In 2019, people flooded the Hall of Philosophy to see Fr. Richard Rohr in person during his week as chaplain and speaker for the Interfaith Lecture Series. Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno remembers Chautauquans’ fervor for religious programming that week, which centered around Rohr’s book Falling Upward.
“We ran out of worship books in the morning for worship, and we needed more people for the Service of Blessing and Healing, and they just came to experience Chautauqua to the fullest,” Rovegno said.
Rohr will deliver his first lecture for the week at 2 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 17. While tackling the concept of evil throughout Week Eight for the Interfaith Lecture Series, Rohr will discuss how to deal with the capacity for evil in humans in his keynote lecture, “What Do We Do With Evil?”
“The Biblical stories, especially of creation, talk about the fall of humans — that we fell from grace, so to speak, and we saw whatever reality was in a new way,” Rovegno said.
Rohr is a Franciscan mystic of the New Mexico province, a theologian and an author of several books, including his most recent work The Universal Christ, and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. He has been featured several times on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday segments (they are also good friends). He also spoke on an episode of Krista Tippett’s “On Being” podcast called “Growing Up Men,” has been mentioned in opinion articles for The New York Times, and has been profiled in The New Yorker.
“(Rohr is) really very good at getting us to look that deeply into ourselves, recognize our own goodness and discern when we fall short of that goodness by the things we choose to say or do — the ways in which we act, especially toward one another or to the Earth,” Rovegno said.
Rovegno said that Rohr’s work commonly makes the connection between humanity and the divine, while also exploring themes of suffering within the human experience.
“He’s very much in tune with human suffering, and he talks about it a lot — … the recognition of suffering, the walking through suffering, the being in suffering,” Rovegno said, “which is what is happening with the world. Our whole way of life has been disrupted, and it’s given us time to think about what it means to be human and what all of humanity is.”
Rovegno said that after reaching out invitations for four years to Rohr, who had a conflict due to an annual conference, he was able to come to Chautauqua for the first time last year. Rohr drew people from all over the world for his week at Chautauqua in 2019. Rovegno recalls meeting a pair who had met online and were fans of Rohr. One traveled from Mexico, and the other came all the way from Australia. They met in-person for the first time when they came to Chautauqua to see Rohr speak.
“He was loved (at Chautauqua) before he ever set foot here,” Rovegno said.
This program is made possible by the Eileen and Warren Martin Lectureship for Emerging Studies in Bible and Theology & The Strnad Family Fund.