Finding a deeper and broader Christian experience.

Question & Answer

 

Q: By Philip

I come from a traditional evangelical upbringing and have embraced catholicismCatholicism. However, I am also exploring the more modern Christian concepts as related by Bishop Spong and Rev. Matthew Fox. I am very attracted to those concepts and want to incorporate them into my spirituality, along with Buddhist and native American wisdom.

But I still find meaning and comfort in traditional catholic practices. Living in the rust belt, I am hard pressed to find any congregation sympathetic to the newer interpretations and viewpoints of progressing spirit. I feel very alone in the congregation, but do not have much opportunity to find a place to fit in.

Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for a seeker who doesn’t happen to live in a progressive community where such a congregation can be found?

 

A: By Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

Dear Philip,

Thank you for your question, I am moved to hear that you are continuing your search for a deeper and broader Christian experience and viewpoint than you were brought up on.  Indeed, there is much in what you call “traditional catholic practices” that is rich and deserving of our attention, as well as improving on and bringing up to date.

Since I was a practicing Roman Catholic for 54 years and a Dominican for 34 of those years, I know something of what I speak.  One example is bringing the Mass into the 21st century with what we call the Cosmic Mass.  We have celebrated over 100 of these in North America, including one at the World Parliament of Religion in Toronto last November.  Bringing in the body through dance and post-modern art forms like dj, vj, rap, etc. definitely brings the Mass alive and invites us to pray with all our chakras.

As far as finding communities in your neck of the woods, there is the Benedictine community of Sister Joan Chittister near Erie, PA.  They know creation spirituality well and are living it.  There is also the international group based in the US called Creation Spirituality Communities (CSC)—look up their web page and newsletter/blog.  There may well be folks in your area who have created a community.  If not, you could always start one!  You can go online with the group and learn more about it.

Also there is the new Order of the Sacred Earth (OSE) which has now I believe about 40 “pods” or communities around the country.  They meet on line every month and come from a variety of spiritual backgrounds—you are welcome to tune in to that exchange.  The book that launched the Order, written by myself and the two young co-directors, is called: Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action.  Check them out and see if there is a group in your area.

In addition to adapting the Mass, I recommend adapting other traditional practices like mantras (the rosary is a mantra).  Take bumper-sticker sayings from the Scriptures or the mystics and turn them in to mantras.  My most recent book on Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful & Useful Names for God…including the Unnameable God invites turning such names into mantras, a powerful prayer.

You are wise to explore the wisdom of the indigenous peoples and of Buddhism—I treat both side by side with our own Meister Eckhart in my recent book, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times.  There Black Elk, Thich Naht Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Coomeraswami, Rumi and others interact with Eckhart.  The wisdom of mystics across religious divides is so powerful and necessary a path to pursue today.

Other great Catholic mystics worth your consideration surely include Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Thomas Berry, Thomas Aquinas–rarely considered as a mystic but he shines forth as one in his own words in my book Sheer Joy: Conversations on Creation Spirituality with Thomas Aquinas.

Practicing contemplation such as reading the Scriptures or mystics and stopping when something strikes you deeply, and being with that moment letting it take you into silence; or reading nature itself – going into nature and allowing it to speak to you; or centering prayer, for example as taught by Father Richard Rohr – these are also worthwhile ways to go deeper.

Also don’t neglect Pope Francis’ excellent encyclical on the Environment, Laudato Si (it was actually written by a former student of mine plus my friend Leonardo Boff).

~ Matthew Fox

About the Author
Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox holds a doctorate in spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris and has authored 35 books on spirituality and contemporary culture that have been translated into 71 languages. Fox has devoted 45 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship. His work is inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and has awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. He has helped to rediscover Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas. Recent books include The Lotus & The Rose: Conversations on Tibetan Buddhism and Mystical Christianity with Lama Tsomo; Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the God Without a Name; new paperback version of Stations of the Cosmic Christ with Bishop Marc Andrus.  A Special Eckhart@Erfurt workshop in June, 2019.

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