In Confessions, The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, we discover a man deeply committed to listening to Spirit and responding to Spirit’s call as a powerful advocate for justice. We encounter Matthew Fox initially trying to lay low and be an obedient priest, yet unable to turn a deaf ear to the hunger of the spiritual and marginalized poor. Instead of laying low, Matthew Fox responds to the hunger he encounters, be it in disenfranchised youth seeking relevancy in their spiritual quests, women subjugated within a highly misogynistic and patriarchal church, homosexuals shunned and shamed, or spiritual seekers of all faiths demonized by the political-religious amalgam of right-wing Christianity and the entrenched powerful elite. His response comes from a grounding in the roots of Christian mysticism, the works of great theologians, Fox’s own decades-long scholarship as a theologian himself and personal, embodied spiritual contemplation. Jesus said, “feed my sheep.” Matthew Fox has dedicated his life to spiritually feeding the people and in so doing, has angered many who benefit by keeping the people hungry. The book, Confessions, The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, takes us into a journey of discovery, faith, challenge, great joys and deep sorrows, all in service and response to life breathing herself into being.
Listening, for Matthew Fox, is listening across the centuries in his study of history and spiritual thought, listening to the people in his immediate surroundings and listening to the voice of Spirit within the silence of contemplation. Yet television evangelists and popes also claim to hear the voice of God. How can we trust anyone who claims such insights? I would look to the fruits of the tree. Are fear, mistrust and harm created or connection, empowerment and dignity imparted? I would say the fruits of Matthew Fox’s labor shine above the fruits of his detractors.
Listening without a response is only a half measure. Listening with an earnest response can lead to justice. Justice in Matthew Fox’s life is advocating for women’s rights: the right to the priesthood, the right to education, the right to lead. Justice is the dismantling of homophobia within the community, moving from the harm created by an “us vs them” mentality to a “we are all in god and god is in all of us” awareness. Justice is advocating for the earth, for all creation, for she is who we are, inseparable from creation. Justice is standing by all spiritual traditions for the gifts they bring. Justice takes strength, faith and the willingness to be knocked down, and then get back up again. Matthew Fox’s life is a study in standing for justice despite the cost. This cost has been harrowing for Matthew Fox and worth the subject of a whole other blog (read the book :-) ).
Spiritual renewal or spiritual awakening is accessed through the arts. Spirituality as the recognition and relationship of Life and Spirit indwelling and simultaneously surrounding us cannot be properly described or understood with words alone and by necessity needs the language of art. Matthew Fox recognizes the vital importance of art, poetry, song, dance, and clowning to enliven our relationship with creation and feed our longing for spiritual awakening. Art as the soul’s language is key to making the spiritual experience relevant and alive. The use of art to reinvigorate liturgy as expressed in The Cosmic Mass, a beautiful spiritual ritual midwifed into being by Michael Fox and some other great spiritual visionaries, also deserves a whole blog post.
Somehow in my own experience growing up Catholic, I was exposed to the inclusive mystical Jesus. The Jesus who welcomed women and outcasts, the Jesus who fostered love rather than blind adherence to the rules, the counter-cultural Jesus. I owe a debt of gratitude to Matthew Fox and the women and men of the 60's and 70's who rediscovered and articulated this Jewish mystical Jesus and then evolved the theology of the Cosmic Christ, the expression of the creator in all of creation (us included). Reading Confessions, I reflect on my own, less dramatic spiritual journey, from flirting with the Jesuits at Fordham, to seeking spiritual awaking, to embracing a cosmic, incarnate, creation-based spirituality. I continue to ponder my response, the praxis of my life. I am grateful for the language and guidance offered through reflection on Matthew Fox’s life. His autobiography is truly a spiritual resource for my own journey.
An autobiography traces the formative events in one’s life and the rich mosaic which creates who we express in this world. Hopefully, our true self, our soul shines through in this expression and not the restrictions, shackles, and stories fashioned by others out of fear, ignorance and control. Matthew Fox has listened all his life in an attempt to bring forth a genuine, Spirit-led response, to uplift the young and bring true healing and connection in a world desperately needing community. I would like to close with a famous quote from Thomas Merton who was one of Matthew Fox’s spiritual angels. This quote speaks of faithfulness and humility, both present with me as I read Confessions. Matthew Fox’s life is a testament to listening deeply and responding with courage and faith in service of all creation.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
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Jose Enciso is an engineer by profession, a poet by necessity and a seeker of spirit and soul. He brings a gentle presence and deep respect for the interior journey as expressed through creative and expressive arts. Jose is a skilled group facilitator who is committed to the spiritual and psychological growth of those around him. He trained under Francis Weller to lead men’s initiation groups doing deep soul work and is equally comfortable in managing complex technical projects. Jose is devoted to the emergence of the divine feminine, supporting women and men claiming their voice and power, and rediscovering the soul of masculinity. He is currently working on multiple projects including a book which seeks to encourage everyone to write their own poetry as a discovery of their own soul's truth.