People often ask me how I came to write a book about contemplative life. I was part of the generation coming of age in the 1960s and 70s during a time of radical social and cultural change. Traditional Christianity was facing backlash and a great exodus. Young people were searching for something more relatable to life in the modern age and many turned to Eastern religions. During this time Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, noticed that young people were stopping at the monastery to ask direction to the Buddhist center up the road. He wondered why they weren’t turning to the rich contemplative path within the Christian tradition. At the same time Pope Paul VI called leaders of various religious orders to Rome to encourage them to return to the charism of their founders. For Thomas Keating that encouragement led to dedicating his life to renewing the contemplative dimension of the Gospel for clergy and laity, and ultimately for any seeker.
I was one of those young people who was searching and initially found a Buddhist meditation practice which I studied and practiced for about eight years. In 1994 I heard about Contemplative Outreach which was about ten years old at the time. It started as a mostly grassroots movement dedicated to teaching and supporting individuals and small faith communities in the practice of Centering Prayer, a modern method to access an ancient tradition of contemplative prayer. My daily practice over many years led to what I’ve come to think of as contemplative life. During these many years I have been teaching Centering Prayer and other contemplative practices, helping people to discern what contemplative life means to them, and providing formation in contemplative life. A book on formation in contemplative life was the natural outgrowth of my lived experience.
This is a video presentation Julie Saad gave for the Contemplative Outreach Global Conference in September 2021 and is titled “Transformation: Deepening Our Practice – Grace Throughout Our Lives.”
This book started out as a guidebook on the Contemplative Living Experience program, a spiritual formation program in contemplative life offered by Contemplative Outreach. It grew into a story about how a life dedicated to contemplative prayer can be transformed when one consents to the presence and action of God within, the divine indwelling. Because Julie’s teaching style comes out of her lived experience, the book also became part memoir and part practical application of Thomas Keating’s teaching. You will likely be able to relate to many of the examples from her life which will remind you of similar experiences you’ve had in your life, all in this exploration of contemplative prayer and its movement into a deeper relationship with the Ultimate Mystery.