The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St Francis by Richard Rohr

Summary: A series of six lectures on spiritual development.

Just over a year ago I first listened to The Art of Letting Go. And at the time I absorbed much, but also thought I needed a second listening. So I have slowly listened to this a second time over the past two weeks.

The strength and weakness of the book is its format as lecture/conversations.  It is formated as six lectures for those that would like to go on a spiritual retreat with Rohr but cannot. Rohr is clearly working off of notes but does tend to go off those notes occasionally and is not always as precise about his language as he could be. But at the same time this is very conversational and relaxed in tone.

One of the things I appreciate about reading Catholic priests and monks is that the Catholic church is much more comfortable with psychology and philosophy than the Evangelical world. But the flip side of that is that the language used by Catholics often has slightly different meanings (usually more precise academic meanings) than many Evangelicals are used to.

So many Evangelicals would question Rohr and his ‘new age’ rhetoric. Of course, he is not new age, nor universalist. But like his spiritual hero Thomas Merton, he has read and studied with eastern mystics and is comfortable taking ideas from eastern philosophy or religion and applying them in a Christian setting. Also Catholics has a longer institutional memory and understand the meditation and mysticism has a history within the Western church as well.

Overwhelmingly this is a book about spiritual growth. Rohr believes that growth does not happen accidentally, it is something that has to be worked on. We are saved by grace, but without work we remain just as infant Christians. It is that old problem about sanctification vs salvation.

Several of these lectures I thought were much more helpful than others. But they did work together well to explore what makes spiritual growth hard in a modern world, how to overcome some of those hindrances and how to embrace the old patterns of obedience and sacrifice instead of the modern self help through good intentions.

On my second listening I still thought that this was a very helpful. But I did think that I would like a book format where he was more focused and precise and less wandering. The wandering has some great wisdom in it, but also some distractions.

Rohr’s most recent book is Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi which seems to cover some similar areas. I will probably pick that up and read it soon.

The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St Francis by Richard Rohr Purchase Links: Audiobook

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