Monday 25 May 2015

Called to be "mystics"?

General Chapter 27 invites us to be mystics, prophets of fraternity, and servants of the young. There's probably a semantic problem with the word 'mystic'. Thus Archbishop Thomas Menamparambil, in his "Becoming Mystics and Prophets in Our Times" (Talk at the CRI Golden Jubilee Conference, 7-9 November 2013, Guwahati) talks immediately about "Revival of Interest in Mysticism," mentioning Meister Eckhart, Tauler, Suso and Teilhard de Chardin.
Juan José Bartolomé, instead, in his Mistico, Profeta, Servo (2014) speaks thus: "Being a mystic, i.e., someone totally identified with the will of the Father, is the first element of the profile of Jesus Christ. The salesian, if he is a mystic, lives his vocation with total dedication and in ongoing conversion, under the unconditional supremacy of God. And he finds in the Lord Jesus the perfect model of identification with God the Father and with his cause, the Kingdom.This immersion of oneself in God and his program demands to be confirmed and to be tested, and the overcoming of these trials transforms him, as it happened with Jesus, into a beloved son of God (Mk 9,9-11; Mt 3,13-17; Lc 4,14-15). Only those who are loved are put to the test; only those who are tempted are sent." (12)
Being a mystic in this latter sense is not exactly "mysticism" in the sense of Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross, or Teresa of Avila. It has a far more "ordinary" sense - the sense that talks about "total identification with the will of the Father," the "unconditional supremacy of God." Ecstasies and transports are not excluded, but they are certainly not the bread and butter of being mystics in the sense called for by GC27. GC27 is simply asking every salesian: is God first in your life? and is God a passionate first? What is it that makes you thrilled to get up in the morning? Who is it that is the sunshine of your life? Difficult questions, these, but clear all the same. And the answer is not usually in doubt. "Deep down all of us know exactly where we stand," Bernard Lonergan once said, or something to the effect.

No one is called to "have special experiences," the kind that leave us aghast. You can't really program those: they are gifts, given to those to whom God thinks fit, for his own purposes. But all are called to live in such a way that God is first, and not only first but passionately so. That also is a gift; but it is a gift that I believe is given to all, and of course a gift that is also a task. "You have been given the Spirit; now walk by the Spirit." In the range of experience that we call "religious experience," mysticism, at least in the English language, seems to me to occupy the upper end; it does not coincide with the whole range. 

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