In so many ways, I am relentlessly male. I am out there, I want to engage the issues of the day, I rejoice in the Church-militant, and looked to the Church-triumphant! This is appropriate, and proper, for I am a Christian man and God has gifted me to engage the battle! Men, in their maleness are a gift to the Church.
That said, I have come also to realize my need, and my indebtedness to the holy women of God’s Church, those living, and profoundly, those who have gone before, who have set forth a glorious testimony of the feminine genius and mystique of deep, mystical prayer.
Ah, the Holy Women! There are to be sure, men, such as St. John of the Cross, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, just to mention two, who have set forth the great in mystical vision. But I must say, I am particularly indebted to the great women, to the mystics and Doctors of the Church, such as St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Rose of Lima, St. Therese of Lisieux, Sister Faustina, and other women, who ventured into deep, contemplative, and spousal union with the Lord.
How their deep love, and their intensity. Their union with God has inspired me in my own journey toward contemplative prayer. Though I cannot access their spousal love for the Lord, I am able to transpose their experiences to a deep spiritual experience of sonship with God the Father, for he is Abba, and I am the son!
Ah! The great Catherine of Sienna, her love for the Lord, her wisdom, rooted in both suffering and afflication, in joy and ecstasy. She personally met the Lord! What a witness! What a glory, what a testimony that the mystics give us. St. Teresa of Avila. she to who encountered the Lord, and yet suffered greatly! She was even suspected of heresy and her visions and experiences were submitted to the Inquisition!
Alas, Lord! Spare us for our suspicious rejection of the normal Christian life! St. Rose of Lima, St. Mary Margaret Mary, and Sister Fuustina, considered by many of their contemporaries to be strange, excessive, even possessed! Yet, they knew Him whom they had encountered. They knew his love for them, and were willing to suffer with him, and for him!
Spare us O Lord for our obtuseness, our doubt, and our lack of faith in assigning to them, who experienced a normal Christian life, the label of insanity, of oddness, extremity, mental unbalance, and even possession!
They encountered you, they had met you, and experienced you! Yet so many of us thought them strange and unbalanced. Forgive us Lord. Too often we have substituted extreme rationalism, for the mystical vision of You, who go beyond mere words and mere human formulae.
Forgive us Lord, for while our intellect is our crowning glory, sometimes we forget that you cannot be reduced to the limits of human concepts.
The mystics remind us of God’s transcendence, and we have often made them suffer for this.
Yes Lord, while it is surely our obligation to submit all things to your holy Magisterium, forgive, Lord, us for the times when we have been too slow or too skeptical to accept the bold testimony that the mystics give us, that you are Other and that you draw us beyond what is simply and comfortably understood by us.
Thank you Lord for the mystical tradition, for the holy women, and men too, starting with John the Apostle, who have testified to us of you, who may have encountered You in ways more deep than words, too difficult to define. They suffered much, often at our hands, for the visions ABC, but they knew and would not deny you, whom they encountered.
Yes, pardon dear reader, a brief departure to prayer, and gratitude. As you know, the Pope has recently declared two new doctors of the Church. Among them is St. Hildegard von Bingen, and St. John of Avila.
I must say to you, with some embarrassment, that I know little of their, of her wisdom, and their experience of the Lord. But I will now, go and sit at their feet, encouraged by the Holy Father and I will listen and learn. For I have learned that the many holy women, and the men too, the mystics, have much to teach me. Their teachings go beyond words, and into vision, into the deep experience of the heart, into the deeper things of God, things not easily reduced to words. Therefore much is learned not only from their written teachings, but also of their lives and their experience, their sufferings and joys.
The intellectual tradition of the Church, his magnificent and necessary. But so is the mystical tradition, a tradition not opposed to, or really even distinct from, the intellectual tradition. For the same God is experienced and speaks in both ways. And while all things must be submitted to the sacred Magisterium of the Church, the intellectual and the mystical tradition should both be appreciated, and respected.
And thus, my next journey should well be to explore and carefully listen to the teachings of St. Hildegard von Bingen and St. John of Avila. Today the Pope has said listen to them, learn from them, sit and their feet, study and carefully consider what they teach.
Here are new Doctors of the Church.
And, in particular I must say, that I as a man, so relentlessly male, must, despite my gifts as a man, be balanced and completed by the holy women of the Church. Indeed, they have been my teachers, especially in the ways of prayer. Thanks be to God. Here is a video I have compiled in gratitude to some very important women in my life: