I read with dismay the letter regarding New Age practices in our parishes by your two Victorian correspondents in the April AD2000.
Do they imagine that the Benedictines throughout the centuries have been indulging in the New Age? Do they think that the Church, which values the traditions of prayer handed down from the early Fathers, has been misled?
In the early days of the Church, the monks of the desert, who were often unlettered, would take a mantra - they called it a "formula" - and repeat it over and over during the day until it became part of them. This is where "O God come to my assistance, O Lord make haste to help me" originated.
In our day the repeating of a single word, in stillness and attentiveness, allowing the Spirit to pray in us since we do not know how to pray, is the very precious way which many of us have discovered, thanks to the teachings of the late Dom John Main OSB.
As for "guided visualisation", if I am not mistaken, this would be the way of St Ignatius which is followed with great benefit by countless people. A placing of oneself in a scene of the Gospel, imagining you hear and see the Lord and taking His promptings to heart.
I consider lumping these valid ways of praying with Reiki, astrology and crystals and the like to be false and misleading.
Benedict XVI, while still a cardinal, when asked what was the difference between Transcendental and Christian Meditation, replied, "I would say what is essential of transcendental meditation is that man divests himself of his own 'I'; he unites with the universal essence of the world, therefore he remains a bit depersonalised.
"In Christian meditation, on the contrary, I do not lose my personality; I enter into relation with the 'you' of Christ, and in this way this 'I' is not lost, it maintains its identity and responsibility. At the same time it opens, enters a more profound unity, which is the unity of love that does not destroy.
"Therefore, in a few words, I would say, simplifying a bit, that transcendental meditation is impersonal and, in this sense, 'depersonalising'. Christian meditation, meanwhile, is 'personalising' and opens to a profound union that is born of love and not of the dissolution of the 'I'."
This last sentence is a perfect description of what the meditation groups in which I am involved believe and strive to attain. It gave me, personally, great encouragement to carry on promoting this marvellous way of prayer.
ROSEMARY CHANDLER (Miss)