The more we see [and know our failures], the more by grace we shall long to be filled full of endless joy, for we are created for that. —Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, chapter 45
Father Richard believes that marriage and friendship are fruitful training grounds for intimacy with both God and people. He writes:
We all need experiences of being loved unconditionally. Without direct experience of unconditional love, as shared in a good marriage or close friendship, it’s hard to believe in God’s unconditional love. Our friend or partner constantly holds a mirror up to us, and shows us our good side and our bad side, and reminds us that we still haven’t really learned to love. We come face-to-face with an infinite mystery that assures us that we can’t live up to it. That’s why Jesus gave a symbolically infinite number, “seventy times seven,” to describe countless times even good people will need to forgive each other.
Thankfully, the gospel gives us a blessed assurance that we operate inside of an abundant, limitless, infinite Love. Even though we will constantly fail, failure is not the final word. We also have hope that everything can be mended, healed, and restored. A welded connection can be the strongest part of a metal bar. It’s the breaking and the welding and the mending that create the real beauty of relationship. This is the dance of intimacy: we ask one another for forgiveness as we confess that once again we didn’t do it right. We needn’t be surprised or punish ourselves for it—though we all do. Darn it, I didn’t love right again! How can I miss the point so many times?
I don’t think getting it right teaches us vulnerability. It’s when we’re wrong that we are taught to be vulnerable. We finally realize we are falling ever-deeper into something that we can never live up to—a sustained vulnerability, a continual risk. It’s not a vulnerability and intimacy that we choose just now and then. Eventually, it becomes second nature to apologize, to admit we are wrong, to ask for forgiveness but not hate ourselves for it.
Divine intimacy and human intimacy share the same dynamics. I believe one is a school for the other. Most people start with human intimacy and move toward divine intimacy. But I do believe there are a few souls who start with God’s divine ambush, who first learn how to be vulnerable before God and then transfer this to their human relationships. Two who have taught me that best are Thérèse of Lisieux and Julian of Norwich. Both are among my favorite mystics, and both are women. Women, and those in touch with their feminine side, seem to have a readiness for intimacy, mutuality, and vulnerability that offers a central message for all believers.
Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, selected by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 149–150.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Cynthia Bourgeault on conscious, enduring love.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 1 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Jack Delano, View of crowd dancing to the music of “Red” Sounders and his band, at the Club DeLisa, Chicago, Illinois (detail), 1942, photograph, New York Public Library, public domain. Nathan Dumlao, Untitled, 2020 (detail), photograph, Unsplash, free use. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with historical images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: In the center photo we see two bushes, separate but entwined, touching and sharing space. Human intimacy requires us to come as ourselves, undefended, co-creating a space for connection. Friends, lovers, communities who share raw hopes for change: we welcome each other into the intimacy of authentic presence.
Story from Our Community:
My experience with Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation has been profound and life altering. I have transitioned from a cradle Catholic with few working ideas of spirituality of my own, to a free-thinking individual who has given herself permission to think outside the box. I can believe and doubt at the same time. I am finally able to accept that I don’t have all the answers and I have the faith at least of a mustard seed.
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.