Richard Rohr: Healing the Father Wound (Pt 5)

(Read Part 4)

This is the fifth and final part of my reflections on Fr. Richard Rohr’s presentation from last Saturday on “Healing the Father Wound.” As I’ve mentioned before, these are my notes, not necessarily exact words Fr. Richard spoke. These are my reflections on his teaching. They are rough at points, though I’ve tried to edit them some.

The most common problem out there is the emotionally unavailable father. He’s there, but not there. He doesn’t know how to pass on his own soul. Many boys or young men prefer to talk with their Moms rather than their Dads for this reason. Men can be homophobic about touch, but a little boy needs dad’s touch as much as mom’s.

In most of history, children grew up in immediate contact with dad. In agrarian societies, children often worked right alongside dad. Richard Rohr’s dad was driving a tractor at nine. What happened at the Industrial Revolution was that men went to factories, and now they go to their offices. There is much less contact with dad. There is, therefore, a great hole in our souls.

The path into the second half of life is usually great suffering, great love or the practice of contemplation.

The second of the three ways of being open to God comes through the heart. How do we open our hearts to God? I looked images of local DWI offenders. They all look so broken and sad. Maybe they were abused or neglected. Victims have to do something to salve their wounded hearts.

Pentecostals taught me early on that the heart space does need to be open to God. You can’t exclude emotion from religion. It cannot be only a head-trip. Try visiting an inner-city black church. They’ve found a way to keep the heart-space open to God. You have to feel the love of God. You cannot just think it. You really are a beloved son or daughter of God. Talk a walk in nature silently. God has been speaking far longer than we’ve been listening. God has revealed Himself far longer than we’ve been around to witness Him.

Surrender is letting God be in charge. Often, in initiation rites, men have to be alone for an extended time in nature to recognize the reality of their lives and the world around them. If you’re quiet enough long enough, listening and looking, the heart eventually opens to God.

To open the heart to God, you must recognize and acknowledge the wounds of the heart. Then you must bring those wounds to God to be healed. God can’t heal what we don’t acknowledge. If you do not transform your pain, you will transmit it. Good religion is about transforming pain. Bringing our wounds to God keeps our hearts open to God.

Think about this. Babies smile 900 times a day. Men sixty-years-old and older smile, on average, three times a day. What happened along the way? Why can’t our faces radiate the glory and beauty of God around us? Probably because we really don’t see it like when we were children.

The third opening to God is how to live inside your own body. Shouldn’t an incarnational religion honor the body? We should have a very positive theology of physicality. But our failure to do so is an implicit denial of incarnation. Massage therapists know that wounds of the heart and the mind lodge in the body.

In silence, we need to be patient with the junk that will come to the surface. All of this junk lodges in the body. Jesus didn’t use the language of the “unconscious,” but He did talk about “going to the Father in secret.” The Father in secret will reward. Go to the hidden, hated, feared, unacknowledged, shameful places within you. This is the “in secret” place we need to go to with God.

God simply wants us to return to Him the gift of who we really are. The returning of it is the redemption of it. Then we can let go of the pain and inward suffering.

A good confessor or spiritual director is supposed to be a good mirror-er. Someone we can be completely, brutally honest with and be fully loved. They become the doorway of God. If you haven’t experienced unconditional human love, it is very difficult to imagine receiving unconditional love from God.

There is no evidence of Francis of Assisi ever having been reconciled to his father. He had a deep father wound, yet he became one of the most admired saints. He was joyful. The Library of Congress says that no other human person has had more biographies or “Lives” written about them than Francis. Not even Jesus.

There are two common economies. The first is an economy of merit, achievement, or attaining. Too many Christians live in such a meritocracy. There is always a “not enough” to be guilty of. But the “gospel” (the good news) is an economy of grace. He loves us as much as we are open and ready to be loved.

The longer I live, the more of my own darkness I see. It doesn’t mean I’m growing worse, but I’m seeing more. I’m grateful to be seeing myself in the context of God’s accepting, healing love.

When a child gives you a drawing, it may not be amazing art, but its beauty is in the heartfelt giving of it.

Grief work is a privileged doorway for men into the second half of life. Too many older men look angry. There is just so much unprocessed grief. In fact, so much male anger is really just unprocessed male sadness. Women have more cultural freedom to cry and grieve. Men are expected still to pretend that nothing touches them. It all gets pushed down. This is why there are so many grumpy old men.

Click to pre-order Richard Rohr’s upcoming book,
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life on

5 thoughts on “Richard Rohr: Healing the Father Wound (Pt 5)

  1. Alan, this is an amazing set of notes. Healing the Father wounds are an important part of persoanl growth (spiritual, emotional, psychological). Reading your notes on Fr. Rohr has been a blessing and encouragement. The second half of life is suppose to be the time when we put things together, but for most of us, we are still trying to piece the first half life together as we live the second half of life. Fr. Rohr covered a lot of territory. All really good stuff. I look forward to hearing and seeing him soon in Congress. Thank you for sharing your experiences with Fr. Rohr. PS. The Atlantic Monthly article on “The End of Men” is quite interesting.

    1. Glad the reflections helped. It really was a great day with Rohr last Saturday. Grace to you today…and in your continuing second half of life…

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