FRANCISCAN BRIDGES SHARING OUR LIVES, HOPES AND VISIONS Holy Family Convent
MYSTICISM AND PROPHECY “The future of religious life is in its mystical and prophetic force.” This was the concluding declaration issued by 800 superior generals from 87 countries at the closing of their fiveday conference in Rome on May 7 through 11, 2010. The May 28th issue of NCR headlined this conference “A SPARK IN A DARK NIGHT.”
confidence that we can all become mystics. Father Richard Rohr in his book, The Naked Now—Learning to See as the Mystics See, tells us that we should not let the word ‘mystic’ scare us off. He says, “It simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience (pp. 29-30).”
God comes to us within our historical circumstances, and these religious leaders seem to have captured God’s call to us in the 21st century. Karl Rahner, the Jesuit theologian, wrote in 1981: “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all….by mysticism we mean...a genuine experience of God emerging from the very heart of our existence...Possession of the Spirit is not something of which we are made factually aware merely by pedagogic indoctrination...but is inwardly experienced (p. 149).”
Wayne Teasdale, in his book, The Mystic Heart, says “We are all mystics by virtue of our birth. We are all meant for something more…[We are all meant to become One with God and each other]. We are beings in transit to wholeness, that is precisely why we are here (p. 214).”
This deep inner experience of God that Rahner said was so essential seems to be in evidence in our world today. The response of the religious Sisters to a mystical way of life is an indication of this. Also, many spiritual writers today see the ordinary person as a potential mystic, i.e., one capable of a deep inner experience of God. At one time, a mystical form of holiness was thought to be for the elite only, and not within the reach of the ordinary person. This newer understanding of holiness can give us a joyful
Connectedness. Active participation in order to become more deeply connected with God and each other is what many people are searching for today, especially the young. Some spiritual writers are calling this an engaged spirituality (Tacy). Mother Teresa tells us: “The experience of connectedness is the essence of spiritual experience.” Providentially, through the new science of quantum physics, we are gaining an awareness of the interconnectedness within the universe and correspondingly our connectedness with each other. “Quantum physics has taught us that nothing exists in itself but only in relation to something else which in turn is related to something else, and so on to the furthest
reaches of the universe (Fischer, p. 4).” Fortunately, today we have advanced technologies that make it possible to connect with others in ways not known in previous centuries. We have the internet that enables us to instantly connect with anyone around the world. We also have advanced transportation systems to facilitate rapid travel both on land and in air. In addition, through the science of psychology we are able to understand each other better. Add to this, advanced communication skills that enable us to communicate more effectively on both a personal and an international level. Connections. We understand connections best when we understand its opposite, disconnections. These are the experiences that isolate and alienate us. On a global level, barriers between nations take place through war and the practices of the powerful nations that exploit the resources of poor nations. Also, the hidden methods of powerful nations to overthrow more vulnerable government leaders keep us disconnected. Perhaps the most dangerous threat to the world community is the possession of nuclear weapons. Currently, we have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire planet in one day. On a societal level, some attitudes and practices that keep us apart are as follows: • • • •
Greed that motivates people to seek money for themselves at the expense of others. Violence that destroys the lives of others. Breakdown in family life that leads to a high divorce rate. Individualism that prompts us to seek our own interests rather than the interests of the common good.
To conclude, our very survival depends on our willingness to connect with each other in a way that benefits all. Prophecy The conference leaders at the Rome meeting often referred to mysticism and prophecy as being “two sides of the same coin.” As we grow in our ability to relate to God, we grow in our ability to proclaim Him. Theologian M. Shawn Copeland, who delivered the keynote address at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in Dallas, Texas, identified the following characteristics of prophetic ministry: • •
Protests idolatry .... Reads “the signs of the times,” uncovering and meeting hidden and neglected human suffering. Witnesses unyielding hope that resists despair. Bears the wound of knowledge of the pained heart of God.
Mysticism and Social Justice True mystical spirituality shifts our attention away from personal concerns that isolate us into larger cosmic concerns that affect everyone. Susan Rakoczy, in her book, Great Mystics and Social Justice, says that Thomas Merton had a clear vision of the relationship between our spirituality and social justice. Christians, he said, are called to be peacemakers. “The first duty of the peacemaker is ‘to work for the total abolition of war...Everything else is secondary for the survival of the human race itself depends on it (p. 129)’”.
CONCLUSION We are living in a critical period of time in history. We are at a turning point in which we can either use our nuclear weapons to destroy our world, or we can cooperate with each other to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. Through our religious community, we can help establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. In our present program, Social Justice—Awareness and Advocacy, we can do our own small part in creating a peaceful world. Although our actions may seem insignificant, they can have a ripple effect that goes beyond anything we may have thought was possible. SOURCES: Fischer, Kathleen, RECLAIMING THE CONNECTIONS, Lanham, Md: Sheed & Ward, 1990.
Social Justice and Advocacy Committee, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, Community Resource Book, Social Justice— Awareness and Advocacy, 2010-2011. Tacey (not Tracy), David, THE SPIRITUALITY REVOLUTION, The Emergence of Contemporary Spirituality, New York: Routledge, 2007. Teasdale, Wayne, THE MYSTIC HEART, Novato, CA.: New World Library, 1999.
READ, REFLECT, AND PRAY
Fox, Thomas, C., “A Spark in a Dark Night,” NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER, May 28, 2010.
Love Strengthens—Hate Weakens “Every act of love strengthens the cosmos, and every act of hatred weakens it in some way.” —Kathleen Fischer, RECLAIMING THE CONNECTIONS, p. 5
Fox, Thomas C., “Theologian Implores Women Religious to Remain Prophetic,” NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER, August 20, 2010.
Our Desires for Another No one is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. —Sunnah (Islam)
Rahner, Karl, S.J., Ch. 11, “The Spirituality of the Church of the Future,” THEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS, XX, New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981.
To Love, Forgive and Hope: How? To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Hope means hoping when everything is hopeless. —G. K. Chesterton
Rakoczy, Susan, GREAT MYSTICS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE, New York: Paulist Press, 2006. (She quotes Thomas Merton.} Rohr, Richard, THE NAKED NOW, Learning to See as the Mystics See, New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009.
How Do You Love? You do not make yourself love. You allow love to enter. —James Redfield Read, Reflect and Pray (continued on p. 4)
READ, REFLECT AND PRAY Self Acceptance or Self Hatred To accept oneself may sound like a simple thing to do, but simple things are always the most difficult things to do. Being simple and straight forward is an art in itself requiring the greatest discipline; the question of self acceptance lies at the root of the moral problem and at the heart of a whole philosophy of life. Do I ever doubt that it is virtuous for me to give alms to the beggar, to forgive him who offends me, yes even to love my enemy in the name of CHRIST? No, not once does such a doubt cross my mind, certain, as I am, what I have done unto the least of my brethren, I have done unto CHRIST. But what if I should discover that the least of all brethren, the poorest of all beggars, the most insolent of all offenders, yes, even the very enemy himself—that these live within me. That I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I am to myself the enemy who is to be loved—what then? Then the whole Christian Truth is turned upside down; then we say “Raca” to the brother/sister within us: then we condemn and rage against ourselves! For sure, we hide this attitude from the outside world, but this does not alter the fact that we refuse to receive the least among the lowly in ourselves with open arms. And if it had been Christ himself to appear within ourselves in such a contemptible form, we would have denied him a thousand times before the cock had crowed even once. —Carl G. Jung
Break the Chain of Hate Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ...The chain of evil—hate begetting hate; wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the abyss of annihilation. —Martin Luther King To Love, Forgive and Hope: How? To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Hope means hoping when everything is hopeless. —G. K. Chesterton Compassion Compassion is the awareness of the interdependence of all things. —Thomas Merton The spirit of compassionate love grew in Francis through a life of unceasing prayer and of seeing his unworthiness before the overflowing compassionate and merciful love of God. ...The biographers of Francis tell us that he encountered the God of compassionate love in the visible figure of the crucified Christ. ...The Spirit, welcomed in the silence of prayer, transforms the vision of our hearts to see the invisible presence of God hidden in the depths of ordinary reality. ...What was initially “bitter” for Francis became “sweet” as he contemplated the goodness of God in fragile humanity. —FRANCISCAN PRAYER by Ilia Delio, OSF, p. 134 _____________________________________ FRANCISCAN BRIDGES is published four times a year by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, Manitowoc, WI, to promote sharing their lives, hopes and visions. Editor: Sister Ruth Ann Myers Assistant Editor: Sister Kay Elmer