Yesterday we had the honor of welcoming back an old friend, Richard Rohr, OFM. He started his speaking and writing ministry here in our own province of Cincinnati Franciscans, growing a pioneering Christian community of young people, the New Jerusalem Community, in the 1970s.
Along the way, he and Sister Pat Brockman, OSU, approached Franciscan Media (it was called St. Anthony Messenger back then) and asked if we might sell recordings (tape recordings!) of Richard’s talks along with our magazine and some new things, like Homily Helps and Catholic Update.
Selling audiocassettes was a new thing back then. Our publisher at the time, Father Jeremy Harrington, always the innovator, said, “Let’s try it!” The rest is history. Richard’s fame grew as he was sought to speak near and far. In the 1980s he moved to New Mexico, where he had been invited to start the Center for Action and Contemplation, which he still leads and animates (“ensouls”). Along the way he sold thousands and thousands of copies of his audiocassettes, many of which became immensely popular books. His is a name known, literally, in many parts around the world. Of course, these are in all manner of media today.
In his early days he talked a lot about the Holy Spirit and the winds of renewal blowing through the Church. These days, a seasoned Richard Rohr speaks a lot about the Holy Spirit and mysticism, about finding a third way between the yes and no, black-and-white thinking of so much of our culture. It’s the way of St. Francis.
That’s what Richard came and talked to us about yesterday at Franciscan Media. He touched on all sorts of themes during a 45-minute teaching, including a reminder that Franciscan Media has always held that middle ground, as he said, “working from the edge of the inside,” a place clearly within the Church, but challenging those in the Church to “broaden their world.” He proudly claims the many gifts and insights of Vatican II, whose 50th anniversary we celebrate these coming years. “To reject Vatican II is to reject Trent, Chalcedon, Constantinople. You can’t reject one Council of the Church without rejecting them all.”
He spoke with passion of his coming retirement from speaking, and of how he and his staff at the Center for Action and Contemplation are laying the groundwork for an ongoing ministry. Richard, of course, will still remain active in that New Mexico community.
He’s been giving a few conferences in other parts of Ohio this week. While he was with us yesterday, he also did some work in our media production studio, including some voicing for an audiobook, interviews for AmericanCatholic.org, and video trailers for two of his books, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent and Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Both are incredible!
You can find out all about Richard and his many, very popular works on our special Richard Rohr page.
Photos by Frank Jasper, OFM, and John Feister