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

Week Nine: Learning How to See

Friday 5 March 2021   A Gospel Lens

You are not here to verify,

Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity

Or carry report. You are here to kneel

Where prayer has been valid. —T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Everybody looks at the world through their own lens, a matrix of culturally inherited qualities, family influences, and other life experiences. This lens, or worldview, truly determines what we bring to every discussion. When Jesus spoke of the coming of the Reign of God, he was trying to change people’s foundational worldview. When Francis of Assisi described his “marriage to Lady Poverty,” he was using a lovely metaphor to explain his central thesis for life. When Americans identify money as “the bottom line,” they are revealing more about their real worldview than they realize.

We would do well to get in touch with our own operative worldview. It is there anyway, so we might as well know what this highly influential window on reality is. It’s what really motivates us. Our de facto worldview determines what catches our attention and what we don’t notice at all. It’s largely unconscious and yet it drives us to do this and not that. It is surely important to become conscious of such a primary lens or we will never know what we don’t see and why we see other things out of all perspective.

Until we can allow the Gospel to move into that deepest level of the unconscious and touch our operative worldviews, nothing substantial is going to change. It will only be rearranging the furniture, not constructing a new room. Conversion is about constructing a new room, or maybe even a whole new house.

Our operative worldview is formed by three images that are inside every one of us. They are not something from outside; they have already taken shape within us. All we can do is become aware of them, which is to awaken them. The three images to be awakened and transformed are our image of self, our image of God, and our image of the world. A true hearing of the Gospel transforms those images into a very exciting and, I believe, truthful worldview. When we say Christ is the truth, that’s what we mean. Christ renames reality correctly, according to what reality honestly is, putting aside whatever we think it is or whatever we fear it is. Reality is always better than any of us imagined or feared; there is joy associated with a true hearing of the Gospel.

All together, we could put it this way: “What should life be?” “Why isn’t it?” “How do we repair it?” When these are answered for us, at least implicitly, we have our game plan and we can live safely and with purpose in this world.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Franciscan Media: 2001, 2020), 135–138.

Thursday 4 March 2021   Overcoming Contact Bias

Brian McLaren and Jacqui Lewis, my conversation partners in the recent podcast series, Learning How to See, understand that Jesus’ model of acceptance, inclusion, and love for “the other,” helps us overcome and heal our biases. Brian describes what he calls “contact bias,” when a lack of personal and ongoing contact with people who are different from us causes us to fail to see them for who they truly are:

When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged. Think of the child who is told by people he trusts that people of another race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, or class are dirty and dangerous.

You can immediately see the self-reinforcing cycle: those people are dirty or dangerous, so I will distrust and avoid them, which means I will never have sustained and respectful interactive contact with them, which means I will never discover that they are actually wonderful people to be around. . . .

In this way, the prejudice cycle spins on, unchallenged across generations. As prejudice persists, it becomes embedded in cultures and institutions, creating systems of racism and hatred, marginalizing groups who are stigmatized, dehumanized, scapegoated, exploited, oppressed, or even killed. . . .

But if we are willing to listen to [“the other”] and learn from them, we can break out of our contact bias, which opens us up to seeing in a new way. . . .

On page after page of the gospels, Jesus doesn’t dominate the other, avoid the other, colonize the other, intimidate the other, demonize the other, or marginalize the other. Instead, he incarnates into the other, joins the other in solidarity, protects the other, listens to the other, serves the other, and even lays down his life for the other. [1]

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, who leads what she describes as a “multi-everything” congregation in New York City, shares the gifts that embracing the other can bring. She views inclusion as central to the Gospel call to love:

The one we follow into mission and ministry—Jesus the Christ—was an avowed boundary crosser, a reformer of the religious and secular culture of his time. We are in good company when we lead the way on radical inclusion of those different from ourselves. In some contexts that might mean a black church reaching out to Korean neighbors, a Latino congregation starting a ministry to immigrant families from North Africa, or a Chinese church hosting an afterschool program for African American junior high students. . . . We believe the commitment to inclusion and diversity is a high calling, issued to all who count themselves as Christians, no matter what our ethnicity or culture. [2]

The more we bump into the folks who are so-called “other,” the more we are stretched, the more we are pulled out of that bias and have new truths because we have tangible evidence of the beautiful, powerful creativity of our God who made all of this diversity for us to enjoy. [3]

[1] Brian McLaren, Why Don’t They Get It? Overcoming Bias in Others (and Yourself) (Self-published: 2019), [45–46, 90]. 

[2] Jacqueline J. Lewis and John Janka, The Pentecost Paradigm: Ten Strategies for Becoming a Multiracial Congregation (Westminster John Knox Press: 2018), 8.

[3] Adapted from Brian McLaren, Jacqui Lewis, with Richard Rohr, “Why Can’t We See?,” October 5, 2020, in Learning How to See, episode 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), podcast, MP3 audio.

Wednesday 3 March 2021   Jesus and Bias

Learning how to see our biases is a psychological exercise, but one with immediate theological and social implications. It demands self-knowledge and the crucial need to recognize (1) when we are in denial about our own shadow and capacity for illusion; (2) our capacity to project our own fears and shadows onto other people and groups; (3) our capacity to face and carry our own issues; and (4) the social, institutional, and political implications of not doing this work.

If some Christians think that this is mere psychology, then they surely need to know that Jesus himself was a consummate analyst of human nature. He was really a brilliant psychologist and named many of the issues that we call today “denial,” “bias,” “projection,” and “the shadow self.” He also emphasized the necessity of inner healing of hurts to avoid continuing to hurt others.

Brian McLaren offers this perspective on why Jesus’ teachings were so effective in freeing people from an over-attachment to their own way of seeing:

When you aggressively attack people’s familiar ideas, they tend to respond defensively. They dig in their heels and become even more firmly attached to the very ideas that they need to be liberated from. . . .

That’s why Jesus, like other effective communicators, constantly told stories, stories that grabbed people by the imagination and transported them into another imaginative world:

. . . there once was a woman who put some yeast into a huge batch of dough [Matthew 13:33]

. . . there once was a man who had two sons [Luke 15:11]

. . . this man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho [Luke 10:30]

. . . a woman once lost a coin [Luke 15:8] . . .

Through these short “imaginative vacations” to another world, Jesus helped people see from a new vantage point. He used imagination to punch a tiny hole in their walls of confirmation bias, and through that tiny hole, some new light could stream in and let them know of a bigger world beyond their walls. . . .

[Jesus] didn’t spend a lot of time repeating or refuting the false statements of his critics, and he didn’t counterpunch when he was attacked or insulted, but instead, he used every criticism as an opportunity to restate, clarify, and illustrate his true statements. He had, to use a contemporary phrase, message discipline, which drew people to his central simple message: an invitation to overcome long-held biases, to think again, and to see and live life in a new light. [1]

It’s so hard to be vulnerable, to say to our neighbor, “I don’t know everything” or to say to our soul, “I don’t know anything at all.” Yet Jesus says the only people who can recognize and be ready for what he’s talking about are the ones who come with the mind and heart of a child (see Matthew 18:3). The older we get, the more we’ve been disappointed and betrayed by life and others, the more barriers we put up to what Zen masters call “beginner’s mind.” We must never presume that we see “all” or accurately. We must always be ready to see anew.

[1] Brian McLaren, Why Don’t They Get It? Overcoming Bias in Others (and Yourself) (Self-published: 2019), [63–64, 68].

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Yes, And . . . Daily Meditations (Franciscan Media: 2013, 2019), 175, 183.

Tuesday 2 March 2021   Confirmation Bias

One of the phrases that has stayed with me from studying Latin in the seminary is “Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.” This statement is not only kind of fun to say, but it has been critical to my understanding of how we process information. Directly translated, it means “Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver.” Thirteenth-century scholastics such as John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) and Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) intuited this. It was early psychology before we thought we had psychology! What it means, in other words, is that we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. We see the things we want to see, the things that confirm our assumptions and our preferred way of looking at the world. [1] Brian elaborates today on how confirmation bias, which he believes is the most powerful, operates:

We all have filters, [such as] What do I already believe? Does this new idea or piece of information confirm what I already think? Does it fit in the frame I’ve already constructed?

If so, I can accept it.

If not, in all likelihood, I’m simply going to reject it as unreasonable and unbelievable, even though doing so is, well, unreasonable.

I do this, not to be ignorant, but to be efficient. My brain (without my conscious awareness, and certainly without my permission) makes incredibly quick decisions as it evaluates incoming information or ideas. Ideas that fit in are easy and convenient to accept, and they give me pleasure because they confirm what I already think.

But ideas that don’t fit easily will require me to think, and think twice, and maybe even rethink some of my long-held assumptions. That kind of thinking is hard work. It requires a lot of time and energy. My brain has a lot going on, so it interprets hard work like this as pain. . . .

Wanting to save me from that extra reframing work, my brain presses a “reject” or “delete” button when a new idea presents itself. “I’ll stick with my current frame, thank you very much,” it says. And it gives me a little jolt of pleasure to reward me for my efficiency. [2]

The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, who is Brian’s and my mutual friend, speaks of confirmation bias in this way:

“We are all wired by what we’ve experienced to be in search of a story with an ending . . . that feels like it has a completion. And the stories that we gravitate to are the ones that make sense to us, stories that fit, stories that feel like they have continuity, connection to the past, where we’ve been. . . . Those stories that we will follow are the ones that feel true, feel like they have continuity to our past and that resonate with the trajectory of our lives. So, we’re looking for the story that doesn’t necessarily change our minds; we’re actually looking for the story that confirms what’s in our minds.” [3]

[1] Adapted from Brian McLaren, Jacqui Lewis, with Richard Rohr, “Why Can’t We See?,” October 5, 2020, in Learning How to See, episode 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), podcast, MP3 audio.

[2] Brian McLaren, Why Don’t They Get It? Overcoming Bias in Others (and Yourself) (Self-published: 2019), [15–16].

[3] Jacqui Lewis, “Why Can’t We See?” podcast

Monday 1 March 2021   Recognizing Our Biases

CAC faculty member Brian McLaren has done thoughtful and helpful research about what makes us see things so differently from one another. He identified thirteen biases that we outline today. Being a former pastor and an excellent communicator, Brian found a way to make these complex ways of seeing simple and memorable. He writes:

People can’t see what they can’t see. Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall, trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion. No amount of reasoning and argument will get through to them, unless we first learn how to break down the walls of bias. . . .

Confirmation Bias: We judge new ideas based on the ease with which they fit in with and confirm the only standard we have: old ideas, old information, and trusted authorities. As a result, our framing story, belief system, or paradigm excludes whatever doesn’t fit.

Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.

Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t see.

Complementarity Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful toward my ideas, I’ll respond in kind.

Competency Bias: We don’t know how much (or little) we know because we don’t know how much (or little) others know. In other words, incompetent people assume that most other people are about as incompetent as they are. As a result, they underestimate their [own] incompetence, and consider themselves at least of average competence.

Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.

Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.

Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness, or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.

Confidence Bias: I am attracted to confidence, even if it is false. I often prefer the bold lie to the hesitant truth.

Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).

Contact Bias: When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged.

Cash Bias: It’s hard for me to see something when my way of making a living requires me not to see it.

Conspiracy Bias: Under stress or shame, our brains are attracted to stories that relieve us, exonerate us, or portray us as innocent victims of malicious conspirators. [1]

Richard again: I don’t know any other way to be free of all these biases except through the contemplative mind. I see almost every one of them within myself–at least at some point in my life. I also believe there are enough good-willed people out there who, if presented with a list of these biases, have the freedom to investigate, “How can I let go of that? How can I move beyond that?” [2]

[1] Brian McLaren, Why Don’t They Get It? Overcoming Bias in Others (and Yourself) (Self-published: 2019), e-book. 

[2] Adapted from Brian McLaren, Jacqui Lewis, with Richard Rohr, “Why Can’t We See?,” October 5, 2020, in Learning How to See, episode 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), podcast, MP3 audio.

Sunday 28 February 2021   How Difficult It Is to See Clearly

Every viewpoint is a view from a point. Unless we recognize and admit our own personal and cultural viewpoints, we will never know how to decentralize our own perspective. We will live with a high degree of illusion and blindness that brings much suffering into the world. I think this is what Simone Weil (1909–1943) meant in saying that the love of God is the source of all truth. [1] Only an outer and positive reference point utterly grounds the mind and heart.

One of the keys to wisdom is that we must recognize our own biases, our own addictive preoccupations, and those things to which, for some reason, we refuse to pay attention. Until we see these patterns (which is early-stage contemplation), we will never be able to see what we do not see. No wonder that both Socrates (c. 470–399 BCE) and Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) declared self-knowledge to be the first and necessary entrance way to wisdom. [2] Without such critical awareness of the small self, there is little chance that any individual will produce truly great knowing or enduring wisdom.

Everyone sees the world from a certain, defined cultural perspective. But people who have done their inner work also see beyond their own biases to something transcendent, something that crosses the boundaries of culture and individual experience.

People with a distorted image of self, world, or God will be largely incapable of experiencing what is really real in the world. They will see things through a narrow keyhole. They’ll see instead what they need reality to be, what they’re afraid it is, or what they’re angry about. They’ll see everything through their aggressiveness, their fear, or their agenda. In other words, they won’t see it at all.

That’s the opposite of contemplatives, who see what is, whether it’s favorable or not, whether it meets their needs or not, whether they like it or not, and whether or not that reality causes weeping or rejoicing. Most of us will usually misinterpret our experience until we have been moved out of our false center. Until then, there is too much of the self in the way.

We all play our games, cultivating our prejudices and our unredeemed vision of the world. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) and other scholastics said that all people choose as objective good something that merely appears good to them, foreseeing the postmodern critique by 700 years. No one willingly does evil. Each of us has put together a construct by which we explain why what we do is necessary and good. This is the specialty of the ego, the small or false self that wants to protect its agenda and project itself onto the public stage. [3] We need support in unmasking our false self and in distancing ourselves from our illusions. For this it is necessary to install a kind of “inner observer.” Some people talk about a “fair witness.” At first that sounds impossible, but with patience and practice, it can be done and even becomes quite natural.

[1] Simone Weil, “God in Plato,” On Science, Necessity, and the Love of God, trans. and ed. Richard Rees (Oxford University Press: 1968), 104.

[2] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. Mirabai Starr (Riverhead: 2004), 45, 46.

[3] For a deeper exploration of Richard Rohr’s teachings on the True Self/False Self, our Immortal Diamond course is now open for registration.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Franciscan Media: 2020), 12–13, 140–141; and

What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2015), 91

Image credit: U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. ca. 1953–ca. 1978, Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. Two long lines of some of the buses used to transport marchers to Washington (detail), photograph, public domain.

Image inspiration: Much of the work of dismantling systems of oppression involves a continued willingness to learn new ways of seeing. The March on Washington in 1963, where this image was taken, became a major tipping point in the United States’ collective story of learning how to see. May we continue the work of our ever-unfolding ability to see, understand, and act.

Prayer For Our Community

Loving God, you fill all things with a fullness and hope that we can never comprehend. Thank you for leading us into a time where more of reality is being unveiled for us all to see. We pray that you will take away our natural temptation for cynicism, denial, fear and despair. Help us have the courage to awaken to greater truth, greater humility, and greater care for one another. May we place our hope in what matters and what lasts, trusting in your eternal presence and love. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our suffering world. Please add your own intentions . . . Knowing, good God, you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God. Amen.
Listen to Father Richard pray this prayer aloud.

Story From Our Community

Having had my “feelings hurt” by being overlooked, I was shocked to realize that everything within me seemed to scream out that I surely deserved more credit, greater appreciation, and significant affirmation. In searching for direction, Richard’s astounding words—YOU ARE NOT IMPORTANT—pierced me to the core and then connected me to my real self, whose only desire is to be in union with my beloved Lord.
—Jo C.
Share your own story with us.

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News From New Mexico

A Monthly Newsletter from the Center for Action and Contemplation

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CAC is Hiring!

We have a bold vision for our future and are seeking creative, skilled individuals to help us achieve our mission. We are currently seeking an E-Learning Administrator who brings technical expertise and creativity to a highly functional team. Our ideal candidate will love doing detailed work to keep courses running, while answering students’ technical questions. Know someone who might be interested? Apply today or help us spread the word!

Learn more or apply today

Every Thing is Sacred: A New Companion to The Universal Christ

“I learned that ‘mystery’ doesn’t mean that something is unknowable; it merely points to there being endless ways of seeing that same thing.” —Patrick Boland

Every Thing Is Sacred: 40 Practices and Reflections on the Universal Christ by Richard Rohr and Patrick Boland—book cover image

Many of us feel disconnected from truth, justice and each other in these difficult times. Our hearts long to experience God’s love more deeply in ourselves and the world, but we feel lost, adrift. It’s in those moments that we can choose to embrace the deep beauty of God, even amid the uncertainties of life.

Building upon his New York Times Best Seller The Universal Christnow available in paperback—Richard Rohr and psychotherapist Patrick Boland offer 40 hope-filled, yet challenging practices to help us embrace the deep beauty of God, even amid the uncertainties of life. Practice what it means to “live in Christ” and see the world through Love’s eyes with Every Thing is Sacred: 40 Practices and Reflections on the Universal Christ.

Order Every Thing is Sacred

Another Name for Every Thing: The Final Season

“Just as the body needs food, so the soul needs meaning, and the spirit needs ultimate meaning. Often that meaning is communicated through story.” —Richard Rohr

What is the common thread in all things? Strengthen your commitment to spiritual expansion and conscious living with Another Name for Every Thing podcast with Richard Rohr. Join hosts Brie Stoner and Paul Swanson as they speak with Father Richard about key themes in the wisdom tradition. Now in its final season, this conversational podcast dives deep into Father Richard’s most complex and thought-provoking revelations about how live a contemplative life in the midst of our chaotic modern world. New episodes are released every Saturday.

Listen on our website or your favorite podcast player

Let go of past hurts and attachments with Breathing Under Water

Join contemplative students around the world on a journey of connection and healing. Rewire the pattern of unhealthy attachments in Fr. Richard Rohr’s online course Breathing Under Water: A Spiritual Study of the Twelve Steps. In this online course, Fr. Richard Rohr offers a spiritual perspective on breaking free of attachments. Whether you are new to the Twelve Steps or have been doing this work for years, this course provides an opportunity to become “unstuck” within a supportive online community. Apply for financial assistance by March 10, 2021.

Learn more about Breathing Under Water
Time commitment: 4 – 6 hours a week
Registration ends March 17, 2021
Course starts March 24, 2021

Discover Your True Self with Immortal Diamond

Who are you beneath the trappings of the ego? Dive deep into Richard Rohr’s teachings on revealing the “face you had before you were born,” in the online course Immortal Diamond: A Study in Search of the True Self. Each week provides reflections, discussion, expanded commentary, additional articles, videos, and audio clips, plus exclusive teachings from Fr. Richard. Apply for Financial Assistance by March 24, 2021.

Learn more about the Immortal Diamond
Time commitment: 4 – 6 hours a week
Registration ends March 31, 2021
Course starts April 7, 2021

Explore Mary Magdalene’s Path of Conscious Love

What can Mary Magdalene teach us about walking in conscious love? Join modern-day mystic Cynthia Bourgeault for the online course Mary Magdalene: Apostle to Our Own Times. In a series of readings, reflections, and discussions, Cynthia reveals the rich and complex legacy of one of the most misunderstood women in Christianity. Take the first step along the path of timeless wisdom with Mary Magdalene. Apply for financial assistance by April 7.

Learn more about Mary Magdalene: Apostle of Our Times
Time commitment: 2 – 4 hours a week
Registration ends April 14, 2021
Course runs April 21– June 15, 2021

Reader Favorites:
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations

Find additional meditations by Father Richard in the online archive.

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Everything is Sacred—Now Available for Preorder

Did The Universal Christ expand your understanding of divine love and presence? Richard Rohr and Patrick Boland invite you to continue your journey in their new bookEvery Thing is Sacred: 40 Practices and Reflections on the Universal Christ. This new book offers insight, reflections, and exercises to guide your continuing journey of internal expansion and divine discovery.

Every Thing Is Sacred: 40 Practices and Reflections on the Universal Christ by Richard Rohr and Patrick Boland—book cover image

“I learned that ‘mystery’ doesn’t mean that something is unknowable; it merely points to there being endless ways of seeing that same thing.”

—Patrick Boland

Each exercise in this book is designed for you to engage more deeply with the key concepts of The Universal Christavailable soon in paperback!—guiding you to see and experience the divine love within all things.

Pre-order Every Thing is Sacred
Both Every Thing is Sacred and the paperback version of The Universal Christ will be released on 2/16.

Faith After Doubt —Available now

“Sometimes, it is only by doubting a religion that expresses itself in beliefs that we can discover a faith that expresses itself in revolutionary love.”

—Brian McLaren

Why Your Beliefs Stopped WOrking and What to Do About It: Faith After Doubt by Brian D. McLaren—book cover image

In his new book, Faith After Doubt, Center for Action and Contemplation core faculty member Brian McLaren uses his own story and the stories of a diverse group of struggling believers to show how old assumptions are being challenged in nearly every area of human life, not just theology and spirituality. Proposing a four-stage model of faith development, Brian encourages readers to see doubt not as the enemy of faith, but rather a portal to a more mature and fruitful spiritual life. Discover a healthy faith that heals and nourishes, and to learn how doubt can reveal a path to detoxifying religious traditions.

Explore the Freedom of Letting Go with Breathing Under Water

Join contemplative students around the world on a journey of connection and healing. Addictive attachments can affect all of us at different times in our lives. Rewire the pattern of unhealthy attachments in Fr. Richard Rohr’s online course Breathing Under Water: A Spiritual Study of the Twelve Steps. In this unique online course, Fr. Richard Rohr offers a spiritual perspective on breaking free of addiction. Whether you are new to the Twelve Steps or have been doing this work for years, this course provides an opportunity to become “unstuck” within a supportive online community.

Time commitment: 2 – 4 hours a week
Registration ends March 17, 2021
Apply for financial assistance by March 10, 2021
Course starts March 24, 2021 

Discover your Immortal Diamond

Do you feel that your true self is too deeply hidden? At times, we all feel confused by our ego-based identities—left unchecked, the ego prevents us from living our lives freely and authentically. Join a community of seekers in Immortal Diamond: A Study in Search of the True Self, a rich online course designed to support you in revealing your True Self. Each week provides reflections, discussion, expanded commentary, additional articles, videos, and audio clips, plus exclusive teachings from Fr. Richard.

Time commitment: 2 – 4 hours a week
Registration ends March 31, 2021
Apply for Financial Assistance by March 24, 2021
Course runs April 7 – June 15, 2021

Reader Favorites:
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations

Find additional meditations by Father Richard in the online archive.

Fourth Letter from Outside the Camp

The extremist behavior and violence that took place in Washington, D.C. on January 6 was truly shocking and worthy of condemnation—many have already done so. The whole world is transfixed, bearing witness to the awful and extraordinary unfolding of history.

In my previous letters I wrote about the DISORDER that is already upon us, as well as the consequences that ensue when illusions of power and privilege co-opt and distort Christianity. At the Center for Action and Contemplation, we are free to speak in great part because we are not beholden to the usual constituencies. Using the brilliant metaphor from the Hebrew Scriptures, we are “outside the camp” of either political party, any need to influence an election, and, by the grace of God, any negative or fear-based church pressure from Rome, Santa Fe, or Assisi.

We are also, like few other organizations, free from the coercion of donors and finance, thanks to almost thirty-three years of operating with our priorities clearly in view to all who cared to study or read our publications. Blessedly, our donors have not run for cover over time, but only increased in numbers, continuing to join us—even from outside the usual camps of both religion and politics.

Few people enjoy such freedom of living and teaching from the edge of the inside. This is the unique position that a prophetic charism holds and for which it is responsible; it is structurally quite rare, and therefore we must use it.

“Moses used to take the tent, and pitch it outside the camp, at some distance from the camp. . . . Anyone who wanted to consult Yahweh would go to this tent of meeting outside the camp.” (Exodus 33:7)

The “tent of meeting” is the initial image and metaphor that eventually became our much later notion of “church.” Moses had the prescience and courage to move the place of hearing God outside and at a distance from the court of common religious and civic opinion—this was the original genius that inspired the entire Jewish prophetic tradition. It is quite different than the mere liberal and conservative positions, and often even at odds with them. Most of liberalism is based on a secular foundation of knowledge, and most of conservatism is identified with boundary-keeping, order, and control. By contrast, Prophecy and Gospel are rooted in a contemplative and non-dual way of knowing—a way of being in the world that is utterly free and grounded in the compassion of God.

The early desert fathers and mothers imitated both Moses and Jesus by fleeing to Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Cappadocia—and some as far as Ireland and Scotland. Beginning in the 4th century, we Christians surrendered our unique and free perspective to the Roman and Byzantine Empires. In the desert and outside the camp, these people discovered what we now call “contemplation”: the alternative mind and the alternative community to the status quo—then and now—of money, power, and war.

The free and graced position found in the tent of meeting is what allowed Jesus and all prophets in his lineage to speak from a minority position. It is always less desirable, compared to the comfortable and enjoyable places at the center and the top; yet it is the Jesus stance, and the place where all Franciscans follow after him.

“Let us go to him, therefore, outside the camp, and be willing to share in his degradation.” (Hebrews 13:13)

For many people, religion as a “cosmic egg” capable of holding universal Truth, collective and personal meaning, is broken. Now, the cracks in this very “uncosmic egg” are rapidly spreading in all directions. Delusions enthrall us and inherent deceit becomes overwhelmingly apparent and manifest in the nihilism of our postmodern age, the denial of science and reasonableness, and the denial of the pandemic that now assaults us all. The very future of the meanings of words and truth are at stake, as specifically exemplified by Trumpism in its many forms.

We must again move with Jesus outside the camp and even be willing to “share in his degradation” if that be God’s will. We must trust that the one who has called us into this present moment will also sustain us and lead us through it.

“Yahweh would speak with Moses face to face [outside the camp] as a young man speaks with his friend. And then Moses would return to the camp.” (Exodus 33:11)

This is the primary vocation of the Center for Action and Contemplation. We invite you to join us—first, in the tent of meeting outside the camp for prayer, dialogue, and deep discernment. Then, like Moses, we must all choose to “return to the camp,” where all of our brothers and sisters live and die.

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Among the Contemplatives: An interview with Richard Rohr

Embraced in the earliest days of Christianity, contemplation has been excluded from mainstream worship over the years. In his Harper’s Magazine article, The Gate of Heaven is Everywhere, author Fred Bahnson reconnects with these roots, sharing his experience with Richard Rohr and “among the contemplatives” at the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Universal Christ Conference last year. Bahnson writes, “So many of the mistakes in American Christianity, Rohr told me, are a result of dualistic thinking, which is ‘inherently antagonistic, inherently competitive…the dualistic mind always chooses sides.’ He is sympathetic to those who disaffiliate from religion. But he still believes in faith’s power to instill awe, to bind and heal, to return us to ourselves, to God, and to one another. At the center of that return lies the contemplative mind.”

Read The Gate of Heaven is Everywhere

Why is contemplation such a powerful salve for disaffected Christians? How does contemplation invite us to return the mystery within ourselves? 

A Time of Unveiling: 2021 Daily Meditations from Richard Rohr

Today many people experience tremendous suffering, uncertainty, and disruption in their lives. Systems of evil and injustice are being revealed in greater clarity and our collective “normal” has been radically upended. Walking through this chaos and despair can be difficult; but, ultimately, it is when everything seems adrift that the spiritual journey becomes both an anchor and a sail.

In 2021 Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations will reflect on the theme of A Time of Unveiling. Through this series of free daily and weekly emails, Fr. Richard Rohr offers guidance on how to transform this time of chaos into a time of hope and wholeness.

Video of Richard Rohr on the new Daily Meditations theme for 2021

Watch Fr. Richard’s video to discover what A Time of Unveiling means—and how God reveals infinite Love by unveiling reality.

Study Richard Rohr’s Franciscan Way

Join Richard Rohr as he explores the teachings of his spiritual father, St. Francis — an icon of gentleness and compassion, as well as a radical prophet — in this online course with spiritual seekers from across the world.

The Franciscan Way closely follows Jesus’ path of simplicity, justice, and counter-cultural inclusivity. Discover an “alternative orthodoxy” that values vulnerability and union over power alongside a global community of like-minded seekers eager for deeper connection with God, self, and each other.

Learn more about The Franciscan Way
Registration closes Feb. 17, 2021. Course begins Feb. 24, 2021. Financial assistance applications due Feb. 10, 2021.  

Explore Cynthia Bourgeault’s Introductory Wisdom School

Explore teachings from the earliest days of Christianity— but in ways that suit today’s world—with Cynthia Bourgeault and other spiritual seekers on the journey toward living in a Wisdom way. This online course integrates Cynthia’s teachings and contemplative practice to offer an embodied experience. Cultivate a Wisdom rhythm in your daily life through reflection and engagement with contemplative practices and teachings.

Learn more about the Introductory Wisdom School 

Find additional meditations by Father Richard in the online archive. 

Take Two Minutes to Center Yourself

Have you connected with your deeper self today? Join us for a 2-minute practice of contemplation, or “centering” yourself—which is, in essence, the practice of reconnecting with God as our center. This is the sacred place where, in the words of the mystic St. Catherine of Genoa, “my ‘me’ is God nor do I recognize any other ‘me’ except my God.”

cover and play button for audio meditation on youtube

We invite you to return to this practice anytime in the coming weeks or months when you feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed.

New Issue of ONEING Now Available—“Order, Disorder, Reorder”

God teaches the soul most profoundly through darkness—and not just light! We only need enough light to be able to trust the darkness. Trials and darkness teach us how to trust in a very practical way that a good God is guiding us. —Richard Rohr

Cover for Oneing: Order, Disorder, Reorder

How does our tendency towards binary thinking limit growth? In the latest issue of ONEING, all five faculty of the Center of Action and Contemplation (CAC) share their insights on the transformative theme of “Order, Disorder, and Reorder,” the continual pattern that repeats itself “in both people and systems.” In “Include and Transcend,” Richard Rohr shares his insights on the importance of “both-and” thinking for individual and cultural growth and expansion.

Each author gives a glimpse into what can happen when we pay attention and are fully present to one another, and the transformation we can experience by recognizing that diversity is not our enemy but our teacher; not something to disdain but to embrace.

ONEING is the biannual journal of the CAC. Renowned for its diverse and deep exploration of mysticism and culture, ONEING is grounded in Richard Rohr’s teachings and wisdom lineage. Each issue features a themed collection of thoughtfully curated essays and critical perspectives from spiritual teachers, activists, modern mystics, and prophets of all religions.

Order a copy of ONEING in print or PDF.

Learning How to See, a Special Podcast from the CAC

Our life job is to see better, to see ourselves better, to see each other better.
–Rev. Jacqui Lewis

Cover of podcast Learning How To See

How do we learn to see ourselves and each other with compassion, clarity, and purpose? From judgments made unconsciously to complacency in systemic evil, we must first learn how to see before we can learn how to transform. Learning How to See is a new podcast series from the CAC featuring Rev. Jacqui Lewis of New York’s Middle Church, CAC faculty member Brian McLaren, and Father Richard Rohr, about transcending the individual and group biases that can cloud way we see, listen, and love each other.

Over the course of six episodes these teachers discuss the many ways seeing is social, political, and contemplative, weaving together personal experience and spiritual insight in order to find a path into greater understanding and acceptance—even in turbulent times.

Reader Favorites:
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations

Find additional meditations by Father Richard in the online archive.

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1705 Five Points Rd SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105 (physical) PO Box 12464, Albuquerque, NM 87195-2464 (mailing)

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

  1. whoah this blog is wonderful i love reading your articles. Keep up the good work! You know, lots of people are searching around for this info, you could help them greatly.

  2. Richard Rohr’s teachings and the daily meditations have changed my life. Thank-you for all your efforts in sending God’s word and love out into the world for all who need and desire it. The first thing I yearn for in the morning, other than a coffee, is to read the daily meditation and be immersed in the calming, glory of the meditations and prayer. Such a blessing. Thank-you.

    • Thank you so much. Comments like yours make the job worthwhile! Although it is always a joy to post Fr. Richard’s writings, it’s good to have feedback.

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