Tag Archives: Richard Rohr

Love alone overcomes fear

Richard Rohr, author, spiritual writer and Franciscan friar based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has a regular blog which many people follow. You can find out more and sign up here.

This is his message today:

It is shocking to think how much the world has changed in such a brief time. Each of us has had our lives and communities disrupted. Of course, I am here in this with you. I feel that I’m in no position to tell you how to feel or how to think, but there are a few things that come to mind I will share.

A few days ago I was encouraged by the Franciscans and by the leadership team here at the CAC to self-quarantine, so I’ve been in my little hermitage now for three or four days. I’ve had years of practice, literally, how to do what we are calling “social distancing.” I have a nice, large yard behind me where there are four huge, beautiful cottonwood trees, and so I walk my dog Opie every few hours.

Right now I’m trying to take in psychologically, spiritually, and personally, what is God trying to say? When I use that phrase, I’m not saying that God causes suffering to teach us good things. But God does use everything, and if God wanted us to experience global solidarity, I can’t think of a better way. We all have access to this suffering, and it bypasses race, gender, religion, and nation.

We are in the midst of a highly teachable moment. There’s no doubt that this period will be referred to for the rest of our lifetimes. We have a chance to go deep, and to go broad. Globally, we’re in this together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering, which as I like to say, always leads to great love.

But for God to reach us, we have to allow suffering to wound us. Now is no time for an academic solidarity with the world. Real solidarity needs to be felt and suffered. That’s the real meaning of the word “suffer” – to allow someone else’s pain to influence us in a real way. We need to move beyond our own personal feelings and take in the whole. This, I must say, is one of the gifts of television: we can turn it on and see how people in countries other than our own are hurting. What is going to happen to those living in isolated places or for those who don’t have health care? Imagine the fragility of the most marginalized, of people in prisons, the homeless, or even the people performing necessary services, such as ambulance drivers, nurses, and doctors, risking their lives to keep society together? Our feelings of urgency and devastation are not exaggeration: they are responding to the real human situation. We’re not pushing the panic button; we are the panic button. And we have to allow these feelings, and invite God’s presence to hold and sustain us in a time of collective prayer and lament.

I hope this experience will force our attention outwards to the suffering of the most vulnerable. Love always means going beyond yourself to otherness. It takes two. There has to be the lover and the beloved. We must be stretched to an encounter with otherness, and only then do we know it’s love. This is what we call the subject-subject relationship. Love alone overcomes fear and is the true foundation that lasts (1 Corinthians 13:13).
 

 

 

Picture: Richard Rohn, Wikimedia Commons 

 

Light in the darkness

Richard Rohr, spiritual writer and Franciscan friar, writes a daily blog which is shared worldwide. At the moment he is talking about darkness, particularly apposite not just because of winter and our waiting in Advent for the light of the world, but because we are living through dark, divisive times. Perhaps we always have. The message of light in the darkness echoes through the ages.

Here is what he has written today:

‘The darkness of this world will never totally go away. I’ve lived long enough and offered spiritual direction enough to know that darkness isn’t going to disappear, but that, as John’s Gospel says, “the light shines on inside of the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it” (1:5). This is our own belief in paradox and mystery, the Christian form of yin/yang.

‘We must all hope and work to eliminate suffering, especially in many of the great social issues of our time. We work to eliminate world hunger. We strive to stop wasting the earth’s resources. We peacefully fight to end violence. We don’t ignore or capitulate to suffering, yet we must allow it to transform us and the world. Suffering often shapes and teaches us and precedes most significant resurrections.

‘The power of suffering is surely our creative and courageous relationship to it. Most of us have not been given the “winnowing fan” of discernment that John the Baptist ascribes to Jesus (see Matthew 3:12). For the most part, hard and fast laws are not a winnowing fan. Laws rush us to judgment instead of the slow sifting of prayer, context, and motivation. The most common way to release our inner tension is to cease calling evil what it is and to pretend it is actually not that bad. Another way to release our inner tension is to stand angrily, obsessively against evil—but then we become a cynic and unbeliever ourselves. Everyone can usually see this but us!

‘Christian wisdom names the darkness as darkness and the Light as light and helps us learn how to live and work in the Light so that the darkness does not overcome us. If we have a pie-in-the-sky, everything is beautiful attitude, we are going to be trapped by the darkness because we don’t see clearly enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. Conversely, if we can only see the darkness and forget the more foundational Light, we will be destroyed by our own negativity and fanaticism, or we will naively think we are completely apart and above the darkness. Instead, we must wait and work with hope inside of the darkness, even our own—while never doubting the light that God always is, and that we are too (Matthew 5:14). That is the narrow birth canal of God into the world—through the darkness and into an ever-greater Light. It seems we must all let go of our false innocence to find that “God alone is good” (Mark 10:18).’

To find out more and to sign up to Richard Rohr’s meditations, visit the Centre for Action and Contemplation, cac.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

false innocence to find that “God alone is good” (Mark 10:18).

Reading contemplative writing

Some people just seem to have a gift – they can write prayerfully and contemplatively, one of those authors is Richard Rohr. Recently, the group in the parish called “Spiritual but not Religious” have been reading a book called ‘Falling Upwards’ by Richard Rohr. I have been hearing how transformative this has been. I receive an email each morning with a short extract from one of Richard Rohr’s books. This morning’s email is here. You can sign up to receiving them if you want to – the link is at the bottom of the page. Here is a little taster – the beginning of this morning’s contemplation:

First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God. —Julian of Norwich [1]

Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it is letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful at some level. But part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). If we’re not willing to let go and die to our small, false self, we won’t enter into any new or sacred space.

The role of the prophet is to lead us into sacred space by deconstructing the old space; the role of the priest is to teach us how to live fruitfully in sacred space. The prophet disconnects us from the false, and the priest reconnects us to the real at ever larger levels. If “priests” have been largely unsuccessful, it is because there are so few prophets. And to be honest, most ministers confuse the maintaining of order with re-order! This is a huge issue. Such “priests” might talk of new realms but never lead us out of the old realm where we are still largely trapped and addicted; they have little personal knowledge of the further journey. Thus our Western spirituality is so lopsided.