Friars from the six U.S. provinces participating in the Revitalization and Restructuring Process gathered recently in two states for retreats led by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM. Retreatants had the opportunity to hear remarks from the author and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, as well as the chance to fraternize with and get to know OFM friars outside of their communities.
Fr. Richard, a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, covered a range of topics drawing largely from his writings – including his book “Just This,” as well as from John Duns Scotus, St. Bonaventure and contemporary writers such as Ken Wilber, according to Jud Weiksnar, OFM, who attended the Florida gathering. “He discussed several topics such as levels of human development and consciousness, that were interspersed with anecdotes about friars,” Jud said.
The retreat leader spoke of the significance of contemplation in our time and the urgency of adopting a more contemplative, non-dualistic stance, according to Fr. Charles Talley, OFM, communications director of St. Barbara Province. “He said he wasn’t here to tell us what to think, but rather to show us how to think. He observed that we in the Western world and in the Church suffer from a dualistic mindset that has kept us from growing and developing in true spirituality,” Fr. Charles said. “Instead, he said that we have concentrated on rituals and externals, and that we ‘re living the consequences of this… Much of our cultural life is an artificial, passing show taken to be substantial.”
Instead of succumbing to a world of relativism in which “nothing means nothing,” Fr. Richard suggested that “we learn anew to surrender to the experience of awe, and that in this, we become able to maintain over the long haul what we learn through love and suffering, according to Fr. Charles.
Approximately 60 friars participated in the first interprovincial retreat held Jan. 14 to 18 at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. At the second retreat, from Feb. 4 to 8, nearly 45 friars met at the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park, Fla.
“We use a dualistic approach for the ‘normal,’ everyday decisions of life,” Fr. Richard said. “But one cannot approach issues like love, death, suffering, notions about God, infinity, or sexuality with dualistic thinking.” He observed that, starting with the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, Western (“imperial”) Christianity essentially forfeited this contemplative way of “seeing” – a gift of the early patriarchs and matriarchs of the Church.
“The ‘gift’ was entirely lost, however. I was revived for a brief time by St. Francis (‘an intuitive genius’) and the early Franciscans. Now, in our contemporary society, the value of the contemplative is being rediscovered and retrieved: We live in an amazing time – ‘a second axial consciousness,’ as it’s been described. It’s very exciting… [But] we need to rewire our brains [for it],” said Fr. Richard, who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, N.M., 30 years ago.
He provided retreatants with a copy of his 2017 book, “Just This,” as a companion text, which helped reinforce the ideas in his oral presentations. A slim but dense volume, it afforded retreat attendees the opportunity to reflect in depth on the content of his talks, which Fr. Charles said were frequently peppered with wry comments on contemporary culture, politics, and the state of the Church and the Order.
Jud, a resident of Buffalo, N.Y., said, “Richard referred to our six provincial cultures and some of the challenges we will face in creating a new merged provincial culture.”
During the Florida retreat, Jud gave a brief presentation one evening on the plan being developed by the US-6 JPIC Animators for a national Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation as part of the R & R Process. “The retreat setting was delightful as long as you avoided the snakes and alligators, and of course we were fed well,” he said with a smile.
While interprovincial retreats have been held for more than 25 years, they are taking on a greater role and significance now that the more than 600 members of provinces across the country are planning for unification.
“This was the first gathering of friars since we voted last year to unify,” said Christopher Keenan, OFM, who attended the Arizona retreat. “There was a conscious effort by all of us who attended to introduce ourselves by the town where we live, rather than with the province to which we belong. I felt that we were looking at the future,” he said.
Ignatius Harding, OFM, of Triangle, Va., said he appreciated spending time with friars of other OFM provinces because it enabled all participants to get to know one another and their cultures.
“It was an incredible opportunity to celebrate prayer and Eucharist together, as well as to hear stories by friars about places and wonderful and significant Franciscan ministries from different areas of the country,” Ignatius said. “In all aspects, it was a graced time that left me with a deeper appreciation of our vocation of active contemplation so alive in our total immersion in the Trinitarian experience, and so meaningfully presented by Richard Rohr.
“The highlighted holy space we were especially impressed with was the newly consecrated Franciscan Conventual Church with its artistic use of color, light, religious spaces and even the latest environmentally friendly systems of heating, light and sound,” added Ignatius, who attended the Arizona retreat.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- Blessed John Duns Scotus— Franciscan Media
- “Holy Name Province Votes to Unify with Five Other Franciscan Provinces” – May 30, 2018, HNP Today
- “Richard Rohr Honored, Other ESC News” – May 17, 2018, HNP Today
- “Road to Emmaus Provides Focus for 2016 Interprovincial Retreats” – Aug. 28, 2015, HNP Today