St FrancisTwo weeks ago I fulfilled my quest to listen to Fr Richard Rohr celebrate Mass at Holy Family Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Father Richard has been a teacher of mine for several years, offering non-dualistic thinking and an appreciation of Jesus that, he has repeatedly said, many Christian churches miss.

I read and reflect on Fr Rohr’s daily meditations first thing every morning and enjoy several of his books, but I wanted to hear him in the context of Church. He preaches the alternative Franciscan orthodoxy and I wanted to be present to this within traditional Catholicism. I sat down in the middle of the church amidst mostly Hispanic parishioners. The church is large and it took a bit to adjust to the sound system, including the large built-in projection screens (which I abhor as they detract from my focus on the liturgy). Some of the responses  and now we have “consubstantial” in the creed, which ihave been changeds certainly in most parishioners’ daily vernacular.

The title of the homily was “Jesus’ Inaugural Address“, and I was struck by how Fr Rohr’s essential messages were preached inside such a traditional and unchanging institution (Pope Francis aside, of course). The rest of the liturgy was from formulations of late antiquity and medieval theology. Sin, died, went to hell and, of course, “consubstantial with the Father”. The best Fr Rohr could do with that was “sisters and brothers” not the usual.

For me, I’ll keep the rites as part of the conversation, but, for me, contemplation, mysticism and the simple teachings of Jesus need no connection with 4th Century Imperial Christianity.

I did get to shake Fr Rohr’s hand and offer him my own blessings I left church feeling spiritually uplifted. I stepped out into the sun and it had worked!

Note: The statue of St Francis sits in the courtyard of the Albuquerque Museum of Art. The facial expression is so unlike the usual backyard statuary.

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