Richard Rohr

“We hold the mystery of transformation…’

April 13, 2018

Richard Rohr, American Franciscan friar and author

”Being on the edge of the inside…”

“Your body is not an isolated, separate entity. We are our truest selves only in community—with our ancestors (carrying their stories and DNA), our natural environment, and our neighbors. We hold the mystery of transformation…”

Today Barbara Holmes continues reflecting on the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLMM) and their evolving, embodied way of fighting for justice:

As the millennials will tell you, “This is not your grandmother’s Civil Rights Movement (CRM).

”They are right. Although both the CRM and BLMM seek the betterment of life for black people and their communities and both resist oppression with contemplative practices and activism, they use different strategies and leadership models and seek different goals. . . .

The BLMM is a decentralized network of local organizations. . . . Patrisse Cullors, a founder of the BLMM, says, “We are not leaderless, we are leader-full.” [1] . . . It is difficult to infiltrate, undermine, or disrupt an organic movement that draws its power from regenerating communal cells. . . .

During the CRM, the blindness of dominant culture to the plight of the African American community meant that the message had to be delivered by one voice in language that white Americans could understand and support. Lives were at stake, and [Martin Luther] King’s biblical and patriotic references combined with his soaring oratory ignited the nation and inspired the movement.

Now, fifty plus years after the CRM, another approach is needed, and the BLMM like the LGBTQIA justice movements are updating the art of contemplative confrontation and noncompliance with the status quo . . . oppression and violence against black bodies. Today, the most respectable image that young protesters can offer is their authenticity, resolute voices, and pride in community and culture. . . . The BLMM uses disruption for transformation rather than the predictable politeness and political compromises that were part of the ordinary negotiations of social activists. . . .
They block traffic and refuse to allow “business as usual.” The response is not riot or violence, it is the twenty-first-century version of the sit-in. CRM activists got parade permits and stayed along the side of the road so as not to interfere with traffic. BLM activists “shut it down” with song, putting their bodies on the line. . . .

BLM activists are not singing “we shall overcome,” they are not saying “I am yet holding on” or “making a way out of no way” like the church mothers and fathers of old. They are saying “we ain’t gonna stop ‘til our people are free” and “I can’t breathe,” as they shut down malls and highways to stop the killing of young black men and women. [Far too often, by the very officers who are supposed to “protect and serve,” I might add.]

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‘…the ‘whole-making spirit.’

March 17, 2018

☆The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars. —Joanna Macy

☆Our inner spiritual world cannot be activated without experience of the outer world of wonder for the mind, beauty for the imagination, and intimacy for the emotions. —Thomas Berry

Viriditas

Richard Rohr:

Long ago, St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), named a Doctor of the Church in 2012, communicated creation spirituality through music, art, poetry, medicine, gardening, and reflections on nature. She wrote in her famous book, Scivias:
You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you. 

This is key to understanding Hildegard and is very similar to Teresa of Ávila’s understanding of the soul. Without using the word, Hildegard recognized that the human person is a microcosm with a natural affinity for or resonance with its macrocosm, which many call God. Our little world reflects the big world. The key word here is resonance. Contemplative prayer allows your mind to resonate with what is visible and right in front of you. Contemplation erases the separateness between the seer and the seen.

Hildegard often used the word viriditas, the greening of things from within, similar to what we now call photosynthesis. She recognized a readiness in plants to receive the sun and to transform it into energy and life. She also saw an inherent connection between the physical world and the divine Presence. This connection translates into energy that is the soul and seed of everything, an inner voice calling you to “Become who you are; become all that you are.” This is our “life wish” or what Carl Jung called the “whole-making spirit.”
Hildegard is a wonderful example of someone who lives safely inside an entire cosmology, a universe where the inner shows itself in the outer, and the outer reflects the inner, where the individual reflects the cosmos, and the cosmos reflects the individual. Hildegard said, “O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which every thing that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” [2] It is truly a Trinitarian universe, with all things whirling toward one another: from orbits, to gravity, to ecosystems, to sexuality.

Indeed, for Hildegard nature was a mirror for the soul and for God. This mirroring changes how we see and experience reality. Later, Bonaventure (1217-1274) wrote: “In the soul’s journey to God we must present to ourselves the whole material world as the first mirror through which we may pass over to the Supreme. “ The Dominican Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) said the same: “If humankind could have known God without the world, God would never have created the world.” [5]

Nature is not a mere scenic backdrop so humans can take over the stage. Creation is in fact a full participant in human transformation, since the outer world is absolutely needed to mirror the true inner world. There are not just two sacraments, or even seven; the whole world is a sacrament.

[Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, ed. Maurice O’Connell Walshe, rev. Bernard McGinn (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009), 275.]

When we look down on the Earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet. It looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also at the same time, looks extremely fragile.—Ron Garan, NASA Astronaut

I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life. —Deuteronomy 30:19

‘Lovingly poured out.’

December 11, 2017

In sum, we are not called to love God or the world. Rather, we are called to love God in the world. We love God by loving the world. We love God through and with the world. But this turns out to be a kenotic, a sacrificial love. —Sallie McFague [1]

‘A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. She gives most who gives with joy.’

-Mother Teresa

“The key to kenosis is knowing that your life is not about you. Everything—each breath, heartbeat, morsel of food, seeming success—is gift. We are entirely dependent upon God’s loving us into being, and keeping us in being, interdependent with all other beings. Your life does not really belong to you, as countercultural and difficult as that is to understand in our individualistic, competitive, consumer culture. As the Trinity reveals, life and love are poured into us that we may pour into others.”

-Richard Rohr

 

Sallie McFague, Blessed Are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint (Fortress Press: 2013), 9, 22.

Richard Rohr.

December 4, 2017

[The] perennial philosophy . . . is the gold within the sectarian dross of every great religion. —Alan Watts [1]

The “perennial philosophy” or “perennial tradition” is a term that has come in and out of popularity in Western and religious history, but has never been dismissed by the Catholic Church. In many ways, it was actually affirmed at the Second Vatican Council in their forward-looking documents on ecumenism (Unitas Redintegratio) and non-Christian religions (Nostra Aetate). The Church, like the perennial tradition, recognizes that there are some constant themes, truths, and recurrences in all of the world religions.

In Nostra Aetate, for example, the Council Fathers begin by saying that “All peoples comprise a single community and have a single origin [created by one and the same Creator God]. . . . And one also is their final goal: God. . . . The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions.” [2] The document goes on to praise Native religions, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam as “reflecting a ray of that truth which enlightens all people.” [3] This must have taken great courage and brilliance to write this in 1965 when very few people thought that way.

For as long as there have been humans on Earth, it seems we have struggled with the problem of unity and diversity. The dualistic mind, which most of us were taught to emphasize, is incapable of creating unity. It “smartly” divides reality into binaries. It cannot help but choose sides. Can you think of an era, nation, religion, or culture in which the majority has not opposed otherness? When there was no obvious “other” around (for example, sinners, Jews, or Muslims), Christianity divided itself into warring groups calling each other heretics. Yet underneath the very real differences between religions and peoples lies a unifying foundation. I see that unifying foundation as the continual bubbling up of certain constants in all of the world religions, or if you will, the perennial tradition.

Just what is this perennial tradition? I like British philosopher Aldous Huxley’s (1894-1963) description as the combination of a spiritual metaphysics, a recurring psychology of the human person, and an ethic or morality that flows from these two:

  1. A metaphysic which recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds;
  2. A psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality;
  3. An ethic that places man’s [sic] final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being.

[This] is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions. [4]

You might not agree with every word of Huxley’s definition or even fully understand it, but it is hard to deny that he is pointing toward truth. In fact, it sounds very similar to the first questions and answers in the old Baltimore Catholic Catechism that I studied in the 1950s.

White Privilege

November 17, 2017

BuzzFeed: ‘One-third of black men will go to prison at least once in their lifetime.

The Invisible Character of White Privilege

11.17.17

by Richard Rohr

If we are going to talk about God as me, we must also talk about God as theetoo!  For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment just because of the color of our skin. This “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true?

Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access we enjoy, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging. All this we take for granted as normal. Only the outsider can spot these attitudes in us.

Of course, we all belong. There is no issue of more or less in the eyes of an Infinite God. Yet the ego believes the lie that there isn’t enough to go around and that for me to succeed or win, someone else must lose. And so we’ve greedily supported systems and governments that work to our own advantage at the expense of others, most often people of color or any highly visible difference. The white man’s easy advancement was too often at the cost of others not advancing at all. A minor history course should make that rather clear.

I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, by hearing stories from counselees, and frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings—most of which I had the freedom to avoid! Recognition was slow in coming. I am not only white, but I am male, overeducated, clergy (from cleros, “the separated ones”), a Catholic celibate, mostly healthy, and part of the American empire.

Power never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power—a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned—there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. As long as we really want to be on top and would take advantage of any privilege or short cut to get us there (what exactly is it that is up there?), we will never experience true “liberty, equality, fraternity” (revolutionary ideals that endure as mottos for France and Haiti).

To repeat, if God operates as me, God operates as thee too, and the playing field is utterly leveled forever. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we then rush down instead of up. In the act of letting go and choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible. The illusory state of privilege just gets in the way of neighboring and basic human friendship.

Richard Rohr, an American Franciscan friar ordained to the priesthood in 1970. He is a known inspirational speaker and a author.

The Center for Action and Contemplation began as a dream of Fr. Richard Rohr’s in 1986 during his first year in Albuquerque. By October of 1987, the first edition of Radical Grace was published. The name was chosen because it expressed the paradoxical nature of the Center’s purpose: standing in a middle place, at the center of the cross, where opposites are held together. [wikipedia]

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