Keating, Thomas

From Biographia Cisterciensis

Thomas Keating
Foto: Snowmass Abbey

Thomas Keating OCSO

Abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer 1961–1981, author

* 07. March 1923 New York City
25. Oct 2018 Spencer, Massachusetts

Thomas Aquinas Keating, baptismal name Parker, was born in New York City on March 7, 1923 the third of four children of the prominent lawyer Cletus Keating and Elizabeth Kirlin Keating. After graduating from Deerfield Academy, he studied at Yale University from 1940 to 1942 before transferring to Fordham University where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from an accelerated program in December 1943. He entered the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of the Valley in Valley Falls, Rhode Island in 1944, taking the name Frater Thomas. He professed his final vows in spring 1949 and was ordained a priest in June that same year.

A fire devastated the Rhode Island monastery in March 1950 and the monks were quickly lodged in a nearby CCC camp while they built a new monastery named Saint Joseph's Abbey on the property of the former Alta Crest Farm in Spencer. During this time of transition, Father Thomas was appointed director of the professed lay brothers. When adequate accommodations were ready the entire monastic community moved to Spencer in time to celebrate Christmas there.

At the new monastery Father Thomas became vocation director in 1952 and then director of choir novices in 1954. In April of 1958 he was appointed superior of a new foundation in a pristine setting in Snowmass, Colorado named in honor of Saint Benedict. Three years later the abbot of the Spencer abbey, Edmund Futterer, resigned, and Father Thomas was elected to succeed him. During that time, he was invited to Rome in 1971, following the Second Vatican Council where Pope Paul VI encouraged priests, bishops and religious scholars to renew the Christian contemplative tradition. As an answer to this call, Fr. Thomas, along with William Meninger and Basil Pennington, drew on the ancient practice of Lectio Divina and its movement into contemplative prayer, or resting in God, to develop the practice of Centering Prayer. The initial idea was to bring the contemplative practices of the monastery out into the larger Christian community by teaching priests, religious and ultimately, laypersons.

After twenty years as abbot at Spencer, Father Thomas retired, returning to the Colorado monastery to take up a life free from administrative duties and devoted to deeper prayer and study. He transferred his stability to Snowmass in 1985. During this time, he was led to promote to a wider audience the monastic method of contemplative prayer, and as a result he became a founder of Contemplative Outreach, an ecumenical spiritual network that teaches Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina. As such he pioneered in opening the Christian contemplative tradition for modern men and women. Throughout his monastic life, Father Thomas conducted numerous retreats, authored 28 books and practice guides on prayer and the spiritual life, as well as several audio and video series. In 2014 he was the subject of a documentary on his life and teaching titled Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence, co-directed by his nephew Peter C. Jones with Elena Mannes and narrated by John Osborne.

He returned to Spencer as an infirmary resident in April 2018 where he died in late October 2018.

gge, Nov. 2018


Prof.: 1949; Sac.: 1949; Abbas: el. 1961, res. 10. Sep 1981.


28 books.


various obituaries.

Citation: Keating, Thomas, in: Biographia Cisterciensis (Cistercian Biography), Version vom 8.11.2018, URL:,_Thomas

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