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Center for Action and Contemplation

Like Knows Like

Monday, December 23, 2019


Like Knows Like
Monday, December 23, 2019

The official Franciscan motto is Deus Meus et Omnia—“My God and all things.” Once you recognize the Christ as the universal truth of matter and spirit working together as one, then everything is holy and nothing is excluded. Once you surrender to this Christ mystery, this divine incarnation in your oh-so-ordinary self and body, you begin to see it every other ordinary place, too. The principle is this: “Like knows like.” As St. Bonaventure (1217–1274), the philosophical interpreter of St. Francis, wrote: Christ is “the one whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” [1]

Regrettably, the history of almost every religion begins with one massive misperception: a fatal distinction between the sacred and the profane. Low-level religions put all their emphasis on creating exclusive sacred places, sacred times, and sacred actions. While I fully appreciate how this distinction helps us “pay attention” to the sacred, it unfortunately leaves the majority of life “un-sacred,” which is categorically untrue.

You don’t have to go to sacred places to pray or wait for holy days for good things to happen. You can pray always, and everything that happens is potentially sacred if you allow it to be. Once we can accept that God is in all situations, and that God can and will use even bad situations for good, then everything becomes an occasion for good and an occasion for God. “This is the day God has made memorable, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24). Your task is to find the good, the true, and the beautiful in everything, even and most especially the problematic. Trust me on this: The bad is never strong enough to counteract the good.

You can most easily learn this through some form of contemplative practice. In contemplation you learn to trust your Vital Center over all the passing snags and jerks of emotions and obsessive thinking. [2] Once you are anchored in such a strong and loving soul, which is also the Indwelling Spirit, you are no longer pulled to and fro with every passing feeling. You have achieved a peace that nothing else can give you and that no one can take from you (John 14:27).

Divine incarnation took the form of an Indwelling Presence in every human soul and surely all creatures in some way. Angels, animals, trees, water, and, yes, bread and wine seem to fully accept and enjoy their wondrous fate. Ironically, it is only our human freedom that gives us the ability to resist and deny our core identities by refusing to participate in the flow of life through games of negativity, exclusion, or unlove. We even do this to ourselves. If we read the Gospel texts carefully, we will see that the only people Jesus seems to “exclude” are the excluders themselves. Exclusion might be described as the core sin. Don’t waste any time rejecting, eliminating, or punishing anyone or anything else. We are all living en Christo, so everything belongs, including you. The only difference is the degree to which we surrender to this gift of gratuitous inclusion. The objective gift is called image (imago) and the subjective allowing is called likeness (similitudo). Together allowed and received, God’s image and likeness are our human holiness.

[1] Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God, 5.8, quoting Alan of Lille, Regulae Theologicae, reg. 7. See translation by Ewert Cousins (Paulist Press: 1978), 100.

[2] For more on how to move beyond emotional and mental addictions, see Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself (New Harbinger Publications: 2007).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2012), CD, MP3 download;

Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 10; and

“Franciscan Mysticism,” an unpublished talk (April 12, 2012).

Image credit: Flight into Egypt (detail), Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1923, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Once we can accept that God is in all situations, and that God can and will use even bad situations for good, then everything becomes an occasion for good and an occasion for God. —Richard Rohr
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