M. Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating





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by David Cloud

M. Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating are very influential in the centering prayer movement which is sweeping through evangelical and Baptist churches. Their writings have helped popularize monastic retreats among evangelicals.

Both are Trappist monks and priests in the Roman Catholic Church. They co-authored Finding Grace at the Center: The Beginning of Centering Prayer. First published in 1978, this book has had a wide influence.

Pennington (1931-2005) entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance in 1951 at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. This Order is also called Trappist after the name of the location of their founding, which was the Abbey of Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe.

The Order is dedicated to contemplation. The monks dedicate themselves to silence and solitude and meditation under the Rule of Saint Benedict. This Rule teaches salvation and sanctification through asceticism. Chapter 7 of the Rule presents a 12-step ladder of virtue and asceticism that “leads to heaven.” These include repression of self-will, submission to superiors, confession, stifling laughter, and speaking only when asked a question. Under the Rule of Benedict everything is regulated, including sleeping, waking, meal times, quantity and quality of food, clothing, work, and recreation. The Rule forbids the ownership of any private property or the receipt of letters or gifts without permission of the abbot.

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