The parish book discussion group met last night regarding Richard Rohr OFM’s “revised and updated” Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (Crossroad), a “spiritual classic,” with “over 100,000 copies in print.” My apologies to Fr. Rohr and Crossroad, but the blurb writer must be kidding.
One of us last night noted the “rant” quality that turns up in the book. I’d call it good blog copy. What the heck? Here today, gone later today, from readers’ minds, if not the blog page. Go for it, put your ideas out there for commenters and enemy bloggers to thrash and trash if they wish.
“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,” cried Barbara Frietchie at the English troops in Whittier’s poem, “But spare your country’s flag (she said).” Spare what in this case? Contemplative prayer? Franciscan fathers everywhere?
Pre-discussion, I had gone into Rohr shock when I tried to read the book — inkblot, you know, tell the good doctor what it means to you, don’t feel shy.
Last night I said this book has been dictated, not written: Fr. Rohr in his New Mexico hermitage and a recorder. He’s a speaker not a writer, so he talked the book out. If you’re good enough at this, some light editing will do. The publisher can handle that, this fellow sells after all. Send it to the designer, and there we are.
Then one of us found Fr. Rohr’s candid admission opposite the publisher’s boilerplate page: “I want . . . to thank . . . [so&so, whose] years of friendship . . . have sent my taped words all over the world [the years did it, don’t blame the friend]. . . [and] put it [sic] down in writing . . . ”
Notice that “years . . . sent.” Have you ever seen a year sending? Fr. Rohr has. Notice also the “put it” intended to agree with “words.” Fr. Rohr is something of an antinomian in matters of syntax, is he not? In any case, tapes are book.
I say now, post-discussion, that Fr. R’s writing is chock-full of OK words (those inkblots: fill in the blanks) and assumptions — largely psycho-therapeutic, with a heavy dose of psycho-babble, as in “If your prayer is not enticing you outside your comfort zones, if your Christ is not an occasional ‘threat,’ [why the quotes?] you probably need to do some growing up and learning to love.” Probably.
We have here some sloppy work, like that submitted many years ago by the maybe apocryphal Jesuit high school graduate to a state university professor. The kid had put AMDG over the top of his page, as he was used to doing in high school for the holy Jesuits. The professor, not at all happy with what was submitted, asked him what that meant. “For the greater glory of God,” the kid said. To which the professor: “Is THAT your contribution to the greater glory of God?”
Is this book Fr. Rohr’s contribution?