Q — As a newcomer to Catholicism, I am interested to know about “centering prayer.” Is it a form of prayer that is acceptable in the Church? What is it basically all about?

A — In the broad Catholic tradition, there are many spiritualities and many forms of prayer. The purpose is to make us aware of our deep communion with the Triune God and to enhance this deep communion, making it even deeper and more profound and more fruitful in our everyday lives. “Centering prayer” is a re-discovery of a mode of prayer found in the tradition. It is a method of prayer designed to render us more contemplative. Centering prayer is not meant to displace other forms of prayer, but rather to complement other forms of prayer, and thus to confirm our communion with the Divine Communion. Various authors write about the method.

Here, following Father Thomas Keating, OCSO (in Michael Downey, ed., The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality) we may say that there are five basic steps to centering prayer.

(1) Choosing a sacred word as a way of opening us up to the divine presence, e.g., the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, etc. (2) After composing oneself comfortably, let this sacred word focus our attention on God’s presence and action. (3) Should distracting words or thoughts occur, gently move back to the sacred word you have chosen. (4) Don’t analyze your experience in any way, but simply focus on the sacred word you have chosen. (5) At the end of your time of centering prayer, remain in silence for a few minutes before moving back into the flow of your daily life.