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The Quest for the Grail
The Quest for the Grail

The Fisher King

Monday, September 5, 2022

The most common version of the Grail myth takes place in a medieval kingdom. The King is tragically wounded, and the kingdom is in disrepair. Father Richard describes the situation:

Most versions of the Grail legend begin with a wasteland kingdom, ruled over by one called the Fisher King. Crops are dying, monasteries are empty, and the people have no hope. All the king can do, because his wound refuses to heal, is fish all day—that is why he is called the Fisher King. This name has Christ connotations, since Jesus too was the “fisher of people.”

Fishing is the appropriate symbol of dipping down into one’s own unconscious. The sea is the natural image of the vast unconscious. I think this is the reason we can sit by the ocean for hours and watch it with fascination—waiting for the gift from the sea, waiting for something to show itself.

For author and depth psychologist Carol Pearson, the Fisher King is an archetype connected to inner places of suffering and longing:

Many times in our lives, we find ourselves in the position of the Fisher King. Something is not right. We feel wounded, disconnected from ourselves, and our kingdoms reflect our inner state. Often, we do not initially notice our own wounding; we just find ourselves unhappy with our lives. Answers that previously worked for us no longer serve. . . .

The part of us that is fragmented, split, and wounded—that knows of the splendor of the Soul, but cannot connect that splendor with our everyday lives—is the Fisher King. The young knight [Parsifal in the Germanic version] is the seeker in each of us, yearning for the Grail [DM team: the soul, our True Selves]. The Grail offers the capacity for renewal, forgiveness, and transformation. It also is within us. [1]

Father Richard speaks of what is required when we find ourselves in such suffering: 

The aim here is to do soul work. Such soul work, if taken seriously, is no picnic. The pain of the hero or heroine is heart-rending. And, to make coping harder, it is mysterious, often even to heroes and heroines themselves.

The journey to happiness involves finding the courage to go down into ourselves and to take responsibility for what’s there. All of it. This means looking at the self without flinching, owning up to whatever wreckage we find, while also acknowledging that there are some promises and some energy there.

The aim is to experience the fact that everything belongs—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Often this is hard—especially coming to terms with the ugly—and may take living a while. When I was almost fifty, I began to realize that more clearly. I could see myself better. At twenty-five, I had no strong sense that everything belonged, but it did, and it does. [RR: Now, at seventy-nine, I guess I am ready to believe and even trust that “everything belongs.” It has become my motto and my mantra.]


[1] Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1991), 50.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Quest for the Grail (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1994), 57, 19–20.

Explore Further:

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 1, 2 & 3 (details), 2022, photographs, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images by Katrina Lillian Sorrentino appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Entelechy: the seeded, coded essence that contains both patterns and possibilities for your life. Ever since I left my Christian marriage, I wanted to do the Camino, a pilgrimage that people from all over the world make to St. James’ tomb in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. In May, I walked it as a ritual in order to shed a previous version of Self and embody a truer one. I walked a total of 333 miles in order to capture entelechy through the photograph. This series is a relic of a ritual that carried me further into being. —Katrina Lillian Sorrentino

Story from Our Community:

I grew up in an authoritative, spiritually abusive household. I spent my childhood terrified of God. I had low self-esteem and was completely disconnected from my emotions and ability to think critically. By reading the daily meditations and listening to podcasts, the CAC has brought Christianity back into my life. I saw the humanity of Jesus for the first time and the deep understanding that I’m not separate or alone. I can truly rest in knowing that God’s Love is vast and unending. Thank you for reclaiming the Christian tradition for Love! —Kecia 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.

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