National Treasure #117: Ronald Rolheiser

Ron Rolheiser, Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is – wait for it – an Oblate priest. I think he’s the only Oblate priest whose name I know.

Since 2005, Fr. Ron has been the President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. That was after six years as the Regional Councilor for Canada, serving on the General Administration of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in Rome.

He also writes.

In 1982, while living and studying in Belgium, Fr. Ron began to write a regular feature column in the Canadian newspaper, The Western Catholic Reporter. The column offered reflections on various theological, church and secular issues. Choosing to call his column, In Exile, Fr. Ron wrote:

“All of us live our lives in exile. We live in our separate riddles, partially separated from God, each other, and even from ourselves. We experience some love, some community, some peace, but never these in their fullness. Our senses, egocentricity, and human nature place a veil between us and full love, full community, and full peace. We live, truly, as in a riddle: The God who is omnipresent cannot be sensed; others, who are as real as ourselves, are always partially distanced and unreal; and we are, in the end, fundamentally a mystery even to ourselves.”

Thirty-two years later, the popular column is carried by almost one hundred newspapers worldwide.

For a fellow who started life in Cactus Lake, Saskatchewan, he’s done remarkably well on the national and international stage. But he’s a national treasure less for his presumed administrative and organizational capabilities than for his voice: his view of life and his ability to express it compellingly. Fr. Ron makes me think, and he also helps me feel better about the world and myself.

I see his columns sort of haphazardly through a weekly religious-news aggregator blog. Here are bits from two columns that I like.

When I was in the Oblate novitiate, our novice master tried to impress upon us the meaning of religious poverty by making us write inside of every book that was given us the Latin words: Ad Usum. Latin for: For use. The idea was that, although this book was given to you for your personal use, you ultimately did not own it. It was only yours temporarily. We were then told that this was true of everything else given us for our personal use, from our toothbrushes to the shirts on our backs. They were not really ours, but merely given us for our use. – Nothing is ever really ours to keep

There comes a point in life when our major spiritual struggle is no longer with the fact that we are weak and desperately in need of God’s forgiveness, but rather with the opposite, with the fact that God’s grace and forgiveness is overly-lavish, unmerited, and especially that it goes out so indiscriminately. God’s lavish love and forgiveness go out equally to those have worked hard and to those who haven’t, to those who have been faithful for a long time and to those who jumped on-board at the last minute, to those who have had to bear the heat of the day and to those who didn’t, to those who did their duty and to those who lived selfishly. – Amazing Grace

I’m not Catholic; I’m not even religious, really. And I still think Fr. Ron is a treasure.


This entry was posted in Appreciating Deeply, Through Canada and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to National Treasure #117: Ronald Rolheiser

  1. Laurna Tallman says:

    If you were not religious, you could not recognize Fr. Ron for the gem he is.
    And “Catholic” has many true meanings.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – I’m glad you, too, think he’s a gem. Some of his pieces don’t speak to me, but the ones that do, really hit the mark.

  2. Paul Coffman says:

    I am not a Catholic either, but subscribe to the E. Iowa, USA diocesan weekly newspaper. I don’t read very much in the newspaper but almost always look at Fr. Ron’s column. The one you quoted, Nothing ever is really ours to keep, I clipped and it is laying on the table by my bed. Thanks for pointing out to me that he is a Canadian. And thanks to Laurna for pointing out that “Catholic” has many meanings.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Paul – No one could never guess the connections we share. Thanks for letting me know. Fr. Ron has a great batting average.

Comments are closed.