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Christian meditation becomes new paradigm for prayer

To reach a perpetually changing audience, Catholic Church officials have had to make countless accommodations over the years, in doctrine, practice and now, even prayer. Recently, church officials have turned to a practice called Christian meditation—and, as a result, this practice has permeated clubs and classrooms at FAU’s Boca Raton campus.

Instructor Benno Lowe teaches a survey course, in which he briefs students on the practice of Christian meditation. Alex Longsworth — a senior studying philosophy and history — is a youth pastor at community Christian church who attributes his encounter with Christian Meditation to Lowe’s course entitled “History of Christianity Since 1500.”

Longsworth believes the practice of Christian meditation is both awesome and Biblical, recalling King David’s admonition in the Old Testament book of Psalms, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O lord, my strength and my redeemer."

Before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he wrote a letter about Christian Meditation. In short, Ratzinger believes Christian Meditation yields an intimate interchange between Christians and their God. He describes it, “[as a way] to experience a deeper and [more] authentic prayer life.”

James Finley is a Catholic retreat leader who picked up his spiritual leadership package at a monastery in Gethsemani, Ky., where he studied with Thomas Merton: the author of The Living Bread, a seminal treatise on Christian Meditation. Using this new paradigm for prayer, Finley helps his audiences maneuver their communication with God.

Finley, with other prominent leaders, visited FAU in 2010 to participate in its burgeoning Peace Studies program. During his visit, Finley shared his guidelines to spiritual existence: sit straight, sit still, close eyes, make hands comfortable and slowly initiate deep natural breathing.

The event drew a sundry crowd. Mark Hall, a 59-year-old tire salesman from Fort Lauderdale, attended the event with his two sisters, Cindy and Kathy. Hall says his mother’s enthusiasm for meditation inspired the trio many years ago and, after reading about the event in a local newspaper, they just had to be there.

Noemi Marin, the director of Peace Studies at FAU, said Finley’s visit was part of the peaceful mind, peaceful world outreach series, a program engendered to provide community outreach. Marin says the program has flourished since it started five years ago, procuring peace talks that range from Jane Goodall to the 14th Dalai Lama.

Terrence McCorry, FAU’s Catholic campus minister, says Dorothy F. Schmidt reached out to him for support and involvement at the event. At once, he rallied the Catholic Newman Club of Palm Beach, which brought 40 people to the symposium.

McCorry says the Newman Club has wanted FAU’s students to take advantage of Christian meditation for years. However, it needed a medium to perform it, and this year he found that medium: Bible study.

“The greatest challenge with Christian meditation is getting students to slow down and stop the noise,” McCorry says.

Bible study, however, supplies that “quiet time,” and during that time, McCorry worked in Christian meditation for the first time.

Catholics at FAU seem to be embracing this new practice. Thomas Joseph, a member of the Catholic Newman Club, described Finley’s talk on Christian Meditation with one word, “incredible.”



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