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Spirituality

Realityís clash of contradictions

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THE NAKED NOW: LEARNING TO SEE AS THE MYSTICS SEE
By Richard Rohr
Published by Crossroad Publishing Company, $19.95

Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr’s new book, subtitled “Learning to See as the Mystics See,” extols the spiritual benefits of learning to live comfortably with paradox, with the process of conversion, with learning to change our minds as life comes at us with its messiness and disorder.

He claims that if your religious practice is nothing more than to remain sincerely open to the ongoing challenges of life and love, then you will find God -- and also yourself.

It’s a bold claim, but Rohr offers sound reasoning to support it. Great people, he says, keep adjusting to what life offers and demands of them.

The lonely will always be with you

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She walks her route at night across the campus, up this stair, down that, always alone, like a ghost retracing its path for the thousandth time. She is tall, gaunt and plain. Rumor has it that her husband divorced her many years ago and she never got over it.

His resentful senior colleagues devise a plan to oust him. They prevail on a junior female teacher to claim that he is prowling around her and represents a physical threat. The administration falls for the ploy, and the man is exiled to the farthest reaches of the campus with instructions not to talk to any of his colleagues.

She is a bubbly nonstop talker. She comes home for a visit, but her relatives make excuses not to see her. She sponges off an old friend and talks incessantly about herself, uninterested in anything else, never offering a hand at the cooking or cleaning up. Her friend can’t get rid of her soon enough.

Faith relies on practical action, says author

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THE CASE FOR GOD
By Karen Armstrong
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95

Acclaimed British writer Karen Armstrong has been described as one of the most provocative and original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world.

Her first book, Through the Narrow Gate, chronicled her seven years as a nun in a Roman Catholic religious order, which she quit in 1969. She has authored biographies of the Prophet Muhammad and the Buddha, and the best-sellers A History of God and The Battle for God.

Liturgy as theater

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Growing up in the 1960s, I worshiped at two parishes. Both were Roman Catholic. However, the celebration of Mass was very different as I went back and forth from summers in metropolitan Virginia to school in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The basics of pre- and post-Vatican II liturgical celebrations were identical. Nevertheless, at one parish I often found myself daydreaming, planning the upcoming week’s calendar. The celebrant’s voice was monotone; his liturgical presence was lifeless; it was as if a vampire had drained every ounce of his blood. Hymns were the same selections over and over again, performed in a musical key not even the youngest Vienna choirboy could reach.

Music for the journey

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I live in Kansas City, Mo., but recently celebrated Sunday liturgy with a church community in another area of the country. It was a Sunday in ordinary time with no special celebrations, religious or secular. The parish must have been in the middle of a stewardship or fundraising drive because the homilist, while touching on the scriptures, spoke a lot about the need for parishioners to share time, treasure and talent. That may be a catchy phrase, but it seems somewhat stale without being connected and anchored to any deeper images. Unfortunately I found my mind wandering. I don’t believe the homilist was unconvinced about his message, but he seemed not to know how to express it so it caught fire and came alive.

The eternal christ in the cosmic story

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Fr. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province. He founded the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati in 1971, and the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque in 1986, where he presently serves as its founding director. He is a regular contributor to Sojourners and Tikkun magazines, and the author of books such as Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality and Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation.

He is a sought-after speaker and retreat giver. Themes he addresses include the integration of action and contemplation, community-building, peace and justice issues, male spirituality, eco-spirituality, and the cosmic Christ. In this section, NCR’s Rich Heffern talks with Rohr about this last subject, how Jesus fits into the new universe story.

Lady Madonna, cyclists at her feet

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PORTLAND, ORE. -- Reflections of blinking white bike lights danced up and down the organ pipes inside St. Stephen’s Episcopal Parish here on a recent Monday night. On the north wall, Lady Madonna had 35 bicyclists at her feet.

Pushing their bikes inside the church, the riders had escaped the autumn chill of downtown Portland. They had come to watch the Rev. Dennis Parker bless the nation’s first known church shrine honoring the Madonna del Ghisallo -- patron saint of cyclists.

“Creator God,” Parker said as he bowed his head in a corner of the sanctuary that held four long pews, “we ask that on this day you be with us in our travels.”

The lost significance of hunt and harvest

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It started in the blackberry patch. As a kid one July day I was taken to an overgrown pasture outside of town where gallons of this delicious wild fruit hung, free for the taking, on thorn-bristling vines that dropped heavily toward the earth. We filled our pails with berries until our hands were stained dark blue and then hauled them home to use in pies, cobblers and homemade ice cream.

10 Minutes with ... Harvey Cox

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For more than four decades, Harvey Cox has been one of America's most influential and provocative theologians.

In his new book, The Future of Faith," Cox argues that Christianity is moving from an "Age of Belief" dominated by creeds and church hierarchies to an "Age of Spirit," in which spirituality is replacing formal religion.

Cox, who is retiring from Harvard, spoke about why he believes creeds are divisive, religion on campus, and why Pope Benedict XVI didn't invite him to lunch.

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April 11-24, 2014

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