A Mystical Month

This October month sees the pronouncement by Pope Benedict XVI of two mystics as Doctors of the church: The  12th century German mystic St. Hildegard of Bingen and the Spanish St. John of Avila ( St John of The Cross ). This week also sees the feast days of two other mystics the French St Therese of Lisieux and Italian St Francis of Assisi. 

So it seems worthwhile to dwell a little on the meaning and understanding of “mysticism." 

Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr has this to say on the topic:-
"Mysticism is when God’s presence becomes experiential and undoubted for a person. You can see a kind of courage and self-confidence in the mystics. That puts them in an extraordinary category. Most of us believe things because our churches tell us to believe them and we don’t want to be disobedient members of the church so we say “I believe” as we do in the creed.
A mystic doesn’t say “I believe.” A mystic says “I know.” A true mystic ironically speaks with an almost arrogant self-confidence and, at the same time, with a kind of humility. When you see this combination of calm self-confidence, certitude, and patient humility, all at the same time, you can trust you are in the presence of a person who has had an actual “encounter” with God or the Holy."

From an unpublished talk by Fr. Richard Rohr in Assisi, Italy, May 2012.
For more on Franciscan Mysticism, consider Great Chain of Being: Simplifying Our Lives (CD/DVD/MP3)

and also this on Franciscan mysticism..

"In the first six centuries most of the mystics were identified with the early desert fathers and mothers of Egypt, Asia Minor, Syria, and the area of Palestine. Then the search for encounter moves into the monasteries where it becomes more academic trying to explain itself. And later St. Francis would bring mysticism from the monasteries to the streets and cities. He said “Don’t speak to me of Benedict and Augustine. God has shown me a different way!” (Although Francis had nothing personal against these saints, he did have great inner clarity about what was his to do, and knew that the church would try to put him inside of its known modes of religious life.)
Franciscan men are not monks (from Greek monos, “alone”). We are called friars (“brothers”). A friar is one who mixes with the people. Often we were found near city centers in Europe, because we were a part of city life, the working people, and the poor. 

This was the beginning of a real “alternative orthodoxy,” a kind of practical mysticism of the streets, and with those who were on the edges of society. In fact, our poorly named “vow of poverty” was to structurally assure that we would stay on the edge and not become establishment people. St. Clare and the “Poor Clare” Sisters tended to live this much better than we, the later “ordained” friars. (Francis himself refused ordination to the priesthood.)"
Related posts
  •  My previous posts on Hildegard of Bingen are here and here

  • My previous post on St John of The Cross is here
This short video highlights an exhibit which began at Notre Dame Cathedral this year, on St. Therese of Lisieux, the French saint who is also the youngest Doctor of the Catholic Church.

Mysticism seems associated with a contemplative life and this series of talks/ and spiritual readings extracted from presentations and conferences by teachers of The World Community for Christian Meditation are a useful and free resource. 


The talks are of short duration, usually about 8 to 12 minutes and they can be accessed here. They are available as transcripts to be read or as a free audio talk downloads. Just click on the appropriate button below each title to access the transcripts or audio downloads.

 As October also launches a Year of Faith and New Evangelisation it seems important to realise with humility that any faith we have, and any dialogue on it needs to be considered as part of the wider and diverse world of faith we live in.

So, also from wccm and free (!) is this booklet entitled Common Ground taken from a interfaith seminar in Singapore to further inter-religious dialogue by deepening the spirit of friendship and collaboration among all faiths."

 And on a lighter note...

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