The Living School
Connect with a living tradition of action and contemplation through the teachings of Richard Rohr and our core faculty.
Founded in 2013, the Living School is the Center for Action and Contemplation’s (CAC) spiritual formation program. Grounded in the transformative wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative traditions, its purpose is to equip students to work together for a more just and connected world.
The Living School supports the spiritual growth of its students by teaching Christian contemplative wisdom and practices that support transformation and inspire loving action. We contribute to a more just and connected world in three primary ways.
First, we help students ground themselves in a fresh and historically rooted vision of the Christian faith—an alternative orthodoxy. We are guided by Scriptures (especially the life and teachings of Jesus), Franciscan and other mystical traditions, and emerging postcolonial spiritualities arising from contemporary experience, especially those whose voices have been suppressed.
Second, we lead students into contemplative practices that promote seeing things holistically in non-dual, integrative, and unitive ways. We encourage deep listening and awareness of culturally informed contemplative practices from a variety of traditions, and present contemplative seeing and knowing as a lifelong growth process that we practice both in solitude and in community. Third, we equip students for creative and loving action so they can plant seeds of prophetic imagination (through the arts, media, and education), engage contemplatively with unjust systems through non-violent spiritual activism, and build vibrant communities of prayer and practice.
“We mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, not by demanding it of others or trying to force it on others.”
Who Is the Living School For?
We seek to attract and equip a diverse body of students who will embody the wisdom of the Christian contemplative traditions in action through the arts, politics, business, education, the family, and every other sphere of human life in order to bring benefit to the poor and vulnerable, to promote peace across differences of race, wealth, religion, politics, and privilege, and to protect and regenerate our precious earth and human communities.
The ideal student for the Living School is one who seeks to
- Actively embody the Spirit of Christ in the world at a critical moment in history.
- Integrate contemplative spirituality into their daily lives of experience and action in their families, friendships, daily living, profession, economics, social and political action, and solitude.
- Develop a rhythm of regular practice, study, solidarity, and community to help them personally experience the presence of God within, among, and around them.
- Become rooted in an alternative orthodoxy that liberates them for abundant living and compassionate action.
Because of our roots in the contemplative Christian lineage, we engage joyfully with our contemplative counterparts in other traditions and welcome students and seekers of all faiths who feel drawn to our learning community.
In 2021 we paused Living School applications to create dedicated space to work on the future of the program. Our plan is to offer a one-year essentials course, a two-year practicum-style course, and an ongoing series of advanced seminars.
Essentials of Engaged Contemplation is a one-year course of study which will introduce students to the essentials of engaged contemplation rooted in a living, evolving Christian tradition. This foundational material will be presented in a manner that is simple, accessible, and equitable, consisting of group and live instruction in an online format from CAC faculty and staff. We will be evaluating this material with a select group of students beginning in the fall of 2023, and plan to open the course for registration in the summer of 2024.
Applied Contemplation will be a two-year, practicum-style course that will focus on developing the skills, knowledge, and practical experience of engaged contemplation in-action. It will feature a mix of didactic teaching, experiential practice, and reflective learning modelled on the existing program, but will feature a smaller cohort size to make it easier for students to connect and engage more deeply in learning with each other, CAC faculty and staff. The essentials course will be a pre-requisite.
Advanced Seminars will be designed for small groups of students who have completed both the 1- and 2-year courses to engage in a deep dive on an advanced topic with a CAC faculty member or guest teacher. We anticipate seminars will be three to six weeks long and will involve an application process.
Our Core Faculty
“In the next few years, we have the opportunity to expand and diversify our faculty and to honor Richard’s legacy in profound ways. Most of all, we want to emulate Richard’s example, caring about what he has cared about for all these years: integrating contemplation and action, rooted in Christ, for the good of our beloved, fragile, fractured world.” —Brian McLaren, Dean of the Living School
Our incredible Core Faculty is comprised of individuals who have devoted their lives to the contemplative path with faithfulness. Each carry a valuable reflection and articulation of Fr. Richard’s core message — in their words as well as their lives — and are uniquely equipped to serve as elders, teachers, and spiritual leaders.
In addition to their vital work in the Living School, our Core Faculty help to ensure that all our programs, teachings, and ongoing faculty development continue to serve the vision and message of our founder, Richard Rohr, his values and theological lineage, and his commitment to fostering a Christian contemplative path and practice that serves the healing and transformation of our world. In the coming years we will be significantly expanding and diversify the teachers we partner with to build on Fr. Richard’s founding vision of the CAC and Living School as a “school for prophets,” helping to bring his message forward for both our current community and future generations.
Richard Rohr, CAC Founder and CAC Faculty Emeritus [H3]
An internationally recognized author and spiritual leader, Fr. Richard teaches primarily on incarnational mysticism, nondual consciousness, and contemplation, with a particular emphasis on how these affect the social justice issues of our time. In 2023 Father Richard Rohr officially retired from his position as Dean of the Living School, assuming the role of Faculty Emeritus.
Learn more about Richard Rohr.
Brian McLaren, Dean of the Core Faculty and CAC Faculty Member [H3]
Brian is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is a passionate advocate for “a new kind of Christianity” that is just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good.
Learn more about Brian McLaren.
Dr. Barbara Holmes, CAC Faculty Member [H3]
Barbara is a spiritual teacher, activist, and scholar focused on African American spirituality, mysticism, cosmology and culture. She is President Emerita of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (2012–2016), and also served as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Memphis Theological Seminary (2005–2010).
Learn more about Dr. Barbara Holmes.
Dr. James Finley, CAC Faculty Member [H3]
Jim is a contemplative practitioner and clinical psychologist. Drawing from his experience as a former monk and spiritual directee of Thomas Merton, Jim offers trustworthy guidance for the spiritual journey through this website, online courses, and occasional retreats.
Learn more about Dr. James Finley.
Cynthia Bourgeault, CAC Faculty Emeritus [H3]
Cynthia is a modern-day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader. She divides her time between solitude at her seaside hermitage in Maine and a demanding schedule traveling globally to teach and spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom paths.
Learn more about Cynthia Bourgeault.
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