Contemplative Outreach has experienced enormous growth within its fifteen years of existence. It’s reason for being is to “introduce people to contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition and to provide a support system to sustain their spiritual development.”
From its origins to the present, Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Snowmass, Colorado, has been the animating presence of the movement. With his many books, audiotapes and videotapes on contemplative prayer, and centering prayer in particular, Father Keating has provided the spiritual and conceptual support underlying the network.
Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, executive director, explains that Contemplative Outreach is a “bottoms up organization.” Programs and workshops are created in response to what people want and need. Centering prayer support groups were organized across the country and assisted by the national office in response to those who wanted a means of sustaining spiritual development after they returned home from attending an initial centering prayer workshop.
A telephone support line at the international office was set up to offer nonprofessional spiritual counseling to those engaged in the daily practice of centering prayer. The Contemplative Outreach News keeps readers informed of upcoming retreats, workshops, teleconferences as well as of activities within the various support groups around the country.
Gail attributes the enormous growth of Contemplative Outreach’s programs to people’s search for a deeper relationship with God. Encouraged to practice centering prayer with two twenty-minute periods per day, people experience the enormous power of silence; they taste the love from others sitting together in silent prayer. This kind of prayer has a transformative effect upon the individual that overflows into their daily lives and society at large.
While programs of Contemplative Outreach are conducted in various areas around the country, many of its workshops and retreats are held at St. Benedict’s Retreat Center in Snowmass, Colorado.
The monastery and Retreat Center are located beneath the Colorado Rockies Elk Range at an elevation of eight thousand feet and approximately twenty miles from Aspen, Colorado. The retreat center, located about five minutes away from the monastery, has eight self-contained units with kitchenettes and baths. Adjoining buildings house a chapel/meditation hall, conference room, kitchen, dining room and library.