45: The Four Consents, Part 2 – Bernie

Christel Haag, Want some ice cream

This story about Brother Bernie follows the teaching on The Four Consents to give us an example of consenting to the goodness in life. And it is a beautiful story about the life and character of beloved Bernie O’Shea. If you look closely you will notice that it is also the story of the transformation of Thomas Keating. The story begins shortly after Fr. Thomas enters the monastery and it is as much about his responses to Bernie over the many years of their relationship as it is about Bernie.

Bernie is an example of the happiness we can experience when we enthusiastically consent to the goodness in life. Fr. Thomas is an example of the consent to be transformed. You might remember in the Session 43 video, “The Four Consents, Part 1,” Fr. Thomas says that when we consent to God’s presence and action within, God’s action invites us to consent where we were unable to in childhood and growing up.

Following are some of the quotes from this session’s video that illustrate Fr. Thomas’ movement towards consent:

“I remember thinking…well, this must be the way God treats people.”

“It challenged you to accept something good once in a while, you know, to see if you could do it in good conscience!”

“…When someone treats you in such a way that it makes you think of God, then they’re a sacrament of God. And the sacraments are really meant to make us into sacraments; that is to say, to enable us to transmit the experience of divine love in some way.”

“If there’s any way of possessing anything in this world, it is in loving it.”

Finally, a reminder that our spiritual journey is not an individual process. Our transformation and the transformation of the world takes place in the midst of community and relationships. In Intimacy with God, Fr. Thomas says, “Bonding with others takes place as the love of the Spirit is poured forth in our hearts.  We feel that we belong to our community, to the human family, to the cosmos.  We feel that our prayer is not just a privatized journey but is having a significant effect in the world.  We can pour into the world the love that the Spirit gives us in prayer.”

And from The Mystery of Christ, “If one is transformed, one can walk down the street, drink a cup of tea or shake hands with somebody and be pouring divine life into the world. Transmission is the capacity to awaken in other people their own potentiality to become Divine.”

A Meditation

This is the song Bernie was singing on the cassette tape Fr. Thomas talked about in this session’s video. You can listen to Dooley Wilson’s version of the song on YouTube.

AS TIME GOES BY (from Casablanca)

by Dooley Wilson

You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by

And when two lovers woo
They still say “I love you”
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by

…It’s still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by

To Practice
  • View the video excerpt “The Four Consents, Part 2 – Bernie” which is about 29 minutes in length.
  • Reflect on the intersection of the two stories – the story of the enthusiastic consent to the goodness in life and the consent to transformation that being in such a presence evokes. Where has your life intersected with a person or community that had a profound effect on the course of your life?


“The Four Consents, Part 2” excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Series Part 3, 29 mins.
For English captions and auto-translation of subtitles, watch here on YouTube:
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Audio for this Narrative

“The Four Consents, Part 2” excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Series Part 3, 29 mins.
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Resources for Further Study:
You may wish to read Chapter 9 in Invitation to Love and review Chapter 8 on “The Four Consents” (20th anniversary edition), Chapters 8 and 7 in older editions.

Additional Resources