The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic Podcast episode. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 57: Into the Mystic
Well, hello friends. Several months ago, a friend called me by a name, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. No, it wasn’t an insult, but gosh, it did set me back in my chair on the phone that day. And by now, I bet you’re wondering just what it was he called me. Well, I’ll tell you. My friend said, and very casually at that, that I was a mystic. Well, the reason it set me back that day is because I had been considering mysticism for some time and I deeply believe it’s the path forward toward the restoration and advancement not only of many of our individual faith lives, but also of our broken church. In the next few episodes of Raised Catholic, we’ll explore what mysticism is, a few of my own mystical experiences, some of the saints who were mystics, and how you (yes, you!) can live out your faith in a mystical way. So, a bit of a spoiler here right off the top, my friend: mysticism is for everyone.
Very simply stated, mysticism is real encounter with God who is always working to make Himself known to us. Maybe we’ve felt awe or connection or have seen an everyday event, object, or person with a different and somewhat elevated lens or maybe we’ve longed for an experience like that. The longing is mystical too, but more on that in a bit, friend. Maybe we’ve felt God in church or in nature or in a place we did not expect, and this experience brought us to tears, and yet we couldn’t describe that encounter fully with words. Maybe there was a feeling of joy spilling over or a kind of timelessness. And maybe we’ve never told a soul about the experience we had because we just couldn’t find the words or maybe because we thought we wouldn’t be believed even if we could find them. But possibly we’ve never forgotten that experience, even many years later.
In past episodes of this podcast, when I’ve told you a story about God making something clear, or about Him showing me something, or directing my attention, or giving me a job to do, these were all mystical encounters. When I’ve seen a light in the eyes of a preschool music student, and we were connected for a moment in a way that I know we both perceived, that was mystical because it was a larger Spirit than ours that connected us. When I felt God leading me to say hello and look into the eyes of a lonely guy working in a grocery store stocking the orange soda one Christmas, you guessed it, that was mystical. These happenings are transcendental and that is to say they transcend what we would consider our everyday physical reality. In a moment like that, we absolutely know that there is something more to all of this than what we can see. And I’m wondering as I describe these everyday mystical times in my own life, if you’ve experienced something like this? If so, friend, you know I’d love to hear all about it.
So, why would God who is timeless and who created Heaven and Earth and mountains and oceans and thousands of varieties of just apples alone – why would a God like this want to meet one little human in a grocery store or a church or a gym or the beach or alone in her or his bedroom? Why would God’s voice which created the world and everything in it and which calmed the seas make itself a whisper in order to connect in some small way with you or with me as we live out our daily lives?
Because, friend, that’s Who He is. He’s Emmanuel, God with us.
There’s not a soul who’s ever lived in any place on the whole face of the Earth in all of history that God didn’t plan for, create, walk with, and love. That’s true, you know.
In Psalm 139 it says,
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”
And God said to Jeremiah, and by extension, to you and to me:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
And then in Isaiah we read:
“The Lord will give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, but your Teacher will no longer hide Himself—with your own eyes you will see Him. And whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: ‘This is the way. Walk in it.’”
Well, all of these verses and many, many more describe the personal God we follow as professed Christians. He’s kind that counts the hairs on our heads, the kind that knows us fully, speaks to us, hears us, and became a human just to be with us. This is the kind of God who is continually communicating and attempting to make connection with us. Mysticism is simply a path of attuning our ears and our eyes to receive that communication.
The lens through which I naturally see the world is likely more poetic than most – if you know the Enneagram, I am a textbook 4 which may help to explain my particular lens, and I’ve been told I can make a metaphor out of literally anything, which I personally think is awesome. I love symbols in books and movies. I love observing a narrative arc. I’m always up to make a story, and that’s in part how I’m wired, I know. But I believe ‘hearing from God’ is something that’s available to everyone. And in this time in the Church, listening for ourselves to the leading of God over other voices of authority might not be only allowable but it might just be the road we need to bring wholeness to ourselves and our Church, too.
In upcoming episodes, we’ll talk about practical ways to attune our ears in order to experience God and we’ll tell the stories of some Heavenly friends who did just that. For now, I’ll leave you with words from Saint Teresa of Avila, a stubborn and perceptive Spanish nun and mystic who died in 1582 and who, because of her tremendous insights and legacy, was named a Doctor of the Catholic Church four centuries after her death. In her book The Interior Castle, Teresa writes,
“This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, he so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer. This voice of his is so sweet that the poor soul falls apart in the face of her own inability to instantly do whatever he asks of her. And so you can see, hearing him hurts much more than not being able to hear him… For now, his voice reaches us through words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks, and reading sacred literature. God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how halfhearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.”
Ah, I love Teresa, don’t you? So, friends, what do you say? Let’s start this journey of understanding mysticism together for ourselves. Let’s listen for God and try our best to hear and to learn as Teresa did. Friend, are you with me?
Thanks so much for being with me today. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. If you’d like to financially support this podcast, you can now send a few bucks my way on my page at buymeacoffee.com and there’s a link in the show notes to help you do that, so thank you! Also, in the show notes are lots of resources that will help you to engage with this topic in a deeper way for yourself, so do check those out, but for now, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Oh God, you are speaking, and you are revealing yourself to us personally in love. Help our ears to hear, help our eyes to see, and Lord, open our hearts to this beautiful path of communion that we are on together.
In the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of your mother Mary we pray, amen.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Thanks so much for listening today, friend, and I’ll see you next time.