Fr. Richard Rohr. (Photo courtesy of Whitaker House)

Topics: Spirituality | Theology

7 questions for Richard Rohr

A "disbelief system" will never give the world hope, says the Franciscan priest

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Fr. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest, the author of more than 30 books and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, which hosts Living School. He spoke with Therese DesCamp last August.

Therese DesCamp: Why does the CAC put so much emphasis on contemplative practice?

Richard Rohr: True contemplation, over time, changes consciousness. Why? Because it gets the ego out of the way and continues to force you to face your shadow.

TD: You’ve said that facing your shadow shifts your view of the world. What does this shift, this changed consciousness, look like?

RR: I’d sum it all up in this softening of the heart, and joy. People feel so liberated when they get what I believe — how arrogant of me — is the true Gospel instead of religion. When they finally discover the real deal, it’s just very joyful. When you can stop judging and stop fearing, you’ve got a nice life ahead of you. Although you carry a whole new set of burdens: the burdens of those who are suffering outside of your own self.

TD: Why isn’t this shift happening for people in churches?

RR: Christians are so used to hearing words from the pulpit that everyone has a tacit agreement: “Well, we don’t really believe that; no one changes their life to do what Jesus says.” Until you discover the mystical level, it’s not a Christianity worth maintaining.

TD: You’ve said elsewhere that many Christians don’t believe that there is even a God to be experienced and instead focus on deconstructing Christian beliefs. What do you think of that?

RR: A lot of people never get beyond the deconstruction stage. They want to hold on to a disbelief system; but that’s never going to give the world hope or vision.

More on Broadview: What I’ve learned at Richard Rohr’s Living School

TD: What does the CAC and the Living School offer that’s different?

RR: We’re not a deconstruction place; we’re a reconstruction place, and our teaching is reconstructive of Christianity.

TD: What is your longing for the CAC?

RR: That we will have retrieved the Christian contemplative tradition enough that it’s taken seriously and credibly, and isn’t considered a sideshow but in fact the heart of the matter.

TD: You’re in your 70s, and you’ve experienced declining health in recent years. Is there a future for the CAC after Richard Rohr?

RR: The CAC staff are working to give the message the credibility so that it doesn’t depend upon Richard. Things don’t outlast charismatic leaders when they’re too tied to them.

In that sense, it’s very good that God has made me weaker and I can’t do as much, so I can be around and not be around.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. It was first published in Broadview’s March 2020 issue.

Broadview is an award-winning progressive Christian magazine, featuring stories about spirituality, justice and ethical living. For more of our content, subscribe to the magazine today.

Rev. Therese DesCamp is a writer and spiritual director in New Denver, B.C.

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  • says:

    "True contemplation, over time, changes consciousness." As a Christian, only walking with Christ changes the consciousness. If we are truly Christians we have "light", we need not face any "shadows".
    " Although you carry a whole new set of burdens: the burdens of those who are suffering outside of your own self." The only burden Christ said we should bear is the cross. We are to give Him our burdens (concerns in life). If we are to follow Him we need to take up our cross. (Die to/for Christ)
    Christianity is NOT mysticism. You cannot discover yourself or God without His Word. It is the Holt Spirit who guides us in understanding who we are and who God is, this is only done in reading your Bible.

    You're selling Christianity according to "Richardism"

    Christianity according to Christ is simple, belief in Christ and who He is, is all we need. Colossians 2 tells us not to follow philosophies.