Buckfast Clear Voices Ron Rolheiser.

It's impossible to do a complete post on all the seminars at Buckfast but this first post gives some overall impressions from Ron Rolheiser's talks.
 I'm aware they don't do him justice but it's the best I can do for now. :-))

Unusually for me, I didn't take many notes because for once I wanted to just immerse myself !
Ron Rolheiser is a mercurial figure and he can draw from such a deep well of experience that  I wondered if he was able to carefully choose what he said with some sort of sixth sense as to the type of audience he was addressing. 

Ron Rolheiser MoMI.

He peppered his three seminar talks with many phrases and jokes I recognised from several of his books and articles which didn't detract from the experience as he is a compelling speaker. He also mentioned that James Hillman was his mentor in later years- anyone who is a regular reader of my blog will know I am a fan of Hillman !
 I had a brief chat with Fr. Ron afterwards and would certainly have liked to have spoken more to him about Hillman's influence.

 What follows is taken mainly from the handouts given in note form. 

Some of what he said is amplified in his reflections on his website in this reflection on The New Evangelisation from May 2012 here 

and is also discussed in his books e.g  Against An Infinite Horizon and Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting For Christ In the Eucharist.

  His latest website post here is titled "The Powerful Voices Within" and covers some of what he said too.

The Struggle To Proclaim God's Voice with Clarity

He said we need a new apologetics and stressed that secularity was a child not an enemy. 

He gave three examples 
  • Kathleen Norris : "likens secularity to a belligerent child."
  • Louis Dupre : " like a child in late adolescence , secularity is not bad, it's just unfinished."
  • Tomas Halik- secular culture and Western Judeo- Christianity as the "younger brother"  and "older brother" in the Lucan parable of the "compassionate father."

Some Guidelines for the Long Haul

  • The need to recognise the urgency, centrality and Gospel mandate of the new evangelisation.
  • The need to recognise that this is most of all a battle for the imagination and heart and that it needs today to particularly focus on the romantic imagination and its capacity to bring together "energy" and "wisdom."
  • The need to emphasise BOTH catechesis and theology - he also said that the way this was to be done was gently and with nuance and not to bash people over the heads who have been so ecclesiastically depleted over the years !!
  • The need for a multiplicity of "languages."
  • The need to appeal to the idealism of people, particularly the young.
  • The need to evangelise beyond any ideology of the right or left.
  • The need to remain " Catholic" in our evangelisation - by that he stressed the definition of catholic as  Universal.
  • The need to preach both the freedom of the gospel and its call today for a new maturity.
  • The need to give special witness to fidelity
  • The need to never bracket the essentials of respect, charity and graciousness and to be patient with one another and with God.
On Feeling God's Voice Through Physical and Mystical Touch : Some Mystical and Sacramental Images. 

This article by Fr. Ron here titled "The Mystically Driven Life from June 2012, builds on some of the notes content given below.
  • The need to be mystical ; he gave a working definition of mysticism as being touched by God at a level that is deeper than words, thoughts, imagination and even feeling. 
( Ruth Burrows)

Some examples and expressions of mysticism :

  • Bernard Lonergan - " the brand of the first principles inside the soul. First principles = oneness, truth, goodness, beauty.
  • Henri Nouwen - "first love- the unconscious memory of once having been caressed by hands far gentler than our own."
  • The Stoics: "The dark memory of God's kiss before we were conceived."
  • C.S. Lewis- " God's compulsion inside us "
  • " Our deepest centre, our moral centre; the bell inside of us that rings true or false, our conscience, our ought centre."

Mysticism as an ordinary experience for everyone.
God's voice within the mystically drive life- being in touch with our deepest centre and acting out of its nudges and imperatives.

Some Mystical Images
  • The beloved disciple with his head on Jesus' breast
  • John's image of Mary Magdala " searching for Jesus at sunrise in the garden."
  • John's image of Mary. Jesus' mother  " standing under the cross." 
  • Stephen being martyred with his "eyes turned up to heaven."
  • The prophet , Daniel and the young men in the fire- seven times hotter than usual.
  • Jacob wrestling with the angel in the dust and in the night.
  • Theresa of Avila - " kiss me full on the mouth."
  • Therese of Lisieux- " gathering up the unnoticed drops of blood from the face of the suffering Christ."

Some Sacramental Images - God's Voice as clear and felt through human touch

Standard definition of a sacrament : an outward sign instituted by Jesus Christ to give us grace
  • "Being touched by God in the flesh."
  • Andre Dubus : "Without touch God is a monologue."
  • Brenda Peterson : "skin needs to be touched."
  • God with "skin on "
  • The incarnation as an ongoing " We are the body of Christ."

The Eucharist as God's Kiss

Various examples : you can look these up.
  • Mortakai story
  • G.K. Chesterton : The late afternoon when the kid turns to torturing the cat
  • Brenda Peterson : Skin must be touched 

The woman touching the hem of Christ's garment - Mark 5

  • As reconciliation
  • As connecting our loved ones to the body of Christ
  • As anointing each other for death
  • Marriage bed as "Eucharist."

The woman finding the Lost Coin- Luke 15

  • The incident 
  • 10 as a number of wholeness
  • Recasting the story as God's clear voice in our compulsive search for wholeness

Jesus Washing the disciples feet

The incident at various levels of meaning :
  • The first level of humility
  • Second level : a special kind of humility that reaches across and is predicated on knowing our true identity.
  • The challenge of God's voice in " the other."

Also I like the fact that he asked us to see through evangelisation efforts  and not get carried away by the euphoria. He associated the fact that although World Youth Days and huge conventions were undeniably enjoyable and produced a high for 4-5 days, it was also important to consider that however large the gathering, e.g. a million in Toronto, there were still 69 million not there and who would not be dragged there by wild horses, so the challenge to reach them is huge.

(I recommend his book Against an Infinite Horizon: the Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives Chapter 11 for more on this theme.

This article from a while back title Waiting For A New St Francis is taken from part of the book's Chapter 11 and is particularly relevant to discussions on evangelisation.

A Proposal 

I and others would have liked to have heard a joint open ended "Q and A" session between Fr. Ron Rolheiser and the Benedictine monk and former Abbot of Worth Abbey Christopher Jamison on this topic after their respective seminars.

Maybe this idea could be incorporated into future planning of similar events. 

Christopher Jamison OSB

Seminars always provoke and stimulate more questions and thoughts and it would have been effective to have a follow up workshop type event to follow up on some of these talks from the keynote speakers and might also give opportunities for useful feedback to them too.

 I'll be posting on Abbot Jamison's talk later on. It stirred up a lot of debate among us !

If anyone would like CD or mp3 copies of most of the talks from the Clear Voices Festival at Buckfast Abbey they will eventually be able to order them from here
Unfortunately they are not free. 

A selection of 10 talks /seminars costs £40 or £5 each and the mp3's are £3.50 each.

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