I am adding here the opening paragraphs from the book mentioned above written by Richard Rohr. I think the title and the subtitle( The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety) describe the dilemma and condition our culture finds it's self in today, perfectly.
God is our hope. Christ and his message is that hope spoken and demonstrated. It is what we are invited to participate in with him.
THE POSTMODERN OPPORTUNITY
"One reason so many people have lost heart today is that we feel both confused and powerless. The forces against us are overwhelming: consumerism, racism, militarism, individualism, patriarchy, the corporate juggernaut. These "powers and principalities" seem to be fully in control. We feel helpless to choose our own lives, much less a common life, or to see any overarching meaning in it all.
This became all the more evident after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Everything that has seemed so important---stock options, consumer choices, increasingly affluent lifestyles---suddenly faded. Church attendance increased immediately. Religious websites experienced a surge in activity. We saw a wave of patriotism unseen in decades. Some people even had the courage to look into our collective conscience and start questioning if the developed nations have been doing enough to help eradicate poverty worldwide. All of it points to a long-standing, deep need in our society that we must face with more urgency.
More than anything else, I believe, we face a crisis of meaning. The world seems so complex, and we feel so small. What can we do but let the waves of history carry us as we try to keep afloat somehow?
But maybe we can look to that same history for some patterns, or for those who found the patterns. That is the thesis of this book, and in that sense it is a very traditional book, even though many of these patterns point to revolutionary suggestions. I am going to point particularly to the man who has one of the longest bibliographies of anyone in history: a thirteenth-century Italian called Francis of Assisi. He must have had some kind of genius to have attracted so many cultures and religions, and to be contemporary in so many of his responses eight hundred years later.
Saint Francis stepped out into a world being recast by the emerging market economy. He lived amid a decaying old order in which his father was greedily buying up small farms of debtors, moving quickly into the new entrepreneurial class. Francis stepped into a Church that seemed to have been largely out of touch with the masses. But he trusted a deeper voice and a bigger truth. He sought one clear center and moved out from there.
The one clear centerpiece was the Incarnate Jesus. He understood everything else from that personalized reference point. Like Archimedes, Francis found his one firm spot on which to stand and from which he could move his world. He did this in at least three clear ways.
First, he walked into the prayer depths of his own tradition, as opposed to mere religious repetition of old formulas. Second, he sought direction in the mirror of creation itself, as opposed to mental and fabricated ideas or ideals. And, most radically, he looked to the underside of his society, to the "community of those who have suffered," for an understanding of how God transforms us. In other words, he found depth and breadth---and a process to keep you there.
The depth was an inner life where all shadow, mystery and paradox were confronted, accepted and forgiven. Here he believed God could be met in fullness and truth. The breadth was the actual world itself, a sacramental universe. It was not the ideal, the churchy or the mental, but the-right-in-front-of-you-and-everywhere----the actual as opposed to the ideal.
And, finally, he showed us the process of staying there---the daring entrance into the world of human powerlessness. His chosen lens was what he called "poverty" and, of course he was imitating Jesus. He set out to read reality through the eyes and authority of those who have "suffered and been rejected"---and come out resurrected. This is apparently the "privileged seeing" that allows you to know something that you can know in no other way. It is a unique baptism that Jesus says we must all be baptised with (see Mark 10:39). My assumption in this book is that this is the "baptism" that transforms. It is larger than any religion or denomination. It is taught by the Spirit in reality itself.
One can argue doctrinally about many aspects of Jesus, but you can not say he was not a poor man, that he did not favor the perspective from the "bottom" as a privileged viewpoint. All other heady arguments about Jesus must deal with this overwhelming given. Francis did. It became his litmus test for all orthodoxy and for ongoing transformation into God. Who would have thought of it, except God?
For Francis, the true "I" had, first of all, to be discovered and realigned (the prayer journey into the True Self). Then he had to experience himself situated inside of a meaning-filled cosmos (a sacramental universe). Finally, he had to be poor (to be able to read reality from the side of the powerless).
Francis taught us, therefore, that the antidote to confusion and paralysis is always a return to simplicity, to the actual right-in-front-of-you, to the naked obvious. Somehow he had the genius to reveal what was hidden in plain sight. It was so simple that it was hard to get there."
Speaking for myself now, I found God answering a long running prayer of mine at the beginning of this year. I had been praying for true leadership to emerge in the world and here in America. We must live and learn that it is his spirit that leads us, but we also have a long history of people that have gone before us. To see how someone else is relating to and being changed by the spirit of God can be an encouragement and help to us.
Father led me back in history to some who had moved and lived in ways that helped changed the course of human experience and seemed to live out of a place that was so different than anything around them. They all seem to have one thing in common. They were willing to sacrifice the safety and security of the easy life that many in their time were living and we in America have become so accustomed to. This seems to be the way forward that I am seeing and feeling Father challenging me to walk out into. I don't pretend to be there or to know what this all means. But I do know this, we have made a mess of things and it seemed to me that I needed to look to something that trancends all I had known and through that experience have my life set right in him. He has been faithful and is changing much inside me. I'm beginning to trust that as this continues to happen, we will see a people live in the way of Christ, so they can help give others hope as they try to make sense of it all in this age of anxiety.