Thomas Keating

Biography of Fr Thomas Keating OCSO

Fr Thomas Keating draws from more than 60 years of study and prayer as a Trappist monk in sharing the wisdom of 20 centuries of the Contemplative Christian Tradition.

He is a founding member and the spiritual guide of Contemplative Outreach, LTD., USA. He has served on Contemplative Outreach’s Board of Trustees since the organization’s beginning.

Fr. Thomas Keating is one of the principal architects and teachers of the Christian contemplative prayer movement and, in many ways, Contemplative Outreach is a manifestation of his longtime desire to contribute to the recovery of the contemplative dimension of Christianity.

Fr Thomas Headshot

A Personal Relationship with God

Fr Thomas Keating was born in New York, USA in 1923. His interest in contemplative prayer began during his first year at Yale University in 1940 when he became aware of the Church’s history and of the writings of Christian mystics.

Prompted by these studies and time spent in prayer and meditation, he experienced a profound realization that, on a spiritual level, the Scriptures call people to a personal relationship with God.

Fr. Keating took this call to heart. He transferred to Fordham University in New York and, while waiting to be drafted for service in World War II, he received a deferment to enter a seminary.

Fr Thomas

Becoming a Trappist Monk

Shortly after graduating from an accelerated program at Fordham, Fr. Keating entered an austere monastic community of the Trappist Order in Valley Falls, Rhode Island in January of 1944, at the age of 20.

He was ordained a priest in June of 1949.

In March of 1950 the monastery in Valley Falls burned down and, as a result, the community moved to Spencer, Massachusetts.

Shortly after the move, Fr. Keating became ill with a lung condition and was put into isolation in the city hospital of Worcester, Massachusetts for nine weeks. After returning to the monastery, he stayed in the infirmary for two years.

Snowmass and St Joseph’s

Fr. Keating was sent to Snowmass, Colorado, USA in April 1958 to help start a new monastic community called St. Benedict’s. He remained in Snowmass until 1961, when he was elected abbot of St. Joseph’s in Spencer, prompting his move back to Massachusetts.

He served as abbot of St. Joseph’s for twenty years until he retired in 1981 and returned to Snowmass, where he still resides today.

Development of Centering Prayer

During Fr. Keating’s term as abbot at St. Joseph’s and in response to the reforms of Vatican II, he invited teachers from the East to the monastery. As a result of this exposure to Eastern spiritual traditions, Fr. Keating and several of the monks at St. Joseph’s were led to develop the modern form of Christian contemplative prayer called Centering Prayer. Fr. Keating was a central figure in the initiation of the Centering Prayer movement. He offered Centering Prayer workshops and retreats to clergy and laypeople, and authored articles and books on the method and fruits of Centering Prayer. In 1983, he presented a two-week Intensive Centering Prayer retreat.

This proved to be a watershed event. Many of the people prominent in the Centering Prayer movement today attended this retreat. Contemplative Outreach was created in 1984 to support the growing spiritual network of Centering Prayer practitioners.

Fr. Keating became the community’s president in 1985, a position he held until 1999.

International Influence

Fr. Keating is an internationally renowned theologian and an accomplished author.

He has travelled the world to speak with laypeople and communities about contemplative Christian practices and the psychology of the spiritual journey, which is the subject of his Spiritual Journey video and DVD series.

Since the reforms of Vatican II, Fr. Keating has been a core participant in and supporter of interreligious dialogue. He helped found the Snowmass Interreligious Conference, which had its first meeting in the fall of 1983 and continues to meet each spring.

It was at Snowmass that Thomas Keating established a programme of Ten Day Retreats and Post-Intensive Retreats in the practice of Centering Prayer.

Retreats are now held worldwide by those who have been trained by Contemplative Outreach.

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