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.

The Christmas story is surely one of the greatest stories ever told. It chronicles a birth from which the world records time as before or after. Moreover, it is written in a way that has inflamed the romantic imagination for 2,000 years. This hasn’t always been for the good. Beyond spawning every kind of legend imaginable, the story of Christmas has, in the Christian imagination, too often taken on a centrality not accorded to it in the Gospels themselves. This is not surprising, given its richness.

Faith is not something you achieve. If you try to nail it down, it gets up and walks away with the nail. Faith works this way: Some days you walk on water, other days you sink like a stone. You live with a deep secret, the poet Rumi says, that sometimes you know, and then not, and then know again. Sometimes you feel the real presence, sometimes you feel the real absence. Why?

Many of us, I suspect, know about the work of the renowned anthropologist Rene Girard and the dissemination of his insights through the work of his student Gil Bailie. With gratitude to them, I pass along one of their insights, an invaluable look at how we try to handle resentment in our lives.

Faith is not something you achieve. If you try to nail it down, it gets up and walks away with the nail.

There has always been an innate and healthy tension between theology and catechesis, between what’s happening in theology departments in universities and the church pew. Theologians and bishops are often not each other’s favourite people. And that’s understandable. Why?

Many of us, I suspect, have heard snippets of an interview that Pope Francis did for a series of Jesuit publications, including America, where, among other things, he suggested that we might be wise to not always emphasize the moral issues around abortion, gay marriage and contraception in our conversations. That’s, of course, the phrase that most caught the attention of the media, but the whole interview is remarkable for its candor and includes a whole range of thoughts that help give us a sense of how Francis intends to colour his papacy. Here are a few of his thoughts, in his own words:

“Home is where we start from.” T.S. Eliot wrote that and it describes an experience that can be felt both as a freedom and a heartache. I cite my own case:

Karl Rogers once suggested that what’s most private within us is also most universal. His belief was that many of the private feelings that we would be ashamed to admit in public are, ironically, the very feelings which, if expressed, would resonate most deeply inside the experience of others.

God writes straight with crooked lines. That axiom sounds clever, but is there real truth or depth to it? Can good ever really arise out of evil? Do love, truth and justice ever work out through hatred, lies and injustice?

The famed and feisty psychologist Fritz Pearls was once asked by a well-meaning Christian if he was saved. He responded by saying, I am still trying to figure out how to be spent!