Remembering Our Founders

Thomas Keating


Father Thomas Keating, O. C. S. O., was born March 7, 1923, and died on October 25, 2018. He entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance in 1944. In 1958 he was appointed Superior of St Benedict’s Abbey in Snowmass, Colorado, two years after the abbey had been founded. He was elected abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer Massachusetts, in 1961 and served for twenty years until he retired and moved back to St. Benedict’s Abbey in Snowmass.

During his time at St. Joseph’s Abbey, in 1975, he and two other Trappist monks, William Meninger and Basil Pennington, developed centering prayer, a contemporary form of contemplative prayer, based on the 14th century spiritual classic The Cloud of Unknowing.The three worked with practitioners of other traditions, including Zen master Joshu Roski Sasaki, and a former Trappist, Paul Marechal, who taught Transcendental Meditation. Keating especially was disappointed that so many Catholics were leaving the church to seek out Eastern religions, which offered contemplative practices that cultivated the inner peace and spiritual union that they desired. So, he resurrected the Christian tradition of contemplative prayer in a form that was accessible to people to inspire them to return to their Christian roots.


This form of prayer was originally referred to as the “Prayer of the Cloud” until Pennington conducted the first retreat to a lay audience in Connecticut, where participants suggested the name “centering prayer” based on a term Thomas Merton had used in Seven Storey Mountain.  Merton wrote: You rest in [God] and He hears you with His secret wisdom. Keating, Meninger and Pennington began teaching others the practice to the point where they could lead centering prayer groups.

When Father Keating came out to Snowmass, in 1981, he began conducting talks on prayer at a local parish in Aspen. He also offered retreats. The prayer was well-received, and its practice began to grow, and people began to realize the fruits of practicing centering prayer twice a day. In 1984, in New York City, Gus Reninger, Ed Bednar, and Father Keating created  a network of these centering prayer communities called “Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. Today there are at least 66 contemplative outreach organizations within the United States alone, and 19 internationally. In his last interview with Ken Wilber, Father Keating estimated that over seven million people, most of whom don’t speak English, practice centering prayer.


Sister Bernadette


To anyone who knew Sister Bernadette Teasdale, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she was an iconic presence within Contemplative Outreach. A gift from God. Her work with Father Thomas Keating changed the landscape for the sharing of Centering Prayer. Our community is what it is because of her work and passion. Sister Bernadette, still Mimi and Sister Mimi to friends and family, was the oldest of four children, born to deeply religious, faith filled Irish parents on April 9, 1934. Her father was a prominent attorney in Kansas City and was known for his flawless integrity and love of the law. Her mother was an amazing pianist who entertained many of their friends and family throughout her life. It was from her that she inherited the gift of giving through entertaining, cooking and making people feel warm and happy. Our community was blessed by her hospitality. We remember her pork roast lunches, her lively conversations and her lovely smile.