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Center for Action and Contemplation

Alternative Orthodoxy: Weekly Summary and Being Love Practice

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Alternative Orthodoxy

Summary: Sunday, May 28-Friday, June 2, 2017

Franciscans don’t throw out the mainline tradition; we simply place our effort and our energy on overlooked or misunderstood aspects of the tradition. (Sunday)

Franciscan alternative orthodoxy quietly but firmly pays attention to different things—like simplicity, humility, non-violence, contemplation, solitude and silence, earth care, nature and other creatures, and the “least of the brothers and sisters.” These are our true teachers. (Monday)

Simple living is the foundational social justice teaching of Jesus, Francis, Gandhi, Pope Francis, and all hermits, mystics, prophets, and seers since time immemorial. (Tuesday)

Franciscan alternative orthodoxy emphasizes incarnation instead of redemption. If God became a human being, then it’s good to be human, and we’re already “saved.” (Wednesday)

Jesus and Saint Francis had a genius for not eliminating or punishing the so-called negative side of the world, but incorporating and using it. (Thursday)

Franciscan alternative orthodoxy emphasized the cosmos instead of churchiness. As Francis said, “The whole world is our cloister!” (Friday)


Practice: Being Love in a Broken World

We are often tempted to deny, fix, or run away from suffering and imperfection. The Franciscan way, in imitation of Jesus, is to stand in solidarity and intimacy with the world’s hurt. Brian Mogren, an alum of CAC’s Living School and the director in residence of St. Jane House, a retreat and hospitality center in Minneapolis, reflects on what it’s like to live in an “alternative” way, being present and loving in the midst of brokenness.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
—Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

These inspired words from poet and prophet Leonard Cohen were shared at the closing liturgy of the January 2017 Living School intensive. Our group had been together at a retreat center alongside the Rio Grande for a week, learning from Father Richard and each other about our rich, mystical, contemplative heritage.

We were also given spiritual practices and plenty of quiet time and space, opening ourselves to grace-filled moments of the Holy Spirit—alive in the world, manifested through each other and the natural world that surrounded us. We noticed that when we moved beyond our dualistic minds, the birds, the plants, and even the stones came alive to tell their stories, reminding us who we are and how we too fit into God’s “family of things.”

For me, it was an awakening to the power of Being—simply being who I am, in all my humanity, in Christ. I came to see that my striving so hard to keep the world from cracking actually kept me from being present and loving as it necessarily cracks.

We are living in times when many of the institutions in which we’ve found our identities and placed our trust are revealing their unworkability and brokenness. Unless we are grounded in a Bigger Story and Truth, the falling apart of the system could also be our own undoing. The Center for Action and Contemplation is a beautiful example of what an institution can look like in this new era—midwifing us to give birth to God’s Light within, allowing us to become more fully who we are. In so doing, we are liberated to move out into this broken and blessed world of ours to do the same. [1]

Gateway to Silence:
Everything belongs.

[1] Adapted from Brian Mogren, The Mendicant, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), 5.

For Further Study:
Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, and Richard Rohr, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy (CAC: 2015), CD, MP3 download
Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014)
Richard Rohr, In the Footsteps of Francis: Awakening to Creation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), CD, MP3 download

Image credit: Umbria, Italy.
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