Pic: Matteo Ricci, S.J.
'I wanted a faith that was deeper,' a Tom Fox interview
Jesuit Fr. Robert E. Kennedy is an American Catholic priest and a Zen master (roshi). "I have never felt that I was a Buddhist. I have always felt that I am Catholic and a Jesuit," Kennedy tells Tom Fox. "But I wanted a faith that was deeper, that was rooted in my experience, that was not a theory that could be blown away with a change in culture." He explains:
"Christianity is not a triumphal march to the Kingdom." It is an emptying of self. "This profound teaching of Christian life is very close to Buddhism. Buddhism tries to empty ourselves of a false identity and to come to the world as naked and as crucified as Christ was."
Episode 1: Come at life fresh, moment by moment (27 min.)
"I was talking with a Chinese Zen master once and he said one of the difficulties of dealing with Catholics is that they love their spiritualities ... as if it was a parallel life," Kennedy tells Tom Fox. Buddhists root us in this moment, he said. "Buddhists would say, 'If God isn't present in this moment, where is he? You meet God in doing the deed of this moment in front of you. Never withdraw from it.' "
Episode 2: Helping a person take another step (24 min.)
When Kennedy went to study with a Japanese Zen master, the Buddhist told him: " 'I do not want to make you a Buddhist. I want to empty you in imitation of your Lord Jesus Christ who emptied himself and poured himself out.' This is at the heart of what it means to be Catholic. To follow Christ is to empty ourselves." He continues: "I remember thinking then, 'This Buddhist might make a Christian of me yet.' It was so profoundly Christian and beautiful."
More about the author
Ordained a priest in Japan in 1965, Jesuit Fr. Robert E. Kennedy was installed as a Zen teacher in 1991 and was given the title Roshi in 1997. Kennedy studied Zen with Yamada Roshi in Japan, Maezumi Roshi in Los Angeles and Bernard Glassman Roshi in New York. He teaches in the theology department of Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, N.J. In addition to his work at the college, he is a practicing psychotherapist. He is the author of two books, Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit and Zen Gifts to Christians.