I attended short lectures explaining Lectio Divina*. I read the daily Mass readings. I read the writings of the saints. I followed the steps to Lectio Divina, focused on certain words, phrases or passages and meditated on these, I paused to pray. Sadly, I got stuck on the most critical step, the 4th step, contemplatio. I wasn’t’ kissed by the Holy Spirit (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux). The practice of Lectio Divina is an avenue to union with God through the Holy Spirit. My problem, I felt like I was trying to conjure up the Holy Spirit. I didn’t understand or maybe my heart didn’t grasp it. I decided it wasn’t for me. I was discouraged because I dearly wanted to achieve closer union with God.
I read the works of mystics, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Sienna. These mystics agree that it’s possible for anyone to achieve mystical union with God. They also agree that not all will. Holiness is favorable for mystical union but excessive piety is not vital. God favors who God will. Furthermore, if one never experiences the ecstasy of contemplative union with the Almighty, our ability to delight in a blessed, rich life filled with holiness will not be hindered.
So my attempts at Lectio Divina were not fruitful, but I was able to accept this. I was comforted by the acknowledgement given to us by the saints that not all will be favored with mystical experiences. And as I found myself getting closer and closer to God, I was okay with not being a mystic.
But then it happened! Happily unexpectedly, joyously, blissfully, sweet bits of ecstasy, wonder and great peace of heart! It happened as I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. I was praying in the chapel during Adoration. I had been there for a while, praying deeply to Our Lord, pouring out my heart. I was ready to leave when I realized there was no one else in the chapel. I decided to wait until someone else came in. I didn’t want to leave Jesus alone. Instead of resuming my prayers, I sat down and started to read a book I was studying for class. I was reading this book when the Holy Spirit took possession of me. I gasped. I dropped the book and fell to my knees. I had never experienced this before, but I knew exactly what was happening. I kept repeating, “For you are my God! For you are my God! For you are my God! I don’t know how long I was in this glorious state but probably not more than a minute. There’s no doubt in my mind that God had made himself known to me.
I thanked God for giving me this gift, though I was aware that I might never have this beautiful experience again. It was a consolation to me to realize that I will have the memory.
I’m happy to share with you that the Holy Spirit has come to me again. It’s always a blessed happy surprise. There’s no way to know when the Holy Spirit will come. It happens anywhere, anytime. Sometimes I hear myself quietly say, “Oh it’s You!” I don’t lose myself completely. I’m still aware of my surroundings but when the Holy Spirit wants me, it’s his time. If I’m at Mass praying or singing, I become perfectly still. I get quiet and simply savor the glory of God. Sometimes I repeat a Jesus prayer over and over in my mind such as, “Jesus I love you!” I’m sure these experiences only last a minute or less, though it feels much longer. When the Holy Spirit touches my sou,l I want it to last forever. My taste of heaven leaves me quickly, but I’m filled with gratitude to God for giving me the gift of perfect awareness of his presence. I call the Holy Spirit the SWEETNESS OF MY SOUL!
I’ve been told by my spiritual director not to depend on mystical experiences and I’ve been warned, “Don’t depend on it” by an expert on mysticism, Leroy Friesen professor at Notre Dame. Professor Friesen reminded me that it could be taken away at any time. Meaningful advice from both of them.
Since the first happening, I’ve increased my prayer life and spiritual reading. Before the Holy Spirit came to me in this personal way, I could not commit to reading the Bible cover to cover, but now I’ve read it twice and am reading it a third time. This time I’m reading Holy Scripture with a study guide.
I want you to know I’m not such a good person, though I try to be. I feel bad but then I remember that God doesn’t always choose the best. I used to wonder why me, I’m just an ordinary person? Now I just accept it, praise God.
Since the Holy Spirit has been coming to me, I’ve taken a harder look at myself. I tell myself, “Look what he’s given you! So much glory! What are you going to do for Jesus today?” I was never involved in extra church activities before, but now I want to help others get closer to God.
God appreciates those whose faith in him is strong, unshaken, and sincere, whether they are being favored with mystical experiences or not. Also I’m totally aware that when God favors us in this way, more is expected of the one being favored. Yes it’s a gift, but it’s hard to keep God to myself with his fire of love in my heart. Since the Holy Spirt first came to me, my soul developed a great ardor and passion for God. Along with this passion, comes a desire to bring lost souls to him. What return can I make to the Lord for all he’s given to me? Psalm 116:12 . I so desire to give back to God!
My life has changed. I yearn to bring souls to God. I want to help others get closer to God. Fortunately, I’m able to help with parish programs, Prison Ministry, Divine Mercy Ministry, ChristLife Program and Catholics Come Home. Our spiritual book club has just started reading Return: How to draw you child back to the church by Brandon Vogt.** However, I know that the best thing I can do for lost souls is to pray them. I pray for the souls of the living and dead.
I’m grateful, so very grateful to the Holy Spirit for his internal visits to me. I try not to think of myself as special, but it’s hard not to feel special when God wraps his Divine Love around me and through me.
Excerpts from John Hopkins University Press review of The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle by Albert Schweitzer - Paul's mysticism was not like the mysticism elsewhere described as a soul being at one with God. In the mysticism he felt and encouraged, there is no loss of self but an enriching of it; no erasure of time or place but a comprehension of how time and place fit within the eternal. Schweitzer writes that Paul's mysticism is especially profound, liberating, and precise…To students of the New Testament, this book opens up Paul by presenting him as offering an entirely new kind of mysticism, necessarily and exclusively Christian.**