By Joshua Mazrin, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization,
Many, having read about Saints within the Catholic Church, have found themselves awestruck at the beauty and depth of their relationships with God. One thinks that those Saints must have had something special; some kind of unattainable grace that was given to only to them. While it is true that God gives individual graces to people and even special graces for different circumstances, it is equally true that He gives all members of the faithful the same grace to be conformed to Him.
What we are talking about here is mysticism, or real holiness: the holiness of the Saints, but even more importantly, the holiness that can be lived in your own life, in the home, amongst families, and in each vocation. Those stories of the Saints who had mystical relationships with God, heard Him speaking directly, or experienced spiritual ecstasy might sound miraculous, but those realities are actually for everyone.
The great thing about this is that in order to achieve a personal relationship with God to such heights, it does not require one to become a monk, a religious sister, a full-time penitent, or even a hermit. Rather, all it requires is learning a little bit about how God’s grace works in the soul so that you may do your part in removing obstacles coming in the way of His action so as to become more open to receive from the vast treasury of gifts and graces that He continually offers.
This topic is called mystical theology and is the Church’s understanding of mysticism and spirituality. It is not all that complicated when getting down to the basics and what it provides for Catholics in all walks of life is a structured way to grow personally in holiness in a tangible way that can be understood.
Matthew Leonard, Founder of Next Level Catholic Academy, in the latest episode of the Diocesan Podcast, Journey to Jesus, says, “there’s an ordered process by which we move into the life of God, so it’s not this kind of random free-for-all where we’re just kind of treading water hoping to be in a state of grace when we die.” This process helps in moving from one part of the spiritual life into the next, constantly growing while progressing through the different “stages” of the spiritual life.
Mysticism is a word that can be heard thrown around in Catholic lingo and jargon before, but oftentimes it goes without proper explanation. Growth in the spiritual life leads all Catholics toward God and helps them to be conformed to His life. The end of this road is the Beatific Vision in heaven, but this encounter with God need not wait until after death, rather, mysticism is that eternal life begun. It is when God communicates His life and love to the soul which allows Him to do so freely.
Leonard continues, “The deeper into prayer you go the more conformed you are to Christ and when you do this it revolutionizes every aspect of your faith because Mass then isn’t just something that you do. Mass is transforming you as you offer yourself up on that altar along with Jesus Christ; you’re conformed more to Him and you become bit-by-bit and piece-by-piece more a part of that divine family of God.”
What Leonard is saying here is that the transformation which is undergone through the deepening of the life of prayer ultimately brings about a more personal relationship with God that can even be experienced on earth. Those inspiring stories about the Saints having mystical experiences with God are now not merely stories about distant holy figures, but a roadmap to where the Lord will bring all who seek to be transformed in love during this life.
This is attainable by you. This is attainable by your friends and family, as well. It does not matter the struggles undergone or the sins which have been committed in the past; it does not matter the particular vices being addressed in the present. This roadmap for the spiritual life will help those who live by it overcome everything coming in the way of the grace of God. It will aid in the opening of hearts which enables one to enter more profoundly into that divine family of God which they are already a part.
Every other part of the Faith flows from this beautiful life of grace. This is the best kept secret of the Catholic Church. It is right out here in the open for all and God is waiting for Catholics to receive it and do something with it. If the faithful knew the infinite grace that was available, Churches would not be closing or consolidating, but would be growing and expanding, building bigger Churches to accommodate the overflowing crowds of people who want this as well.
Leonard said that this has radically changed his life because it is, “what you are made for!” This is the Catholic faith truly lived out.
The Diocese of the Venice’s Office of Evangelization is hosting an online 8-week discussion of these very teachings using the program “Catholic Mysticism & the Beautiful Life of Grace” presented by Leonard. The 8-week series will include the live-viewing of the 15 video series, a live question and answer segment, a discussion, and also a workbook which will further explain each segment, provide quotes and Scripture references, as well as discussion questions and room to take notes.
All participants will be given access to the videos of the lessons as well as the workbook. Discussion will be facilitated by the Diocese Director of Evangelization and a panel of educated contributors. The series will begin on Oct. 20, 2020 and run at 10 a.m. each Tuesday until the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, 2020. Videos of the material and discussion will be available to view at any time by all participants.