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Thursday, 26 May 2022

Contemplative Meditation - Father Matthew McGettrick ODC - CTS Devotions and Prayers

Contemplative Meditation: 
A Practical Introduction
Father Matthew McGettrick ODC
ISBN 9781860820472
eISBN 9781784692681
ASIN B07122RG25
CTS Booklet D514


Updated:

When I posted this review there was a comment on my blog:

“Dr Roerta Howes replied with a quote attributed to you. "Fr McGettrick ODC may well label his book as Christian Meditation, but the truth is, that his book is about New Age Mantras which shows he has little in the way of Christian Meditation knowledge. Please read the then Cardinal Ratzinger's 'Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life - A Christian Reflection on the New Age' to see where Fr McGettrick has lost his way. So sad that CTS continue to promote him. He is 'New Age' Indian Mantra movement. And he leads genuine searcher astray"”

I replied back with: Can you provide a source Dr Howes for your David Torkington quote. For that was not how I read this book. For what you are describing is exacly how I felt about The Mindful Catholic Finding God One Moment at a Time by Dr. Gregory Bottaro I felt such a check in my spirit I did not finish the book. And I found A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness by Susan Brinkmann: to be of immense value. I did not find this one focused on emptying, but filling with God. Much like the Jesus Prayer.  As David Torkington was mentioned in the original comment I reached out to him for I loved his, Prayer Made Simple.

I also reached out to a spiritual director. Both replied with grave concerns about this volume. One response included:

“In the UK, we have had a major conflict in the Benedictine order, particularly in Ealing, London. A priest, Fr John Main from Ealing Abbey split the Abbey and the UK Benedictines   with his teaching of Indian meditation which he brought to his novitiate after studying the mantra movement in India. Of course this is the antitheses of the Christian meditation movement. But in the 70's when the New Age movement was making vast incursions into the traditional teaching of mystical theology, many of us took our guidance from the Cardinal Ratzinger's 'Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life' which was the traditional doctrine opposed to the New Age movement.”

And also:

“Syncretism, that is, the attempt to combine the spiritualty of the west and the east is simply not the Christianity which Christ taught, So personally I would be opposed to any attempt to use the Indian non Christian traditions used by the mantra movement. Cardinal Ratzinger was clear on his guidance. The world meditation movement is very much in to the mantra movement. This is the antithesis of everything we know that Christ taught and I would be opposed to it and I would take guidance here from Pope Benedict.”

As such I have updated my review from 5 starts to 1 and can no longer recommend this volume and will not return to it. If you are looking for a good read on prayer I recommend Prayer Made Simple, other volumes by Torkington, and others I have reviewed from the CTS. Note I am leaving the original review below for context and because of internet archive sites!

~~~ Original Review~~~

This is the first book I have read by Father Matthew McGettrick ODC, and I believe the only book he has published. Or at least that I can find evidence of. This volume was first published in 1979. It was reprinted in 2001 and the eBook edition released in 2017. Over the last several years I have read over 275 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. Many great books, many wonderful series, and a slew of excellent authors. I have ready many books in the CTS Devotions and Prayers Series that have been of benefit to my faith.

The description of this volume is:

“A Christian guide on how to meditate and the many practical fruits. This is a well written, thoughtful guide on contemplative meditation.

A genuine Christian guide on how to meditate – and the many practical fruits. This is an excellently written, thoughtful guide on contemplative meditation – on how to do it, and on how important it is for a disciple of Christ to carry an attentive spirit in a practical way into daily life. Fr Matthew's famous little text has become a classic, and has helped countless numbers to secure a simple and straightforward marriage between everyday living and, as he puts it, focusing our will, our heart, on God our loving Father. Far from escapism, genuine Christian meditation equips the disciple to live in the truth, and without fear.”

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Introduction to Meditation
     Relaxation
     Use of Mantra
     Wandering Thoughts
     Other forms of Mantra
The Essence of Meditation
     Loving Attentiveness
     How God Comes to us
     Harmonising Our Daily Life with Meditation
     Harmony of Life
     Self-Discipline
     Getting Our Priorities Right
Setting Aside Time for God
     Spirit of Sacrifice
     Being Open to the Light of God
     Our Moods Give Way to God’s Spirit
Desire for God
     The Divine Attraction
     Distracting Thoughts
     Where Happiness is Found

This volume begins with these words:

“I would like to say something to help people to get started on contemplative meditation. The first thing to bear in mind is the importance of being relaxed. Any kind of tension, of body and still more of mind, interferes with the smooth development of contemplative meditation and it makes us more or less unreceptive to the inflowing of God’s light and love. In order to develop this relaxation we should remember it not only when we come to do meditation but throughout the rest of our daily life as well. We should keep in mind the importance of being relaxed in our daily work and make use of any spare moments when we have nothing in particular to do to get used to the idea of simply doing nothing.

Many people find it hard to do nothing. If they have five minutes when there is nothing in particular to be done they feel they have to start doing something. If they sit down on a chair they want to pick up a magazine, they want to switch on the radio or the television. They want to do something. The idea of just doing nothing seems foreign to them, and yet it is important not only to give our bodies rest but our minds also. It is important to be able to sit down now and again even if for only a few minutes and relax our bodies, let all our muscles go loose and limp, and also relax our minds, allow the mind to slow down. We are accustomed to a racing mind, one thing after another filling our minds, doing this, doing that, getting here, getting there. Our mind is running quite fast most of the time and we need to let it slow down. This we do by not deliberately following up any line of thought.”

I only highlighted a few passages my first time through this volume. They were:

“That is only one scene, but there are many from the life of Christ that you can hold in your mind, but do not start thinking about them. Of course you could; it is an excellent thing to think about various incidents in the life of Christ and to have reflections upon them, but that is discursive meditation and we are now talking about contemplative meditation.”

“That is the essence of meditation because it means that we are desiring God, we are wanting God, we are open to God, we are listening to God, we are waiting upon God, we are surrendered to God. The word ‘surrender’ expresses it well; the surrendering of ourselves, the throwing of ourselves into the arms of God."

“So everything leads us to God if we react to it in the right way, if we seek God in everything, if we try to keep our feet on the path that leads to God. As St Paul says, “All things work together for the good of those who love God”. So the desire for God and for making our way towards Him should be the consuming desire of our life. All our plans about our daily life, about our future, about what to do and what not to do, what job to have, where to go; all that should be inspired and guided by the question, ‘Is it going to lead me to God?’ ‘Is it going to bring me closer to God?’ ‘Is it what God wants?’ If we really desire what God wants God will see that we get it.”

This is a little volume but it is packed full. The physical edition is listed as 38 pages and the eBook as 40. It is a book I will likely return to again. There is a lot of information and some excellent guidance. This is a book I am certain one that all who read will benefit from. The teachings are clear and concise. This book feels like a little primer on Contemplative Meditation. I recommend it as another great resource from the Catholic Truth Society.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.





3 comments:

David Torkington said...

Fr McGettrick ODC may well label his book as Christian Meditation, but the truth is, that his book is about New Age Mantras which shows he has little in the way of Christian Meditation knowledge. Please read the then Cardinal Ratzinger's 'Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life - A Christian Reflection on the New Age' to see where Fr McGettrick has lost his way. So sad that CTS continue to promote him. He is 'New Age' Indian Mantra movevent.aNd he leads genuine searcher astray.

Dr Roerta Howes

Steven R. McEvoy said...

Can you provide a source Dr Howes for your David Torkington quote. For That was not how I read this book. For what you are describing is exacly how I felt about The Mindful Catholic Finding God One Moment at a Time by Dr. Gregory Bottaro, I felt such a check in my spirit I did not finish the book. And I found A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness by Susan Brinkmann to be of immense value. I did not find this one focused on emptying, but filling with God. Much like the Jesus Prayer.

Steven R. McEvoy said...

Note this review was updated significantly after the above comment reaching out to David Torkington and a spiritual director.