Richard Rohr Meditation: What Do You Want?

A good gauge of spiritual health is to write down
the three things you most want.
If they in any way differ,
you are in trouble.
—Daniel Ladinsky, inspired by Rumi [1]

.. If we are really convinced that we have the Big Truth, then we should also be able to trust that others will see it from their different angles—or it is not the Big Truth.

.. “We begin to discover that our Buddhist and Jewish and Islamic and Hindu friends are not competitors. Religion is not a survival of the fittest. There is a deep understanding that we all swim together or we sink together. Each religious tradition reveals a color of the heart of God that is precious.” [2] As the old saying goes, do you want to be right or do you want to be in relationship?

.. Or, as Aquinas was fond of saying, quoting Ambrose (another Doctor of the Church), “If it’s true, it is always from the one Holy Spirit.” [3] The important question is not, “Who said it?” but, “Is it true?”

.. while all the world’s religions cannot and must not be reduced to one truth, their core teachings are unifying; they are all calling us to the truth of our essential oneness. This unity in diversity is a cause for celebration.

At their immature levels, religions can be obsessed with the differences that make them better or more right than others. Pope Francis insists that mercy is at the very top of the Christian hierarchy of great truths [5], and everything falls apart whenever mercy is displaced by anything else or anything less. Bourgeault writes:

Saint Ambrose – the man who invented silent reading

Some have disputed this, but it is claimed that Ambrose invented silent reading. The Romans were in the habit of declaiming a text, even in private, reading aloud to audiences, even an audience consisting only of oneself. But Augustine says of Ambrose, in Book 6, chapter 3 of his Confessions:

When [Ambrose] read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.

It strikes me that Augustine would not have mentioned this if it had not struck him as something completly novel. But why is it important? Silent reading is something interior, which involves listening to the quiet inner voice. Ambrose’s discovery of silent reading marks the beginning of the Western way of doing things, our quite appropriate emphasis on the importance of our inner and interior lives. This is something of which we are in danger of losing sight: what counts is the interior person, and my real life is my inner life: this is the locus of salvation. Because Ambrose is the first to point to this through reading, he stands at the head of a great tradition.