James Martin, S.J.June 18, 2018
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Have you ever had a mystical experience? I ask that not to make you feel inadequate in your spiritual life, much less bad about yourself, but to remind you that mystical experiences are lot more common than you might think. You don’t have to be a saint to have them. A mystical experience, basically, is one that makes us feel like a sudden flash of truth or light that releases you from your limited sense of self and gives you a taste of a reality that somehow feels more real. It doesn’t mean seeing things or hearing things, but a kind of being taken out of yourself, or seeing things in a new way. And in my experience as a spiritual director, they are, while not common, but also not uncommon.

One young man told that he felt like he was a vase filled with water about to overflow. One woman told me that she looked around at Mass and suddenly realized that everyone had once been a child. Sometimes it’s just an intense feeling of rightness, or understanding, or connection with God. I would say I’ve had them about three times in my life. I’m not going to encourage you to look for a mystical experience this week; they’re gifts, and rare ones at that. But if it happens, whether this week, this month or this year, just be open to it. And grateful.

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Stanley Kopacz
3 years ago

In my childhood. I suddenly realized the utter strangeness of existence. Of all things. Of me. There was something and not nothing and it was totally mysterious and strange, all around me and in me. I used to be able to tap into that experience as a memory but the intensity of it has been lost.

rose-ellen caminer
3 years ago

Wow Stanley; I had the very exact same experience; and like you in my childhood. I too could tap into it and looked forward to doing so.As much as I liked going to the beach for the fun I had there with other kids, my secret favorite part about going to the beach was really what I would experience while on the above ground subway getting there and coming back. I would be looking out the window at all the houses and gardens and telephone poles and streets below and suddenly everything felt quiet. I would feel this awesome yet pitying sense that we are all here. We're just all here. In the now. We're all longing for God, for eternity.Tears of pity would well up and I had to keep them from flowing, as other people I was with would ask me if I was crying. I would tell then that I just got something in my eye.It happened at Prospect Park once ; I had been out there all day with other kids from my block and towards the afternoon ,we all sat around on the grass and again suddenly, everything got all quiet, and I looked at each person there, and felt pity for every person. pity and love;the way we were just all here. The way they all were. Each of them.Again as I looked at each one of them I had to hold back tears and then had to lie about having gotten "something in my eye."It happened once when I was outside by myself, my mother was across the street grocery shopping ;it was drizzling rain and I was bouncing a ball and all of a sudden the sheer strangeness of it all hit me, I was here , my mother was there, it was all now, and I "froze", I stopped moving knowing I would remember this moment,the ball bouncing in my hand and the rain drizzling on me and all around, forever. I felt the awesomeness, the strangeness of existence and the pang of it and I knew it was the most significant moment of my life.

As a child I also had a Christ centered experience. It was at the baptism of my sister. There was a hand full of people in the room and [ I was 5 years old] I looked around at all the adults and saw their faces all beaming with true joy. I thought to myself; why are they so joyful? And then all of a sudden I knew why; it because Jesus was there too. The joy on everyone's faces was because they knew Jesus and Jesus knew us; He was there with us in that room. That experience has never left me.

Once as an adult in a playground when my daughter was a child, the playground was empty except for me, and my daughter. My daughter was off playing by herself; there was a wall to the side of me, and all of a sudden everything felt still. and the way the light and shadows were on the wall filled me with a deep longing and at the same time a deep sense of peace and joy . Just the way the light on the wall and around me was; the quietness and the light filled me with profound joy and peace.

Alfredo S.
3 years ago

Yes. Twice. Once while I was lying on my bed reading John's gospel--Jesus's Final Discourse at the Last Supper. The feelings I had were intense. Every word seemed to jump off the page, as if I was there listening to Him speak.

Then there was a long period when I felt a calm but intense presence--it started while reading Merton's Seven Storey Mountain and stretched for several months before gradually subsiding..

Bonnie Weissman
3 years ago

Both of mine were on trips to Italy---, one in Rome in 2003, and the other in Florence in 2015. In Rome one afternoon I wandered into the ancient church of St. Agnes in the Piazza Navona. A Lutheran choir from Norway was there practicing there for a joint concert with the parish choir the next evening. I knelt, said a prayer, and listened. Then they sang "Panis Angelicus," and I felt for a brief moment as if I was in a heavenly realm. I think others there did too, because when they finished, we in the pews looked at each other, and most of us had wept. When I left the church, I felt as light as a feather.My evangelical friend said I'd gotten a glimpse of heaven. In 2015 in Florence, I was at Sunday evening Mass at the massive duomo there. When we said the Lord's Prayer, I heard it being said in dozens of languages and felt so uplifted. I consider it my "Pentecost Moment." I feel so grateful to have had these experiences!

Bruce Snowden
3 years ago

In my 86 years of life there’s been a number of mystical experiences, including as to what happens when you look at the starry sky on a dark night, spontaneously uttering the “WOW! Prayer in a quiet shout, “My Heavenly Father did this!” But let me stick to a special one, which I’ll post in austere synthesis, a very brief telling.

Call it, “Night of Fragrance,” happening on a Bronx, NYC sidewalk late at night on my way home from work. At that moment I was at diligent intercessory prayer to St. Padre Pio, asking that Father God deliver me from addiction to alcohol in the form of Sherry Wine. I craved that stuff and saw my early years of marriage to my sweet wife, Virginia, and our toddler son too, endangered by my drinking.

Father Pio did what he often does indicative that the prayer would be answered with an all encompassing floral fragrance. That happened and floral fragrance enveloped me, not oppressively so, but with amazement and calmness. The Church calls the experience, “Heavenly Aroma,” which instantly and permanently delivered me from my Sherry addiction.

From the moment of deliverance to the present day and 51 years of marriage, and four children, there has been no relapse. I no longer crave Sherry, in fact I can’t stand its smell now putrid to me.
Interestingly the Father answered Pio’s request exactly as I asked – for DELIVERANCE from slavery to Sherry Wine! This I say because I have no problem taking a glass of Wine with my meals, or at celebrations, no cravings, no compulsions, just freedom to take it or leave it, to say yes, or no, without regrets, But Sherry? Never, ever, again! Absolutely no desire for it!

Elizabeth Phillipson
3 years ago

In church as we were praying the Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intersession, I closed my eyes, and felt a sudden trembling, and a feeling of being surrounded by a Presence. I felt my prayers leave my soul, travel like a breath of wind down the aisle, open the doors into the narthex, then open the church doors, and go out onto the street in front of the church. It went both right and left, out into the city, travel through the province, through the rest of Canada, then the world, spreading the love through the planet. As this all happened, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, and I breathed in the Holy Spirit. I have never felt so calm and at peace...

Ken Spreitzer
3 years ago

In college, I was involved in the "Search" retreat movement. I was working one of the retreat weekends. The weekend had gone well, and the team members were gathered around to say a prayer. I suddenly got this intense urge to start speaking gobbledygook. I had never had that feeling before, and it kind of freaked me out. It was a really strong urge, and it took everything I had to suppress it because I didn't want to interrupt everyone and sound insane.
Up until that point, I had always thought of "speaking in tongues" in terms of the Pentecost story, where it said that everyone heard their own "tongue." Since then I've heard of evangelicals (mostly) doing what they claim is speaking in tongues, which often seems forced to me.
I assume that I had the urge to do that, and it would have been considered speaking in tongues. (Has anyone else experienced this? Am I loco? 🤔) Even though I suppressed it at the time, I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, that was extremely weird. Whatever else you do in life, remember this, and never doubt that it was real, whatever it was."
Since then, my spiritual life has gone up and down, and is definitely more down -- I've just become so skeptical of so many things that don't make sense. It's like my head is winning over my heart, which I have mixed emotions about. I don't doubt that I felt those things at the time, but now I wonder what it really was. And yet I also remember that I told myself to remember that it was real.

Robin Vestal
3 years ago

In 2009 sitting in a Baptist church mostly tuning out since this is where my husband wanted us to be I felt the hand of God. It totally changed my life. Chains I did not even know I had dropped away and I was and am convinced of the deep and abiding love of God and the need for us in communion with God to share that love with one another. It lead me to the Catholic Church and it sustains me to this day.

Lisa Weber
3 years ago

Thank you for talking about mystical experiences. I don't want to talk about my own experience, but I appreciate the subject being explored.

Deborah Henry
3 years ago

Yes, I have had mystical experiences. I think we all have these moments of remarkable clarity or mysterious blessing or strange feelings of a special presence with us. Encountering divine love in unexpected ways is surreal and life changing.

Teresita Boza-Fernandez
3 years ago

When I was a young woman visiting Mexico I went alone to see some Mayan ruins, and someone dressed as a tour guide offered to show me some areas that were not known to the public. I was very naïve and I followed this man, thinking I was going to see something great. When we got to a very isolated area he indicated that I was to go down a ladder. With horror, I realized there was absolutely no light, no one nearby (as I said I was very naïve) and that I could be raped and killed then and there and no one would ever find me. At that very moment I started to try to scramble up a ladder and he grabbed my leg firmly. I was trapped. At that moment, three young men dressed in bright white shirts called to me “cousin we’ve been looking everywhere for you your parents are looking for you come with us now“ They took me by the arm and pulled me out. I had no cousins with me on that trip, and these were no young men that I had ever known. They walked me back to the entrance and I never saw them again. I think they were angels sent by God to deliver me. This happened to me when I was 19 years old, I’m now 61. I will never forget that and firmly believe that God sent them to save me.

Bruce Snowden
3 years ago

Hello Miss. Teresita, Very interesting testimony of your Angels experience. I believe you! St. John Bosco followed by thugs on a dark road called for help from his Guardian Angel. Suddenly a large, fierce looking black dog began walking by his side. The Thugs retreated frightened by what they saw and later St. John Bosco said his Guardian Angel had taken the form of that large, black and fierce looking dog, protecting him. Angels can take any form to help.The Saint made many enemies in the criminal world, by cutting into criminal money profits in existing sex-trade of young people, when the Saint began gathering children off streets to educate them and that made St. John Bosco a target of the under world. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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