Monday, May 10, 2010

Richard Rohr, why you need to hear him…

“Most of us assume that the self we’re meant to ‘die to’ is the body self, the sexual self, and the emotional self. We assume that if you just get rid of your body or emotion or sex then we’ll fly towards God. But there’s no evidence for that. In fact, quite the contrary.

“Thomas Merton gave us the language of the true self and false self, instead of the body self and spirit self. It’s not your body self that needs to die, but your false self — your persona, or in Freudian terms your ego, the person you think you need to be, the persona you need to live up to.”

The positive spin on all this talk about death-to-self is that we should, he suggests, passionately, constantly choose God, and union with God. “Prayer is a daily choice to live out of the Great Self, not the small self — the God self, not the you self.”

The act of contemplation helps us to observe the “unobserved” or false self, and by so doing, to gradually detach ourselves from it. But it is not something that comes naturally in our culture. “We are a capitalist society, into accumulation, not detachment,” Fr Rohr says. “That’s why people are attracted to Buddhism. Buddhists have kept their vocabulary and their honesty about the need for detachment up to date, whereas we’re just people who have invested heavily in our own opinions and rightness, with disastrous results.”

The secret to detachment, he suggests, is to learn how to live more fully in “the now, not the past or the future”.

Some people do discover “presence”, he explains, “in love-making, in nature, in the presence of great music. As a spiritual teacher, that would be my whole desire, to say: ‘Don’t just look to the churchy moments.’ If you’re contemplative, you’re going to find these moments everywhere. And once that begins, life is no longer divided into the sacred and the secular: it’s one world.”

Perhaps the main threat to the rise in interest in authentic contemplation is that it becomes just another individualistic pop-spirituality technique, or a therapeutic tool alone.

This is something Fr Rohr is painfully aware of. “In some circles, contemplation is the new trendy thing; but when you draw close to some of these people, you find they have no love for the poor or the outsider. It’s just a new way to feel pious.”

From a 2008 Church Times interview with Fr. Richard Rohr OFM

This interview neatly sums up why I am always so excited about Fr. Richard’s teaching, and why I quote him so often on this blog. If you can, I would urge you to go and hear him at the Third Order sponsored conference this September in London. Oh, I know sometimes there are things in Rohr’s writings that come over, especially out of context, as if he is just another trendy guru of the latest Christian craze, or worse, as if he is just a Christian face for some generalised New Age spirituality. But it really isn’t so. Rohr is a Franciscan through and through, the genuine article, and if you listen to his homilies you will get a sense of how far he is from being a product of his age. As far as the Emerging Church is concerned, it’s much more nearly the case that his age is a product of him!


  1. Wise words. I'd echo the recommendation and am looking to hearing Richard speak in September, if not earlier, at Greenbelt.

  2. Thanks Mike. I'm pondering the articles in The Chronicle about him ahead of our next group meeting. I've not really got 'into' him yet but your post certainly makes him sound interesting, and relevant!

  3. I regret I missed the opportunity to hear Friar Rohr in Montreal a year or so ago. He was not well received in some quarters, but that only heightened his reputation in my eyes.

    My late friend and saintly mentor, Bonnie, admired him greatly. I had thought him to be one of those self-aggrandizing gurus and thus suitable for the treatment one is supposed to give to the Buddha if one meets him on the road. I now know better, thanks to the exposure his teaching gets in your blog and a few others. I find the messages I receive from his organization daily are deep as well as understandable. I take speaking clearly as a good sign that one is speaking honestly and in truth.

  4. I was a big fan of Rohr during the 90s. Listened to all of his taped talks and loved the energy and insight that he brought to Catholicism. Then I felt that he was getting stale - saying the same things over and over again. Recently I've read some of his homilies, and it seems that he's grown to a new level. Deeper, quieter. Wiser.

    I had a chance to hear him speak in Miami once a few years ago and was impressed with his humility and charisma. If I had the opportunity to hear him in person again, I'd go.

  5. Anonymous7:13 pm

    I look forward to listen to what Richard has to say. at St Jmes Piccadily 3, 4. Septemder interested in political solidarity justice