Note: Remembering that Falling Upward was first published in 2011
(at the end of a decade of rising pain over sexual abuse in the Church),
let’s listen to Richard Rohr:
Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it… Matthew 16:25f
Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me… Matthew 14:37f
The Church teaches us the message of necessary suffering:
To explain why I begin this chapter on necessary suffering with two hard-hitting quotes from Jesus of Nazareth, let me explain a bit about myself. I must start with my birth relationship with Catholic Christianity…because in many ways it has been the church that taught me – in ways that it did not plan – the message of necessary suffering. It taught me by itself being a bearer of the verbal message, then a holding tank, and finally a living crucible of necessary (and sometime unnecessary!) suffering.
The Church is a crucible of necessary suffering:
A crucible holds molten metal in one place long enough to be purified and clarified. Church requirements force you to face important issues at a much deeper level. Catholicism became for me a crucible… The pedestrian and everyday church has remained a cauldron of transformation for me by holding me inside both the dark and the light side of almost everything, and by teaching me non-dualistic thinking to survive.
Refusing to split and deny reality keeps me in regular touch with my own shadow self, and much more patient with the rather evident shadow of the church. Catholicism is the ‘one true church’ only when it points beyond itself to the ‘one true Mystery,’ and offers itself as the training ground for both human liberation and divine union.
The Church as parent
Like all limited parents, the church has been ‘good enough,’ and thus has taught me how to see that goodness everywhere. So the church is both my greatest intellectual and moral problem, and my most consoling home.
All the churches seem to crucify Jesus again and again by their inability to receive his whole body, but they often resurrect him, too. And I am without doubt a microcosm of this universal church. The church has never persecuted me or limited me in any way. The formal church has always been a half-hearted bride for me, while the Franciscans have been considerably better.
But the Gospel itself is my full wedding partner. It always tells me the truth, and loves me through things till I arrive somewhere new and good and much more spacious. I quote Jesus because I still consider him to be the spiritual authority of the Western world, whether we follow him or not. And many of the findings of modern psychology, anthropology, and organizational behavior give us new windows and vocabulary into Jesus’ transcendent message.
What Jesus means by ‘hating’ family
How consistently the great religious teachers and founders leave home, go on pilgrimage to far-off places; and how often their parents, the established religion, spiritual authorities, and even civil authorities fight against them! And of course, ‘church family’ is also a family that one has to eventually ‘hate’ in this very same way. We all must leave home to find the real and larger home.
Jesus uses strong words to push us out of the family nest and to name a necessary suffering at the most personal, counter-intuitive, and sentimental level possible. It takes a huge push for people to find their own soul apart from Mom and Dad; so Jesus pulls no punches, saying you must ‘hate’ your home base in some way and make choices beyond it. It takes therapists years to achieve the same result and reestablish appropriate boundaries from wounding parents and early authority figures, and to heal the inappropriate shame in those who have been wounded.
What do you think?
Rohr writes, “How consistently the great religious teachers and founders leave home, go on pilgrimage to far-off places; and how often their parents, the established religion, spiritual authorities, and even civil authorities fight against them! And of course, ‘church family’ is also a family that one has to eventually ‘hate’ in this very same way. We all must leave home to find the real and larger home.