AMDG

51vxcbXaBmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A book which has had a big influence on me recently was Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.  Rohr, an American Franciscan, has written many books on Spirituality.   He is a ‘spiritual entrepreneur’ having started different communities and recently a Centre for Action & Contemplation.  One of the themes he is very interested in is that of Male Spirituality.  He is acutely aware of a modern male crisis, often linked to the search for a masculine identity. There are many pressures and expectations that men and women face in their daily lives,  men seem less able to talk about it.  Recently looking at  as sharp rise in  Male Suicide rates,  analysed  and concluded that men are failing to cope, as well as keeping their problems hidden from others

Thinking about renewal in the Church – it is important to acknowledge the generational tension in the priesthood in the UK.  The older guys – often the ‘formators’ –  are confused about the younger guys who are entering.  Those of us born since the 70’s were formed in the postmodern age, where almost nothing has been stable or constant or certain,  social attitudes have changed dramatically.  The church has been trying to reform itself through the Second Vatican Council, the full reception of which takes generations.   Exacerbating this has been recent years of public scandal over paedophilia and cover-up by the hierarchy. Now, at least in the UK, these scandals are being exposed in other institutions, the BBC, even Football Clubs, so at least the Catholic Church is not being portrayed as the unique place for these terrible crimes.

Rohrs’ thesis is that the task in the first half of life is in ‘forming the container’…. 51606445-wounded-child-falling-from-his-bike-and-crying-while-holding-his-knee-with-dad-coming-to-help-isolat-stock-photocreating our identity, building up our ego, leaving the nest, achieving things.  Kids test their strength, and when they ‘fall down’, they have to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and get on with it.  However, most of us get to a point where we are secure enough in who we are that we realise that these things don’t matter so much any more, then according to Rohr we start falling upwards.  This is chronological, so we have to past through the first phase to get to the second – but we move at different paces. Some people don’t even get to the second stage.  So for instance, you could be in your 60’s but emotionally you are still a teenager, need your ego boost, need attention etc you are still in the first half of life.  You can also be 16, caring for an ill parent, looking after your brothers and sisters as though you were their dad or mum, and you can be incredibly mature… already you may have reached Rohrs’ falling upward stage.

One of Rohrs’ observations is that there is a generation of priests, seminarians and some bishops,  many who have “father wounds,” which can take the form of an absent, emotionally unavailable, alcoholic, or even abusive father and often had no chance to do the task of the first half of life well. So now they want a tribe that is both superior and secure. This manifests itself as a generation of seminarians and young clergy who are cognitively rigid and “risk averse”.  So they want to circle the wagons around their imagined secure and superior group, this bringing them into tension with a Pope who is encouraging them to get out of the sacristy and not be frightened of making mistakes.  This results in a form of clericalism –   preoccupation with clothing, titles, perks, and externals of religion; and more complex things such as  ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, and social justice are dead issues for them. Rohr points out that we can’t dialogue with others until we can calmly and confidently hold our own identity.

downloadAn interesting thesis – maybe this explains why some aspects of the Catholic blogosphere and media are obsessed with Amoris Letitia, particularly one footnote.  The danger is that they end up looking inwards and prefer talking about ‘the reform of the reform’ rather than getting their hands dirty by sharing in the messiness and brokenness of all our lives. In a time of VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, it is tempting to pull up the drawbridge.  Whereas we are called to deepen our faith, put out into the deep and listen to Jesus saying ‘Do Not be Afraid for I am with you always’.