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.
It’s ironic that we tend to wrestle with boredom and dullness when we are in the full bloom of our lives, healthy and working; whereas people like her, who have lost their health and are staring death in the face, often find the most ordinary experiences in life exhilarating.
Date posted: 2016-10-24
Thirty-four years ago when I launched this column, I would never have said this: Restlessness is not something to be cultivated, no matter how romantic that might seem. Don’t get Jesus confused with Hamlet, peace with disquiet, depth with dissatisfaction, or genuine happiness with the existential anxiety of the artist. Restlessness inside us doesn’t need to be encouraged; it wreaks enough havoc all on its own.
Date posted: 2016-10-17
Contemplative prayer, as it is classically defined and popularly practiced, is subject today to considerable skepticism in a number of circles. For example, the method of prayer, commonly called Centering Prayer, popularized by persons like Thomas Keating, Basil Bennington, John Main, and Laurence Freeman is viewed with suspicion by many people who identify it with anything from “New Age”, to Buddhism, to “Self-Seeking”, to atheism.
Date posted: 2016-10-12
Living in sin. Acts that are inherently disordered. What’s Catholic moral theology trying to say with this kind of concept when so many people today, including many Roman Catholics, find such concepts unintelligible and offensive?
Date posted: 2016-09-27
All energy comes from God and all energy is good, but it can be wickedly misused. Moreover, it’s ironic that the ones who seem to drink most deeply from the wellsprings of divine energy are, invariably, the best and the worst, the wise and the wicked, saints and sinners. These mainline the fire. The rest of us, living in the gap between saints and sinners, tend to struggle more to actually catch fire, to truly drink deeply from the wellsprings of divine energy.
Date posted: 2016-09-05
In the Roman Catholic culture within which I grew up, we were taught to pray for a happy death. For many Catholics at the time, this was a standard petition within their daily prayer: “I pray for a happy death.”
Date posted: 2016-08-15
Hell is never a nasty surprise waiting for a basically happy person. Hell can only be the full-flowering of a pride and selfishness that have, through a long time, twisted a heart so thoroughly that it considers happiness as unhappiness and has an arrogant disdain for happy people. If you are essentially warm of heart this side of eternity, you need not fear that a nasty surprise awaits you on the other side because somewhere along the line, unknowingly, you missed the boat and your life went terribly wrong.
Date posted: 2016-08-03
As young boy, I longed to be a professional athlete but I had to soon accept the unwelcome fact that I simply wasn’t gifted with an athlete’s body. Speed, strength, coordination, instinct, vision, I got by in ordinary life with what I had been given of these, but I wasn’t physically robust enough to be an athlete.
Date posted: 2016-07-25
There’s a haunting text in the Book of Revelations where poetic image, for all its beauty, can be dangerously misleading. The author there writes: “So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth’s vintage. He threw it into the great winepress of God’s fury.” A fierce angel cleansing the world! God in a boiling anger! What’s to be understood by that?
Date posted: 2016-07-19
Why don't we live happier lives? Why are we forever caught up in frustrations, tensions, angers, and resentments?
Date posted: 2016-07-11
Several years ago, Robert L. Moore wrote a very significant book entitled, Facing the Dragon. The dragon that most threatens us, he believes, is the dragon of our own grandiosity, that sense inside us that has us believe that we are singularly special and destined for greatness. This condition besets us all. Simply put, each of us, all seven billion of us on this planet, cannot help but feel that we are the center of the universe. And, given that this is mostly unacknowledged and we are generally ill-equipped to deal with it, this makes for a scary situation. This isn’t a recipe for peace and harmony, but for jealousy and conflict.
Date posted: 2016-07-06
“I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world.” Socrates wrote those words more than twenty-four hundred years ago. Today more than ever these are words which we would need to appropriate because, more and more, our world and we ourselves are sinking into some unhealthy forms of tribalism where we are concerned primarily with taking care of our own.
Date posted: 2016-06-29
The Gospels tell us that after King Herod died, an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, telling him: “Get up! Take the Child and His Mother and go to the land of Israel, for those seeking the Child’s life are now dead.” (Matthew 2, 19-20). The angel, it would seem, spoke prematurely, the Child, the Infant-Christ, was still in danger, is still in danger, is still mortally threatened, and is still being tracked down, right to this day.
Date posted: 2016-06-21
“The most damaging idolatry is not the golden calf but enmity against the other.” The renowned anthropologist, Rene Girard, wrote that and its truth is not easily admitted. Most of us like to believe that we are mature and big-hearted and that we do love our neighbors and are free of enmity towards others. But is this so?
Date posted: 2016-06-15
Daniel Berrigan, in one of his famous quips, once wrote: Before you get serious about Jesus, first consider carefully how good you are going to look on wood! In saying this, he was trying to highlight something that’s often radically misunderstood from almost every side, namely, how and why authentic religion brings suffering into our lives.
Date posted: 2016-06-07
The spirituality writer, Tom Stella, tells a story about three monks at prayer in their monastery chapel. The first monk imagines himself being carried up to heaven by the angels. The second monk imagines himself already in heaven, chanting God’s praises with the angels and saints. The third monk cannot focus on any holy thoughts but can only think about the great hamburger he had eaten just before coming to chapel. That night, when the devil was filing his report for the day, he wrote: “Today I tried to tempt three monks, but I only succeeded with two of them.”
Date posted: 2016-05-31
A common soldier dies without fear, yet Jesus died afraid. Iris Murdoch wrote this and that truth can be somewhat disconcerting. Why? If someone dies with deep faith, shouldn’t he or she die within a certain calm and trust drawn from that faith? Wouldn’t the opposite seem more logical, that is, if someone dies without faith shouldn’t he or she die with more fear? And perhaps the most confusing of all: Why did Jesus, the paragon of faith, die afraid, crying out in a pain that can seem like a loss of faith?
Date posted: 2016-05-24
seminarian I know recently went to a party on a Friday evening at a local university campus. The group was a crowd of young, college students and when he was introduced as a seminarian, as someone who was trying to become a priest and who had taken a vow of celibacy, the mention of celibacy evoked some giggles in the room, some banter, and a number of jokes about how much he must be missing out on in life. Poor, naïve fellow! Initially, within this group of millenniums, his religious beliefs and what this had led to in his life was regarded as something between amusing and pitiful. But, before the evening was out, several young women had come, cried on his shoulder, and shared about their frustration with their boyfriends’ inability to commit fully to their relationship.
Date posted: 2016-05-16
In a recent article in America magazine, Grant Kaplan, commenting on the challenge of the resurrection, makes this comment: “Unlike previous communities in which the bond among members forges itself through those it excludes and scapegoats, the gratuity of the resurrection allows for a community shaped by forgiven-forgivers.”
Date posted: 2016-04-18
In the movie based upon Jane Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility, there’s a very poignant scene where one of her young heroines, suffering from acute pneumonia, is lying in bed hovering between life and death. A young man, very much in love with her, is pacing back and forth, highly agitated, frustrated by his helplessness to do anything of use, and literally jumping out of his skin. Unable to contain his agitation any longer, he goes to the girl’s mother and asks what he might do to be helpful. She replies that there’s nothing he can do, the situation is beyond them. Unable to live with that response her says to her: “Give me some task to do, or I shall go mad!”
Date posted: 2016-04-06
In a deeply insightful book, The Grace of Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh shares insights she has gleaned as a health professional from being present to hundreds of people while they are dying. Among other things, she suggests that the dying process itself, in her words, “is exquisitely calibrated to automatically produce union with Spirit.” In essence, what she is saying is that what is experienced by someone in the final stages and moments of dying, particularly if the death is not a sudden one, is a purgation that naturally lessens the person’s grip on the things of this world as well as on his or her own ego so as to be ready to enter into a new realm of life and meaning beyond our present realm of consciousness. The dying process itself, she submits, midwifes us into a wider, deeper life.
Date posted: 2016-03-11
Many of us, I am sure, have been inspired by the movie, Of Gods and Men, which tells the story of a group of Trappist monks who, after making a painful decision not to flee from the violence in Algeria in the 1990s, are eventually martyred by Islamic extremists in 1996. Recently, I was much inspired by reading the diaries of one of those monks, Christophe Lebreton. Published under the title, Born from the Gaze of God, The Tibhirine Journal of a Martyr Monk, his diaries chronicle the last three years of his life and give us an insight into his, and his community’s, decision to remain in Algeria in the face almost certain death.
Date posted: 2016-02-15
A colleague of mine shares this story: Recently, after presiding a Eucharist, a woman from the congregation came up to him with this comment: “What a horrible scripture reading today! If that’s the kind of God we’re worshipping, then I don’t want to go to heaven!”
Date posted: 2016-02-09
A bowed head is a sign of humility and is understood, almost universally, as our proper spiritual posture. Spiritual writers have rarely questioned or felt the need to nuance the notion that spiritual health means a head bowed in humility. But is it really that simple?
Date posted: 2016-01-19
We all need, regularly, to lay down our burdens for a minute so our souls can catch up with us.
Date posted: 2016-01-15
The Belgian spiritual writer, Bieke Vandekerckhove, comes by her wisdom honestly. She didn’t learn what she shares from a book or even primarily from the good example of others. She learned what she shares through the crucible of a unique suffering, being hit at the tender age of nineteen with a terminal disease that promised not just an early death but also a complete breakdown and humiliation of her body enroute to that death.
Date posted: 2016-01-04