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Center for Action and Contemplation
CAC's Eight Core Principles
CAC's Eight Core Principles

Discovering the Right Questions

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The Sixth Core Principle of the CAC: Life is about discovering the right questions more than having the right answers. Father Richard expands on this counterintuitive wisdom:

This principle keeps us on the path of ongoing discernment, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10). The key concept here is the contrast between the words “discovering” and “having.” A discerning and inquiring spirit will make us discoverers in touch with our hidden unconscious and the deeper truth. A glib “I have the answers” spirit makes us into protectors of clichés. Answers are wonderful when they are true and keep us on the human and spiritual path. But answers are not wonderful when they become something we hold as an ego possession, allowing us to be arrogant, falsely self-assured, and closed down individuals.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways. . . . As high as the heavens are from the earth so are my thoughts above your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). The depth and mystery of God leaves all of us as perpetual searchers and seekers, always novices and beginners. It is the narrow and dark way of faith. “Search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you,” says Jesus (Luke 11:9). There is something inherently valuable about an attitude of spiritual curiosity and persistent “knocking.”

The ego is formed by contraction; the soul is formed by expansion. The ego pulls into itself by comparing, competing, and separating itself from others: “I am not like that,” it says. The soul, however, does exactly the opposite: “I am that.” (Tat Tvam Asi, as the Hindus say). It sees itself in God, the other, flowers and trees, animals, and even the enemy: similarity instead of separateness. It participates in the human dilemma instead of placing itself above and beyond all tensions. The long journey of transformation leads us to ask new questions about our own goodness, and where goodness really lies; to recognize our own complicity with evil, and where evil really lies. It is humiliating.

Only those led by the Spirit into ever deeper seeing, hearing, and surrendering—spiritual seekers and self-questioners—will fall into the hands of the living God. This will always be “a narrow gate and a hard road” that “only a few will walk” (Matthew 7:14).

We want to encourage those few and invite many more on a journey of seeking God. In the sixth century, St. Benedict said the only requirement for a monk’s admission is that they “truly seek God.” [1] Not security or status, not education, not roles and titles, not a portfolio of answers, but simply and humbly seeking God. Spiritual seeking will make a person be a perpetual and humble student instead of a contented careerist, a quester rather than a settler, an always impatient, yearning, and desirous lover. I will bet on such spiritual seekers any day. They are on the real and only quest.


[1] The Rule of St. Benedict, chap. 58.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Questions versus Answers,” Radical Grace 25, no. 4, The Eight Core Principles (Fall 2012): 33–36.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Claudia Retter, The Villa Stairwell (detail), used with permission. Claudia Retter, Via Galuzza (detail), photograph, used with permission. Arthur Allen, Untitled 1 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images by Claudia Retter and Arthur Allen appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Stairs and buildings provide structure for our movement and safety. The CAC’s eight core principles guide us in exploring the context and substance of our lived experiences.

Story from Our Community:

I was moved by CAC’s daily postings concerning the Quest for the Holy Grail and the emphasis of having the right questions rather than having the right answers. . . I have lingering and enduring questions for the last 5 years as to why our daughter decided to end her life after just turning 18 years old and not yet out of high school. I used to search for answers like abandonment issues due to her being adopted, she may have been high on drugs, she was bullied. . . As I hold these questions over time, I am accepting the simple truth that I just will never have the answer and it is one of the personal mysteries of my life, and hers. I pray that she had the time to explore the many facets of her questions and knows her present soul to understand the mystery of her life and the future life ahead for her. —Brian L.

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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