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Learning from Others

Monday, November 7, 2022

If something is true, no matter who said it, it is always from the Holy Spirit. —Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate

Father Richard reflects on how his commitment to Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit have continually helped him recognize God in other traditions:

In my own life, going deep in the Christian religion of my birth has enabled me to see the same Spirit and Love in other religions as well. It’s been quite a journey from growing up in a Catholic “ghetto” in Kansas, and hardly even knowing any Protestants. And yet, at age fourteen, I was sent to study with the Franciscans in Cincinnati, Ohio, and they gave me a very ecumenical theological education.

One of the best courses I had was on the Hebrew Scriptures, which gave me a great love for Judaism. It’s probably why I emphasize the prophets so much, because I realized the prophets really weren’t about what we call today retributive justice. They were about restorative justice. When we stay with their message, there will be these magnificent passages toward the end of their books that invariably point toward love. God eventually says through the prophets: “I’m going to love you anyway. I’m going to redeem you by my perfect love. I’m going to love you into wholeness” (see Isaiah 29:13–24 and Hosea 6:1–6).

In 1969, when I was sent as a deacon to the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, I had only a basic introduction to Indigenous religions. I observed how mothers in the pueblo would show their children how to silently wave the morning sunshine toward their faces, just as we learn to “bless” ourselves with the sign of the cross. Indigenous peoples here had contemplative prayer long before we Franciscans ever appeared.

The rediscovery of Christian contemplation opened my eyes to Buddhists and Sufis—their teachings and practitioners. Buddhism taught me the phenomenology of perception—what’s going on in our brains. Every world religion at the mature levels discovers some forms of practice to free us from our addictive mind, which we take as normal. Starting in the 1960s, our increased interaction with Eastern religions in general, and Buddhism in particular, helped us recognize and rediscover our own very ancient Christian contemplative tradition. The Sufis’ deep love of mysticism, especially as expressed by their poets Rumi and Hafiz, often captures the stirrings of my own heart.

My latest discovery was really Hinduism, which is considered the oldest world religion. In the early 1980s, I gave a retreat in Nepal; between talks I would just walk the old streets and walk into temples and try to remain invisible. I remember these lovely Indian women coming in wearing saris, so gracefully, and paying no attention to anything else except maybe the flame or the oil they were holding. With what reverence they would bow! What do we think they’re bowing to except God, the Mystery?

Like the wind, the Spirit blows where it will (see John 3:8).


Adapted from Richard Rohr, Living School faculty conversation with CAC staff members, October 23, 2017.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Yap, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Dann Zepeda, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Austin Kehmeier, Untitled (detail), 2020, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Opening the door to difference—to include, rather than exclude—we see a beautiful beyond and receive the life water of new ways to see.

Story from Our Community:

For more than 15 years, the Daily Meditations have been a part of my morning spiritual routine. My dear friend, Debby, introduced me to Fr. Richard Rohr through his book “Falling Upward.” Today, I’m reflecting on my gratitude for Debby’s presence in my life as she recently passed away peacefully after a year long struggle with a brain tumor. Through sharing and practicing contemplative wisdom with each other and others we’ve met through the CAC, both Debby and I shared an experience of profound spirituality for which I’m very grateful. —Donna B.

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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The Prophetic Path

It can be easier to turn away from suffering than face it with an open heart. That’s why our 2023 Daily Meditations theme, The Prophetic Path, empowers us to not avoid or fear the pain of the world, but turn toward it with compassion.

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