I sometimes think of Rohr’s work as the fifth gospel, and own enough of his books to read them in constant rotation. His message is so uplifting, I can never absorb it all, and want to reflect on it over and over. My journals are filled with his quotes, which become mantras to live out each day. Although ALL the books are marvelous, I especially like Immortal Diamond, Falling Upward, The Divine Dance, The Naked Now, Yes, and…, The Universal Christ. For those who prefer podcasts, many are available from his Center for Action and Contemplation, near Albuquerque, NM.
This brief overview can’t begin to do justice to all Rohr has meant to me over many years. Ironically, his common sensical themes are deeply rooted in Christianity, but sadly we rarely read or hear them. Perhaps most important: “it is all finally and forever okay.” (The Divine Dance, p. 180) This is a God of no blame, only acceptance, because God is not punitive, angry nor vengeful. (The wrathful God of some Old Testament passages marked a historical point in humanity’s thinking. But the narrative arc moves “toward an ever-more-developed theology of grace, until Jesus becomes grace personified.” (The Divine Dance, p. 136) Jesus then ignores or opposes punitive, exclusionary or imperialistic texts. Although Rohr provides abundant proof, I won’t go into it all here—but it’s fascinating and consoling.)
As is this passage: “You are bone of God’s bone, and that’s why God cannot stop loving you. That’s why no amount of effort will make God love you any more than God loves you right now. And… you can’t make God love you any less than God loves you right now.” (The Divine Dance, p. 135) Those words come like balm to people raised on the ol’ “just try harder” school of theology—as if we could ever earn God’s freely given love!
Although Rohr is a Franciscan priest, he has a breadth many clerical authors lack. Their frame of reference seems to be primarily the sacraments and liturgy. He looks to the full scope of the Perennial Tradition, gathering wisdom from many of the world’s religions. Because he is a Franciscan, he can sidestep much of the hierarchical nonsense of the Catholic church, and simply take the alternate, still perfectly legitimate path St. Francis did.
In Falling Upwards, he ends forever the stigma attached to failure. After all, the crucifixion of Jesus could be seen as a colossal disaster. Or, like our own disappointments and tragedies, the necessary prelude to Resurrection.
Although I’ve never met Rohr personally, I’ve attended some of his talks and heard many of his interviews. (He once joked that his worst nightmare was to be interviewed by Krista Tippett for “On Being” and appear shallow.) He comes across as affable, self-deprecating and funny. He has welcomed women as co-authors and partners in teaching. Best of all, he shows us that the truths he has reached don’t come via the thinking mind, but from contemplation, a world beyond our usual thought patterns, the only way to approach the infinite divine.