People Here Delve into Mysticism

By Patricia Rice Post-Dispatch Religion | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

People Here Delve into Mysticism


Patricia Rice Post-Dispatch Religion, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


A conference focused on "centering" prayer, where people hoped to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit within their being.

SUNDAY, MANY churchgoers will hear the story of the first Christian Pentecost from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. They will hear how after Jesus' ascension into heaven the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles.

Some congregations will celebrate the Holy Spirit's feast by releasing red helium balloons, suspending a translucent curtain printed with the sign of a dove across the sanctuary, or by releasing white doves. More than 75 area residents sought a mystical experience with the Holy Spirit here last weekend at a two-day conference on "centering" prayer. After contemplative - silent - prayer, a speaker predicted that Christianity is moving into an era in which millions will become mystics. "Before the 12th century, every Christian wanted to be a mystic," said Frank X. Tuoti, the conference speaker. The retired New York television executive and former Trappist novice was a friend of the late Trappist monk the Rev. Thomas Merton. Tuoti, author of the 1995 best-selling book "Why Not Be A Mystic?" teaches centering prayer at conferences nationally. After work that Friday, teachers, day-care workers, accountants, nurses, retirees, young mothers, real estate salespeople and construction workers from Illinois and Missouri gathered in the atrium of Chaminade College Preparatory School in Frontenac. They placed burgundy, molded-plastic chairs in a circle. They were seeking a mystical experience, hoping to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit deep within their being, said Susan Komis. She's the coordinator of Contemplative Outreach, a self-supporting organization under the aegis of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis. Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist regulars join Catholics at the events, Komis said. In a soothing voice, she suggested participants close their eyes. "By the act of closing our eyes, we remove the external stimuli," she said. She suggested that each person find one "significant, sacred word," then repeat it to themselves. Abba - which means father - Lord, Jesus, Sacred Heart and Holy Spirit were some of the words individuals said they chose. The word helps block outside distraction, she said. They focused on the moment at hand - the "sacrament of the present" - so they could hear the "indwelling of God" deep in the centers of their being, Tuoti said. …

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