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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit

A Palpable Reality

Monday, June 6, 2022

In 1971, Richard was assigned to be in charge of the youth retreat program for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio. For most of the very first retreat, Richard tells that he thought all the boys“a bunch of jocks”were just tolerating him. But as Richard finished preaching on the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32), “a perfect story of how Jesus saw God,” the boys began to cry and embrace each other. Here’s Richard in his own words:

I moved back; I didn’t know what to do with this. You’d think I’d be grateful that one of my sermons worked! And then they began singing in tongues. I’d never heard someone speaking in tongues before. My mouth fell open. What did this mean? I’d never heard anything so beautiful, and no one was orchestrating it!

I endured it for about ten or fifteen minutes. Although I was delighting in it, I was also scared. I didn’t know what to do; I didn’t know how to join in, so I just watched. Finally, I broke in and said, “Guys, I’ll put the pizzas in the oven next door. Come over in twenty-five minutes.” No one paid a bit of attention to me. I put those pizzas in the oven. Twenty-five minutes later, I took them out and there were no boys. I couldn’t understand why they were not on time!

I’ll never forget walking back across the parking lot into the chapel and opening the doors. Now they were all kneeling around the high altar of St. Anthony’s Church (where I had been a novice), still singing in tongues. They never left the church the whole night.

That was the birth of the New Jerusalem Community. The next Friday, many of these boys brought their girlfriends and it grew quickly by word of mouth. Soon the girls were singing in tongues, too. The next month they brought their parents and grandparents. [1]

Andreas Ebert (1952–2022) and Patricia C. Brockman, editors of the book Richard Rohr: Illuminations of His Life and Work, summarized the Spirit’s work through this period of Richard’s ministry:

The young people he taught and led on retreats were overwhelmed with the gospel message. They gathered around this enthusiastic young priest, hungry for Scripture, increasingly eager for the shared life described there. Their weekly prayer gatherings began with fervent charismatic prayer and expanded from a group of teenagers to, at times, more than a thousand persons of many ages and diverse backgrounds. All the signs and wonders of the early church flourished among the prayers. It eventually became clear that enthusiasm was not enough, and among those followers some desired to live in a closer bond and within the discipleship of Christian community. Thus, New Jerusalem came into being, a laboratory-church where many came to commit themselves to the dream of a church that follows and trusts Jesus. This was now no mere ideal, but a palpable reality. [2]

[1] Richard Rohr, Essential Teachings on Love, selected by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 92–93.

[2] Andreas Ebert and Patricia C. Brockman, eds., Richard Rohr: Illuminations of His Life and Work (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1993), xiii.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Arthur Allen, Daily Meditation Spring 2022 Series (detail), 2022, photographs, France. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This year we invited a few photographers to share their vision with us in an artistic exploration for the Daily Meditations. The inspiration questions we asked each artist to create from were: How do you as an artist connect to and engage with (S)spirit and/or tradition(s)? How can we translate deeper truths through a lens? How can we show our inherent connectedness (of humans, nature, other creatures, etc.) through imagery? This week’s images by photographer Arthur Allen appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: My point of departure for this project was a question: Do precious things Glow, or are we casting Light on them? I found no answer (in any philosophical sense) but I did notice in my searches that some images—some “strikes to the eye”—positively wanted me to look at them. They called to me as if I had been ignoring them unfairly, the way I might ignore children’s jokes while I am trying to finish taxes. My goal became to ignore them less. I was surprised by how many of these children can fill a day, how many stories they can tell, and just how dream-like their jokes are. —Arthur Allen

Story from Our Community:

My daughter, Claire, who lived with profoundly different abilities helped me come to know the Trinity as an action verb—love. Claire’s physical body failed her gradually throughout her life. She graciously lived with loss after loss, but the one thing she seemed to know in her heart was that the Holy Spirit is the love that lived inside of her. This she would never lose.
—Lisa M.

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.

Listen to the prayer.


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