The Center for Contemplative Outreach is an organization that was founded in 1987 under the Auspices of the Archdiocese of Denver to promote the practice of Centering Prayer. The national organization, Contemplative Outreach Ltd., was founded by Father Thomas Keating in 1984. We primarily look to Father Thomas Keating, and the body of works that are his legacy, for guidance in the practice, and in recognizing its fruits. We are also open to the tenets of a variety of other contemplative traditions and practitioners. A visit to the bookstore at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, where Father Keating spent much of his life, will give you an idea of the diversity of ideas and paths to knowing God.
All of us at “The Center,” as we lovingly call it, practice centering prayer, individually and collectively as part of [centering prayer groups]. Most of us, and all of the staff, have taken the basic courses offered by Father Thomas and showcased on the [courses web page]. Many of us have gone on retreats of varying duration and intensity at St. Benedict’s Monastery, our home away from home.
Although centering prayer is rooted in Christian contemplative tradition, our members are diverse and from many different religions. We do not seek to exclude anyone from the practice of centering prayer. We welcome beginners and long-time practitioners of contemplative prayer. We welcome all lifestyles, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and any other demographics one could imagine. Diversity is God’s greatest means to sustainability. As St. Paul noted, “so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.”
We recognize that “chop wood and carry water” are necessary to physical existence, and are grateful for any help we can get. There are a few paid positions on our staff, but the majority of our staff are volunteers. Our volunteers perform a variety of services for The Center from basic maintenance work like gardening and building repairs, to web design, to washing and drying table linens, to teaching classes. Our class facilitators are all required to have taken a minimum of the courses we teach, are trained, and are certified by our parent organization, Contemplative Outreach Ltd.
One of our tenets, instituted by the founder of our local chapter, Sister Bernadette Teasdale, is hospitality. When we’re not quarantined, we try to make The Center a welcoming place to meet and visit. During classes, we have people who prepare and replenish coffee and snacks for break time, and people who register students and orient them to the facility.
When The Center opens again, we would like you to come visit. Just don’t expect a group of blissed-out people floating several inches above the floor. We all have our weaknesses, hot-buttons, and “crosses to bear”. All the more reason we embrace centering prayer to help us persevere and draw us closer to the God we long to be in unity with.