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Center for Action and Contemplation

DM 2024 Theme Radical Resilience

February 14th, 2024
DM 2024 Theme Radical Resilience

When I asked CAC Dean of Faculty Brian McLaren to reflect upon this year’s Daily Meditation theme of Radical Resilience, he spoke of gumbo-limbo trees. During Florida hurricanes, Brian explained, the gumbo-limbo tree survives with a sturdy trunk, even when its branches break off. “It travels light through the storm. It lets go of everything that’s not essential to focus on for life,” he said. Contemplation is God’s great gift for us to focus on what matters, divest ourselves from what does not, and navigate the winds of constant change.  

I tend to only recognize when I’ve been resilient after the fact. When I was in ninth grade, my family moved to France, outside of Geneva, Switzerland. Dad took a job as pastor of an English-speaking expatriate church for international diplomat types, and I attended a French public school nearby. At the time, I resisted the change, struggled to learn a new language, and missed my Michigan high school friends. I became isolated and severely depressed. I did not show resilience at the time, but over time, I did. Many years later, I’m grateful for the exposure to diverse cultures, places, and perspectives that I never would have otherwise had—from discovering fondue to meeting inspiring global leaders. My cross-cultural experiences, I’m convinced, prepared me for the resilient work of true spirituality: trusting that a larger Love is holding me through ongoing change, even when I resist it.  

Much has been changing at the CAC in the last several years, and a larger Love surely has been holding us. Father Richard has modeled faithful resilience by formally handing the teaching and programmatic baton to the CAC faculty and organization. “Without a certain ability to let go, to trust, to allow, we won’t get to any new place,” he says. As a part of Richard’s stepping back, CAC Dean of Faculty Brian McLaren has stepped forward. Brian’s books, ministry, and presence—embodying what Richard describes as “broad and deep wisdom”—mirror the spirit of Richard’s foundational commitment to contemplation and action.  

To begin developing a Daily Meditations theme for the new year, the Daily Meditations editorial team met with Brian and dialogued about how the “DMs” can be most helpful to people in a world “on fire” with manifold crises. We selected the 2024 theme of Radical Resilience to reflect the need to form a durable, contemplative consciousness in such times.  

Our world and our lives swim in constant change, both devastating and hopeful. As climate temperatures rise, wars wage, racism still simmers, and we prepare in the U.S. for election year volatility, it’s not too much to say that we live in a world on fire. But those on a contemplative path know that the inner fire of Divine Presence is what charts our true course. Contemplation creates the spaciousness within so that we courageously respond, but not react, to the fires around us. It’s easier said than done, of course, and that’s where Radical Resilience comes in. How do we tend our inner flame so that we can stand in solidarity with the world without being scorched or flickering out?  

Radical Resilience does not leave us unchanged, nor is it necessarily a respite from pain. It took me over ten years to begin to be grateful for my overseas adolescent move—and even more to heal from the depression. And for those most affected by the rising temperatures of our time, from island nations surrounded by rising seas to children in conflict zones—the resilience it takes to survive leaves us marked. In my interview with author and poet Cole Arthur Riley for the Daily Meditations, she reflected that “I’ve had to confront a kind of resilience … that doesn’t really ask us to forget, but that carries the memory of whatever harm, or whatever fire we have been through.” The resurrected Jesus, after all, carried his nail-marks with him.  

Perhaps this year we can learn from the gumbo-limbo tree. Day in and day out, our contemplative practices help us surrender to God the beliefs and behaviors that we do not need. They remind us that we are held by a larger Love. Our determined willpower and endurance do not forge this type of Radical Resilience; instead, Love softens and stretches us into it. We tend the fires without by nurturing the fire within. The steady flame of Divine Presence burns as we care for the wounds that we have long denied and embody compassion with those who most need it. Radical Resilience becomes the posture of faith. 

Mark Longhurst edited Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations for four years and is now the CAC’s new Print and Digital Publications Manager. A graduate of the inaugural 2015 Living School cohort and the author of the forthcoming book The Holy Ordinary: A Way to God (Monkfish Publishing, October 2024), he writes regularly at

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