Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.
He is a community-builder, lecturer and writer. His books are popular throughout the English-speaking world and his weekly column is carried by more than seventy newspapers worldwide.
Fr. Rolheiser can be reached at his website, www.ronrolheiser.com
No generation in history, I suspect, has ever experienced as much change as we have experienced in the past 60 years. That change is not just in the areas of science, technology, medicine, travel and communications, it is especially in the area of our social infrastructure, of our communal ethos. And perhaps nowhere is this change more radical than in how we understand sex. In the past 70 years we have witnessed three major, tectonic shifts in how we understand the place of sex in our lives.
Sometimes nothing is as helpful as a good metaphor.
In his book The God Instinct, Tom Stella shares this story: A number of men who made their living as porters were hired one day to carry a huge load of supplies for a group on safari. Their loads were unusually heavy and the trek through the jungle was on a rough path. Several days into the journey they stopped, unshouldered their loads and refused to go on. No pleas, bribes or threats worked in terms of persuading them to go on. Asked why they couldn’t continue, they answered: “We can’t go on; we have to wait for our souls to catch up with us.”
Belgian spiritual writer Bieke Vandekerckhove comes by her wisdom honestly. She didn’t learn what she shares from a book or even primarily from the good example of others. She learned what she shares through the crucible of a unique suffering, being hit at the tender age of 19 with a terminal disease that promised not just an early death but also a complete breakdown and humiliation of her body enroute to that death.
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Jan. 17 (Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-12)
Not everyone is forgiving or patient in the face of human failure. There is often a tendency to write someone off or dismiss their plight as their own fault. There can even be a smug sense of satisfaction when the “victim” is a prominent figure, especially if there are aspects of that person we do not like.
Many of us arrive at Christmas tired, running, distracted and already fatigued with the lights, songs and celebrations of Christmas. Advent is meant to be a time of preparation for Christmas; but for many of us it is not exactly a time for the kind of preparation that enables Christ to be born more deeply in our lives. Instead our preparation for Christmas is mostly a time of making ready to celebrate with our families, friends and colleagues.
In one of his books on contemplative prayer, Thomas Keating shares with us a line that he occasionally uses in spiritual direction. People come to him, sharing how they used to have a warm and solid sense of God in their lives but now complain that all that warmth and confidence have disappeared and they’re left struggling with belief and struggling to pray as they used to. They feel a deep sense of loss and invariably this is their question: “What’s wrong with me?” Keating’s answer: “God is wrong with you!”
Some years ago I officiated at a wedding. As the officiating priest, I was invited to the reception and dance that followed upon the church service. Not knowing the family well and having church services the next morning, I left right after the banquet and the toasts, just as the dancing was about to start. When I was seemingly out of earshot, I heard the bride’s father say to someone: “I’m glad that Father has gone; now we can celebrate with some rock music!”
Recently I read, in succession, three books on suicide, each written by a mother who lost one of her children to suicide. All three books are powerful, mature, not given to false sentiment and worth reading: Lois Severson, author of Healing the Wound from my Daughter’s Suicide: Grief Translated into Words, lost her daughter, Patty, to suicide; Gloria Hutchinson, who authored Damage Done, Suicide of an Only Son, lost her son, David, to suicide; and Marjorie Antus, who wrote My Daughter, Her Suicide, and God: A Memoir of Hope, lost her daughter, Mary, to suicide. Patty and David were in their mid-20s, Mary was still a teen.
The Buddhists have a little axiom that explains more about ourselves than we would like. They say that you can understand most of what’s wrong in the world and inside yourself by looking at a group photo. Invariably you will look first at how you turned out before looking at whether or not this is a good photo of the group. Basically, we assess the quality of things on the basis of how we are doing.
The world takes our breath away as we honour its author, the Lord
“Because, my God, though I lack the soul-zeal and the sublime integrity of your saints, I yet have received from you an overwhelming sympathy for all that stirs within the dark mass of matter; because I know myself to be irremediably less a child of Heaven and a son of Earth.”