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Today’s Contemplative Prayer Forms: Are They Contemplation?

A simpler title could be:

Contemplation and today’s contemplative prayer—are they the same or different? And, if different, what is their content and how are they related? This paper attempts a clarification of terms.

But more than semantics is involved. The deeper question at issue is: What are we doing when we practice contemporary forms of contemplative prayer, such as centering prayer or the “Christian Meditation” of John Main?

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The Search for Experience

The search for experience is an evident, contemporary fact. On the religious scene it manifests itself in such phenomena as a demand for a meaningful liturgy, interest in charismatic prayer groups, and insistence on participating in decision-making processes in the Church.

St. Teresa of Avila Speaks on Mental Prayer

 “We need no wings to go in search of God, but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.” These words were written by St. Teresa of Avila in her book The Way of Perfection.

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As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."