Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
From the Center for Action and Contemplation
Action and Contemplation:
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
A contemplative lens is the only frame through which we can recognize and address the three sources of evil: the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we remain in egoic consciousness, evil (especially in its first hidden forms that look so much like goodness), will take over unchallenged. This is exactly what Brazilian archbishop Dom Hélder Câmara (1909–1999) said many years ago when he talked about the “spiral of violence”: institutional violence provokes a violent response, which in turn is met with “necessary” repression,  and then the same pattern repeats, each level growing more and more violent without really resolving the underlying problem (or evil).
The spiral feeds upon itself. The individual zealot tries to rise above “the rotten, decadent system,”  as Dorothy Day called it, by attempting solutions that usually attack the symptoms. That attempt may make the individual and the state feel moral, but it rarely touches the underlying causes. Think of the policies that led the United States to build a wall at the border instead of honestly asking why people want to come to begin with. Why was a wall terrible in Berlin but salvific in Juarez, San Diego, and the present state of Israel? We criminalize the actions of desperate individuals, but rarely question the global economic systems and untouchable corporations that keep such unequal circumstances in place for their own gain.
Frankly, addressing root causes and taking appropriate action require a lot more work and spiritual intelligence. Our egos will always be on the lookout for a quick fix and immediate satisfaction, which too often leads to a deeply flawed solution. But the gift of contemplative practice is the ability to remain humble and hold the tension between the rightness and wrongness on each side of the issue until the Spirit moves in and offers us a wiser course of action.
Câmara saw how many righteous cures were worse than the disease itself (for example, communism as a response to poverty, fascism as a desire for social order, prohibition as a solution to alcohol abuse, or our current inability to tackle the issue of immigration in an intelligent way). Non-contemplative “cures,” which lack love and holistic wisdom, never address the underlying violence which most people have already agreed not to see. We support the evil of the system and then pretend to hate this same evil in individuals.
This lack of recognition of the root causes of evil is the source of much of the moral powerlessness of most Christian nations, institutions, and individuals. Because we thought we had God on our side, we believed all the things we did were good or even God-blessed! But many people now recognize that isn’t true and never has been, which leads me to believe we are more than ready for authentic and effective contemplative action.
Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?
Prayer for Our Community:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.
Listen to Fr. Richard read the prayer.
 Hélder Câmara, Spiral of Violence, trans. Della Couling (Dimension Books: 1971), 30-31, 34.
 Dorothy Day, “On Pilgrimage,” The Catholic Worker (September 1956), https://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/articles/710.html.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil? (CAC Publishing: December 2019), 65-66,67, 69.
Image credit: Algerian Woman Preparing Couscous (detail), Vincent Manago (1880–1936).
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In this new book, Richard Rohr invites us to understand evil with a nondual mind. What Do We Do with Evil? encourages readers to look beyond personal morality to “increase personal responsibility and human solidarity.”
A Study in Search of True Self
When the ego is in the driver’s seat and we let it dictate our course, we move further away from our God-given calling. Immortal Diamond is an online course that takes seekers on a journey into who they really are—spiritual beings navigating a human experience. Apply for financial assistance by February 2, 2020. Registration closes February 12.
2020 Daily Meditations Theme
What does God ask of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. —Micah 6:8
Franciscan Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because he saw a deep need for the integration of both action and contemplation. If we pray but don’t act justly, our faith won’t bear fruit. And without contemplation, activists burn out and even well-intended actions can cause more harm than good. In today’s religious, environmental, and political climate our compassionate engagement is urgent and vital.
In this year’s Daily Meditations, Father Richard helps us learn the dance of action and contemplation. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time! Click the video to learn more about the theme and to find reflections you may have missed.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: By contemplation, we mean the deliberate seeking of God through a willingness to detach from the passing self, the tyranny of emotions, the addiction to self-image, and the false promises of the world. Action, as we are using the word, means a decisive commitment toward involvement and engagement in the social order. —Richard Rohr