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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Connie Rossini on Centering Prayer

Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. ThereseA Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholicof the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. She manages the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

I recently ran into Centering Prayer. There seemed to be something off about it. Fortunately, I ran into Connie Rossini's book "Is Centering Prayer Catholic?" at the same time, and I found the answers I was looking for. Connie has graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions here on the blog.

Welcome Connie!

Could you first briefly explain what Centering Prayer is?

In Centering Prayer, you begin with the intention to be present to God. Then you sit in silence, turning away from every thought, feeling, or impression. When you find yourself following a thought or emotion, you silently focus on a "sacred word" you have chosen ahead of time. This word is supposed to be only one or two syllables long. You do not think about the meaning of the word. Once your mind has quieted down, you drop the word and go back to silence. Then at the end of your 20 minutes of practicing this, you sit for a couple of minutes longer to transition back to your everyday life. 

Is Centering Prayer "a Catholic thing", or do other Christian denominations use it?

Centering Prayer was created by three Trappist monks, Fathers William Meninger, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington. However, it is popular with some Protestants, especially Episcopalians.  Ecumenical Centering Prayer retreats are common.

What drew you to the subject of Centering Prayer?

I blog on the contemplative life, so people regularly ask me about prayer. I began looking into Centering Prayer in depth when my brother's friend asked me about it. The more I write about it, the more confusion I see among my readers about what prayer truly is for the Christian. I want my readers to grow in intimacy with God, which is impossible without prayer.

What is the difference between Centering Prayer and St. Teresa's infused contemplation?

Infused contemplation--which has been recognized since the early centuries, so long before St. Teresa--is a pure gift of God. Centering Prayer is a technique or method. Some methods can prepare us to receive infused contemplation, but none can make us contemplatives. Fr. Thomas Keating has said that Christian contemplation is really the same thing as eastern meditation. This is completely false. 

What do you see as the biggest danger to Centering Prayer?

There are two interconnected dangers. First, that people will be led off course, pursuing interior silence instead of pursuing intimacy with Jesus. Getting to know and love Jesus is the way we grow spiritually, and traditional Christian prayer methods help us do this. Centering Prayer, in contrast, rejects using the mind or the heart. You cannot get to know or love God by turning away from your thoughts and feelings about Him. 

Secondly, prayer and theology are intertwined. The theology taught by Fr. Thomas Keating is more influenced by eastern religions than by Christianity. For example, he teaches that there is no real difference between God and the human soul. That is pantheism, not Christianity. The practice of Centering Prayer supports and is supported by this bad theology. So people who start without considering the theology behind it can nevertheless be led towards unorthodoxy in their beliefs. I have seen this in conversations I have had with Centering Prayer practitioners.

 What would you tell someone who says that if three priests came up with it and Catholic retreat houses are teaching it, Centering Prayer must be alright?

 Unfortunately, many priests over the centuries have taught error. In fact, most of those whose teachings have been officially condemned by the Church have been priests. So being a priest is certainly no assurance of orthodoxy. The Church has not yet condemned Centering Prayer by name, but it has issued two documents on New Age errors that describe some of the very things taught and practiced by Centering Prayer proponents. When you compare these documents and the Catechism to Fr. Keating's teaching, as I have done, you see clearly that he is teaching error.

How can a person who wants greater union with God get started? What should be his or her goal?

 Greater union with God has a twofold component: prayer and virtue. If we want to advance in prayer, we must dedicate ourselves to resisting temptation and being obedient to God's will. Growth in prayer also gives us the grace to do this. Prayer and virtue support each other. My advice is to set aside time each day to prayerfully read the Gospels and talk to God about what you read. In addition, frequent the sacraments, work on avoiding even the smallest sin, and begin making small sacrifices out of love for Christ. Union with God is really an intimate love relationship with Him. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the beginning and end of our faith.

I understand you will be coming out with a paperback edition of your book.  When can readers look for it to be available? 

I released the paperback a couple of weeks ago. It is now available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and Createspace, among other retailers.

Thank you Connie!  Please read on for a brief review of Connie's book. 

Is Centering Prayer Catholic?: Fr. Thomas Keating Meets Teresa of Avila and the CDF

by Connie Rossini
Four Waters Press
Paperback $9.95
ebook $2.99

Synchronicity in religion can be a dangerous thing. Catholics have been known to mix their beliefs with anything from  voodoo and witchcraft to New Age beliefs, which is like mixing oil and water. Unfortunately, when the person doing the mixing is a Catholic priest, Catholics can be fooled into believing that the outcome is okay, and that's what happened when Father Thomas Keating mixed Catholic meditation with Eastern meditation. The result was Centering Prayer. 

Author Connie Rossini, a 3rd order Carmelite for seventeen years, uses the prayer practices of Teresa of Avila to demonstrate where the practice of Centering Prayer leaves the path of Christianity and enters dangerous territory. 

Her writing style is conversational, and she includes comments and  exchanges from her various social media sites as well as from her blog at the beginning of each chapter, which clearly shows the confusion that people have about this prayer technique. 

The author lays out Father Keating's philosophy on Centering Prayer as a counterpoint to the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church for her writings and teachings on prayer as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on New Age spirituality. By the end of the book, the differences between Centering Prayer and Catholic prayer are cleaer. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

An Interview with Mystery Author Linda Thorne

Linda Thorne began pursuing her true passion, writing, in 2005. Since then, she has published numerous short stories in the genres of mystery, thriller, and romance. Her debut novel, Just Another Termination, is the first in a planned series of mysteries that tell the story of Judy Kenagy, the first career human resources manager to turn sleuth. Just Another Termination will be released by Black Opal Books on August 29, 2015. She is currently writing the second book in her series, A Promotion to Die For.  

Like her lead character, Thorne is a career human resources manager. She has worked in the HR profession in Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi, California, and now, Tennessee. She holds a BS degree in business from Arizona State University and has completed a number of graduate-level courses in her field.

Welcome, Linda!

In your various job roles in personnel, I bet you have run into a lot of good material for your mysteries, including people you would like to murder! Do you ever base characters or incidents in your novels or real life?

I’ll never forget reading something Lawrence Block wrote years ago. He discussed the general wording that is in every work of fiction that says something like, “Names, places, characters and incidents are fictional. Any resemblance to an actual person, business, event, etc. is entirely coincidental.” Then in the next sentence, Block said, “And the world is flat.” 

The people we meet and the things that happen to us make us who we are. I don’t know how any author could come up with ideas without pulling from personal experiences. Yes, there are pieces of real events and personality characteristics drawn from real people in my book, but they are mixed together, my imagination is added, things like setting and time-frame are so changed that the book is truly fiction.   

You have probably also been exposed to a lot of drama and comedy. Why did you choose to turn your writing talents to mysteries?

Since my childhood, I’ve always loved to read murder mysteries. I was a big fan of TV series such as Columbo and Murder She Wrote, watching all of them and then watching reruns. 

Also, in my human resources career I’ve done many investigations when issues are reported or accusations are made. These investigations are a search for facts similar to what the police do as part of a murder investigation. I have some amazing stories of what I’ve found out in a number of these investigations. Stories, of course, I can not discuss. Sometimes what is first reported to HR turns out to be something totally different when the truth unfolds. Part of the job in human resources is solving mysteries. 

I’ve also had to work with the police in a few investigations, much like my lead character, Judy Kenagy, in Just Another Termination. Quite a long time ago, an employee at a company where I worked did not show up for work. We sent a co-worker over to check on her and she was found murdered. In my role as human resources for that company, I helped the police do their investigation at our company. The case was never solved.  

When you relax with a good book, who are some of your favorite mystery authors? 

The biggest for me are J.A. Jance, Michael Connolly, Carolyn Haines. Robert Parker and Lawrence Block (his older books).

Tell us about your main character, Judy Kenagy, and what makes her a good sleuth.

Judy Kenagy is a good sleuth because she’s a tenured human resources manager, well trained in doing investigations. She also is heavy with guilt over her coerced involvement in a wrongful termination that prompted a suicide. She believes helping to solve the new murder will in some way assuage her guilt over the suicide years earlier.  

I know this is difficult for authors, because we are all so individual and usually modest, but if you had to liken your books to a well-known series, which one would you choose? Or which one have others said you remind them of?  Kooky Stephanie Plum?  Methodical Miss Marple (or Miss Silver)?  Books by the versatile Mary Higgins Clark?

I would say my books are closer to Mary Higgins Clark than any of the others.

What are you working on now?

My second book in the series, A Promotion to Die For. In this book, a job promotion returns Judy to a suburb of Topeka, Kansas where she lived almost thirty years earlier. A little town where a random twist of fate prevented her murder, but caused someone else’s. The case was never solved and the murderer is still out there.

Thank you, Linda!  May you have the success of Mary Higgins Clark! If you would like to learn more about the author, check out her website. You can also find her on Twitter.  

Here is a blurb about Linda's book, "Just Another Termination".

At long last, she lands a job with a good employer, but the trouble is just beginning…

Human resources manager Judy Kenagy hopes her days of running from bad bosses and guilt-ridden memories are over. But alas, she’s barely settled in when a young female employee is found shot to death, spinning her new workplace into turmoil. Small-town police chief, Carl Bombardier solicits Judy’s help in her role as the company’s HR Manager. While working with Judy, he shares his fanatical interest in a twenty-five-year-old double homicide he believes is linked to her last and worst bad boss. To make matters worse, the trusted assistant of her monster ex-boss starts showing up, keeping the unwanted connection going. When the pesky trusted assistant turns up murdered, Judy learns there’s a connection with the shooting death of the employee. She starts sleuthing at the crime scene and stumbles upon an important piece of evidence. Can she solve all of the murders with this single find? If she does, will she finally be freed from the demons of her past? Or are things not as they seem?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Mystery About Manners

From http://fearlessmen.com/opening-a-door-for-a-woman/
Manners. They are little actions that seem so small they can hardly be expected to make a difference. Some are simple niceties, such as a man opening the car door for a woman, and some are signs of respect, such as when a man removes his hat as a funeral procession passes. Actually, most acts attributed to  manners and etiquette are born out of a respect for others.

Women don't wear white to weddings so as not to draw attention from the bride. We dress nicely for church out of respect for God.  

These days, manners are considered old-fashioned. Stand when a lady enters the room? First, you've got to find a lady. But manners - or the lack of them - are the driving force behind Edward Harlow in Civility Rules.

Edward writes advice books on etiquette under the pseudonym Aunt Civility. He limits his public appearances to groups of like-minded people, because he thinks that the average person is a cretin. There are times when I'm inclined to agree. Somewhere along the line, society decided that manners were pretentious. Fake.

Not so. Not only are they necessary for civil discourse, they raise the image of the person using them.
That's why parents teach their children manners on a daily basis. They have hopes that their precious pearls won't turn out to be slobs. Don't chew with your mouth open. Don't swear. Wait your turn. The payoff is an adult whose company others are happy to share.

Nicholas, Edward's brother and the more cynical of the two, believes that Edward is fighting a losing battle. People have become crass and lazy. They are more interested in self-satisfaction than in any discomfort they may cause others. However, he does admit that manners, when they are present, are contagious.

Think about it. If  you are conversing with someone who is polite and keeps foul language out of the conversation, sooner or later you're going to catch on and do the same. If you've ever dressed up for the opera or a play or even dinner, don't you find your that your behavior rises to the occasion?

Of course, when Edward's routine is disrupted by murder, he's stymied. Etiquette experts never addressed sudden and violent death.

Who is the rudest person you've ever encountered? Did you respond civilly? I'd love to hear about your triumph!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Reward Card for Readers?

Most of the grocery stores in my area have gotten rid of their customer rewards programs. In some socialistic venture, they've decided that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet who enters the store deserves the same great prices as someone who returns week after week, struggling to find where they've moved the bar soap this week.

Ralphs (Kroger) still has their rewards program, and I have to admit to a certain childish anticipation as I wait for my **special** discount to be deducted from my total. I feel, somehow, that I've earned it. It's my prize for not driving to Vons for cheaper grapes.

And why shouldn't I reap the benefits of a loyal customer?  Why should the weaker members of the herd, the ones who aren't bold enough to spill their personal information in exchange for that coveted card, receive the same perks?

I think loyal readers would like the same treatment, but what kind of rewards program could a writer come up with?  If my books are sold on Amazon (and they are) I can only discount the price for everybody, and where's the fun in that?

It appears that the only reward a writer can give are extras. Right now, I am giving away a behind-the-scenes look at the real animals that inspired the characters in my pet psychic mysteries. Instead of a lengthy application, readers give me their email address as they sign up for my newsletter and updates. Not just anybody can get a copy.

If you're a reader, what else would you like to get from the writers whose books you patronize? 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Frustrating Facebook Dilemma and Split Personalities

A few years back, I innocently started a Facebook page. If I'm honest, I think a friend told me about Farmville, and it was the only way I could play along with her. It was also a convenient place to catch up with my extended family and my writer friends, but soon there were too many posts to keep up with,

Then I got the bright idea to start the Jacqueline Vick - Author page, I'd be able to post updates to my writing and keep it separate from the social news coming from family and friends. I delved in without proper research, so I wound up with another page, not a fan page, that required a separate sign in.

Fast forward to the day I became an administrator on the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church Facebook page. I had to connect with an invite in order to be an administrator, Since it wouldn't work with my personal page,  I connected with my author page. For months, I was terrified to post anything on my own page for fear it would show up in St. Kateri's feed. And, as it took a different sign in, I stopped going to my personal page, which was where most of my contacts were.

I recently started a page for Walking Rosary Designs, my jewelry site. I discovered I could attach it to my author page and go back and forth between them. How cool! Except now I have too many pages to keep up with.

Do I annoy my friends and family by inviting them to my author page, where they will see posts about my writing? Or do I lump everyone into my personal page, and share my  attempts to make pretzels with my writing associates (some of whom are friends.)

Does anyone else have multiple pages? Have you figured out how to run the gauntlet without a complete meltdown?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Why a Cockatoo Almost Didn't Make it into the Second Pet Psychic

If you've seen the cover of "A Bird's Eye View of Murder", the second Frankie Chandler, Pet Psychic, mystery, you can't miss the cockatoo on the cover, but he almost didn't make it into the book.

Frankie Chandler doesn't like birds, and that may have been a spillover of my own feelings about winged creatures. It's not that I wish them any harm. They're just...creepy.

Puppies are cute. Baby birds are hairless, scrawny creatures with gigantic eyes (and no discernible eyelashes.)  My earliest memory of a baby bird was a fairly newborn robin who had fallen out of the nest and was being attacked by ants. A friend and I (after we finished screaming) moved the bird to the top of something, where I'm sure the ants finished it off later. Not a pleasant memory.

And I know, chicks are fluffy, but they're not especially cuddly. And they poop constantly.

Grown birds? Again, not cuddly. I can respect the hunting skills of a red-shouldered hawk, and it was a thrilling moment the first time I saw a  bald eagle in the wild. Birds can be beautiful and even admirable, but I can't really connect with them. (Though a cousin told me a story about chickens that makes them a shoe-in for a future Pet Psychic mystery.)  So how did a bird character even make it to my radar?

Pet Supply, a local store, has a very large cage with one such bird in it (and sometimes out of it), and the air is usually filled with sharp squawks. It is an ear-piercing sound that has me wondering if the bird would taste like chicken.

One day, I was talking to Zack, one of the store's experts, and he explained a few of the bird's quirks, They sounded annoying enough to be funny. So the cockatoo got his chance.

Tell me. Am I off-base about birds?  I admit that I've changed my mind about cats over the years. Do birds have redeeming qualities that make them wonderful companions?

Friday, February 27, 2015

I'm Not Dead. Really.

I've been caught up in a few projects, including getting the latest Frankie Chandler, Pet Psychic, novel out in both Kindle and Paperback formats, but I had no idea it had been so long!  June 2014 was the date of my last post.

Isn't it amazing how time flies?  And for all of you young 'uns out there,
it does seem to pick up speed the older you get. I think that's because as
we get older and wiser, we get braver. I could come up with a zillion
possibilities when I was in my early twenties, but only when I moved into middle-age did I stop listening to the naysayers and get bold enough to try them.

So, what's been going on?

I've been coordinating the resurrection of the group blog, Writers in Residence, for a group of lovely authors. That meant learning my way around some of the glitches of blogger. I haven't conquered them all yet.

I just finished Civility Rules, my Harlow Brothers mystery. It's now "resting". The hubby came up with a very cool cover idea, and now I have to find someone who can pull it off.

My priest mystery is back in the forefront. He's an exorcist who is on a leave of absence. His new punishment   assignment is religious education instructor at an all-girl high school. Sounds like a nightmare to me.

And I'm trying to clean up my digital profile. I hadn't even put any information in my Google profile, but then I saw that it had been viewed by over 60,000 people. (Or else my mother clicked on it 60,000 times.) Time to reward their efforts with some information, because I know it's frustrating to me when I try to look someone up and get nothing buy that shadowy avatar.

So, what has been going on with you?