Matthew Fox as a Young Man: the Turning Points

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.

Timothy Fox as a young boy. From Matthew Fox’s personal collection, reprinted in Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest.

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.

Matthew Fox as a novice in the Dominican order. Photo from personal collection.

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.

Recommended Reading

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.

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6 thoughts on “Matthew Fox as a Young Man: the Turning Points”

  1. Avatar

    As a young child at around the age of 9 years old, I attended Catholic school, went to church and learned the Catechism.
    As a young Cub Scout, I was eager to earn badges. One badge was for Religion so I asked to earn it. The Cub Master and Scout Master in our area were a married couple from the UK and Anglican in faith. I went to their home one morning and the Cub Master would ask me religious questions, maybe as a test of knowledge of God. She, the Cub Master asked me the first question about God. The Holy Spirit then showed up and through me provided as response filled with wisdom, eloquence and a testimony beyond that of a child or even a skilled theologian. Stunned at first, the Cub Master asked me if I was coached in advance. So, she asked me the same question a second time with her husband nearby, hoping that I would stumble through the response. The Holy Spirit rose through me again and repeated the Testimony to God which were all words all beyond the everyday speech of a 9 year old, let alone an adult. After the 2nd response of the Holy Spirit, the Cub Master began to flatter me for ‘my wisdom’ and I got a bit giddy, and the Holy Spirit left. No more questions and badge earned at that point.
    Lesson for me that day – ‘There is something unknown, residing deep inside each of us that has a Llfe of its own, and we need to be willing to trust and give it a voice and presence in our lives.’ — BB.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    My Mom and Grandmother were Catholic, so in the beginning of my spiritual journey I was exposed to this. My Dad was a military man, so we moved around alot, so I would go to any denomination that was close by, which exposed me to the different flavors of the Christian faith. During this time, one place we lived was in Ocean Falls, in B.C. Here I was exposed to the Indigenious Spirituality with three older boys whom lived with us, as family for a few years. I’ve been weaving the threads of wisdom from these two pathways ever since then; which I have to admit, hasn’t always been easy.

    Mathew’s teachings on Creation Spirituality and also his translations of the mystics and prophets within the historical roots of Christianity, that for so long remained hidden through oppression and suppression along with my 10 year apprenticeship in Shamanic Spirituality, that historically suffered the same; helped me immensely in reconciling and braiding the wisdom of these two spiritual pathways together, into a mantle that I carry.

    Often I intuitively sense that I am an old soul, whom in this lifetime is healing and reconciling the fragments of these two spiritual pathways, in authentic, imaginative, creative and transformative ways; which are in some mysterious way leading to the unfolding, evolving emergence and convergence of wholeness within myself.

  3. Avatar

    Thank you Jeanette for sharing your personal spiritual journey.
    While I read Matthew’s memoir, it is so interesting to have this
    refresher course. Storytelling is at the heart of our future
    evolutionary process.

  4. Avatar

    Reading Carl Jung and the mystics of all genuine spiritual traditions have resonated with me spiritually since my young adulthood when I consciously began my spiritual journey. My Faith in God’s Spirit of DIVINE LOVE~WISDOM~BEAUTY~Truth~Justice~Compassion~Healing~Transformation~ONENESS… is still PRESENT within and evolving, and continues to help, nourish, strengthen, guide, and console me with my sisters and brothers, with Beautiful Sacred Mother Nature/Earth, and within our Sacred physical and non-physical multi-dimensional CREATIONS of our BELOVED CREATOR’s ongoing co-Creation~Evolution of LOVING Diverse ONENESS within HER~HIS COSMOS….

  5. Avatar

    I too am a polio survivor. My polio opened me up to the pain that we all suffer from. Like Matt Fox I too earned a doctor degree in ministry and dedicated my life to helping those who needed help. And like Matt Fox I found the Catholic Church a little too myopic to the needs of people.

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