Tag Archives: mystic

A Few Observations on Therese Neumann, Laywoman, Mystic, and Stigmatic – October 24, 2016

Very rarely has a person reflected so many purported supernatural gifts as did Therese Neumann, a 20th century German mystic and stigmatic. Her renown nearly rivaled that of St. Padre Pio. Their gifts supposedly included bearing the sacred stigmata (the wounds of Christ), visions, bilocation, reading hearts, healings and conversions, among other phenomena. However, unlike St. Padre Pio who was canonized June 16, 2002 by Pope John Paul II, the Roman Catholic Church has not yet officially recognized Therese Neumann as a saint. She was known as a joyful woman who loved animals and flowers, and was particularly despised by the Nazis. By most accounts, Therese Neumann was an extraordinarily holy laywoman, as well as a Third Order Franciscan, who displayed a great devotion to Jesus and the Church. She truly lived as a “Servant of God.” After an investigative period for some years after her death, the Vatican officially opened proceedings for her beatification on February 13, 2005 by Bishop Gerhard Mueller of Regensburg, Germany. The process remains open to this day.

Regardless of the Church’s final ruling on Therese Neumann, we must recognize that the mystical component of her life falls squarely under private revelation, which no one in the Church is forced to accept. The Catechism states in no uncertain terms that the deposit of faith is closed, and there will be no further public revelation. (CCC 67) In certain limited instances the authority of the Church recognizes private revelations that are in line with magisterial teachings, in order to help the faithful “live more fully” the gospel. The Church obviously treads very carefully in these matters, so as to root out frauds and impostors. Indeed, the focus should never be directed towards sensationalism, but always towards faithful obedience to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Still, in reviewing Therese Neumann’s purported mystical gifts, we may find inspiration for our own lives.

Therese was a stigmatist, that is, she bore the wounds of Christ on her own body. There have been numerous people in the history of the Church who have officially had the sacred stigmata, including St. Francis of Assisi and St. Padre Pio, and perhaps even St. Paul himself, as he suggests in his letter to the Galatians. (Gal. 6:17) In March 1926, during Lent, as Therese began to have ecstatic visions of Jesus in His Passion, she concurrently began to have the stigmata. The wounds of Christ began to appear on successive Fridays: first the wound to her side, just over her heart; then the next Friday, the wounds to her hands; and finally, on Good Friday, all five wounds. Months later, on Friday November 5, 1926, Therese received the full complement of Jesus’ wounds from His Passion: holes in both hands; holes in both feet; the wound to the side above her heart; nine wounds around her head from the crown of thorns; and wounds to her shoulders and back from the scourging and the Cross. It is estimated that she bore at least 45 wounds in total, meaning she bore the full wounds of Christ’s Passion, not just the Crucifixion. Perhaps even more shocking, the wounds never left her from that moment in 1926 until her death in 1962. As one biographer, Adalbert Vogl, put it, “Not one of the wounds ever disappeared; they never healed, and they were still imprinted on her body at the time of her death.”

Therese’s sufferings and visions conformed exactly to the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. Just as she received the wounds of the Crucifixion on Good Friday, so also were her visions and ecstasies aligned to the liturgical calendar. For example, when she initially received the sacred stigmata, it was during the liturgical season of Lent. Although Therese had the wounds of the Passion for the rest of her life, she only experienced the ecstasies of the Passion on Fridays, and only on Fridays during Lent and Advent, and on some of the sorrowful octaves. Thus, her experience of the Passion was connected only to the relevant liturgical days, and never during joyful seasons, such as Christmas or Easter. On the Fridays when she did not endure the Passion ecstasy, she would have a vision of the death or martyrdom of the saint whose feast day it happened to be, in recognition of the liturgical calendar. On All Saints Day, November 1st, she would have a 24-hour ecstasy and see souls of saints from Heaven, and similarly on All Soul’s Day, November 2nd, she saw saints from Purgatory. Based on the timing of the mystical experiences of Therese Neumann, it seems heaven honors with great respect the liturgical calendar; perhaps we should pay close attention to this as well.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Therese Neumann’s mystical experiences is that she evidently lived without food or water for much of her life. This supernatural phenomenon is known as inedia. It is not unheard of in ecclesiastical history, particularly with stigmatists, as reported in the life of St. Catherine of Siena, who supposedly ate no food for the last seven years of her life. Therese herself stopped eating food in 1922, and then stopped drinking nearly all water in 1926, and continued this way until her death in 1962. Her sole sustenance for 36 years was the Holy Eucharist. As part of this experience, she had no desire whatsoever to eat food or drink water. Solid food or liquids would be immediately expelled from her body, save her daily Holy Communion. Her physical sustenance depended directly on her reception of the Eucharist. If she did not receive the Eucharist on a given day, she would have an extreme hunger and fatigue until she received Him. Once when asked how she could live just on the Eucharist alone, she responded, “The Savior can do all things. Did He not say that “My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink?”” (Jn. 6:55)

For 15 days in 1927, Therese was placed under strict observation and investigation at the behest of the Archbishop of Regensburg. The investigation was directed by a non-Catholic professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Ewald, and a prominent Catholic physician, Dr. Seidl, as well as four nuns, who were trained nurses. Their strict instructions were to work in two-person teams, never leaving Therese alone, day or night. They were to record, measure and photograph everything that happened over the course of the investigation. At the end Dr. Ewald reported Therese’s complete abstinence from food and minimal water intake to swallow Communion (about 45cc of water, although this was apparently discharged too). Despite losing some weight around the time of her Passion ecstasy, she then regained the weight back over the next few days. Her weight was the same, 121 lbs., on July 28th as it had been on July 13th, despite not eating anything.

The supernatural phenomenon of inedia highlights in a literal way the words of the Lord regarding the Bread of Life. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger; and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (Jn. 6:35) There seems to be a mystical connection between the sacred stigmata and embracing the Passion of Jesus, and inedia and living strictly off the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. In consuming the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, His Passion and sacrifice of the Cross may come to life in the events of our ordinary lives. In some extreme instances, the Passion and sacrifice of Christ come to life in an individual’s life in an extraordinary way, such as with Therese Neumann. The Eucharistic life is a life of redemptive and vicarious suffering. It is an embrace of the Cross of Christ. Therese Neumann lived this life of divine union par excellence. As St. Paul said “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20) This suffering is not without meaning. We know that we who suffer with Christ, for this short while, will also rise with Him to eternal life.

Blessed Anna Maria Taigi – Housewife, Mother and Saint – June 9, 2016

Imagine the saint who was a renown healer and a great mystic, who conversed with Jesus and Mary, and was supernaturally gifted by God for 47 years with a miraculous, luminous globe that stayed with her at all times, and in which, she could see nearly all things hidden, present, and in the future. Was this an ascetic monk, or an angelic nun? No, this was Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, an ordinary housewife and mother to seven children. Bl. Anna Maria Taigi lived a saintly life as an ordinary layperson with worldly responsibilities, a spouse and children. Bl. Anna Maria is a great reminder to us that the intimate life of the soul with God is not meant for just the religious and the consecrated, but for all people.

Anna Maria was born on May 29, 1769 in Siena, Italy. She did not have wealth or worldly means. As a young woman she married Dominic Taigi, a pious man but with a rough temper. One day while they were at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Anna Maria was overcome with an inspiration to renounce her worldliness. She had been given over to some vanities, such as clothing and jewelry, but now began a new life of self-renunciation. Her strong interior illumination showed the state of her soul with the effects of sin and its misery before God. With that, she embarked on a life of obedience, mortifications, submission, patience, humility and self-renunciation.

Anna Maria found many opportunities to exercise her spiritual discipline of patience and charity towards her husband and children. She considered marriage one of the greatest missions from Heaven. For 49 years she submitted herself before her husband, keeping peace with him, assuaging his temper, and providing all things for her family. She was the quintessential housewife. She always fulfilled first her duties as wife and as mother, managing the daily activities of her home; cooking and cleaning, and rearing the children, including teaching them to pray. She embraced a martyrdom of humility in submitting herself to all those around her. This was her vocation of extraordinary holiness in the ordinariness of marriage and motherhood.

Yet, even though Anna Maria imposed great penances and mortifications upon herself, she never demanded that from other people. In fact, she tried all the more to serve those around her, especially her family, trying to make them happy and comfortable. Despite her self-sacrifices, she showed great affability to everyone else, including a special compassion and charity for the poor and suffering. She sought above all else to serve God through serving her family and others.

She also devoted herself to the Church, especially to the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion, attending Mass daily. She had a special devotion to our Blessed Mother, and to the Holy Trinity. On December 26, 1808, she entered the Third Order of the Most Holy Trinity as a layperson. She lived a sacramental life in the midst of the world.

Once, she heard the interior voice of Jesus tell her, “The greatest merit consists in being in the midst of the world and yet holding the world under one’s feet.” Jesus also told her, “Virtue consists above all in the mortification of one’s own will.”

The Blessed Virgin spoke to her as well. She told Anna Maria, “You must be devoted above all to doing His will and submitting your own constantly to his in the state of life to which it has pleased Him to call you; therein lies your special vocation.” True virtue is surrendering our will for the love of God in all things.

Jesus called Anna Maria to self-sacrifice and redemptive suffering, to be lived out in the midst of her marriage and motherhood. It was in her ordinary life that she progressed in sanctity and holiness. Blessed Anna Maria Taigi died June 9, 1837, with June 9th now her feast day. Years later, her body was exhumed and found to be uncorrupted. On May 30, 1920, Pope Benedict XV, beatified Anne Maria by declaring her “Blessed,” one-step from official canonization. She is now the patron saint of housewives, mothers, and victims of verbal and spousal abuse.

Blessed Anna Maria Taigi is a saint for the modern age. She reminds us that no matter what our state in life or vocation, layperson, single, married, children or no children, God calls us to renounce our self-love and self-will, abandoning it to the will of God, by submitting it for the good of others, and in this way, strive to be saints within the world.

 

 

 

Rahner and the Mysticism of Everyday Life – January 8, 2016

In the mid-20th century a movement arose among certain German and French Catholic theologians to reform the Neo-Scholasticism in Catholic thought and teaching. (that is, the 19th century, modern-era revival of the original medieval Scholasticism, ie, the influence of St.Thomas Aquinas’ writings in theology and philosophy.) This loosely based movement of Catholic theologians became known, and criticized, as the Nouvelle Theologie, or the “New Theology.” They themselves, however, generally preferred the term Ressourcement, or a “return to the sources.” The main thrust of the movement was to develop a theology by returning to the original sources of Scripture and the Church fathers, a positive theology, to not shun the modern world, to have a more critical attitude towards Neo-Scholasticism, and to anthropologize theology. Some of the theologians often associated with the movement included 20th century Catholic luminaries as Joseph Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Jean Danielou, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx, and Karl Rahner. Their ideas became a strong counter-balance to the well-entrenched neo-Scholastic ideas of the 19th century Catholic thought. Moreover, their movement and their ideas carried a strong impact in the writings and reforms enacted in the Second Vatican Council. For that reason alone we should seek to understand their origins and impacts upon modern Catholicism in the post-conciliar world, a post-mortem analysis if you will. Yet, even though they had great influence in the Church Council and were among the preeminent Catholic theologians of the 20th century, they were not without criticism. Critics, such as French Dominican theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, accused them of not “returning to the sources” but of starting a “new theology” disguising within it the errors of Modernity, Relativism, and Positivism. This criticism is not without merit. Pope Pius XII even issued an encyclical in 1950, Humani Generis, “The Human Race,” primarily in response to and criticizing the Nouvelle Theologie and warning against the dangers of Modernism’s influence upon theology. Nevertheless, many of the reforms promulgated by Vatican II were influenced by their ideas, which liberalized and modernized many aspects of the Church and the liturgy; focused on Ecumenicalism and the call to holiness for the Laity. Following Vatican II, the Nouvelle Theologie movement basically broke into two camps of divergent ideas, one more progressive and one more traditional, the spirit of which are still at work.

Karl Rahner is typically bunched into the more progressive camp. His primary body of work is his vast 24 volumes of “Theological Investigations.” Yet, as great as a Catholic thinker that he was, not all of his ideas or theological writings are considered orthodox, in fact, just the opposite. Some of his theological notions have been spurned as a watering down and a trivializing of orthodoxy, and been outright rejected. He is often criticized for theories such as the Transcendental-Anthropological Method and Anonymous Christians, that some argue relativize the truths of Christianity. He also studied under the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and was influenced by his Existentialism. In his own defense, Rahner claimed to absolutely not contradict the Magisterium of the Church at all, but simply, he tried to view it in a new light. For better or for worse, he had a tremendous impact on the Council and the post-Conciliar world of Catholic thought. [As a note, this article is in no way an endorsement of all of his views and ideas.]

On the other hand, there are certain aspects of Rahner’s writings that are appealing, such as his emphasis, in line with Jesuit Ignatius spirituality, that God can be found everywhere in everyday life. As he wrote, God can “come to meet us in the streets of the world.” Harvey Egan referred to this as Rahner’s “mysticism of everyday life.” He referred to Jesus Christ as the primordial sacrament (“Ursakrament”), and the Church as the basic sacrament (“Grundsakrament”). Yet, according to Rahner, grace is everywhere. Again, this is an area that he has been criticized for by traditionalists. This “uncreated grace” manifests itself throughout history and is at work with mankind everywhere. He says, “The simple and honestly accepted everyday life contains in itself the eternal and the silent mystery, which we call God and his secret grace, especially when this life remains the everyday.” The sacraments themselves are the explicit, ecclesiastical and historical manifestations of this sanctifying grace through the person of Jesus Christ. They are still decisive, efficacious acts for the salvation of the individual. The Church sacraments are the “epiphanization” of the sacraments of everyday life. He views the sacraments and the liturgy as specific manifestations, of this grace found everywhere, as the climax of salvation history.

Rahner believes these should not be seen as isolated interventions of grace into our lives but symbolic expressions of this “liturgy of the world,” that is, God’s continual self-communication everywhere and our free acceptance of it. According to Rahner, the liturgy of the Church is the real symbol of the liturgy of the world. In this sense, God can be encountered in the banality of life, in its repetitious cycles, and every day routines, or in his words, “is seen by man in his dreary existence only through a haze, obscured by the banal ordinariness of life.” In this, Rahner concludes, we Christians, must become “mystics” of ordinary life, partaking in the “experiential grace” of the absolute mystery of God. Even the “most common small things” has the “imprint of the eternal God.” He continues, “People who place their small time into the heart of eternity, which they already carry within, will suddenly realize that even small things have inexpressible depths, are messengers of eternity, are always more than they appear to be, are like drops of water in which is reflected the entire sky, like signs pointing beyond themselves, like messengers running ahead of the message they are carrying and announcing the coming of eternity..” The mysticism of everyday life encompasses even the most humble of actions, such as working, eating, sleeping, sitting, walking, laughing, etc. Every moment of every day has the potential to be an encounter with God. Rahner considers this the “more excellent way” of love that St.Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13, where love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor.13:7) To Rahner, there is nothing profane in the ordinary, but when we surrender in everything to the mystery of God, His Spirit will be with us in our everyday life. So, whether you appreciate his writings or think he borders on heretical, Rahner at least beautifully captures the idea of living with God and for God in our everyday existence.

What follows are excerpts from one of Rahner’s meditations called “God of My Daily Routine.”

“I should like to bring the routine of my daily life before You, O Lord, to discuss the long days and tedious hours that are filled with everything else but You.”

“Look upon us men, who are practically nothing else but routine.”

“What will become of me, dear God, if my life goes on like this? What will happen to me when all the crates are suddenly swept out of the warehouse? How will I feel at the hour of my death? Then there will be no more “daily routine”; then I shall suddenly be abandoned by all the things that now fill up my days here on earth. And what will I myself be at that hour, when I am only myself and nothing else?   My whole life long I have been nothing but the ordinary routine, all business and activity, a desert filled with empty sound and meaningless fury. But when the heavy weight of death one day presses down upon my life and squeezes the true and lasting content out of all those many days and long years, what will be the final yield?”

“..the genuine yield of my ungenuine life will be only a few blessed moments, made luminous and living by Your grace.”

“That’s why I now see clearly that, if there is any path at all on which I can approach You, it must lead through the very middle of my ordinary daily life. If I should try to flee to You by any other way, I’d actually be leaving myself behind, and that, aside from being quite impossible, would accomplish nothing at all. But is there a path through my daily life that leads to You? Doesn’t this road take me ever farther away from You? Doesn’t it immerse me all the more deeply in the empty noise of worldly activity, where You, God of Quiet, do not dwell?”

“Do I come into Your presence just because this life has revealed its true face to me, finally admitting that all is vanity, all is misery?”

“O God, it seems we can lose sight of You in anything we do. Not even prayer, or the Holy Sacrifice, or the quiet of the cloister, not even the great disillusion with life itself can fully safeguard us from this danger. And thus it’s clear that even these sacred, non-routine things belong ultimately to our routine. It’s evident that routine is not just a part of my life, not even just the greatest part, but the whole. Every day is “everyday.” Everything I do is routine, because everything can rob me of the one and only thing I really need, which is You, my God.”

“But on the other hand, if it’s true that I can lose You in everything, it must also be true that I can find You in everything. If You have given me no single place to which I can flee and be sure of finding You, if anything I do can mean the loss of You, then I must be able to find You in every place, in each and every thing I do.”

“Thus I must seek You in all things. If every day is “everyday,” then every day is Your day, and every hour is the hour of Your grace. Everything is “everyday” and Your day together.”

“Only through Your help can I be an “interior” man in the midst of my many and varied daily tasks. Only through You can I continue to be in myself with You, when I go out of myself to be with the things of the world.”

“It is only the love of You, my Infinite God, which pierces the very heart of all things, at the same time transcending them all and leaping upwards into the endless reaches of Your Being, catching up all the lost things of earth and transforming them into a hymn of praise to Your Infinity.”

“In Your love all the diffusion of the day’s chores comes home again to the evening of Your unity, which is eternal life. This love, which can allow my daily routine to remain routine and still transform it into a home-coming to You, this love only You can give. So what should I say to You now, as I come to lay my everyday routine before You? There is only one thing I can beg for, and that is Your most ordinary and most exalted gift, the grace of Your Love.”

“Touch my heart with this grace, O Lord. When I reach out in joy or in sorrow for the things of this world, grant that through them I may know and love You, their Maker and final home. You who are Love itself, give me the grace of love, give me Yourself, so that all my days may finally empty into the one day of Your eternal Life.”