The shadow never knows

The less aware we are of our shadow self, the more damage it will do. Church teachings on repentance, confession, and forgiveness make good sense. At some point we must say to at least one person: “My name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic” (or a sex addict, or a workaholic, or an unloving man). Bring it out of darkness, and “everything that becomes visible is light” (Ephesians 5:14).

That’s what we mean by making friends with the shadow. The hero in the Holy Grail stories was advised not to kill the Dark Knight but to make friends with him. It took me years to comprehend this, but now I wonder if there is any other way to overcome evil except to make it work for you and get it on your side. That’s what Jesus did on the cross by making his own murder the salvation of the world. He didn’t destroy his killers, but forgave them because “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The shadow never knows what it is doing.

Richard Rohr

if we do not transform our pain…

Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. It is first an ordinary wound before it can become a sacred wound. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as “whenever you are not in control.”

All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If your religion is not showing you how to transform your pain, it is junk religion. It is no surprise that a crucified man became the central symbol of Christianity.

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter—because we will be wounded. That is a given. All suffering is potentially redemptive, all wounds are potentially sacred wounds. It depends on what you do with them. Can you find God in them or not?

If there isn’t some way to find some deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, we will normally close up and close down, and the second half of our lives will, quite frankly, be small and silly.

– Richard Rohr

never loved, never suffered

People who have never loved or never suffered will normally try to control everything with an either-or attitude or all-or-nothing thinking. This closed system is all they are prepared for. The mentality that divides the world into “deserving and undeserving” has not yet experienced the absolute gratuity of grace or the undeserved character of mercy. This lack of in-depth God-experience leaves all of us judgmental, demanding, unforgiving, and weak in empathy and sympathy. Such people will remain inside the prison of “meritocracy,” where all has to be deserved. They are still counting when in reality God and grace exist outside of all accounting. Remember, however, to be patient with such people, even if you are the target of their judgment, because on some level, that is how they treat themselves as well.

– Richard Rohr

the real devil

The devil’s secret is camouflage. The devil’s job is to look very moral! It has to look like you are defending some great purpose or cause, like making the world safe for democ racy or keeping the bad people off the streets. Then you can do many evils without any guilt, without any shame or self-doubt, but actually with a sense of high-minded virtue. Thomas Aquinas writes that evil must disguise itself as good and, until Christians start understanding that, their capac ity for “discernment of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10) remains very minimal. They are easily duped and always misled by such devils.

– Richard Rohr

The night holds no terror for me resting under God’s wings – antiphon from Compline (night prayer)

I posted the following on Facebook four years ago today. I don’t know why. Did I know in my gut that I was so near the end of my rope and that I would hit rock bottom – hard – some five months later? 


Richard Rohr ~
When we come to the end of our rope and hit rock bottom, we are not dashed but fall into God’s hands. It is here at our lowest that we discover our true source of power, the indwelling Holy Spirit. Many years ago, during a hermitage in Arizona, I had a particularly strong sense of the Holy Spirit, the One who is fully available to all of us “if we but knew the gift of God” (John 4:10). I slowly composed this prayer–imagining many names and movements of the Spirit–to awaken and strengthen this Presence within you. Recite it whenever you are losing faith in God or in yourself.

Pure Gift of God

monochrome photo of dark hallway

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Pexels.com

Indwelling Presence
Promise of the Father
Life of Jesus
Pledge and Guarantee
Defense Attorney
Inner Anointing
Homing Device
Stable Witness
Peacemaker
Always Already Awareness
Compassionate Observer
God Compass
Inner Breath
Mutual Yearning
Hidden Love of God
Implanted Hope
Seething Desire
Fire of Life and Love
Truth Speaker
Flowing Stream
Wind of Change
Descending Dove
Cloud of Unknowing
Uncreated Grace
Filled Emptiness
Deepest Level of Our Longing
Sacred Wounding
Holy Healing
Will of God
Great Compassion
Inherent Victory

You who pray in us, through us, with us, for us, and in spite of us.
Amen, Alleluia!

addiction happens

Addiction happens when we no longer want to feel our feelings. Addiction happens when we don’t want to know our own thoughts or feel our own pain. But you know what? Addiction doesn’t work. in the long run addiction brings ten times more pain than you would experience by accepting the legitimate pain of being a human being. Religion needs to be teaching this upfront and without apology. – Richard Rohr

complicated system of paths

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language of descent

The language of descent is either learned by mid-life (normally through suffering and the experience of powerlessness), or we inevitably move into a long day’s journey of accusing, resentment and negativity, circling our wagons as the hurts and disappointments of life gather round us: “I am right and others are wrong. I have a right to my judgments and I will continue to use valuable energy to justify them.” I have visited too many old men and retired priests in nursing homes to doubt this common pattern. When mid-life no longer allowed them to ascend or to deny their dark side, far too many men shut down or kept running. The price is a world of men who do not age well, who are emotionally, spiritually, intellectually unavailable – or just eccentric. These are the dads, priests and leaders we all laugh about but seldom take seriously.

– Richard Rohr, from The Wild Man’s Journey

Our suffering today is psychological, relational, and addictive; it is the suffering of people who are comfortable on the outside but oppressed and empty within. This is a crisis of meaninglessness, which leads us to seek meaning in possessions, perks, prestige, and power-all things that lie outside the self. When these things fail to give us meaning, we turn to ingesting food, drink, or drugs, or we become mass consumers to fill the emptiness within. Bill Wilson and his Alcoholics Anonymous movement have shown us that the only way to stop seeking, needing, or abusing outer power is to find the real power within. The movement’s twelve-step program walks us back out of our addictive society. Like all steps toward truth and Spirit, the twelve steps lead us downward, to the power within, which the program rightly refers to as our Higher Power. – Richard Rohr

People who are oppressed or poor know every day that the current system is not just. They have little to lose and everything to gain by seeking justice. People on the top invariably support the status quo. Why wouldn’t they? It’s working for them. You will always want to “conserve” the system that has got you where you are. Without empathy for those Jesus called “the least of the brothers and sisters,” our politics on left or right will reflect self-interest and show little concern for the actual common good. Starting with the Exodus, and Yahweh’s identification with the enslaved Israelites, the Scriptures consistently show a rather clear bias toward the bottom of society as the necessary starting point. Any other starting point has far too much to protect and cannot hear or speak what is necessary for the common good. – Richard Rohr