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Center for Action and Contemplation
Holy Listening
Holy Listening

Holy Listening: Weekly Summary

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Jesus says people who live the vulnerable life of connection and relationship will bear much fruit. These are the people we trust, like, and admire. And yet so many of us are afraid to be the very thing that we admire the most. —Richard Rohr

Compassion and dialogue are essentially vulnerable positions. If we are into control and predictability, we will seldom descend into the vulnerability of undefended listening or the scariness of dialogue. —Richard Rohr

Listening does not grant the other side legitimacy. It grants them humanity—and preserves our own. —Valarie Kaur

Perhaps one of the most precious and powerful gifts we can give another person is to really listen to them, to listen with quiet, fascinated attention, with our whole being, fully present. —Kay Lindahl

To listen closely, with every fibre of our being, at every moment of the day, is one of the most difficult things in the world, and yet it is essential if we mean to find the God whom we are seeking. —Esther de Waal

If something comes toward us with grace and can pass through us and toward others with grace, we can trust it as the voice of God. —Richard Rohr

Council Circle

Through his decades of work with Men’s Rites of Passage, Father Richard became committed to a practice of communal speaking and listening which generates a shared wisdom:

In our hurried, busy days, it seems there are precious few interactions of deep sharing and listening, few intimate conversations. If you have the opportunity, I invite you to bring the practice of Council into your group interactions, perhaps in your family, faith group, classroom, or workplace. This way of facilitating meaningful dialogue originated in several Native American traditions. We have applied variations of this at the CAC in men’s work, internships, and the Living School.

The process of Council is simple. Someone is selected to prepare the conversational space and protect its boundaries. Group members sit in a circle so all can see each other clearly. A “talking piece,” some symbolic object, may be used to indicate the speaker. Only the individual holding the talking piece speaks. All others listen. The object might be passed around the circle or placed in the center after speaking, for whomever is moved to take it next. Plenty of silence creates spaciousness for meaning—both spoken and unspoken—to be offered and received.

Begin by inviting each participant to set four intentions:

  1. Speak from the heart (truthfully, including your feelings).
  2. Listen from the heart (without judgment, with an open mind).
  3. Speak spontaneously (without preplanning your response).
  4. Speak leanly (use only the necessary words; for many, this is the hardest discipline of all).

The facilitator might close the Council with a prayer or a few more moments of silence.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 255.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Claudia Retter, Caroline’s Porch (detail), photograph, used with permission. Claudia Retter, Lynn’s Tomatoes (detail), photograph, used with permission. Claudia Retter, Micah’s Room (detail), photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click to view the image.

This week’s images by Claudia Retter appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. This year we invited a few photographers, including Claudia, 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? and How can we show our inherent connectedness (of humans, nature, other creatures, etc.) through imagery?

Image Inspiration: Our eyes are so often drawn to grand majesties – a vivid sunset or an expansive landscape – but the smallest of things has value, a story of its own, a place in the world. —Claudia Retter

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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Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

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