Richard Rohr: Anam Cara, soul friend, to thousands

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0128_Richard_Rohr_talks_with_a_group.jpgIn this photo, Richard talks with a group in person. However, he speaks to far larger crowds via daily digital messages.RICHARD ROHR greets thousands of friends via his Daily Meditations. Visit his Center for Action and Contemplation website and you can join those friends via the Daily Meditations sign-up box—on the right-hand side of the webpage. To convey the importance of this aspect of his ministry, ReadTheSpirit invited the Rev. John Emmert, a semi-retired Episcopal priest from Pennsylvania to describe what these short messages from Richard represent in his life. John follows his own discipline of prayer, meets regularly with friends and colleagues to talk about faith and occasionally serves in local parishes. Richard’s notes have made a difference in all of those phases of John’s life. Here’s how …

Small Differences:
Thanking Richard Rohr

BY THE REV. JOHN EMMERT

ALTHOUGH RICHARD ROHR is a prolific writer, I must admit I have never read one of his books. I know him only through his daily messages from his Center for Contemplation and Action. I no longer remember exactly who brought these daily gems of inspiration to my attention, but they have become anticipated touchstones of theology and thoughtfulness that I would miss more than my morning coffee.

They are short—never more than a paragraph or two: an idea, a reminder of a Christian season or celebration, a reflection on a sentence or two of scripture, development of a weekly theme. A few words that set a tone or raise an issue—personal, ecclesiastical, vocational, life-style—that more often than not lead to small changes of thinking and living. The impact of his wisdom accumulates quite significantly. I cannot count the number of times these inspirational pieces “coincidentally” touch a theme I am pondering with a friend or colleague, and influence our discussion, a decision and an action.

They are pithy, but practical. I’ve tried to think of a general descriptor, but none is quite adequate: “Where-the-rubber-meets-the-road” theology? A coincidence of exegesis and praxis? Where heart-mind-body-and spirit/Spirit touch? Where presence and Presence animate one another?

They are Catholic, in the very best sense of that word (as we use it in the creeds). They are also beyond Catholic. They reach for the Mystery that all religious language and experience aspires to touch, yet never quite adequately does—except that not to have tried would be so much the worse.

They are “old”—vintage, richly aged and time-tested truths. But “new” and fresh and re-born, with a twist or side-ways glance, that either opens my eyes (or narrows them), as I try to see more clearly, more deeply yet again.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0128_Richard_Rohr_Mary_image.jpgCLICK THE IMAGE to visit the website for Richard’s Center.Sometimes they are visual, as the picture of a “Young Madonna” to illustrate “Mary, the Prepared One.” The Daily Meditations used that striking photo of a young Mexican girl each day for a week in Advent. I pulled it up on my I-pad, and passed it around the congregation as we contemplated the image of a teen-age Mary, offering herself as Theotokos.

I have tried to find a niche for Richard—a person I’ve never met, who yet now occupies a place of Anam Cara, soul friend, in my life. I think he reminds me of Merton, even more Nouwen. I recall another Advent piece on “Learning to Receive” in which Richard remarked on Mary’s “fertility and fruitfulness” in contrast to our culture’s productiveness, a theme I first heard many years ago from Nouwen. So, Gordon Cosby, Madeline L’Engle, Elizabeth O’Connor, Eugene Peterson, Jim Wallis, Steven Charleston—name your own roster of speakers and livers of Truth and Wisdom. So, thanks be for such Grace-bearers and sharers; Richard is now included in my list.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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