Compass columnist is main speaker at TEAM Days

By | February 17, 2010

“Cinderella is the whole archetypal thing that says that before you can go to the ball, before you can marry the prince, before you can truly celebrate, you have to spend your time sitting in the ashes,” said Fr. Rolheiser.

He noted that “cinders” refer to ashes and make Cinderella, the girl who sits in the ashes, an appropriate Lenten reflection.

“You simply can’t have Easter unless you first spend your time sitting in the ashes,” he said. “A prelude to any true feast has to be a fast. Fasting has to be a prelude to true feasting.”

How would Easter chocolate taste, he asked, if you had eaten candy all week?

Fr. Rolheiser’s TEAM Days’ talk is “Ministering in Today’s World.” In it, he plans to address what it means to be adult disciples and modern missionaries. He noted that modern Western culture is actually more in need of missionaries than the developing nations of Africa or Asia. He called our affluent and secular culture “the toughest mission field,” and said there are no easy answers to being a disciple, or a missionary witness, to Christ.

The key, though, he said, is love and criticism:

n “Your first movement,” the priest said, “has to be to love the world and be prepared to die for it. Not to hate the world and cut ourselves off from it.

n “Then the second movement, and that’s more paradoxical, is that, after we love the world and bless its goodness, then we go and stand where the cross is erected and speak the word that comes from the cross.”

That’s the criticism part.

The two, love and criticism, must go together, Fr. Rolheiser said. As example, he pointed to Jesus, who wept over Jerusalem’s hard-heartedness and still loved it enough to die for it.

“If I criticize the culture without loving it,” Fr. Rolheiser said, “I go nowhere. If I love it without criticizing it, I don’t help the culture.”

He said that, sadly, most people in our world and in our church cannot take that loving, critical stand. It calls, he said, for personal repentance and conversion.

“I have to become a loving, mature, faithful, patient and respectful person,” he said. “Before I do that, my preaching isn’t going to carry much clout. I can have all the truth in the world, and it will come across negative, cold, wish-washy.”

Such conversion is not an easy task, the priest cautioned, and there are no easy techniques to follow to get there. Rather, it’s “a life task.” And it certainly isn’t done with only words.

“Today in the church,” he said, “we’re telling people to love each other, respect each other, be kind to your enemies, turn the other cheek. And we never do that. From the top on down. Everybody knows that’s the truth. And nobody does it.”

Fr. Rolheiser’s Saturday workshop will focus on “Dealing with Our Holy Longing.” His book, “The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality” was published in 1999.

He said that exploring our holy longing goes “more to our struggle for self understanding, our struggle with all the fire inside of us, the longing, the aching, the sexual tension.”

He wants to help people understand this longing more deeply, both in terms of being a Christian and of being more at peace with our own complexities.

“We always say we are plain little people,” he said. “In fact we are not plain people at all. You know you’re not a plain little person. You know there is a God inside you that is kicking away at you, at a lot of the little edges.”

Fr. Rolheiser has been a columnist for The Compass since 1987. He said The Compass was the first U.S. paper and the second paper, after his home diocese’s paper, The Western Catholic Reporter in Edmonton, to carry his column, “In Exile.” Since then, the list of papers carrying it has grown to more than 70 papers.

For more information on TEAM Days or Team Saturday, visit the diocesan Web site at

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