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

The Edge of the Inside

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Third Core Principle of the CAC: The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. For a week of Daily Meditations on this principle, see here.

The Fourth Core Principle of the CAC: Practical truth is more likely found at the bottom and the edges than at the top or center of most groups, institutions, and cultures. Father Richard explores the power of this prophetic position:

The edge of things is a liminal space—a holy place or, as the Celts called it, “a thin place.” Most of us have to be taught how to live there. To function on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When we are at the center of something, we easily confuse essentials with nonessentials, getting tied down by trivia, loyalty tests, and job security. Not much truth can happen there. When we live on the edge of anything, with respect and honor (and this is crucial!), we are in an auspicious and advantageous position.

In the Gospels, Jesus sends his first disciples on the road to preach to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47) and to “all creation” (Mark 16:15). I’m convinced he was training them to risk leaving their own security systems and yet, paradoxically, to be gatekeepers for them. He told them to leave their home base and connect with other worlds. This becomes even clearer in his instruction for them “not to take any baggage” (Mark 6:8) and to submit to the hospitality and even the hostility of others (Mark 6:10–11). Jesus says the same of himself in John’s Gospel (10:7) where he calls himself “the gate” where people “will go freely in and out” (10:9). What amazing permission! He sees himself more as a place of entrance and exit than a place of settlement.

The unique and rare position of a biblical prophet is always on the edge of the inside. The prophet is not an outsider throwing rocks or an insider comfortably defending the status quo. Instead, the prophet lives precariously with two perspectives held tightly together. In this position, one is not ensconced safely inside, nor situated so far outside as to lose compassion or understanding. Prophets must hold these perspectives in a loving and necessary creative tension. It is a unique kind of seeing and living, which will largely leave the prophet with “nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58) and easily attracting the “hatred of all”—who have invariably taken sides in opposing groups (Luke 21:16–17). The prophet speaks for God, and almost no one else, it seems.

When we are both inside and outside, we are an ultimate challenge, possible reformers, and lasting invitations to a much larger world.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, “On the Edge of the Inside: The Prophetic Position,” Radical Grace 25, no. 4, The Eight Core Principles (Fall 2012): 23–26.

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:

When I awaken in the middle of the night, I often turn to the Daily Meditations to center myself. I experienced overwhelming loss in my 50s, including the deaths of many of those close to me and the launching of my three children into the world. The Daily Meditations help steady and nourish me as I lean on God for direction and comfort. My midnight musings remind me of the love, care, and support that comes from a worldwide contemplative community reading and sharing these reflections each day in our own homes. —Patricia M.

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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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