by Richard Rohr
THE GIFT THAT true contemplatives offer to themselves and society is that they know themselves as a part of a much larger Story, a much larger Self. In that sense, centered people are profoundly conservative, knowing that they stand on the shoulders of their ancestors and the Perennial Tradition. Yet true contemplatives are paradoxically risk-takers and reformers, precisely because they have no private agendas, jobs or securities to maintain. Their security and identity are founded in God, not in being right, being paid by a church, or looking for promotion in people's eyes. These people alone can move beyond self-interest and fear to do God's necessary work. Look at how many saints, theologians, and especially women foundresses of orders were corrected, threatened, and even persecuted by the church during their lifetimes. God is always bigger than the boxes we build for God, so we should not waste too much time protecting the boxes.
People who have learned to live from their center in God know which boundaries are worth maintaining and which can be surrendered, although it is this very struggle that often constitutes their deepest "dark nights." Both maintaining and surrendering boundaries ironically require an "obedience," because they required listening to a Voice beyond their own. If you want a litmus test for people who are living out of one's True Self, that might be it: they are always free to obey, but they might also disobey the expectation of church and state to obey who-they-are-in-God. Think of St. Paul, Thomas à Becket, Joan of Arc, Thomas Merton, or Dorothy Day. Scary stuff, this contemplation!
Taken from Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer by Richard Rohr (New York: Crossroads, 1999 2005), pp. 24-25.