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Red Flags Are Up! On the Writings of Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

by Sr. Joseph Mary Maximilian, FTI

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  • Description:
    Fr. Rolheiser is a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He is a lecturer and writer with a weekly column that is carried in more than 50 newspapers worldwide. This article is a review of his writings.
  • Publisher & Date:
    Our Lady's Warriors, Unknown

Fr. Rolheiser is a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He is a lecturer and writer with a weekly column that is carried in more than 50 newspapers worldwide. He is the author of numerous books as well. He has been a priest for 28 years.

Fr. Rolheiser has been a speaker at the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference that is conducted yearly and that is where I first encountered his name.

He writes and speaks on things of a "spiritual nature" and defines spirituality in his book The Holy Longing as "what we do with the fires inside of us, about how we channel our eros".

Finding that definition a little confusing, I went to the dictionary and the definition of eros is: the aggregate of pleasure-directed life instincts whose energy is derived from libido and another definition is that eros is: love directed toward self-realization.

Whoa!

The "channeling of eros" does not seem to be in line with a spirituality as taught and understood by the Roman Catholic faith. Father Rolheiser that how we channel that fire is our spirituality and compares the burning of the spiritual fires in Mother Teresa, Janis Joplin and Princess Diana.

One of those truly is a model for authentic spirituality and has been beatified by the Church but the other two do not show great promise for leading souls to union with God.

Father's writings include writing of 'spirituality of sexuality' and says this of celibacy: "...when Christ went to bed at night he was in real solidarity with the many persons who, not by choice but by circumstance, sleep alone... Anyone who because of unwanted circumstances is effectively blocked from enjoying sexual consummation is a victim of a most painful poverty... To sleep alone is to be poor. To sleep alone is to be stigmatized... outside the norm for human intimacy and to feel acutely the sting of that... when Jesus went to bed alone he was in solidarity with that pain, in solidarity with the poor".

Fr. Rolheiser has also written of St Therese:

Therese was, by nature, a very lonely person—she lived celibate and single in a monastery within which there were long periods of silence and the rules forbade most kinds of intimacy and contact. Her loneliness was more of a moral nature—it is in this deep inner place that we ultimately feel most alone.

More deeply than we long for a sexual partner, we long for moral affinity—our deepest longing is for someone to sleep with morally.

This preoccupation with the supposed sexual spirituality of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of St. Therese is certainly something to give concern. Father goes on to write of St. Therese as she "slept alone on her celibate cot" that "she was, as are all restless persons, tormented by constant yearning."

I never got that sense that this dear Saint was "tormented" and certainly not because she slept celibately and alone! Yes, she is the Saint of desires but as St. Augustine said of the knowledge of God, "Our souls are restless until they rest in You". The desires and restlessness are met in the knowledge of God. Our Lord and many of His dear saints were not "blocked" from sexual consummation!

Rather they gave totally of themselves and the nuptial meaning of their bodies to God for the furthering of the Kingdom of God.

In another area, Father writes about his four pillars that support a "healthy marriage of Christianity and spirituality". They are: private prayer and private morality (whatever that is), social justice and mellowness of heart and spirit. Contrast that to the four areas of the Catechism of the Catholic Church with the common area being prayer. The other pillars cited in the Catechism are the Profession of Faith based on the Apostles Creed, the Celebration of the Christian Mystery based on the Sacraments and Life in Christ based on the Commandments and teachings of the Church.

Father Rolheiser asks in one writing what does it mean to "lose one's soul"? Not eternal damnation, he suggests. but it is to become "unglued" or to fall apart.

"When I don?t know where I am going, then I lose my soul.

This is what Jesus meant when He asked, 'What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul.'"

This reviewer can see where to come unglued might mean the loss of peace but the loss of the eternal soul is something totally different and Jesus meant what He said when He said that the loss of the soul that meant eternal damnation was the greatest loss of all.

In another recent writing from July 10, 2005 Fr. Rolheiser writes that "We commit the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit when we live so long inside of a lie that our soul can no longer recognize truth or forgiveness. That's why Martin Luther warned: "Sin honestly". In John's Gospel, Jesus doesn't talk about the sin of the Holy Spirit. But gives its lesson instead in reverse. He tells us that the SINGLE condition to enter the Kingdom, to go to Heaven, is to refuse to lie, even if we are weak and sinful. All of this seems to fly in the face of the Beatitudes! Is it not possible for an "honest" person who commits all sorts of crimes and sins to come to damnation?

There are uncountable "spiritual" writers in this day and age. One who is a priest and who has lived Holy Orders for many years and who had many years of training to enter that Sacrament, does command a certain respect based on those facts alone. Such a person is deemed credible and perhaps as a guide to help souls in the seeking of God and in the Catholic sense because he is a priest. Yet the "spirituality" that Father writes of is of his own thought and making and not in keeping with the science of spiritual direction so long established in the Roman Catholic Church. There is a great deal of self-introspection and not enough looking to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, for fulfillment. There is not the seeking of the graces Our Lord merited on the Cross for our salvation and the means of living in that state of grace so as to be pleasing to God. Much talk of categories of loneliness or a nebulous spirituality does not guide anyone to Truth. And Truth is more than just not the telling of a lie. The need to accept all that Jesus revealed to us through the Apostles and through the Church He founded does not seem to carry weight but rather we can figure things out for ourselves with our categories and gnostic knowings.

This reviewer cannot recommend the writings of Fr. Ronald Rolheiser for those interested in authentic Catholic spirituality and searching to know Jesus Christ, the Savior. Authentic prayer and devotions, meditations on the Passion, the reading of Holy Scripture and frequent reception of the Sacraments will be, by far, the better investment of time.

Sr. Joseph Mary Maximilian, FTI

Our Lady's Warriors

See also Archbishop Levada: Call Your Office!

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