Keepin’ it modern with the mystics
In March of this year I was received into the Catholic Church. During my time in RCIA, I was introduced to a myriad of people who have had a profound impact in the life of the Church. So, when I was recently given a copy of Praying with Christian Mystics by Annetta Maquire, I was delighted to have an easy-to-read, compact version of the lives of four all-star mystics: Julian of Norwich, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, and Meister Eckhart.
Maguire earned her MA in Applied Christian Spirituality at Milltown Institute in Dublin. It was during her studies there that she was introduced to, and inspired by, the lives and works of these mystics. Taking the inspiration the mystics provided in her own life, she composed the book to help others discover the spiritual “maps” that these mystics left behind. She provides a brief biography, excerpts from their most famous writings, and reflection questions to help take the mystics’ works into our modern, everyday lives.
As I read through the lives of the mystics, a common theme began to emerge. I realized that no matter how the odds were stacked against them--whether it was health concerns, spending time in prison, or facing charges of heresy--their faith never ceased. They never stopped believing in the power of God’s love to prevail no matter what the outcome. It was in sitting with their writings that I began connect pieces of their lives to pieces of my own life.
I was particularly moved by John of the Cross. Until reading Praying with Christian Mystics, I had only known him as the guy who wrote Dark Night of the Soul (of which I had never read a word). John writes, “It is in attaching ourselves to things of this world--whether it be family, wealth or success, we are hindered from being satisfied by God alone. It is not the things themselves, but the attachment to them.” It was his perspective on attachment that got me thinking of what I hold dear in life. What am I willing to give up for the sake of God and others?
Over the last few weeks, I have allowed the writings of John of the Cross and the others to seep into my daily life. I find myself going back to their words for wisdom and comfort, and to their lives for strength and courage. Reading Praying with Christian Mystics was a wonderful way to get acquainted with those who have gone before and whose lives continue to inspire hope in the 21st century.