To embrace ‘Deeper Mystagogy’

St Augustine in his Confessions famously observed in the beginning of that great work that “You arouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This statement alone to me sums up the situation of the faithful Catholic living in the world today. Having long had such “restlessness” and taken a number of courses with great teachers in university years ago on Catholic history and intellectual life, as well as having widely read contemporary authors on Catholic faith, I was craving a practical course that addressed the spiritual life, what it means, how to grow in it, and how to know I am making progress. All too easily, faithful Catholics “settle” for accepting a faith consisting of partaking of the sacraments, merely attending mass and being on the right side of the Ten Commandments, believing this is the extent of what Jesus meant when he said “I came so that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  Understandably, getting Catholics to regularly come to mass weekly or attend confession can already be an achievement in itself for clergy. But for those of us who already do that, yet remain “restless” and want to grow further in the “abundant life”, there is little guidance on what to do next or what such growth looks like.

The story of Catholicism for those who do not yet know Christ is not merely promoting a 2000 year old institution of dogma, doctrine, theology and liturgy, but also a Church that actively encourages the faithful to embrace a deeper mystagogy and the means for the new and current faithful to approach Mary and Jesus more spiritually and confidently.

As part of the New Evangelisation sought in Vatican II, this should change.

Holiness is the goal of all the faithful, not just for those ordained or religious. Vatican II’sLumen gentium(40, 41) states that

all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society….The forms and tasks of life are many but holiness is one….Therefore all the faithful are invited and obliged to holiness and the perfection of their own state of life.

With the above in mind, this is why the course from the School of Maryon “Ensuring Steady Growth”, answered a need in me providentially at just the right time and the lectures provided by Jean Khoury helped me pull together many disconnected strands on Catholic history, faith and the rich mystical experiences of the Church’s great spiritual masters – a treasure of the Church that should be made more accessible to the faithful.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and came away with three quite profound insights.

  1. The notion of “triggering” the Grace of God in one’s spiritual life through loving as Jesus loved and by engaging in certain spiritual practices done by the Church’s spiritual masters
  2. The experiences of the Church’s spiritual masters (Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, etc.) are consistent with each other – they may be described, or different aspects emphasised, in different ways – but there is a reassuring consistency on what it means to grow in spiritual life as a Catholic regardless of the era.
  3. God designed all human beings with the inner capacity to know Him, to be nourished by Him and to grow closer to Him and that such capacities are not reserved for those like Moses and the “burning bush” or those ordained or religious persons like monks or nuns. All Catholics, lay or ordained, are obliged to “wake themselves up” to such inner capacity (see Lumen Gentiumabove “obliged to holiness and the perfection of their own state of life”) through practices like lectio divina and Prayer of the Heart, encouraged by the experience and insights of the Church’s spiritual masters.

I hope this particular course of the School of Mary is more widely promoted in the Church, at least in London; it answers the restlessness of the faithful and gives them the applicable tools and context by which to approach God in the “burning bush” of their lives and in the process open up God’s graces so that, as Jesus promised, we “might have life and have it more abundantly”. “

Carlos De Vera

The course on “Ensuring Steady Growth” was one of the best I have ever taken on Catholicism, thank you for the great lessons.