An Introduction to The World Community for Christian Meditation by Laurence Freeman OSB
The World Community for Christian Meditation was formed in 1991 at the John Main Seminar of that year. It continues the work begun in 1975 by Dom John Main OSB when he founded the first Christian Meditation Centre at his monastery of Ealing Abbey in London. At the invitation of the Archbishop of Montreal he went to that city to establish a Benedictine Priory that was grounded in the traditional Benedictine life as well as regular times of meditation in common and devoted specifically to the teaching of this tradition of Christian contemplative prayer.
When John Main died in 1982 he was succeeded by Dom Laurence Freeman OSb who is now a monk of the Benedictine Congregation of Monte Oliveto. He is also now Director of The World Community for Christian Meditation and from his base in his Benedictine community, he travels extensively writes, and gives retreats and talks.
In 2007 The World Community received canonical recognition. This recognition also includes the Benedictine Oblate Community that has been growing in fruitful ways for 30 years and attracts many young people to this spiritual path in the Christian tradition.
The World Community is an ecumenical contemplative community now present in more than a hundred countries. Its mission is to communicate the tradition of contemplative prayer in the church as an essential and central dimension of all Christian spirituality. It also nurtures the gradual development of the community that flows from this experience of silence in faith especially through the growth of small meditation groups that meet in parishes, homes, hospitals, schools, prison, universities and places of work.
Three of the major international events annually are the John Main Seminar, The Way of Peace and the international silent retreat at Monte Oliveto Maggiore. A quarterly spiritual letter, books, cds and films also nurture the community and its work. The ‘School’ is a program to help ordinary people develop their gifts for sharing this tradition of prayer in the church with others.
There is also an inter-faith dialogue dimension to the Community as well as outreach in education, business and health institutions. The John Main centre for Meditation and Inter-Religious Dialogue has been established at Georgetown University. Many other Centres serve the work of the Community around the world.
An important new development is the teaching of Christian meditation in schools, which was pioneered in the Catholic Diocese of Townsville in Australia.
At World Youth Day 2008 Cardinal George Pell of Sydney invited the World Community to establish a contemplative space for the pilgrims where they could be introduced to meditation.
Patrons of the World Community include Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Jean Margeot, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, Bishop Michael Putney (Bishop of Townsville and Member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) and Fr William Johnston SJ.
Some major works by John Main include: Word into Silence (Canterbury Press), Word Made Flesh (Canterbury Press). By Laurence Freeman: Jesus: The Teacher Within (Continuum,), Christian Meditation: Your Daily Practice (Novalis). Many of these and other works are published in other languages.
The Community has been invited to teach meditation in many dioceses and works with many Orders, communities and Catholic institutions around the world. Our belief is that in recovering the contemplative dimension of prayer all forms of prayer and Church life are deepened and strengthened and that the union of Martha and Mary enhances the active ministry of the Church.
The approach of the Community to this work respects the cooperation of clergy and laypeople in the work of the Gospel and life of the Church; it is contemplative by nature, which also means seeing that the development of this work is essentially gentle, gradual and collaborative.
Laurence Freeman OSB