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Richard Rohr: A conversation

I met Richard Rohr at a retreat center in Atlanta for an extended conversation in 2006. I’d read a few of his books and found his insights profound. Meeting him was a treat. I found him to be as human and earthy as he was wise. The first book of his I’d read, Adam’s Return, helped me unders…
By Seth Barnes

I met Richard Rohr at a retreat center in Atlanta for an extended conversation in 2006. I’d read a few of his books and found his insights profound. Meeting him was a treat. I found him to be as human and earthy as he was wise.

The first book of his I’d read, Adam’s Return, helped me understand the importance of initiating men. We began our conversation talking about modern initiation rites. I told him about the World Race and asked him for advice about how to design it to initiate young people. He encouraged me that we’re on a good track.

The conversation moved to the subject of spiritual growth. Another of Rohr’s books, Everything Belongs, has been a huge influence in my thinking about how we grow.

Among other things, it helped me understand why debriefing is such an important part of discipleship. I don’t think he even uses the term “debriefing,” but he makes the point that “true seeing is the heart of spirituality today.” He said this: “Most of us have to be taught to see. Our mass cultural trance is like scales on our eyes. We see only with the material eye.”

We talked about the importance of making space in our lives. We need to give God undistracted space in our schedule so that He can speak to us.

Rohr makes the following points about this process:

  • We need failure and quiet time to recognize patterns.
  • Too often we do not allow the events and experiences of life to teach us the habit of grace.
  • We do not think ourselves into new ways of living; we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.
  • In silence all our usual patterns assault us. Our patterns of control, addiction, negativity. That’s why most people give up rather quickly. That’s why Jesus says go into the closet. That’s where we stop living out of other people’s response to us.
  • God is always bigger than the boxes we build for God, so we should not waste too much time protecting the boxes.

At the end of the conversation, I asked Rohr to pray for me. He held both my hands in his and gave me a wonderful blessing. Since he is ordained as a Franciscan, I suppose some of that great saint’s anointing filtered into my spirit. I don’t really know how that works, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

After praying, he walked me over to the book store and showed me a bunch of stuff he’d written and CDs of talks he’s given. I bought so much of it, I’m still going thru it all. I’ve learned that about the only thing I bring to the table in this quest for spiritual growth is my hunger for more of God, wherever he may be found. Among other things, we need to search the Scriptures as an aid to growth and we need to interact with men like Rohr whom God has blessed with spiritual insight.

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