Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest, is the General Councillor for Canada for his order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He has offices in both Toronto and Rome. For most of the 26 years of his priesthood, he taught theology and philosophy at Newman Theological College in Edmonton, Alberta. He remains an adjunct faculty member at Seattle University. He has written many books, (won Catholic Book Award in 1996), is a regular columnist in a number of papers, and has articles published in Louvain Studies, Critic, America, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Spirituality and in various other popular magazines.
Areas of Specialty: Systematic Theology and Philosophy Areas of Concentration: Augustine, Mysticism (John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux) and Spirituality (contemporary spiritualities, contemporary questions: ecology, feminism, masculine spirituality, religion and culture) Graduate Education: University of San Francisco, USA and University of Louvain, Belgium.
This is not a good time to be a Muslim in the Western world. As the violence perpetrated by radical Islamic groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram becomes more and more prevalent, huge numbers of people are becoming paranoid about and even openly hostile towards the Islam religion, seeing all Muslims as a threat. Popular opinion more and more blames the Moslem religion itself for that violence, suggesting that there is something inherent in Islam itself that’s responsible for this kind of violence. That equation needs to be challenged, both in the name of truth and in the name of what’s best in us as Christians.
Date posted: 2015-11-25
We all have our own images of greatness as these pertain to virtue and saintliness. We picture, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi, kissing a leper; or Mother Theresa, publicly hugging a dying beggar; or John Paul II, standing before a crowd of millions and telling them how much he loves them; or Therese of Lisieux, telling a fellow community member who has been deliberately cruel to her how much she loves her; or even of the iconic, Veronica, in the crucifixion-scene, who amidst all the fear and brutality of the crucifixion rushes forward and wipes the face of Jesus.
Date posted: 2015-11-18
In one of his books on contemplative prayer, Thomas Keating shares with us a line that he occasionally uses in spiritual direction. People come to him, sharing how they used to have a warm and solid sense of God in their lives but now complain that all that warmth and confidence have disappeared and they’re left struggling with belief and struggling to pray as they used to. They feel a deep sense of loss and invariably this is their question: “What’s wrong with me?” Keating’s answer: God is wrong with you!
Date posted: 2015-11-11
At any given time most of the world believes that death isn’t final, that some form of immortality exists. Most people believe that those who have died still exist in some state, in some modality, in some place, in some heaven or hell, however that might be conceived. In some conceptions, immortality is seen as a state wherein a person is still conscious and relational; while in other concepts, existence after death is understood as real but impersonal, like a drop of water that has flowed back into the oceans.
Date posted: 2015-11-04
Recently I read, in succession, three books on suicide, each written by a mother who lost one of her children to suicide. All three books are powerful, mature, not given to false sentiment, and worth reading: Lois Severson, Healing the Wound from my Daughter’s Suicide, Grief Translated into Words, lost her daughter, Patty, to suicide; Gloria Hutchinson, Damage Done, Suicide of an Only Son, lost her son, David, to suicide; and Marjorie Antus, My Daughter, Her Suicide, and God, A Memoir of Hope, lost her daughter, Mary, to suicide. Patty and David were in their mid-twenties, Mary was still a teen.
Date posted: 2015-10-13
When I was seemingly out of earshot, I heard the bride’s father say to someone: “I’m glad that Father has gone; now we can celebrate with some rock music!”
Date posted: 2015-10-06
How do we lose our souls? What does it mean “to lose your soul” already in this world? What is a soul and how can it be lost?
Date posted: 2015-09-28
Recently, at an academic dinner, I was sitting across the table from a nuclear scientist. At one point, I asked him this question: Do you believe that there’s human life on other planets? His answer surprised me: “As a scientist, no, I don’t believe there’s human life on another planet. Scientifically, the odds are strongly against it. But, as a Christian, I believe there’s human life on other planets. Why? My logic is this: Why would God chose to have only one child?”
Date posted: 2015-09-20
There are now more than seven billion people on this earth and each one of us feels that he or she is the center of the universe. That accounts for most of the problems we have in the world, in our neighborhoods, and in our families.
Date posted: 2015-09-15
An American humorist was once asked what he loved most in life. This was his reply: I love women best; whiskey next; my neighbor a little; and God hardly at all!
Date posted: 2015-08-26
Just because something is politically-correct doesn’t mean that it might not also be correct. Sometimes we have to swallow hard to accept truth.
Date posted: 2015-08-17
On the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1923, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin found himself alone at sunrise in the Ordos desert in China, watching the sun spread its orange and red light across the horizon. He was deeply moved, humanly and religiously. What he most wanted to do in response was to celebrate mass, to somehow consecrate the whole world to God. But he had no altar, no bread, and no wine. So he resolved to make the world itself his altar and what was happening in the world the bread and the wine for his mass. Here, in paraphrase, is the prayer he prayed over the world, awakening to the sun that morning in China.
O God, since I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols and make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer to you all the labors and sufferings of the world.
Date posted: 2015-08-11
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That axiom still holds true for our understanding of suicide. Despite all the advances in our understanding, there are still a number of stigmas around suicide, one of which pertains to how we write the obituary of a loved one who dies in this way. In writing an obituary we still cannot bring ourselves to write the word, suicide: He died by his own hand. We still turn to euphemisms: He died expectantly. Her sudden death brings great sadness.
Date posted: 2015-08-04
For everyone who is emotionally healthy and honest, there will be a life-long tension between the seductive attractions of this world and the lure of God. The earth, with its beauties, its pleasures, and its physicality can take our breath away and have us believe that this world is all there is, and that this world is all that needs to be. Who needs anything further? Isn’t life here on earth enough? Besides, what proof is there for any reality and meaning beyond our lives here?
Date posted: 2015-07-28
Sometimes silence does become a velvet thing that swells and settles, gathering every space into itself.
Date posted: 2015-07-21
All of us live with some wounds, bad habits, addictions, and temperamental flaws that are so deeply engrained and long-standing that it seems like they are part of our genetic make-up. And so we tend to give into a certain quiet despair in terms of ever being healed of them.
Date posted: 2015-07-14
Today we no longer understand the value and power of ritual. This is more than an individual failing. It’s the cultural air we breathe. In the words of Robert L. Moore, we’ve gone “ritually tone-deaf”. The effects of this can be seen everywhere.
Date posted: 2015-07-06
What lies deepest inside authentic faith is the truth that God is the object of all human desire, no matter how earthy and unholy that desire might seem at times.
Date posted: 2015-06-30
Several years ago, the movie, Argo, won the Academy award as the best movie of the year. I enjoyed the movie in that it was a good drama, one that held its audience in proper suspense even as it provided some good humor and banter on the side. But I struggled with several aspects of the film. First, as a Canadian, I was somewhat offended by the way that the vital role that Canadians played in the escape of the USA hostages from Iran in 1979 was downplayed to the point of simply being written out of the story. The movie would have been more honest had it advertised itself as “based on a true story” rather than presenting itself as a true story.
Date posted: 2015-06-22
Recently I led a week-long retreat for some sixty people at a renewal center. Overall, it went very well, though ideally it could have gone better. It could have gone better if, previous to the retreat, I would have 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.
Date posted: 2015-06-16
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.”
Date posted: 2015-06-10
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.
Date posted: 2015-06-01
Here’s my list of spiritual writers who are highly influential today in the English-speaking world.
Date posted: 2015-05-19
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.
Date posted: 2015-05-11
Evolution, Charles Darwin famously stated, works through the survival of the fittest. Christianity, on the other hand, is committed to the survival of the weakest. But how do we square our Christian ideal of making a preferential option for the weak with evolution?
Date posted: 2015-05-05
I write to you as a loyal son of the Catholic Church, with a particular request: Could you make an addition to our present Eucharistic Prayers to include an explicit invocation for other Christian Churches and for those who lead them?
Date posted: 2015-04-28
Perhaps the single, most-often quoted line from Pope Francis is his response to a question he was asked vis-à-vis the morality of a gay marriage wherein the relationship exhibits faithful love. His, infamous-famous reply: Who am I to judge?
Date posted: 2015-04-20
We live inside a world and inside religions that are too-given to disrespect and violence. Virtually every newscast today 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 as sacral, justified by sacred cause.
Date posted: 2015-04-13
Something there is that needs a crucifixion. Everything that’s good eventually gets scapegoated and crucified. How? By that curious, perverse dictate somehow innate within human life that assures that there’s always someone or something that cannot leave well enough alone, but, for reasons of its own, must hunt down and lash out at what’s good. What’s good, what’s of God, will always, at some point, be misunderstood, envied, hated, pursued, falsely-accused, and eventually nailed to some cross. Every body of Christ inevitably suffers the same fate as Jesus, death through misunderstanding, ignorance, and jealousy.
Date posted: 2015-04-06
As Christians, we believe that Jesus gave us both his life and his death. Too often, however, we do not distinguish between the two, though we should: Jesus gave his life for us in one way, through his activity; he gave his death for us in another way, through his passivity, his passion.
Date posted: 2015-03-30
In our dying bodies we can give our loved ones something we cannot fully give them when we are healthy and active. Euthanasia is partially blind to the mystery of how love is given.
Date posted: 2015-03-22
As Christians, we believe that, as part of the Body of Christ, we have been given the power to forgive each other’s sins and that, because of that, indeed a mother’s love can pull her child into heaven. Our love for each other is a powerful vehicle of grace, powerful enough to actually open the gates of heaven. As Gabriel Marcel once put it: To love someone is to, in effect, say: You at least will never die! Human love, even this side of eternity, has that kind of power. That’s also why we pray for loved ones who have died. Our love has the power to reach them, even there.
Date posted: 2015-03-09
It is easy to mistake piety for the genuine response that God wants of us, that is, to enter into a relationship of intimacy with Him and then try to help others have that same experience.
Date posted: 2015-03-03
For the past six months, while undergoing treatment for cancer, I was working on a reduced schedule. The medical treatments, while somewhat debilitating , left me still enough health and energy to carry on the administrative duties in my present ministry, but they didn’t allow me any extra energy to teach classes or to offer any lectures, workshops, or retreats at outside venues, something I normally do. I joked with my family and friends that I was “under house arrest”; but I was so grateful for the energy that I still had that being unable to teach and give lectures was not deemed a sacrifice. I was focused on staying healthy, and the health that I was given was appreciated as a great grace.
Date posted: 2015-02-24
Numerous groups and individuals today are challenging us in regards to our relationship to mother-earth. From Green Peace, from various environmental groups, from various Christian and other religious groups, and from various individual voices, comes the challenge to be less-blind, less-unthinking, and less-reckless in terms of how we relate to the earth. Every day our newscasts point out how, without much in the way of serious reflection, we are polluting the planet, strip-mining its resources, creating mega-landfills, pouring carbon dangerously into the atmosphere, causing the disappearance of thousands of species, creating bad air and bad water, and thinning the ozone layer. And so the cry goes out: live more simply, use fewer resources, lessen your carbon footprint, and try to recycle whatever you’ve used as much as you can.
Date posted: 2015-02-17
A good part of our lives are taken up with daydreams, though few of us admit that and even fewer of us would own-up to the contents of those fantasies. We’re ashamed to admit how much we escape into fantasy and we’re even more ashamed to reveal the content of those fantasies. But, whether we admit it or not, we’re all pathological daydreamers; except this isn’t necessarily a pathology. Our hearts and minds, chronically frustrated by the limits of our lives, naturally seek solace in daydreaming. It’s an almost irresistible temptation. Indeed the more sensitive you are, perhaps the stronger will be the propensity to escape into daydreams. Sensitivity triggers restlessness and restlessness doesn’t easily find quiet inside ordinary life. Hence, the escape into daydreams.
Date posted: 2015-02-10
Most all of us worry about aging, especially in how it affects our bodies. We worry about wrinkles, bags under our eyes, middle-age fat, and losing hair where we want it only to find it on places where we don’t want it. So every now and then, when we look in a mirror or see a recent photograph of ourselves, we are shocked at our own faces and bodies, almost not recognizing ourselves as we see an old face and old body where we are used to seeing a young one.
Date posted: 2015-02-03
Normally none of us like feeling sad, heavy, or depressed. Generally we prefer sunshine to darkness, lightheartedness to melancholy. That’s why, most of the time, we do everything we can to distract ourselves from melancholy, to keep heaviness and sadness at bay. We tend to run from those feelings inside us that sadden or frighten us.
Date posted: 2015-01-28
Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, was fond of sharing this story: He had a very close Muslim friend, Mohammed, and the two of them used to pray together, even as they remained aware of their differences, as Muslim and Christian. Aware too that certain schools of thought, both Muslim and Christian, warn against this type of prayer, fearing that the various faiths are not praying to the same God, the two of them didn’t call their sessions together prayer. Rather they imagined themselves as “digging a well together”. One day Christian asked Mohammed: “When we get to the bottom of our well, what will we find? Muslim water or Christian water?” Mohammed, half-amused but still deadly serious, replied: “Come on now, we’ve spent all this time walking together, and you’re still asking me this question. You know well that at the bottom of that well, what we’ll find is God’s water.”
Date posted: 2015-01-19
Our private, little moral concerns can look pretty petty when weighed against the problems of the world as a whole. Do we really believe that God cares much whether or not we say our morning prayers, gossip about a colleague, nurse a grudge or two, or are less than fully honest in our sexual lives? Does God really care about these things?
Date posted: 2015-01-14
What if what separates us, what if what makes other persons, churches, and faiths seem foreign and strange is also a grace, a difference intended by God? Can we think of our differences, as we think of our unity, as a gift from God? Most religions, including Christianity, would answer affirmatively.
Date posted: 2015-01-06
The pressures of work and ministry, unfortunately, limit the time I have available to read as widely as I would like. Still, addicted as I am to books and knowing that without the insight and stimulation that I draw from them I would forever stagnate spiritually and creatively, I scrupulously carve out some time most days to read. As well, given my ministry and personality, I like to read various genres of books: novels, biography, critical essays, and, not least, books on scripture, theology, and spirituality.
Date posted: 2015-01-01