Anyone can find a new way to live, be at peace and make the most of life by a daily meditation practice called Centering Prayer. This is true even for a man/woman locked up in prison for committing very violent crimes. What Raymond Leonardini has written in Finding God Within is a powerful sharing of a practice that is very real and special.
Over 10 years ago, I was an original member of a Centering Prayer group called the Contemplative Fellowship at Folsom Prison. I know first hand the power that Centering Prayer can have. It has changed my life, thought process, and lifestyle in positive and profound ways. I am locked up and free.
What Leonardini has done in his writing is share the essence of Centering Prayer at a level everyone can understand. He shows its value and the real life situations faced within prison walls. He takes the reader step by step in how the practice benefits not only the individual but the prison community as well. He goes on to share some of the profound spiritual experiences that are also a part of daily practice. He demonstrates how Centering Prayer gives our Higher Power the opportunity, through intent, to act upon our inmost being.
My twice daily sits remain the best part, most beneficial high point of my day. Leonardini has captured this and shared it with everyone. It is an awesome book that will change a lot of lives.
Phil Darghty, Solano State Prison
At last it’s here! A book on centering prayer for prisoners and jail inmates that is theologically sound, spiritually grounded, scripturally based, and personally healing!
There is no better audience to bring this message to than those who are living a type of “death in isolation,” people who are struggling to find some semblance of meaning in their lives, who live in crowded and noise-filled spaces, yet are drowning in loneliness and longing for peace and gentle solitude. Where can one go to find this oasis of healing? It is only within.
Leonardini writes a masterful work in bringing together all the elements necessary to find this oasis and to reclaim one’s peace of mind and heart and soul. In a practical way, he lays out three journeys to take, which reminds me so much of those “mansions” St. Teresa of Avila writes about as one begins the trek, step by step, to the Center of one’s being to find the Rest of all rests, within the Heart of God. All that is asked is our consent.
Part One immerses prisoners right into the Waters of centering prayer to experience and taste, often for the first time, the power and strength and awesomeness of silence. Here we begin to listen to “other” messages that penetrate and claim our attention as we learn to decode God’s language of silence. Here, also, begins the challenge of surfacing who we thought we were while in the presence of such a loving and caring God who sees only who we really are. It usually is someone we’ve never met before!
Part two dips us into understanding those false truths about ourselves that God invites us to surrender, those “lies” buried beneath the surface of so much pain, damage, and misdirection. God challenges us to take off our masks, one by one, for a last look as we begin to say “yes” to what our deep heart calls us to embrace about our true and noble selves.
Finally, part three gives us Jesus as friend and companion to help us read the signs of our times in prison or jail and walk the path with him as our sure guide. I always tell inmates that if they read only the four Gospels from their Bible over and over, they will have spelled out all they will ever need to know and live.
A long-time prisoner practicing centering prayer once said to me on a visit as I was leaving, “Chaplain, do you see that high fence with the barbed wire? There are a lot of people beyond it who are not free. I’ll never leave this place, but I’m free!” This comment holds the ultimate truth contained in Finding God Within. It is a way out of prisoners’ external realities into a new reality that frees and heals and gives meaning to their existence.
Sister Mary Catherine Marie Bazar, O.P., Chaplain, Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Los Angeles, CA