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Movements of Justice and the Spirit
Movements of Justice and the Spirit

A Movement with the Excluded

Sunday, November 13, 2022

On the CAC podcast The Cosmic We, Father Richard Rohr talks about the Franciscan tradition’s identification with those on society’s margins. This priority shaped major periods of Richard’s ministry: 

Francis of Assisi always identified with the minority, with the excluded. I went to Assisi after Rome last [June], and the little church that he rebuilt was the church of the leper colony. He immediately went down to those excluded from uptown Assisi and identified with the lepers. So that’s always been a part of our tradition. We were really a subtext in terms of mainline Catholicism.  

I was ordained a deacon in 1969—you were always a deacon for one year before you were a priest. In the first six months, they sent me out here to New Mexico to work with the Acoma Pueblo. And then the next six months I was at a Black parish in Dayton, Ohio: Resurrection Parish. My start in ministry was outside the mainstream. And then I realized the mainstream isn’t really “main,” it’s just dominant. So that got me off to a great start!  

Then the Pentecostal experience with the high school students happened the next year, after I had become a priest. Such beautiful, polyphonic singing in tongues! We’d sometimes go twenty minutes speaking in tongues; people would come peeking in the door of this high school gymnasium, and they’d say, “And they’re Catholics!” They couldn’t believe it. [DM Team: Such Spirit-filled experiences with young adults led Richard to found the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati, Ohio.] So that again, for me, legitimated the margins instead of the so-called center. [1] 

Rev. Dr. William Barber, activist and co-director of the Poor People’s Campaign, finds scriptural support for those on the margins leading social justice movements. Dr. Barber builds on Psalm 118:22–23, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone! This is God’s work. And it is marvelous in our eyes!”: 

The rejected must lead the revival for love and justice.  

The cornerstone is that part of the foundation upon which the whole building stands. And the Psalmist says, speaking metaphorically of how we view human beings in society, that it is God’s intent that the stones that were once seen as unfit to be a part of the architecture—the stones that were once thrown away or kept in the quarry—have now been called to be the most important stones. The rejected stones make the best cornerstones. The rejected stones actually make the best foundation holders. And whenever you see rejected stones becoming the focus of society, it is the Lord’s doing. [2] 

Jesus lived among the rejected. He ministered among the rejected. He died and was crucified as rejected, as somebody who was outside the political power structure. But early Sunday morning, from the grave he led a resurrection movement—a revival of love, a revival of justice, a revival of mercy, a revival of grace. [3] 


[1] Adapted from “Reimagining Notions of Love with Fr. Richard Rohr,” October 28, 2022, in The Cosmic We, season 3, ep. 2 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2022), podcast, MP3 audio. 

[2] William J. Barber, We Are Called to Be a Movement (New York: Workman Publishing, 2020), 7–8. 

[3] Barber, We Are Called, 79. 

Explore Further. . .  

Image credit: Khamkéo Vilaysing, Lonely Tree (detail), 2017, France, photograph, Unsplash. Anastase Maragos, Calm Tide (detail), 2020, Canada, photograph, Unsplash. Clark Gu, Untitled (detail), 2020, Korea, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.  

Image inspiration: We cannot see the wind, but we feel it. We recognize its presence by watching the world around us move in response to its power. At times, the movement of Spirit towards justice feels invisible and interminably slow, but like waves slowly shaping the shoreline, in time we see the fruits of God’s movement. 

Story from Our Community:

Your reflections this week on prophetic renewal “movement” throughout church history has been great. One of the more inspirational and happy times of my life was volunteering in my teen years at the Catholic Worker in NYC with Dorothy Day in the 1960s, working the soup line and helping get out the CW newsletter. Throughout the place, Dorothy’s love, spunk, humor, and gentleness was infectious. —Terry S.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

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