Category: Mysticism


AMDG

Speyr, Adrienne vonI think I’ve fallen in love with Adrienne Von Speyer – a Swiss mystic, and founder of the community of St John with Fr. Von Balthazar.  I’m also very jealous that God gave her so much….. but not so jealous that she experienced so much suffering

Here’s some quotes from her many books as dictated to Hans Urs V.B.  …..

If there had been no JudasPeter would be the great betrayer. It is only because he stands in the framework of a still greater betrayal that we find a thousand excuses for him and for the faults of the Church continuing and occurring over and over again.

When the Son on the Cross promises paradise in his company to the good thief, when he promises the future feast in Heaven to the Apostles, when he speaks of the kingdom of the Father, he is always pointing toward eternity. However brief and close to the earth his words sound, they echo throughout infinite eternity and permeate the faith of his followers with their eternal content. He knows what he speaks of, what he brings with him and what he promises; and he can convey it to those who know it not. The very words he uses are designed to awaken in them a new sense: the sense of the eternal.

(On meeting St.Ignatius when she was 6 on Christmas Eve) As I climbed the steps that went alongside a sort of lumberyard, a man was coming down the steps toward me. He was short and rather old, and he had a slight limp. He took my hand, and at first I was really frightened, but I began to look at him. He said, “I thought you would come with me; don’t you want to?” I said, with a kind of fear (was it good to say No to a poor person?): “No, Sir, but merry Christmas.” He let go of my hand immediately; I thought he looked a little sad. I continued on my way, and throughout the days that followed I said to myself: “Perhaps I should have said Yes, but I really had to say No.”

[About Francis of Assisi] I saw St. Francis at first in his old age, at prayer and sickly, of an indescribable cheerfulness and purity and humility. Everything in him, everything that constituted his life, all his difficulties, are now transfigured and have become translucent. And this happened through prayer. The things that occupy him no longer contain anything at all that is purely personal, not a trace of annoyance or injury or resentment for the unjust things inflicted on him. God alone is left, as well as perfect service in the indescribable happiness of one who serves and in uninterrupted contemplation.

  • [About Edith Stein] I see her groping, wonder-filled prayer, which in the beginning resembles a conversation she is conducting with herself and is very managed. ………. And God truly answers. She prays more and more and finally receives a victorious certainty and rejoices. From this moment of victorious certainty on, everything is perfectly simple and unambiguous. She will follow the path God shows to her; she belongs to him; she has rediscovered her childlike cheerfulness, which has increased and become clearly manifest through love and faith.

AMDG

I came across something recently that has been fascinating me ever since – ‘Cardiognosis’ – which means knowledge of the heart.  It seems to have its roots in the Desert Fathers and describes the ability that certain holy people have of taking in the whole person who is in front of them, of understanding in a compassionate non-judgemental way what someone is trying to communicate.  It is more than an intuitive, sapiential way of knowing, it also appears to have a mystical element.  The ability to hear what is not being said, an unnerving ability to see right into you, a disconcerting knowledge of the secrets that can weigh heavily on one’s heart.

William James describes one of the marks of an authentic mystical experience as being ‘noetic’, giving access to some sort of state of knowledge.  In 1901 and 1902 he was invited to give the famous Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh University.  This lead to the publication of his classic book, ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’.  In lecture 17 he talked about the insights that authentical mystical experiences gave,   “This is an insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule, they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time”.   He would later go on to talk about the transient nature of mystical experience whilst also being ‘timeless’.

Cardiognosis – seems less like a mystical experience and more like a mystical state. Its deeper than just the ability to read ‘between the lines’.    This level of sensitivity perhaps comes from years of formation and learning about your own heart.  Robin Daniels has written a little-known book called ‘Listening-Hearing the Heart’    which gives a taste of this.  If you haven’t got time to read his book, his widow Katherine hosted a fascinating webinar recently, and there is a beautiful section where she talks about what made him such an incredible listener – link– it lasts about 10mins  .  However ‘cardiognosis’ seems to be something beyond even the highest level of listening, At the end of his brilliant autobiography on St Ignatius – the Basque historian, Jose Ignacio Tellechea Idigoras,  creates a picture of Ignatius just before his death which includes this section….  

His complexion had become darker, weather-beaten, perhaps even yellowish because of his liver ailment? His countenance, serious and peaceful, was the image of circumspection and a life lived interiorly. Some found it particularly luminous and expressive. His eyes which at one time had been sparkling and bright were now blurred by work, old age and copious tears. They had lost their gaiety but not their penetrating force. He seldom looked at people straight on.  When he did, however, people said he took in the person from head to toe. His gaze seemed to have the power of seeing straight through a person right into his heart.

If we were to fast-forward 350 years Padre Pio had an awe-inspiring reputation in the confessional. It is claimed that he heard over 5 million confessions in his lifetime,  often displaying an uncanny knowledge of the penitents.  The famous sculptor Francesco Messina in 1949 went to visit Padre Pio. Padre Pio asked if he wanted to confess. He said maybe but I’m not prepared.  Padre Pio: “Don’t say anything to me. Just answer.” ‘Than he began to list my sins with incredible precision. This type of ‘knowledge’ that Pio had was repeated in many different accounts, and became public knowledge when  his life was investigated during the process of declaring him a Saint.  Then coming right up to the present day, a friend recounted a story that inspired this blog post. He spoke about having a conversation with a very famous Jesuit, who afterwards looked at him in silence for about a minute, and then gave him some pastoral advice – when recounting this story he said to me, ‘He even said things to me that I hadn’t told him about’.

AMDG

All_Saints_Catholic_Church_(St._Peters,_Missouri)_-_stained_glass,_sacristy,_Sacred_Heart_detailI have been telling many of our students here,  that when we die, God is not going to be interested in how you did in this module, or what mark you got in this exam – however He will be interested in how much love you shared in your life.  Today the church focuses on the mysterious way that God manifests his love for us through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is a beautiful devotion that has been part of the Church’s armoury of prayer since its earliest days.  There are countless schools, hospitals, orphanages, parishes and even universities around the world that proudly carry the name of the Sacred Heart in their Title.

pierce-christs-sideThe limitless ability of God to love us is made most visible with the historical figure of Christ on the Cross, on Golgotha, outside of the city walls of Jerusalem.  There is a famous story of a German Jesuit who appeared on a late night discussion programme with a famous imam.  When the presenter pressed them to explain the difference between the Muslim and Christian understanding of God, the Jesuit said – ‘Through human eyes, the Christ was a failure ‘ –  this was followed by  a profound silence (which you don’t often see on television!).   When the camera panned to the imam, he was sitting there with silent tears rolling down his face.  A deeply holy and spiritual man, who was obviously close to God, the imam recognised the power of his German friends words.

Wounded-HandsIn the early church, a very popular devotion developed which was contemplating on the sacred wounds of Christ .  We know these wounds, on his forehead the marks of the crown of thorns, on his hands and his feet the holes from the nails, and in his side the large wound that the lance made that pierced his side, were still present in the glorious body of the risen Christ.  Even nowadays they mysteriously appear in cases of stigmata, in the body of doubting-thomasmystics. The wound in his side, opened up Christs heart to us, and so the devotion to Christs wounds, developed to a devotion to his heart, promoted by St Bernard in the eleventh century, and promulgated most notably by the Franciscans and the Carthusians.

In its modern form, the devotion is associated with Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque, a French Visitation sister who claimed to have a series of visions in the 17th Century, that lasted for 18 months.  In these visions, she claimed Jesus appeared to her radiant with love and asked to be honoured under the figure if his heart.   Her spiritual director was  Claude de Colombiere SJ,  is now a Saint. He was crucial in that he did not dismiss Margaret Mary’s claims, but wisely accompanied her and discreetly encouraged her, in spvisitationite of widespread disbelief and even jealousy from many of her sisters and friends. The series of promises that were made to those who followed the devotion,
which include regular communion, attendance of mass on ‘First Fridays’ and weekly holy hours, were sent around the world under the patronage of an American Businessman, with the approval of the Church.  Although the Church officially approves of the devotions, individual Catholics are not bound to follow them.  I wonder whether it could be the perfect antidote to the epidemic of pornography in our times.