“The great gift that contemplative persons offer is the experience of the divine presence. Who is going to bring this realization into society if not those who are experiencing it?”– Rev. Thomas Keating, OCSO, The Better Part: Stages of Contemplative Living
At St. Joseph Catholic Community, you are invited to develop or deepen your prayer practice with daily contemplative sessions Monday to Friday (Monday, 9am: Lectio Divina, Tuesday-Friday, 6pm: DIY practice, Vespers) in the church.
This is a way for the entire parish to enter into a shared experiential wellspring, without regard to language, education, age or background.
To love Christ is to love to pray, and especially in this contemplative arena, “the root of prayer is interior silence,” as Fr. Keating once wrote. So if you desire or enjoy silence, this ancient prayer tradition could be for you.
Contemplative practice is a way for parishioners from across our wide demographic spectrum to come together in a non-reactive way, developing a personal and shared spaciousness and spiritual poise that can positively grace all of our subsequent encounters. With St. Anthony of the Desert, we each enter into practice with the same humble realization: “Every day I say to myself, ‘Today I will begin.’”
Contemplative practice also helps assure that if more of us tend to our inner lives, then our collaboration and ministry will be deeper and less beset by ego, fragmentation and division. Contemplation can be part of the solution to our current societal ills from toxic polarization.
Parish-based contemplation offers parishioners the daily availability of the church and the reinforcement of fellow practitioners in maintaining spiritual discipline. In our popular culture, gyms and yoga studios likewise confirm and hold accountable participants in a social setting, where it is more difficult to “slack off.”
Our hope is that the more serious participants will advance to developing a distinct daily rhythm and a rule of life, to the glory of God and the good of our neighbor. As our Contemplative Elders project continues to take shape, this is already happening with our seniors.
We take as our teaching beacon this Gospel wisdom from Jesus in the sixth chapter of Matthew (6:6): “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Our contemplative lineup:
Monday: Monday sessions of practice of the ancient art of Lectio Divina. In our format, led by either of our Mepkin Abbey-trained staff members, a reading from the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary will be proclaimed in the language of attendees. We have a weekly and continuous 9am session and, during special seasons, a 6pm session. Next Monday evening series begins for Advent, Monday, Nov. 27.
Tuesday to Friday individual contemplative sittings are “do-it-yourself”, as participants enjoy a wide range of contemplative practices, from Centering Prayer to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to Christian Meditation to the rosary to spiritual reading to a contemplative examen. Sessions begin promptly at 6pm with a bell, and conclude at 6:25pm.
Liturgy of the Hours (Vespers), Wednesday-Friday, 6:30pm (Spanish): Join us in the ancient absorption into the Book of Psalms, with a prayerful recitation of the Divine Office of the church. (Note: In September 2023, we began having Tuesday Vespers at 6:50pm in the hope of attracting more participants.)
Liturgy of the Hours (Lauds), Friday within the 8:30am Mass (English)
Also, in our “Contemplative Eldering” Project, once a month the pastor will offer a “chapter talk,” or spiritual reflection on our contemplative practice, in line with the tradition of monastic chapter talks given by the abbot or abbess. These talks will have specific focus for our elder members, but touch upon perennial wisdom. (Note: In September 2023, we began a series of “Dreamwork” events on the final Tuesday of the month, with participants sharing an impactful spiritual dream for the benefit of the group.)
“More people than ever before rejoice in their contact with monasteries and look to monastic spirituality to provide the unique blend of sobriety and affectivity that alone makes religion seem real…The spirit of monasticism is broad and non-specific; it adapts readily to many different situations.”– Rev. Michael Casey, OCSO, Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina
Seasonal Monthly Contemplative Mass, First Sundays at 10am, April-September –All liturgies have contemplative potential, but in our monthly Contemplative Mass, we facilitate that entry into a deeper dimension with three specific aspects: 1) the use of chants, 2) Lectio Divina during the Liturgy of the Word, an extended communion meditation period.
The establishment of a new Catholic parish is a graced moment, not unlike the charism that accompanies the founding of a new religious order or a popular movement. After a few decades of fits-and-starts, Catholic practice in Bound Brook gathered in the late 1800s under the guidance of a series of Benedictine monks who served the German-speaking community. St. Joseph Parish is unique in having monastic influence in its founding “DNA,” and nearly 150 years later, we are confident that recovering our founding ingredients in a new post-pandemic context will prove to be individually and collectively fruitful for all participants.
Annual Retreats to Monasteries in the Cistercian Tradition — it is our experience in the last few years that parishioners resonate with the Cistercian charism, and the forms it takes in silence, proximity to beauty, distinct daily rhythm and spiritual reading. In part because it is less than a four-hour drive away, Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA is becoming our “home” monastery, although we take much inspiration from Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, SC. We encourage parishioners in their travels to visit and/or retreat at one of the 14 remaining Trappist monasteries in the USA.
“Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts. Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, ‘to his likeness.’”– Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2713