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Center for Action and Contemplation
Keeping Faith with Our Ancestors
Keeping Faith with Our Ancestors

The Continuum of Life

Sunday, October 30, 2022

This week’s meditations celebrate the gift of our ancestors in family and in faith. CAC faculty member Dr. Barbara Holmes writes of the broad and deep life to which her ancestors helped awaken her:

A world without ancestors is lonely. I am so grateful for the elders in my family who introduced me to the continuums in life. It matters how we understand our sojourn in this reality. If we consider our lives to be comprised of segments separated by a dash that encompasses birth and death dates, we will be inconsolable when trauma truncates our realities and delays our destinations. But, if we consider ourselves to be part of a continuum of life that does not end with death, but transitions to a life after life, our perspectives can change.

The community of the ancestors, already inhabiting the life beyond life, kept in constant contact with us. They sent messages and intervened when necessary. They prayed with me and whispered warnings. . . . Whether we call them ancestors or elders, only those women and men who led good lives in the physical realm are considered to be wise guides in the spiritual realm. In some African cultures, they are called elders, “the old ones.” Any elder represents the entire legal and mystical authority of the lineage. For me, ancestors, living and dead elders, commanded my respect and were always present, abiding and guiding me. [1]

At the passing of his mother, Father Richard Rohr experienced a connection or “bridge” to the life after death:

I believe that one of the essential events that we must walk through is the experience of the passion and death with someone we love, with someone we are bonded to, with someone we really care about. When my mother passed over, I had no doubt that she built a bridge—I don’t know what other words to use—she built a bridge and she took some of me over with her, and she sent some of herself back. I understand now at a deeper level what Jesus meant by “unless I go, the Spirit cannot come” (John 16:7). I think the normal pattern in history is for each generation to pass over, and to build the bridges of love and trust for the next generation coming afterwards. The all-important thing, for all of us, is that we be bonded somewhere. If you have never loved, there is no bridge. . . .

When you walk through someone’s passion with them, through someone’s learning to let go, and pass over with them in a moment of death, I’m convinced it’s then and only then that you really are prepared to understand the resurrection. . . . All Jesus came to teach us, and only needed to teach us, was how to walk through the great mystery, and not be put to shame and to trust that God is on the other side of it. [2]


[1] Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2021), 90, 91.

[2] [2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Gravity and Grace: Insights into Christian Ministry,” Collected Talks, vol. 3, On Church (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2000), Audible audio ed.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Bezanger, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (detail), Egypt, photograph, Unsplash. Jon Tyson, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Unsplash. Rasam, Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis) (detail), 2020, Iran, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Human ancestors leave legacies in physical and cultural bones, while stones carry meaning and memory. How will you listen to the wisdom of your ancestors?

Story from Our Community:

The Daily Meditations bring me great deal of clarity and direction. I was inspired to think of my own ancestors when I read Felicia Murrell’s reflection: “We cry the tears our ancestors could not. We feel the fatigue they were not allowed to feel. We give in to the vulnerability that would have cost their lives.” In the past, I have blocked an emotional response to my mother’s life, but those words allowed me to feel for her with different understanding. Thank You. —Alpha H.

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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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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