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Posted by on Jul 29, 2007

“Utterly Humbled by The Mystery” – The Spiritual Theology of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

“Utterly Humbled by The Mystery” – The Spiritual Theology of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

Richard Rohr OFM
Fr. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest who was ordained in 1970. He is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is an internationally recognized retreat master and spiritual director.
Fr. Rohr’s spirituality is summarized in his December 18, 2006 essay for the National Public Radio feature, This I Believe entitled: Utterly Humbled by The Mystery. His profound views have a tremendous application to everyday life.

Letting Go… Letting God

In a November 2005 address to medical students at Yale University, Fr. Rohr’s talk Sadness describes pain and suffering, The Way of Tears, as the way our consciousness can be transformed and bring us to “liminal space … the point at which we realize we can’t fix it and therefore the ego has to give up control.” Paradoxically, his approach to human sadness is more like an inoculation. Life is full of happy and pleasant things, “a way of light”. As we know there are many sad and difficult things, “a way of darkness.” Fr. Rohr says that St. Francis embraced pain so that it could not become an enemy; that it could not surprise him. In Fr. Rohr’s view this embrace is shown in St. Francis’ love of poverty, the poor, and the disenfranchised.

Clarity – A Comfortable Untruth

Far from being a love or desire for pain, this embrace is a way to transcend it. He actually distances himself from the focus on pain of those who have “given a marveled fascination to suffering.”The way of light, according to Fr. Rohr, has come to dominate the last 300 years since the Enlightenment. Christians have wanted clarity, closure, solutions – a comfortable untruth which can teach us very little and leave us untransformed.

What Kind of God Has to be Bought Off?

Fr. Rohr traces our problem with suffering back to the 13th century at the University of Paris. There was a controversy between the Dominican and Franciscan approaches to the meaning of Jesus and our salvation. “Is Jesus Necessary?” According to Fr. Rohr, the Dominican position held that “Jesus had to offer this sacrifice, pay this atonement.” Fr. Rohr wonders about what kind of God “has to be bought off to love us?” This is the standard view of atonement which we see in Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ.

Into the Lovability and Generosity of God

According to Fr. Rohr, the Franciscan view was advanced by John Duns Scotus (John Duns the Scot) — that there was nothing to be fixed. Christ was among us and died and rose again not to atone for us but to be the image of the invisible God as described in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. From this point of view, Jesus “brought us into the lovability and generosity of God.” Fr. Rohr speculates that the Cross is the “deepest icon because humanity needed an image that God was on our side, that God was given to us, that God was for us and not against, and benevolently involved with the universe: That is, of course, supposed to be the transformative meaning of this image of the crucified Jesus.”

Where Life Is

Fr. Rohr decries the view that “engineers” Jesus into solving a problem. It leaves us with what Fr. Rohr calls a “terrible atonement” theology” that we have been “stuck with” for 700 to 800 years. “Jesus came to identify with the pain of the world and enter into it with that cosmic sympathy and to invite us into that identification with sadness. We are invited, like Francis, to proactively move right into it and say this is were life is at; this is where you understand, not at the top of things but at the bottom of things.”

For More on Fr. Rohr

There is much more to explore in the spiritual theology of Fr. Rohr, which we will try to do in later posts to this blog. Take a moment though and review the links and spend a little time at Fr. Rohr’s sites Male Spirituality and the Center for Action and Contemplation

Additional materials from Fr. Rohr are available at:Credence Communications and American Catholic

Pace e Bene

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1 Comment

  1. Found you through a Mutual Friend. Thanks

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