Sampling the Christian Mystics
- Have an interest in Christian mystics or Christian spirituality
You’ve probably heard about famous mystics from the Far East, Middle East and Native America. Mystics like: Buddha, Confucius, Gurdjieff, Rumi, Hafiz, Lao Tzu, Gibran, Babaji, Osho, Sitting Bull, Black Elk, Maimonides and the like. Has it ever made you wonder, “Is there such a thing as Christian mysticism or Christian mystics?” Or, perhaps you’ve asked yourself, “What is a Christian mystic anyway?” If you want answers to these questions, or are just curious about Christian mystics, then this is the introductory course for you.
In this course you will briefly explore the lives of six Christian mystics. The idea is to whet your appetite to learn more about these and other Christian mystics, by reading their books, taking other courses, going on retreats and conferences, traveling to their birthplaces, or wherever else your search may take you.
Before beginning this mystical journey there is an introductory phase of the course. In this section there will be a reflection question, a working definition of a Christian mystic, and I will share important points about Christian mystics in general.
Our whirlwind tour will then begin in 11th century Europe, meeting up with the medieval German nun, Hildegard of Bingen. We will delve into some of her varied works so you can capture her essence and see what the stir is about concerning her.
We will then travel to Spain to view some of the mystics of the Spanish Golden Age. We will begin our journey greeting the Spanish nun, Teresa of Avila. You will receive a brief overview of Teresa’s life and her difficulties in pursuing her work of reforming the Carmelite religious order. St. John of the Cross will be the next Christian mystic to cross our path. You will learn a bit about his famous concept of the Dark night, along with some of his adventures. We will close the 16th century era with Ignatius of Loyola. We will touch upon his flamboyant beginnings, the twists & turns that led him to become a profound follower of God and a lifelong, compelling preacher who started a new religious order.
We will then time-travel to 20th century France, where you will meet Gabrielle Bossis, a nurse in World War I who later became an actress and a playwright. Christ appeared to her in an auditory sense and had long conversations with her on a train, while she was traveling to and from performances. These conversations resulted in her book entitled, He and I. Finally, you will briefly meet Thomas Merton, who was a world traveler and professor, but settled down as a Trappist monk, in a secluded monastery outside of Louisville, KY & became a renowned author.
Along the way, there will be some reflection questions to help you connect with the mystic and his or her world. There will be a few handouts included so you won’t have to take notes. ? You’ll receive a brief overview on each of the six mystics, definitions, important points about what the mystics can teach us, along with the Merton prayer and reflection, a page of interesting and relatable websites, along with a works cited page.
Christian mysticism is not something one often hears about from the Church pulpit. Yet it is a rich heritage of the Christian faith and should not be overlooked but rather, added to our knowledge base to help us grow in our spiritual development. One has to pursue this adventure, that is, learning about Christian mystics, but I guarantee the pursuit is well-worth the effort. In my practice of spiritual direction, I have met people who have had palpable experiences with the Divine. As a spiritual director, it has been extremely helpful for me to have a background in Christian mysticism, to receive their stories in a nonjudgmental way, knowing that God works in a multitude of mysterious ways that I cannot begin to predict. Being a good listener honors each person’s sacred story. Those of you doing ministerial work know it can often leave one drained. The Christian mystics, through their gains and losses, can help you affirm the value of your work and the value of taking time to rest, both required to honor God. Understanding Christian mysticism is beneficial for clergy and religious too, as they serve others in their work. The Christian mystics are such wonderful exemplars of prayer, courage, tenacity and yet they are far from perfect. Nevertheless, they can be models of virtues for our clergy and religious sisters and brothers. As we get to know their stories, we can see their humanness, where their faults lie and that can help us avoid similar pitfalls for ourselves. In other words, Christian mystics are real people, just like all of us, yet they have a readiness and desire to want to love like God loves and serve like God serves. Christian mystics get spiritually and sensually touched by the hand of God in often an indescribable way, yet they do their best to put it to words for our benefit.
So, you see, this class is for everyone who wants to “find God in all things,” one of the sayings, St. Ignatius of Loyola is famous for. It is for those with a curiosity about Christian mystics and those who want to learn more about the heritage of Christian mysticism and how it can benefit us in the 21st century. I hope you will join me in this class. May peace and blessings be with you.
Who this course is for:
- This is a course designed for students new to and curious about Christian mystics
Ramona Harris is the author of, Awakening the Mystic in You, Messages of Light from the Christian Mystics. She has also created an inspirational card deck entitled, The Wisdom of the Christian Mystics and penned an article for the Spiritual Director’s International Presence Journal called Ten Steps to Awaken Your Inner Mystic. Ramona presents topics on Christian mystics and the women Doctors of the Church. She has been a spiritual director since 2005 receiving her training at Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA. She was on the Institute for Catholic Spirituality and Spiritual Directors’ training team bringing a three-year spiritual director training program to the Central Valley of CA. She has a master’s degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University, Institute for Ministry, where she focused on Christian spirituality and cultivated an affinity for the Christian mystics. She also has a master’s degree in Education-Counseling from California State University, Stanislaus. Her bachelor’s degree is in Sociology. Ramona was a faculty member for the School of Ministry at the Catholic Diocese of Stockton. There she taught courses on Adult Faith Development, Mary, the Mother of God, Spirituality, the Profession of Faith and Theological Reflection. She is retired from the California community college system and served for many years as a college counselor. Prior to that, Ramona worked as a social worker and manager for the local county Community Services Agency. Ramona is passionate about the Christian mystics and will share their stories with anyone who will listen.