Passings: Fr. William Meninger

Fr. William Meninger, smiling

Born William Austin Meninger in Malden, Massachusetts on August 29, 1932, he graduated from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton in 1958, where he earned a master’s degree in Sacred Scripture and then continued postgraduate work at Seattle University, Harvard Divinity School and Boston University. Following ministry as a secular priest in the Diocese of Yakima, he worked on an Indian reservation and with migrant workers until he entered the Cistercian Order at St. Joseph’s Abbey in 1963. Solemnly professed in 1970, Fr. Meninger served as guest master and retreat master, prior, dean of the junior professed monks, and professor of Sacred Scripture, liturgy and patristics.

In 1974 he organized a program of spirituality studies based on the Cloud of Unknowing, the work of an anonymous 14th century English hermit, which in cooperation with Frs. Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington subsequently developed into the international organization of Contemplative Outreach and a renewal of the traditional method of contemplative prayer drawn from the Catholic Christian tradition, for which Fr. Meninger became well known.

Fr. Meninger moved to St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass in 1982, where he served the monastic community as prior, novice master, vocations director, and professor of theology and Sacred Scripture. For three years later in the decade he continued his studies at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem while living at the Trappist Abbey of Latroun. Due to declining health, he returned to St. Joseph’s Abbey in 2018 where until his death he remained active, leading Zoom conferences on contemplative prayer.

With gratitude for friendship and participation in the monastic life, his brother monks ask for remembrance of Fr. William in personal prayer.

“Centering prayer is all about heartfulness, which is a little different from mindfulness,” the Rev. Carl Arico, a co-founder of Contemplative Outreach, said. “It goes to the relationship with God, who is already there. It’s not sitting in a void.”