Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 4, 2009
Franciscan priest explains nine stages of spiritual growth
Fr. Richard Rohr
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
CALGARY — Part way into his novitiate, Richard Rohr approached his novice master to announce he had decided he couldn’t be a Franciscan. He had been reading St. Francis’ writings and thought the man cried too much.
Today, Rohr, now a Franciscan priest, understands those tears are one of nine stages of spiritual development or levels of consciousness that accompany the process of growing in faith.
St. Francis’ tears reflected a higher stage on the continuum, Rohr told a recent gathering in Calgary. They reflected a person becoming conscious of their weakness and imperfection, and recognizing the presence of God.
At the lower stages, the person is focused on themselves and overly conscious of what others think of them. It can lead to pretense and presenting an image rather than an honesty that leads to freedom.
Rohr says a crisis is usually required to shift a person from one of the lower, controlling stages to seeing that God is God, and self is not. Men, he says, have greater trouble with growth in the area of faith than women do.
“The male ego is much more defended and blocked to change. Admitting to failure does not come easy to them, which probably served them well for warfare in earlier cultures. Men think religion is too soft, and sweet, and they turn it off.”
Without a crisis, men will not move beyond the stage of believing they are in charge or creating an image of their strength and power, Rohr said.
“Failure has more to teach than success. Success teaches almost nothing at all. Life as you’ve constructed it has to disappoint you or you won’t grow up.”
The founder of the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, N.M., Rohr gave three talks in the Calgary area April 20-21.
Nine stages of development are associated with the journey of faith, he said.
Those stages reflect attitudes to self and identity and relationship with God, he said. The initial stages are focused on self while the higher stages move towards recognition of God’s presence always at work in everything.
Rohr said that between stages four and five, there is the recognition of weakness and powerlessness akin to St. John of the Cross’ dark night of the soul.
At this stage men must face the “father wound” and change it into the “sacred wound,” a place where God is. They must also deal with their grief over failures and the sense life didn’t turn out as they wanted it to.
“Grief work is an essential part of men’s work. This is the point where I face something I can’t make right, I can’t fix it.
“I recognize it is what it is, and either I fall into the hands of God, or go crazy. It is really the point of salvation, the handing over the source to another. I stop trying to do it myself.”
Moving to stage six means accepting the emptiness and powerlessness and acknowledging all the previous techniques to make yourself morally superior were faulty and could not succeed.
MEN NEED MENTORS
Rohr said men need mentoring to guide them through the emotional shoals of life. Women recognize the need for others far more readily than men do and are more ready to turn to one another for support on their spiritual and emotional journey.