Fr. Ron Rolheiser

Fr. Ron Rolheiser

Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.

He is a community-builder, lecturer and writer. His books are popular throughout the English-speaking world and his weekly column is carried by more than seventy newspapers worldwide.

Fr. Rolheiser can be reached at his website, www.ronrolheiser.com.

Perhaps the single, most-often quoted line from Pope Francis is his response to a question he was asked vis-à-vis the morality of a particularly dicey issue. His, infamous-famous reply: “Who am I to judge?”

Sometimes you can see a whole lot of things just by looking. That’s one of Yogi Berra’s infamous aphorisms. It’s a clever expression of course, but, sadly, perhaps mostly, the opposite is truer. Mostly we do a whole lot of looking without really seeing much. Our eyes can be wide open and we can be seeing very little.

We live inside a world and inside religions that are too given to disrespect and violence. Virtually every newscast documents the prevalence of disrespect and violence done in the name of religion, disrespect done for the sake of God (strange as that expression may seem). Invariably those acting in this way see their actions, justified by sacred cause.

Raissa Maritain the philosopher and spiritual writer died some months after suffering a stroke. During those months she lay in a hospital bed, unable to speak. After her death, her husband, the renowned philosopher Jacques Maritain, in preparing her journals for publication, wrote these words:

Eternity has more kinds of rooms than this world does.

This is a thought inside the head of Marilynne Robinson’s fictional character, Lila, in Robinson’s recent novel. Lila has reason to think that way, that is, to think outside the box of conventional religious piety because her story is not one that fits piety of any kind.

The biblical accounts of Jesus’ passion and death focus very much on His trial, describing it in length and in detail.

Several years ago, Mel Gibson produced and directed a movie which enjoyed a spectacular popularity. Entitled The Passion of the Christ, the movie depicts Jesus’ paschal journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to His death on Golgotha, but with a very heavy emphasis on his physical suffering. The movie shows in graphic detail what someone who was being crucified might have had to endure in terms of being physically beaten, tortured and humiliated.

For the past six months, while undergoing treatment for cancer, I was working on a reduced schedule. The medical treatments, while somewhat debilitating, left me still enough health and energy to carry on the administrative duties in my present ministry, but they didn’t allow me any extra energy to teach classes or to offer any lectures, workshops or retreats at outside venues, something I normally do. I joked with my family and friends that I was “under house arrest.” But I was so grateful for the energy that I still had that being unable to teach and give lectures was not deemed a sacrifice. I was focused on staying healthy, and the health that I was given was appreciated as a great grace.

Most of us worry about aging, especially in how it affects our bodies. We worry about wrinkles, bags under our eyes, middle-age fat and losing hair where we want it only to find it on places where we don’t want it. So every now and then, when we look in a mirror or see a recent photograph of ourselves, we are shocked at our own faces and bodies, almost not recognizing ourselves as we see an old face and old body where we are used to seeing a young one.

Normally none of us like feeling sad, heavy or depressed. We prefer sunshine to darkness, lightheartedness to melancholy. That’s why, most of the time, we do everything we can to distract ourselves from melancholy, to keep heaviness and sadness at bay. We tend to run from those feelings inside us that sadden or frighten us.