Sr. Jane: What is a mystic? A contemplative?
Sometimes we imagine an emaciated, sad looking, celibate, balding monk, or a crotchety, pale, nun who lives behind a wall and does nothing but pray. They’re both out of touch with reality and what’s going on the world and really don’t care about that stuff. WRONG!
Mysticism and contemplation have to do with HOW WE SEE GOD AND THE WORLD, that is, with a LENS OF FAITH. IT IS A LIFE OF HAVING EYES FOR GOD.
Contemplative persons include many lay persons, men and women, rich and poor, from every ethnic group and who lived in any era since the beginning of time. Some of them have been declared saints. Most have not.
What is a contemplative or mystic like?
After an awakening to God, he or she chooses God as the foundation and great love of their lives, and all the other things and people they love dearly are seen in light of this fundamental choice of God. They are also passionate about life.
They experience God, at times directly, and God feeds their spirit with love, challenge, and new insight into Himself. Some of them share their experience of God in writings, and their insights and images of God often act as a corrective or challenge to the prevailing, dominant, acceptable ones of their day. In other words, they may be perceived as eccentric or odd until a century or two later, when we re-discover their giant contribution to the life of the church and people’s spiritual growth.
The wonderful thing about them is that they DO NOT INTELLECTUALIZE about their experience of God. They describe it as oneness, intimacy, warmth, fire, peace, LOVE. They find JOY, harmony, deep faith, a sense of well-being and humor in their communion with God.
Now it’s not all peaches and cream, or one margarita after the other. God expects much from them. He allows them spiritual and even physical pain; challenges that put them into fear or doubt for a time. Some of them experience an intense closeness with their God and then an empty distance from God. Absence and presence is the weave of their life. They spend time in prayer, silence, and reflection, and time alone with God, but involve themselves in the other realities of their days and family or community lives.
We pray for the lens of faith, the deep experience of God’s love, and the kind of lives that project having met the HOLY.