Fr. Ron Rolheiser

Fr. Ron Rolheiser

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.

There are three kinds of performers. The first, while singing a song or doing a dance, are making love to themselves. The second, while performing, are making love to the audience. The third, while on stage, are making love to the song, to the dance, to the drama itself.

The Church has always struggled with sex, but so has everyone else. There aren’t any cultures, religious or secular, pre-modern or modern, post-modern or post-religious, that exhibit a truly healthy sexual ethos. Every church and every culture struggles with integrating sexual energy, if not in its creed about sex, at least in the living out of that creed.

No one, be that an individual or an institution, controls access to God. Jesus makes this abundantly clear.

Sometimes while presiding at the Eucharist or preaching, I scan the faces in the front pews. What do they reveal? A few are eager, attentive, focused on what’s happening, but a goodly number of faces, particularly among the young, speak of boredom, of dram duty and of a resignation that says: I have to be in the church just now, though I wish I was elsewhere.

External appearances can easily fool us, and often do. That’s true in every area of human life, and religion is no exception.

For more than a thousand years, Christians have not had the joy of being one family around Christ. Although there were already tensions within the earliest Christian communities, it was not until the year 1054 that there was a formal split so as to, in effect, establish two formal Christian communities, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in the West. Then, with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, there was a further split within the Western Church and Christianity fragmented still further. Today there are more than a hundred Christian denominations, many of them, sadly, not on friendly terms with each other.

Given the speed and change in our world today, the oceans of information being given us by the new technologies, the speed with which knowledge now passes through our lives, the increasing specialization and fragmentation inside higher education and the ever-increasing complexity of our lives, you occasionally hear someone say, usually just after offering an opinion on something: But what do I know anyway? Good question: What do we know anyway?

In his deeply insightful book Violence Unveiled, Gil Bailie takes us through a remarkable section of the diaries of Captain James Cook, the famed British scientist and explorer. Visiting Tahiti in 1777, Cook was taken one day by a local tribal chief to witness a ritual where a man was sacrificed as an offering to the god, Eatooa. The man was being sacrificed in hope that this particular god would give the tribe some assistance in an upcoming war. Cook, though friendly to the local peoples, could not conceal his detestation for what he considered both a barbaric and superstitious act. In a conversation with the chief afterwards, Cook told him that in England they would hang a man for doing that.

De gustibus non est disputandum. That’s a famous line from St. Augustine wherein he suggests that taste is subjective and that what one person fancies might not be to another person’s liking. Under that canopy I would like to recommend the following books to you. Among the books that I read in 2013, these 10 stayed with me in ways that the others didn’t.

Anyone familiar with the life and writings of Simone Weil will, I am sure, agree that she was a woman of exceptional faith. She was also a woman with an unwavering commitment to the poor. But, and this may seem anomalous, she was also exceptional and unwavering in a certain resistance she had towards the institutional Church. During her lifetime she longed for daily Eucharist, even as she resisted baptism and membership in the Church. Why?