By Richard Rohr, OFM
“The life and death of a human being is so exquisitely calibrated as to automatically produce union with Spirit.” —Kathleen Dowling Singh
We chose the word “ripening” for the theme of the second issue of Oneing to move us beyond any exclusive concern with physical aging. Our concerns are much broader than that. We want to talk about notions of maturity, eldership, staging, sequencing, growth, and direction. Where is this thing we call “life” headed? Who sets the standard? Is there any standard?
Beginning with Jesus’s four kinds of soil and receptivity (Mt 13:4-9), to John of the Cross’s “nights” and Teresa of Avila's “mansions,” through the modern schemas of Jean Piaget, James Fowler, Lawrence Kohlberg, Eric Erickson, Abraham Maslow, Carol Gilligan, and Bill Plotkin, each clarify that there is a clear direction and staging to maturity and therefore to human life. We live inside of some kind of coherence and purpose, a believer might say. Unless we can somehow chart this trajectory, we have no way to discern growth or maturity, and no ability to discern what might be a full, fuller, or fullest human response. Neither do we have any criteria for discerning an immature, regressive, or even sick response. When pluralism itself becomes the goal, a postmodern dilemma is created. There must be a direction to ripening, but we must also recognize that any steps toward maturity are by necessity immature. An understanding of ripening basically teaches us the wisdom of timing, love, and patience, and allows us to be wise instead of judgmental…
To read Fr. Richard’s complete article as well as reflections by 11 other writers on this theme, order this edition of Oneing.