Matthew Fox was born on the winter solstice, in 1940, in St. Mary’s Hospital, in Madison, Wisconsin. From his book, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, we find that he contracted polio when he was twelve years old and the doctors told him he’d never walk again.
However, after months in the hospital he could walk! Looking back in his autobiography, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, he writes:
My vocation began with my polio experience. I became a more serious person, a more conscious one as we would say today. And more sensitized….In retrospect, I can see that my having polio was a kind of rite of passage or coming of age.
Four years later, as a senior in high school, he chose to join the Dominicans. In 1958 he went to college at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and in two years entered the novitiate for formal training as a Dominican near Winona, Minnesota. It was there that he was greeted as “Matthew”–his new name—his birth name being Timothy.
After taking his vows, Fox went on to Chicago to the Dominican House of Studies. And while in Chicago he heard Hans Küng speak at McCormick Center on “Is there a difference between the modus operandi of the Vatican and that of the Kremlin?” This set the “still-pious” Fox to thinking, and it would stay with him for years.
Vatican II brought huge changes for the Church, and Fox committed himself to the vision of Pope John XXIII. After taking his final vows, he moved to the Dominican House of Studies in Dubuque, Iowa for his master’s in theology. In Confessions, he shares that Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time awakened the mystic in him, and so he thought of being a Trappist or a hermit.
But what he lacked, he says, was “spirituality and the mystics.” He wrote to Thomas Merton, asking him where he should study for a Ph. D. that would focus on spirituality, and Merton responded that he would find it in Paris.
And so it was that the Dominicans allowed him to go to Paris for his Ph. D.
(to be continued)
See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, pp. 27, 28, 44-46, 60.
Also see Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond.
Banner Image: Matthew Fox entered his vocation at a time of transformation for the Catholic Church: the second Vatican Council in public session. Catholic Press Photo. Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Consider writing the story of your spiritual journey. Not only will it be rewarding to remember where you’ve been and where you’ve come to, it will also be something to leave behind as a roadmap of the way that you chose to go and where it took you.
The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine
To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature, to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God
Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)
Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond
Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.” –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.