Listen.

Fr. Thomas Keating 
March 7, 1923 - October 25, 2018

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From the community of Contemplative Outreach:

It is with deep sorrow that we share the news of the passing of our beloved teacher and spiritual father, Thomas Keating. Fr. Thomas offered his final letting go of the body on October 25, 2018 at 10:07 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. He modeled for us the incredible riches and humility borne of a divine relationship that is not only possible but is already the fact in every human being.  Such was his teaching, such was his life. He now shines his light from the heights and the depths of the heart of the Trinity.

From Rabbi Rami Shapiro:

"I just learned that my friend, teacher, and mentor, Father Thomas Keating has died. I was with him months ago and asked him how he was preparing to die. 
He cupped his hands and raised them from his lap to his chest saying, 
"Every time Thomas comes up, I let Thomas go," 
and then he uncupped his hands and let them fall back into his lap. 
"When I die, Thomas will cease to come up."
"And where will you go when you die?" I asked him.
"When you no longer come up there is no need to go anywhere," he said with a smile.
"I loved this man, and will continue to do so."

St. Benedict of Nursia (480-543 CE), who authored for his followers The Benedictine Rule, began his rule with the word Listen. “Listen with the ear of your heart.” Every beautiful instruction that follows this 1,500 year old rule assumes we heard his first word, Listen.  Listen to God. 

Fr. Thomas Keating, a Benedictine monk of the Trappist order, brought into contemporary life Benedict’s edict through the practice Keating named Centering Prayer. He and his community gave a great gift to generations of people around the world by helping us center our lives in God, at our depths, through this listening prayer practice.

It is simple, he would tell us, but it is not easy. Especially in a world as noisy and busy as ours. It is why we need people to support our listening practices. As a young person, a mentor  introduced me to what may be Keating’s most famous work, Open Mind, Open Heart. It includes encouragement for the practice of meditation. My mentor suggested finding a prayer partner, someone who will call you for your 5:30 a.m. practice so it won’t feel like you are doing it all alone. Equally  helpful is a once a week Centering Prayer group as a community support for this practice.  

Perhaps what Benedictines are best known for is their motto, ora et labora. Prayer and work. Benedict tells us to listen through prayer and work.  If we are listening to God, the work that is ours to do will become known to us. Our lives will be guided to respond authentically to the Spirit’s prompting.  Then  our work will itself be prayer.  This is what is to live a life listening with the ear of the heart. Always listening. 

Many of us knew Thomas was at the end of his beautiful, holy journey. We kept vigil in our own ways. This past Wednesday morning, his last day on the earth, my fantastic Centering Prayer app prompted me with these words from Keating: 
 

We all have the innate capacity to manifest God 
because we already are that image by virtue of being created.

Already. 

God, give us courage to listen and to hear you in all of our living, moving, and having our being in you.  

With great gratitude, 
Elizabeth+

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Rev. Elizabeth I. Rechter
Executive Director, Stillpoint

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