Confessions:: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest

Overview

Visionary, activist, and one of the most important religious thinkers and teachers of our time, Matthew Fox has devoted his career to unleashing the suppressed mystical and life-affirming traditions within Christianity. His theology of "Creation Spirituality" - notably the belief that we are born in "original blessing" - has reinvigorated the faith of countless Christians and earned him the headline-making censure of the Vatican, who officially "silenced" Fox in 1989 and precipitated his dismissal by the ...
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Overview

Visionary, activist, and one of the most important religious thinkers and teachers of our time, Matthew Fox has devoted his career to unleashing the suppressed mystical and life-affirming traditions within Christianity. His theology of "Creation Spirituality" - notably the belief that we are born in "original blessing" - has reinvigorated the faith of countless Christians and earned him the headline-making censure of the Vatican, who officially "silenced" Fox in 1989 and precipitated his dismissal by the Dominican Order in 1993. In this always compelling memoir, Fox, now an Episcopal priest, traces the roots of his radical theology, from his 195Os childhood in Madison, Wisconsin, through formative years spent training in a late-sixties Paris rocked by revolutionary fervor, to taking on the Vatican (which he likens to standing in front of a train), to his most recent experiences as a leader of "rave masses" for urban young people. Written with his characteristic candor and insight, Confessions details Fox's spiritual, intellectual, political, and cultural evolution as an envelope-pushing member of a generation "bold enough to question many things and to seek spirituality over religion." Fox's story mirrors the questions and concerns of those millions of contemporary seekers with a "passion for holiness"; a yearning for a Christian spirituality committed to social justice, feminism, and environmentalism; and a desire for ritual that heals, celebrates, and honors the gifts of being in each of us. Always relentlessly ahead of his time, Fox embraces his role as a "post-denominational priest," passionately exploring the present and future role of faith, church, and a spirituality grounded in the emphatic belief that finding God is still possible.

One of this century's most controversial and influential priests reflects on a lifetime of passionate faith in a book that's "likely to become a classic" (Publishers Weekly). "This provocative work will surely add to an unbroken string of controversy surrounding Fox and his beliefs."--Library Journal. 320 pp. Targeted ads. 20,000 print.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060629656
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 299
  • Product dimensions: 5.85 (w) x 8.95 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Becoming an Anglican:
A Postdenominational Moment —
January 1994

It is January 8, 1994. 1 have just been received into the Episcopal church by Bishop Swing, bishop of California, in a ceremony in the side chapel of Grace Cathedral. It was a quiet ceremony on a rainy Saturday morning. I have walked down Taylor Street to a coffee shop where I pull out two sheets of paper — want ads photocopied from the San Francisco Chronicle. I scribble my thoughts on the back of them:

January 8
Mass with the bishop, my "reception-Confirmation." Two other persons at the mass — a middle-aged man who showed me around the cathedral, and a young man. I am moved to tears when the bishop asks me, "Are you here alone? Did you bring anyone with you?" Yes, I am alone. Alone again. I think during the mass of my thousands of hours of prayer with Dominican brothers; of the day of my ordination when I was moved so deeply by the Litany of Saints and former priests; of the advice from Abbot Winandy in my hermitage experience thirty years ago, Someday you will be a hermit in a large city." So many years of being a hermit in so many large cities. They're playing Elvis — "I'm All Shook Up —in the diner where I wait for my hot cocoa to be served. Is this the fifties or what? A '59 Edsel is sitting in this diner in downtown San Francisco with me, ten feet away — what is the universe telling me? I'm back in the fifties and starting my religious journey all over again. The fact is, as surprised as I am by my own story, I wouldn't change any of it, as far as I can tell.

My "Starting Over Day" — a "new Confirmation"; a "new" church tradition; a return to high school days and my passion to become a Dominican. Now I have a new passion: to be instrumental in seeing the young invigorate our Western liturgy — not for their generation alone but for the third millennium of Christianity. If I can play my modest role, I will. Confirmation Sacrament is after all our "rite of passage, " our archetype to name the spiritual warrior." Hopefully I received some "warrior grace" today to assist my rite of passage, and that of the church and our liturgy itself, to a new level of being in the world.

After the mass the bishop talks of the "revolution" we are going to pull off and of his Celtic roots and his many trips to Iona. Good. The die is cast. Something is afoot.

I also remember Thomas Merton's reception into the Catholic church in New York City and I wonder if it was as quiet as this.

"Epiphany" seems like the perfect day to be welcomed under these circumstances — to make more manifest the rich spiritual treasures of our Western spiritual tradition — our liturgy, our mystics, and our prophets.Although two of my peers and closest advisers resisted my becoming Anglican, a letter from a twenty-seven-year-old artist figured large in supporting my decision. Mark Roth is a painter and writer who lives in the inner city of San Francisco. His family is longtime Roman Catholic, but his letter speaks to my own intuition that the generation in their twenties today are not concerned about denominations. They are postdenominational. Who can show me a twenty-year-old who is in touch with today's realities of ecological crisis, unemployment, addictions and who knows or cares about the differences between denominations?

In my journal I wrote of the growing commitment I feel toward youth.

December 5, 1993
At this time in my life, I have narrowed my vocation question to one: Howcan I serve the younger generation and those young ones to come, given my"Powers," whatever they be?

I guess this is the question of an elder who is to undergo his fifty-third birthday this month.

A few days after my reception I invite Mark to dinner at his favorite Vietnamese restaurant downtown. The total bill for two is less than eight dollars. I ask him his goal in life. "To make revelry hip," he replies. It sounds good to me, so when I return home I look up revelry in the dictionary. It means to "make merry," from the French réveiller, to "wake up." Revelation comes from the same root word. This is what I call (and our mystical tradition calls) the Via Positiva. Mark gets it. Maybe his whole generation will get it. It would be a different world, a different church, if we all got it: if we all committed ourselves to making revelry hip. On the way back from the restaurant, Mark shows me the place where a crazy street lady bashed him in the head with a board with a nail in it; the nail went fully into his skull; he bled like a bull as they took him to the emergency room. He likes the neighborhood and intends to stay there. I like the neighborhood too (though I have no intention of moving into it). His room, above a jewelry store, is clean and compact, with a bed in a loft and just enough room for him to paint the large canvases that lean against one wall. His paintings move me deeply. He is giving birth to his own style of color and story.

Herb Caen, the popular columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, leads his column on January 9 with a statement about my becoming an Episcopalian at a ceremony on January 8. I am startled. Where did he get this news? Only two persons were present besides the bishop and two assisting priests. Then, too, Caen's brief comments were not accurate. He said that I "left the Catholic church," but I do not see it that way...

Confessions copyright © by Matthew Fox. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All Rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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