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
Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, tells this story of his first communion. He grew up in a Roman Catholic family in France and on the day of his first communion he said to his mother: “I don’t understand what I’m doing.” She answered simply: “It’s okay, you don’t have to understand it now, later you will understand.”
Recently I led a week-long retreat for some 60 people at a renewal centre. Overall, it went very well, though ideally it could have gone better. It could have gone better if, previous to the retreat, I had more time to prepare and more time to rest so that I would have arrived at the retreat well rested, fully energetic and able to give this group my total undivided attention for seven days.
Everyone longs to know something that’s secret, to know something that others don’t know, but that you know, and the knowledge of which gives you some insight and advantage over others who are outside the inner circle of that secret. It has always been so. Historically this is called “Gnosticism,” which forever makes an appearance in one form or another.
The renowned spiritual writer Henri Nouwen made no secret about the fact that he was emotionally over-sensitive and that he suffered, sometimes to the point of clinical depression, from emotional obsessions. At times, he, a vowed celibate, was so overpowered by the feeling of being in love with someone who was hopelessly unavailable that he became psychologically paralyzed and needed professional help.
What’s the use of an old-fashioned, hand-held lantern? Well, its light can be quite useful when it’s pitch-dark, but it becomes superfluous and unnoticeable in the noonday sun. Still, this doesn’t mean its light is bad, only that it’s weak.
An open letter to Roman Catholic bishops
I write to you as a loyal son of the Catholic Church, with a particular request: Could you make an addition to our eucharistic prayers to include an explicit invocation for other Christian churches and for those who lead them?
Sometimes you can see a whole lot of things just by looking. That’s one of Yogi Berra’s infamous aphorisms. It’s a clever expression of course, but, sadly, perhaps mostly, the opposite is truer. Mostly we do a whole lot of looking without really seeing much. Our eyes can be wide open and we can be seeing very little.
We live inside a world and inside religions that are too given to disrespect and violence. Virtually every newscast documents the prevalence of disrespect and violence done in the name of religion, disrespect done for the sake of God (strange as that expression may seem). Invariably those acting in this way see their actions, justified by sacred cause.
Raissa Maritain the philosopher and spiritual writer died some months after suffering a stroke. During those months she lay in a hospital bed, unable to speak. After her death, her husband, the renowned philosopher Jacques Maritain, in preparing her journals for publication, wrote these words:
Eternity has more kinds of rooms than this world does.
This is a thought inside the head of Marilynne Robinson’s fictional character, Lila, in Robinson’s recent novel. Lila has reason to think that way, that is, to think outside the box of conventional religious piety because her story is not one that fits piety of any kind.