has been a practitioner of Centering Prayer ever since the mid-1970s, when he first encountered Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O.-a noted author on the subject and founder of Contemplative Outreach Ltd. in Snowmass, CO-and his religious brothers at St. Joseph, a Trappist Abbey in Spencer, MA. Here in the Archdiocese of Newark, the Centering Prayer tradition became popular more than 20 years ago at St. Helen's Parish in Westfield.
Centering Prayer is based in the most ancient traditions of the Catholic faith. It traces its roots to Matthew 6:6 ("But when you pray, go into your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.")
While there are obvious parallels with Eastern meditative practices, Bishop Marconi said Centering Prayer in fact is a Christian faith-based tradition, which was lost by the Church during the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s and 1600s.
"This is spending 'quiet time' with the Lord," he said. "This is prayer that is not 'task oriented.' But people must experience it to know what it is about." He said Centering Prayer is not meant to replace the rosary or regular Mass attendance.
The Centering Prayer tradition also is connected with "the Desert Fathers," among the earliest Christian monks who lived in the Egyptian desert in the Second Century, as well as the writings of Johannes Cassianus (St. John Cassian), born about 356 AD. It also draws upon the writings of The Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th Century text that explained contemplative meditation as a spiritual process to achieve a union with God. Scholars point out that this ancient text, from a long-lost, anonymous author, was written in Middle English, not Latin, meaning it most likely was intended for lay people. More recently, books by Father Keating ("Open Mind, Open Heart," and "Intimacy with God") have described Centering Prayer.