Having read several books on meditation by Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama I was interested to read a book on Catholic prayer (as a form of meditation) and found it very enlightening both in the similarities as well as the differences between the various authors regarding contemplation, meditation and prayer.
First of all the Morneau’s book manages to be several types of books at once. Much like Kabat-Zinn’s “Wherever You Go, There You Are” and Hahn’s “Peace is Every Step” it is a “how to” guide on methods of prayer, as those books are for meditation. However, the focus is different. While Zinn, the Dalai Lama and Hahn seek to instill inner mindfulness in the individual meditator, Morneau’s focus is outward. Morneau argues that a prayerful life is comprised of two elements, both of which are essential. The internal dialogue with God, and the external interaction with the Church and the liturgy.
The Buddhist, in my limited understanding, argues that all we have is individual perception and that nothing has reality outside of perception (the concept of “nothingness” or “emptiness.”) of that event. In fact, everything is in such a constant state of change (Hahn calls it “interbeing”) that we cannot say that is has one existence. You and I see the same thing but our perceptions are different due to our proximity, the relative dullness or acuity of our senses and intellect, and perhaps time and experience. This makes sense if you think about it. It is like we are sitting around a campfire at night. Reality is a bunch of shadows appearing and reappearing around us. Morneau would reject this as “subjectivism.” For Morneau, reality is the fire itself. He feels that all reality revolves around God (St. Anselm’s “Ultimate Reality”). This also leads him to argue that private prayer or meditation, in and of itself, is not helpful, leads to isolation and is not healthy. Man is a social animal and needs interaction with a community. Celebration of the Liturgy is crucial to development of the complete and happy person. He also, being a member of the Catholic clergy, ties much of what he says with the Roman Catholic Catechism.