We have received several questions regarding the orthodoxy of a Servite nun and author named Joyce Rupp who is a popular speaker on the Catholic retreat circuit these days. The following information should prove helpful.
There are some very serious issues with Sr. Rupp.
Let’s begin with her authorship of several books about a quasi-divine entity named Sophia, which she describes in her article “Desperately Seeking Sophia” as being “another word for the radiant presence of the Holy One.” Sophia is supposedly derived from the Greek translation of the word “wisdom” in Scripture – which is Hagia Sophia.
Rupp treats Sophia as a kind of goddess of inner wisdom in her books, and even admits to struggling with the question of whether or not Sophia is Divine. Apparently, she never really answers that question for herself because although she refers to Sophia as another name for God, she treats this “person” as someone we’re supposed to discover, open ourselves to, pray to and turn to for all our needs in life – sort of like what most of us do with God.
“I count on Sophia to influence my attitudes, values, and beliefs, to help me make good choices and decisions,” she writes. “I pray to her each day to guide me as I try to reflect her love in all I am and all I do. Whenever I am in doubt as to how to proceed in my work and relationships, I turn to Sophia for wisdom and courage. She has never failed to be there for me.”
This very troublesome presentation of God, which could easily lead those of weak faith into idolatry, comes from Rupp’s own dislike of Church hierarchy, something she does nothing to hide. For instance, in a Dec. 2008 interview with the National Catholic Reporter, she said that the reason her retreats are attended by mostly women is because “Women haven’t trusted their own spiritual experiences because the church for so long told them, and all of us, what to do and how to act.”
That she is heavily invested in the New Age is beyond doubt. First, it should be noted that she holds a degree in transpersonal psychology from the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology describes transpersonal psychology as “the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness” (Lajoie and Shapiro, 1992:91).
If this definition sounds a bit “iffy” – it is! Transpersonal psychology, which attempts to bridge the gap between science and spirituality, has received no serious recognition from the scientific community and was described by the authors of the Pontifical document, “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life” as “the classic approach to the New Age.”
It’s interesting to note that the Institute where Sr. Rupp received this “prestigious” degree also offers classes in shamanism, the goddess, ESP and Eastern spirituality.
Evidence of Rupp’s involvement in the New Age becomes even more apparent when visiting the website of the retreat center she founded along with Sr. Margaret Stratman, known as the Servite Center of Compassion. Located in Omaha, it offers courses in Tai Chi, the Enneagram, yoga, and dreamwork.
Sr. Rupp is also known to speak at conferences where occult practices are featured, such as the 27th Annual Women and Spirituality Conference that was held in 2008 at the Minnesota State University-Mankato. During this conference, classes were offered in tarot, astrology, communicating with the dead, yoga and psychic powers.
That Rupp will surely introduce retreatants to the syncretism in which she freely indulges is evident in an interview that appears on her website: “I am in tune with a lot from Native American spirituality, partly because of the way it connects with nature. I also like it because it brings the body into prayer, for example, standing and praying toward the four directions [a pagan ritual]. I’ve also learned a lot from the Buddhist perspective about compassion, and it has greatly enhanced my Christian compassion. And I resonate with the Sufi tradition, the mystical branch of Islam. I find that it connects very much with the Roman Catholic mystical tradition of lover and beloved. The Sufis started the Dances of Universal Peace, which have been very important in my spiritual life. They are simple movements with prayers from different traditions that are chanted and danced in a circle. I find that very compelling and a wonderful way to connect with people. From Buddhism, I value the practice of mindfulness, being aware and present to the moment.”
There’s a lot more that could be written about Sr. Rupp, but I think this is enough to give you a good enough idea of who she is.
For more information on Goddess worship, click on the New Age Resources button on the navigation bar above and see the booklet on this topic which is part of our Learn to Discern: Is it Christian or New Age? series.