Christian meditation: ‘Less self-centered, more God-centered’

meditating+JesusBy Christina M. Gray for Catholic San Francisco
Christian meditation may not be part of every Catholic’s spirituality, but in church halls throughout the archdiocese parishioners are meeting in small groups to go silent together in this ancient practice.

One such group gathers Wednesday nights at St. Dominic Church in San Francisco, where the first Christian meditation group was formed 8 years ago by Donald Main. Main is a nephew of the late Benedictine monk Father John Main, who is credited with reviving interest in Christian meditation worldwide.

Its members look no different than any cross section of Catholics you’d see at Mass on Sunday because that’s where you’ll see them.

“This practice makes me fall in love with God,” said St. Dominic parishioner Lori Thelen, who signed up for the current 12-week session offered by the parish’s Spiritual and Liturgical Life Commission. “I am not just more present at Mass or in prayer. I am better and more present in all aspects of my life.”

Parishioner Teresa Au was active on the parish’s Formation Committee when she signed up for one of the parish’s earliest Christian meditation groups facilitated by Main. When Main moved to the East Coast in 2011 he asked Au to facilitate the group. She considers her role as facilitator – a privilege with multiple spiritual benefits.

“Christian meditation shifts the attention from myself,” Au said. “I am less self-centered and more God-centered.”

She admits it can be hard to understand or explain Christian meditation until you practice it. “It’s a lot like sitting with the Blessed Sacrament to me; I just don’t have it here in front of me.”

Father John Main taught that meditation is as natural to the spirit as breathing is to the body. For that reason it is simple and unlike any other forms of meditation. Practitioners close their eyes, sit still and upright and for 20 to 30 minutes and silently recite a prayer-phrase or mantra, either alone or in a group. Main favored “Maranatha,” an Aramaic phrase meaning “Come Lord” and spoken in four distinct syllables – MAR-AH-NAH-THA.

On a practical level the mantra silences the mind and quells distractions. For practitioners, the stillness is an expression of the desire to be united in the loving prayer with Jesus. Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

“I had found myself wandering away from God,” said parishioner Frances Stuart, who had no experience with meditation before joining the St. Dominic group. “Meditation has really helped center me on God’s love in my life here and now.”

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