Mystical experiences
#1
I have a question about mystical experiences. Several converts to Catholicism (Jews, atheists) reported having mystical experiences that caused them to convert. Example: Sally Read in "Night's Bright Darkness" reported having been almost physically lifted when she prayed in church for guidance from Jesus; some Jewish converts reported either seeing the Virgin Mary or being in the presence of Jesus.

I recently came back to the Church after 17 years of Buddhist practices and my coming back was quite undramatic. It just happened almost overnight - no mystical experiences whatsoever.

Nevertheless, these people reported intense feelings of love and sanctity and I must confess that I am quite jealous. I shouldn't be, but I am and I find myself asking the Virgin Mary and Jesus to appear to me - not for any "wow" experience but to be in the presence that kind of overwhelming love and divine grace.

So the question: what does the Church say about mystical experiences and why do some people have them and others don't?
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#2
(05-06-2017, 02:44 AM)Julia Augusta Wrote: I have a question about mystical experiences. Several converts to Catholicism (Jews, atheists) reported having mystical experiences that caused them to convert. Example: Sally Read in "Night's Bright Darkness" reported having been almost physically lifted when she prayed in church for guidance from Jesus; some Jewish converts reported either seeing the Virgin Mary or being in the presence of Jesus.

I recently came back to the Church after 17 years of Buddhist practices and my coming back was quite undramatic. It just happened almost overnight - no mystical experiences whatsoever.

Nevertheless, these people reported intense feelings of love and sanctity and I must confess that I am quite jealous. I shouldn't be, but I am and I find myself asking the Virgin Mary and Jesus to appear to me - not for any "wow" experience but to be in the presence that kind of overwhelming love and divine grace.

So the question: what does the Church say about mystical experiences and why do some people have them and others don't?

Something must have happened to you to just drop 17 years of Buddhist practice even if it didn't involve visions. As you know, Buddhism is fundamentally a different religion than Christianity. What was it that brought you out?
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#3
(05-06-2017, 02:44 AM)Julia Augusta Wrote: I have a question about mystical experiences. Several converts to Catholicism (Jews, atheists) reported having mystical experiences that caused them to convert. Example: Sally Read in "Night's Bright Darkness" reported having been almost physically lifted when she prayed in church for guidance from Jesus; some Jewish converts reported either seeing the Virgin Mary or being in the presence of Jesus.

I recently came back to the Church after 17 years of Buddhist practices and my coming back was quite undramatic. It just happened almost overnight - no mystical experiences whatsoever.

Nevertheless, these people reported intense feelings of love and sanctity and I must confess that I am quite jealous. I shouldn't be, but I am and I find myself asking the Virgin Mary and Jesus to appear to me - not for any "wow" experience but to be in the presence that kind of overwhelming love and divine grace.

So the question: what does the Church say about mystical experiences and why do some people have them and others don't?
When I converted to the Church I didn't have any great mystical experience. That kind of experience I don't think is a necessary thing and anyway those emotions that can be given to people can be from the devil.
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#4
(05-06-2017, 02:44 AM)Julia Augusta Wrote: Nevertheless, these people reported intense feelings of love and sanctity and I must confess that I am quite jealous. I shouldn't be, but I am and I find myself asking the Virgin Mary and Jesus to appear to me - not for any "wow" experience but to be in the presence that kind of overwhelming love and divine grace.

So the question: what does the Church say about mystical experiences and why do some people have them and others don't?

To my knowledge, the Church doesn't say anything about why some have such experiences and some don't.  But God does what He does. Maybe He knows you don't need a mystical experience like that in order to have faith. Maybe He expects more from you. Maybe they're getting ready to die soon and need a spiritual boost and you're not. Maybe He wants them to have extra "surety" or whatever because they'll be put in the position of influencing millions of people. Who knows?

Though He can do what He wants, and gives us what we need, we're not to ask for signs and wonders.


I Corinthians 1:17-28

Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void.  For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God.  For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world, by wisdom, knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save them that believe. For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness:  But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.


John 4:46-28

He came again therefore into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain ruler, whose son was sick at Capharnaum. He having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, went to him, and prayed him to come down, and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not.


Matthew 12:38-39

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying: Master we would see a sign from thee. Who answering said to them: An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.


Luke 11:14-16

And he was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb: and when he had cast out the devil, the dumb spoke: and the multitudes were in admiration at it:  But some of them said: He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. And others tempting, asked of him a sign from heaven.


He's already in your life supernaturally (you have the gift of faith), so be wary of being "spirutally greedy." And be careful of spiritual envy. From http://www.fisheaters.com/moralthinking.html:

Quote:Envy - Envy is sorrow or regret over another's success, gifts, looks, wealth, or general well-being, a violation of charity. It isn't sinful if one knows that there is injustice involved. For example, if someone in your office gets a raise and a promotion, and you know that the only reason she got that raise and promotion is because she had sex with your boss, it isn't sinful to be annoyed. Or say she got the raise and promotion honestly, but you know that if she becomes your superior, she will fire you because she disagrees with your religious or political thinking: regretting her success in such an instance isn't sinful.

The worst of all envy is spiritual envy, the regret over another's spiritual good. Think of St. Bernadette Soubirous, the young French girl who was blessed to actually see the Holy Virgin in Lourdes, France: when she entered the convent, her novice-mistress was consumed with jealousy of the Saint who was so gifted, and made her life very difficult. Or consider the words of one woman I spoke to who angrily told me that it isn't fair that someone can repent on his deathbed and enter into Heaven, while she, a very serious practicing Catholic who's tried very hard to follow Church teaching, has spent a lifetime trying to please God in order to achieve the same end (see again the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, and consider the attitude of the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son). Such envy is a sin against the Holy Ghost Himself, an awful thing.

The contrary virtue to envy is brotherly love. Even if you feel jealous of someone, you must use your will to do only good to them.

Don't ask for signs; ask for consolation and peace. Maybe you'll get a bonus :P
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#5
God gives them to those he chooses, for reasons known to him alone. I don't think not having those experiences means a person is necessarily less good or Holy or that their conversion was somehow less genuine. As Jesus said, "blessed are they that do not see, yet believe."
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#6
It's not entirely a mystery why some receive mystical graces like those you describe and why others don't. Plenty of saints and doctors speak about it, and it goes right back to 1 Corinthians 12 where St. Paul enumerates some mystical graces, such as healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues (that is, speaking another language without prior study of it), and the interpretation of tongues (being able to understand different languages).

And St. Paul tells us exactly why some receive these different gifts: they are "ministries" and graces (gifts) for the good of the Church. He puts this list of mystical experiences and powers in the context of talking about the mystical Body of Christ: can the foot say to the hand that he doesn't need him? Or can the ear say to the eye that either are unnecessary? Both are different, and both are necessary. They serve different purposes in the Body of Christ. He ends this discussion with a series of rhetorical questions: "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all doctors? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the grace of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?"

And then he says the key to it all: "But be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way." And that way is supernatural charity (1 Cor. 13), the famous passage discussing how if one can speak the language of angels, make mountains move with their faith, or give everything away to the poor yet lacks charity, then it's worth nothing. And charity, as the theologians and saints tell us, is an internal, hidden source in the soul. It's precisely not a mystical experience in the way we popularly understand it, but something humble and quiet and yet transcends everything else mentioned above because it is the love of God in the soul.

Garrigou-Lagrange, following St. Thomas Aquinas, notes that grace and charity are infinitely greater than mystical experiences because the latter are passing and are only supernatural in their origin (God) but not in what actually happens. Miracles, speaking in tongues, prophesy, etc. are not strictly supernatural realities but only supernatural in their origin (or cause). But grace and charity are supernatural in origin and in their nature--they connect us to God Himself.

And St. Paul and the saints say, the mystical experiences are to build up the faith of the person who receives them for the express purpose of helping build up the faith of others in the Church. It's for the sake of the other, not the one who receives it ultimately. But without grace, these mystical experiences are useless. In fact, they can sometimes be simulated by the devil (false mystics, false prophesies, illusions of healing, etc.).

It should also be noted that some mystical experiences happen as one progresses in the spiritual life, and these seem to be pretty common once you get very advanced although they don't necessarily happen all the time. But again, the main reason seems to be to strengthen the mystic so that the mystic may then in turn strengthen the rest of the Church through some apostolate, whether that's active or an apostolate of prayer and contemplation. Also, St. John of the Cross says that there also comes a point where most of these mystical experiences then also cease because the mystic has reached a point that he truly understands that they are not necessary to bolster his faith. He detaches himself from them and clings to pure faith in God as his source of strength.

So to answer your question in summary: as far as we know from what God has revealed to us in the Bible and the writings of the saints, the mystical experiences can accompany growth in the spiritual life, but they are usually given for the purpose of strengthening the church. Also this has formed a good test in the tradition of theology for *testing* whether mystical experiences are genuine or not: did they lead to good fruits? Again, devils can make people levitate if they want, so you also have to look past the experience itself and see its results or effects on the individual and those around them. (This is also one reason why Medjugorje is almost certainly false: it has led to unjustifiable disobedience, which is an evil fruit.)

But again, the above is the general rule, and there have been a notable number of exceptions where the mystical experiences didn't appear to "do" anything aside from help the individual. Yet since we are all supernaturally connected to each other in the Body of Christ, the strengthening of one helps everyone else.

It is best to focus on becoming attached to God alone, not to any vision or "experience" of God, but holding to Him in faith and love. St. John of the Cross says this is the fastest and best way to holiness because feelings pass away, visions pass, experiences all pass as well, but charity will endure forever, and charity is in the soul, not outside of it in an experience. But as St. John also says, those who advance very far in the spiritual life often experience these mystical experiences anyway. It just seems to be a normal thing in the history of the Church, but we can't be attached to them because none of them are God but only images of God or the saints.

Hope that helps! God bless.
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#7
(05-06-2017, 01:02 PM)richgr Wrote: It's not entirely a mystery why some receive mystical graces like those you describe and why others don't. Plenty of saints and doctors speak about it, and it goes right back to 1 Corinthians 12 where St. Paul enumerates some mystical graces, such as healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues (that is, speaking another language without prior study of it), and the interpretation of tongues (being able to understand different languages).

I have to disagree with you here. St. Paul's speaking of the charismata; the OP was talking about having visions and levitating and such -- things that don't work directly to edify the Church as the charismata do. Asking for a charismatic gift is one thing, but asking God to send Mary down so you can have the experience of seeing her (and not be jealous of those who have)  is pretty different, KWIM?

But, as you say, asking for charity (and the gifts of the Holy Ghost) are what we should be after. Leave things like bilocation and having visions to whomever God grants such things, for whatever inscrutable reasons He has (and know that demons can mimic these things and lead us astray, likely a good reason to not ask for them!).
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#8
(05-06-2017, 01:28 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: (and know that demons can mimic these things and lead us astray, likely a good reason to not ask for them!)

This is important. I seem to remember certain saints who were told things in visions that were demonic in origin and had been sent to distract them. There have also been several false apparitions throughout the Church's history, and I doubt all of them were simply tales by attention-seeking frauds. I also am reminded of the woman mentioned in the link I provided.

https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/epi...om-a-demon
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#9
(05-06-2017, 03:04 PM)Credidi Propter Wrote:
(05-06-2017, 01:28 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: (and know that demons can mimic these things and lead us astray, likely a good reason to not ask for them!)

This is important. I seem to remember certain saints who were told things in visions that were demonic in origin and had been sent to distract them. There have also been several false apparitions throughout the Church's history, and I doubt all of them were simply tales by attention-seeking frauds. I also am reminded of the woman mentioned in the link I provided.

https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/epi...om-a-demon
There is also the case of Sr. Magdalena de la Cruz, who made a pact with the devil for counterfeit mystical abilities.

http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2011/1...-made.html
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#10
In my own case I had an interior crisis when I was a Buddhist that led to reading the NT seriously for the first time.  When I got to MT 11:29 I literally sensed that Jesus Christ meant that for me at that moment, and that He loved all of us collectively ands individually.  It was more an intuitive sense of something deep, powerful and mysterious and...personal.  I've never again had this type of experience, but it's been enough to keep my faith in Jesus intact even when I've lost my faith in Roman Catholicism.  As for Budfhism,I've never again felt the appeal of it after that experience.

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