1/2024 English Summary – contemplative prayer

Denisa Červenková CSTF
Contemplation as Participation in the Trinitarian Life of God

The study focuses not so much on schools and forms of contemplative prayer, but rather on the content that the Christian contemplative tradition seeks to offer and deepen. It begins by briefly examining the place of contemplation in the spiritual life of a Christian, then turns its attention to several important elements that demonstrate how the contemplative tradition is interconnected with the fundamental aspects of the Christian spiritual experience. From the patristic period, it considers contemplation as knowledge united with love, from the medieval era, the question of contemplation and active life, or contemplation as the final stage of lectio divina. In the context of the spirituality of John of the Cross, it explores contemplation as a process of human transformation by the Spirit.

Thomas Keating OCSO
A Traditional Blend

The Contemplative Sources of Centering Prayer

The study introduces spiritual resources of centering prayer. Briefly, it demonstrates that it blends the best elements of the Christian contemplative tradition to overcome obstacles that arise on the contemplative path today, especially the tendency towards excessive activism, relying too much on our efforts, or excessive intellectualism, where we become dependent on terminology in our efforts to approach God. It provides a list of sixteen important aspects of practicing quiet prayer and their sources in tradition. While the selection of essential sources mentioned is not complete, it is evident that the quiet prayer is not monothematic. Rather, it represents a combination of the best from the Christian contemplative tradition and, at the same time, addresses the needs of our contemporary culture with its specific obstacles and hindrances.

Miloš Hrdý
Books as Milestones on the Journey to God

The text by the deacon Miloš Hrdý serves as an annotated guide to literature concerning contemplative prayer in Czech. It aims to offer an aspirant of the contemplative life a list that would assist him/her in selecting suitable reading material. Given that there is an enormous amount of literature on the topic of contemplation in Czech, moreover, different books are suitable for different stages of spiritual life, the list serves only as a tool and not as a representative overview. If the read­er does not find their favourite author in the list, it is either due to limited space or the inevitable subjectivity of the selection.

Believers learn to meditate more difficultly than others
Interview with Laurence Freeman OSB

The interview of Czech Discalced Carmelite Pavel Pola OCD with Laurence Freeman OSB, the founder and leading figure of the World Community for Christian Meditation, deals with the topic of meditat­ion, reasons why it is good to engage in it, what its essence is, what the relationship between meditation and spirituality is, or what meaning meditation makes in a community of people. Freeman, among other things, says: “In today’s time and culture, individualism is a great danger, which can even make meditation appear as something purely individualistic. In fact, this is not the case. Med­itat­ion is an essential way of community, communication, and communion because the world is constructed through this mutually dependent reality.”

Vladimír Volráb
World Community for Christian Meditation and Bonnevaux

The Hussite pastor and representative of WCCM in the Czech Republic presents in his essay the history of the community from its current centre in Bonnevaux, France. He introduces the person­ality of a significant figure in the spiritual history of the 20th century, the Benedictine John Main, his encounter with Hindu meditation, and his effort to integrate this experience into the Christian way of life. He describes Main’s meditation practice, collaboration with Laurence Freeman, the founding of WCCM, and its activities around the world and at Bonnevaux.

Oldřich Jirsa
The Kolín Monastery

The author of the text, the director of the Kolín Monastery – Centre for Spirituality and Spiritual Retreats, outlines the history and current practice of spiritual guidance in the Kolín Monastery. He describes the spiritual roots the project is based on, and the traditions that converge within it, reflected in the focused spiritual retreats. Whether it’s Carmelite spirituality, Ignatian retreats, or even film retreats or self-awareness courses based on contemporary therapeutic approaches.

Hana Říhová
Fortna – Meditating with Open Doors

The essay introduces Fortna, a former Convent of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Prague’s Hradčany, as an open space for spiritual exploration and tranquility. Alongside Carmelite spirituality, it hosts the chlapi.cz movement, marriage encounters, meditation courses and workshops, as well as various forms of self-discovery and individual seeking in silence.

Elva Frouz
Contemplation and the Noe Community

The author, a permanent deacon, describes the environment of the Noe Community, which was established in 1998 around the parish in the West Bohemian village of Holostřevy. Participants gather here for community events open to the public. Whether it’s music and theater festivals, weekend or week-long educational retreats, supportive and networking meetings across various backgrounds, or common celebrations of Christian holidays – “contemplation as an attitude of loving attention to God, people, and the entire creation” is always present as a kind of underlying current and fundamental disposition. This is partly because some members of the community not only embark on the path of contemplation themselves for an extended period but also inspire and accompany others on it.

Josef Prokeš
Lomec – a Place for All Seekers, Seeking Itself

The caretaker of the sought-after pilgrimage site Lomec in South Bohemia, priest and theologian Josef Prokeš, describes the activities gradually emerging around this picturesque location. These activities encompass both regular liturgical and spiritual events and the program of the newly constructed pilgrimage house, as well as efforts to create a broad community of people here that will radiate far beyond the local boundaries.

Jan Staroba
Revitalization of the Soul
Invitation to Meditations at the Broumov Monastery

The medallion presents activities taking place in the environment of the border town of Broumov, which for centuries was dominated by a large Benedictine monastery. After the revolution, it was not possible to restore monastic life there, but the space was taken over by laypeople who seek to continue the spiritual activities of the former monks. One of the activities is also offering the opportunity for meditation weekends in the spirit of WCCM.

Radek Navrátil OFMCap
The Project “Experience Silence” by the Capuchin Friars of Olomouc

The author introduces a project by the Capuchin Friars of Olomouc, offering interested persons the opportunity to spend time in silence and solitude in the monastery cells. As it is a male monastery, the offer is exclusively for men. However, the space is open to all interested parties, believers, non-believers, and those of other faiths. The brothers offer participants spiritual conversation and literature related to contemplation but participants are free to choose how they experience their stay in the monastery solitude. Based on interest and feedback from participants, the brothers can conclude that the project is successful and meets the need for silence, solitude, and focused prayer in today’s hectic world.

Dariusz Hybel – Maksymilian Nawara OSB
An Exceptional Place of Spiritual Practice

The text introduces the Centre for Christian Meditation, located in the Benedictine monastery in Lubin, Poland, to assist participants in deepening their relationship with God, experiencing si­lence, achieving inner integration and freedom, and experiencing life transformation. It describes the roots of the meditation practice in Lubin, which date back to the time of the Desert Fathers; it delineates the basic elements of meditation: word, breath, and body; it emphasizes the Benedictine framework: meditation exercises are integrated into the rhythm of Benedictine life, and an integral part of them is work, which is conceived as a spiritual practice; and it also mentions another important dimension, which is caring for interreligious dialogue, thanks to which the Centre enjoys a reputation as an open place and of Benedictine hospitality.

Albert Holzknecht SJ – Ruben Enxing
HohenEichen House
Space for Retreats in Silence

The authors present the retreat house HohenEichen on the outskirts of Dresden, which has been run by Jesuits for over 100 years. The aim of the retreats here is to enable participants to reconnect with themselves and to listen to the voice of God in silence. The fundamental aspects include working with one’s biography and discernment of spirits, which helps to deal with thoughts, imaginations, and emotions. The authors describe the individual elements of the retreats and introduce in more detail two main possibilities: biblical contemplative retreats and contemplative exercises.

Miloš OFMCap
Kontemplative Prayer in Žilina

A Slovak Capuchin presents his journey to contemplative prayer through his experience in Kolín, The Czech Republic, and his subsequent effort to begin contemplative practice in Slovakia. He describes the beginnings and challenges of these efforts in Žilina.

Survey on Meditation

Meditation and contemplative prayer are no longer solely the privilege of monks living in seclusion, consecrated individuals whose entire world is arranged to provide maximum space for spiritual life. This practice is spreading beyond the walls of monasteries and hermitages; many laypeople draw strength, inspiration, balance, spiritual grounding, and a source of spiritual energy from it. Their testimonies are compelling proof of the strong human need for inner life. Therefore, we asked a wide range of people, from bishops and nuns to doctors and students: Why do they meditate? How does meditation influence their faith and worldview?

Warren Kinghorn
Presence of Mind: Thomistic Prudence and Contemporary Mindfulness Practices

Prudence, for Thomas Aquinas, is an intellectual virtue that requires coincident moral virtue for its sustainability. As such, prudence displays a way of living in which intellect, desire, and emotion are harmoniously integrated. This account resonates strongly with the aims of mindfulness practices within contemporary psychology and with the “interpersonal neurobiology” of Daniel Siegel, for whom health is understood as a context-responsive and narrative integration of cognition, emotion, and embodied experience that promotes and allows for stable self-identity and fulfilling interper­son­al relationships. Similarly, prudence for Aquinas is an integrative virtue, integrating intellect and will, theory and context, action and agent, reason and emotion, past and future, the individual and his or her community, and the proximate and ultimate ends of human life. Contemporary mind­fulness practices are at their best a school of prudence, and thus they shed an interesting light on Aquinas’s account. In turn, Aquinas’s account of prudence offers theological parameters for Christian participation in contemporary mindfulness practices.

Kevin Kraft
Can meditation change your life?
Basic principles of meditation from a neurological and psychological perspective

The author presents a neurological perspective on the fundamental functional principles of meditat­ion in their study. They present the results of several meta-analyses, which have shown the beneficial effects of meditation practices on improving emotional intelligence, mood, adaptability, stress man­agement, cortical thickness, neural connections, interpersonal awareness or empathy. The results of modern research are then compared with the experiences of St. Teresa of Avila, utilizing Teresa’s image of flowing water, where prayer is described as watering a garden, and Teresa’s teaching on “discernment of spirits”. The author shows how St. Teresa’s insights perfectly align with the findings of neuroscience. Another part of the study introduces meditation as a potential tool against fanatic tendencies. The author concludes that meditation is a powerful tool that can significantly improve the quality of life. When practiced correctly, it allows individuals to encounter themselves at a very deep level and positively transform themselves – or, according to the Christian tradition, to allow themselves to be transformed by God.

John Borelli
Reflection on Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation

The author of the article comments on a letter regarding certain aspects of Christian meditation issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on December 14, 1989. They note both the advantages – such as the support for a revival of interest in the study of Christian spir­ituality and prayer traditions, the acknowledgment of the importance of studying Buddhist and Hindu traditions, and the encouragement for dialogue with the teachers of these meditation tradi­tions – and the shortcomings of the document – including an inadequate understanding of Christian prayer, overly schematic and selective presentation of Eastern traditions, and excessive suspicion towards the apophatic or negative path. The author reminds us that the document primarily has a theological nature and focuses on the theological assessment of both Christian meditation and the incorporation of other methods into one’s practice. There remain extensive areas that need to be addressed not only within theological discussion but also from a pastoral and historical perspective.

The interview with Monika Immrová
Sculpture, relief, intaglio, drawing – always the same work

The Salve issue on contemplation is accompanied by samples of various artworks by the Czech artist Monika Immrová. Whether it is her sculpture, relief, intaglio print or drawing, it is always a quiet, patient, long-term search for the right, balanced final form that has a retroactive effect on a person and draws him into its world. And that, among other things, to offer him a glimpse of completely new horizons. It seems to us that it is precisely the calm, quiet work and also the way of artistic work of Immrová, who does not give up rational reflection, but in doing so constantly searches, whether by intuition, chance or patient work, for new shapes and connections, that in a different but complementary way support and illuminate the main theme of this collection of texts. Klára Jirsová and Norbert Schmidt prepared the interview with Monika Immrová and chose the selection of her works.