« Why Male Initiation »

This video is from one of Richard Rohr's many public appearances. I finally had a chance to get to one such appearance myself last week in Laguna Niguel. There he talked about what he calls the Father Wound, the ubiquitous issue of fathers having been somehow distant in relationships to their kids, but especially with sons, in an unfortunate and often tragic gift economy that should not be. The crowd that I sat among was a co-ed crowd of men who either had completed the rites of passage that Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation puts on, or men who were interested in such a step in their spiritual lives. Women too were there, perhaps trying to support their fathers, sons, brothers in direct action, or learning what makes men tick.

richard rohr speaking

One gripping story he told was about a time when he was getting his men's work teachings into some public form in the mid 80s. He was in Germany at a cathedral filled with men under 40. One spoke up about why there would be so many men. The first was took all their grandfathers in its savage wake. The second war took all their fathers after their fathers' generation tried to father itself with one guy who made the promises to be a father to the nation, but had not the right heart, a situation that left a whole nation devastated and bereft of a positive male influence.

Another great part of his talk was echoing the insights that his friend and fellow Catholic priest Henri Nouwen had about Rembrandt's painting, The Prodigal Son. Nouwen regarded the painting as an illustration of the spiritual journey itself, from the easily identifiable lost son who returns, to the son who gets cozy with the power center of things (God, father) and is jealous of grace; and then of course, the father who is the perfect embodiment of the dichotomous characteristics of firmness and mercy. A couple years ago I read Nouwen's book, a long meditation on the original painting, Nouwen having made special arrangements to sit with it alone in the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg for 24 hours straight.

richard rohr up close after the gatheringI got a chance to meet Fr. Rohr after about three years of knowing of him, and nearly two years of reading his thoughts in books or meditations. And of course, after some months following the profound time at the Mens' Rites of Passage in AZ—an experience that keeps unfolding in meaning for me over time. I thanked him for giving me a new set of keys to unlock so many things in life.

In April I am going to be among the opt-in bunch of Returning Initiated Men who go to the rites that a new group of men are experiencing, in a show of solidarity and support, the same as others returned to my ritual week. This experience in April is local for me, in Julian (about 60 miles from here), and is just an overnight stay with time to refresh and connect with others who already had the experience and want to support others.

I'm still awaiting an answer on my extended stay in New Mexico for a week longer than the Red Mesa spring break. The idea of two weeks in this special place is exciting.

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