THE DAILY MEDITATION – from the Center for Action and Contemplation (Fr Richard Rohr OFM)

Week Thirty-two

Order, Disorder, Reorder:  Part One

Necessary Boundaries   Monday,  August 10, 2020

Law, tradition, and boundaries—what I call Order—seem to be necessary in any spiritual system both to reveal and to limit our basic egocentricity. Such containers make at least some community, family, and marriage possible. Boundaries seem to be the only way that human beings can find a place to stand, a place to begin, a place from which to move out. Even those who think they don’t have any boundaries usually do. We discover them when we trespass against them. The human soul flourishes on solid ground, especially in the first years of life.

As Paul belabors in his Letter to the Romans (see especially chapters 2–7), the law is given for the sake of information, education, and transformation, but is not itself enlightenment. Even though allegiance to boundaries, limits, and laws is almost universally confused with religion and even salvation itself, “the law will not save anyone” (Galatians 3:11). Law has to do with the pattern of how transformation happens—and that’s all. The struggle with boundaries and law creates the wrestling ring, but is not, itself, the encounter or the victory.

Human beings seem to need to fight and engage with something before they can take it seriously—and before they can discover what they really need or want. The people who never fight religion, guilt, parents, injustice, friends, marriage partners, and laws usually don’t respect their own power, importance, and freedom. They remain content with the external values of the first “lawful” container, instead of working to discover their own.

I am trying to hold us inside a very creative tension, because both law and freedom are necessary for spiritual growth, as Paul says in both Romans and Galatians. He learned this from Jesus, who says seven times in a row, “The law says . . . but I say” (Matthew 5:21–48), while also assuring us that he “has not come to throw out the law but to bring it to completion” (5:17). Despite having been directly taught to hold this creative tension, rare is the Christian believer who holds it well.

The psyche cannot live with everything changing every day, everything a matter of opinion, everything relative. There must be a sound container holding us long enough so we can move beyond survival mode. There has to be solid ground, trust, and shared security, or we cannot move outward. There has to be a foundational hope, and for hope to be a shared experience there must be agreed-upon meanings and shared stories that excite and inspire us all. If there are truly stories from the great patterns that are always true, they will catapult us into a universal humanity and pluralistic society. We will both stand on solid ground and, from that solid ground, create common ground. If it does not support our movement outward, then it is not solid ground at all.

Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?

Prayer for Our Community:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.

Listen to Fr. Richard read the prayer.

Story from Our Community:
My husband has a diagnosis of “Moderate Cognitive Decline,” probably heading towards Alzheimer’s. Richard’s meditations have helped me rise above my personal grief, anger, and resentment. When I find myself feeling inconvenienced by all the things I now have to do because my husband no longer can, I am reminded of how strong and skilled God has made me. This must be one of the gates through which I am passing on my way to more closely aligning myself with the nature of the Universal Christ. —Linda F.

Share your own story with us.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 28–29, 35–36; and

The Wisdom Pattern (Franciscan Media: 2020), 115–116, 118.

The Universal Pattern   Sunday,  August 9, 2020

It seems quite clear that we grow by passing beyond some perfect Order, through an often painful and seemingly unnecessary Disorder, to an enlightened Reorder or resurrection. This is the universal pattern that connects and solidifies our relationships with everything around us. This week’s meditations focus on Order, the first in the sequence. We will take a closer look at Disorder and Reorder in the following two weeks.

The trajectory of transformation and growth, as I see the great religious and philosophical traditions charting it, uses many metaphors for this pattern. We could point to the classic “Hero’s Journey” charted by Joseph Campbell; the Four Seasons or Four Directions of most Native religions; the epic accounts of exodus, exile, and Promised Land of the Jewish people, followed by the cross, death, and resurrection narrative of Christianity. Each of these deeply rooted “myths,” in its own way, is saying that growth happens in this full sequence. To grow toward love, union, salvation, or enlightenment, we must be moved from Order to Disorder and then ultimately to Reorder.

A sense of order is the easiest and most natural way to begin; it is a needed first “container.” I cannot think of a culture in human history, before the present postmodern era, that did not value law, tradition, custom, family loyalties, authority, boundaries, and morality of some clear sort. While they aren’t perfect, these containers give us the necessary security, predictability, impulse control, and ego structure that we need, before the chaos of real life shows up. As far as I can see it, healthily conservative people tend to grow up more naturally and more happily than those who receive only freeform, build-it-yourself worldviews.

We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. We ironically need a very strong ego structure to let go of our ego. We need to struggle with the rules more than a bit before we throw them out. We only internalize values by butting up against external values for a while. All this builds the strong self that can positively follow Jesus—and “die to itself.” [1]

In our time, many people are questioning and rejecting the institutions, churches, and authority figures that have long provided stability. Looking to the perennial tradition, which has held up over time, can help create a positive “container.” We cannot each start at zero, entirely on our own. Life is far too short, and there are plenty of mistakes we do not need to make—though, of course, there are some that we need to make. We are parts of social and family ecosystems that, when they are rightly structured, keep us from falling. More importantly, these systems show us how to fall and how to learn from that very falling.

Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?

Prayer for Our Community:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.

Listen to Fr. Richard read the prayer.

Story from Our Community:
My husband has a diagnosis of “Moderate Cognitive Decline,” probably heading towards Alzheimer’s. Richard’s meditations have helped me rise above my personal grief, anger, and resentment. When I find myself feeling inconvenienced by all the things I now have to do because my husband no longer can, I am reminded of how strong and skilled God has made me. This must be one of the gates through which I am passing on my way to more closely aligning myself with the nature of the Universal Christ. —Linda F.

Share your own story with us.

[1] Jesus often spoke of the need to die to self; examples include Matthew 10:39; Mark 8:35; Luke 17:33; and John 12:24–25.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 243; and

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 25‒28.

Image credit: Last Tangle (detail), Leo Valledor, 1976.

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Find Hope in Difficult Times with The Wisdom Pattern

In this full revised and updated version of his earlier book, Hope Against Darkness, Richard Rohr illuminates the way understanding and embracing wisdom can give us hope in difficult times like these. “Knowing the full pattern allows us to let go of our first order, trust the disorder, and, sometimes even hardest of all—to trust the new reorder. Three big leaps of faith for all of us, and each of a different character.” With this new lens, Fr. Richard’s book gives us the courage to push through great chaos to find a new way of being in the world.

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Explore the Teachings of Teresa of Avila with James Finley

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God.” ―St. Teresa of Avila

Highly controversial in her time, 16th century Christian mystic Teresa of Avila boldly spoke truth to power as a reformer, activist, author, poet and a profound teacher in the Christian contemplative tradition.

Teresa’s story inspires us to hold on to courage in troubled times. For most of her life she was plagued by pain and persecution. Despite her frail health, she personally led the way for the reformation of the Carmelite order away from wealthy excesses and toward simplicity, deep quiet and contemplation. Teresa teaches us to seek to hear God’s voice in their own Interiors, which she called the Interior Castle.

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Take a spiritual journey through St. Teresa of Ávila’s seven mansions in this online course. Weekly practices of prayer, reflection, humility and self-knowledge turn spiritual insights into experiential and embodied wisdom. Apply for financial assistance by Aug. 26. Registration closes Sept. 2 or when full.

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Turning to the Mystics is a podcast for people searching for something more meaningful, intimate, and richly present in the divine gift of their lives. In the most recent season, James Finley offers a modern take on the historical contemplative practices of Teresa of Avila. Listen on cac.org or your favorite podcast platform.

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This spiritual study of the Twelve Steps is an invitation to let go of egoic attachments and step into freedom and wholeness. Based on Richard Rohr’s best-selling book, this online course combines contemplative practice and spiritual wisdom to rewire our unhealthy patterns of thinking. As Fr. Richard often says, “We do not think ourselves into new ways of being; we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”

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Apply for financial assistance by Aug. 12. Registration closes Aug. 19 or when full. 

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Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations

Find additional meditations by Father Richard in the online archive.

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2 thoughts on “THE DAILY MEDITATION – from the Center for Action and Contemplation (Fr Richard Rohr OFM)

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