In no uncertain terms, the Church and the world are undergoing a time of unprecedented suffering. We look out of the windows of our homes at locked-up churches, starving for the grace of sacramental nourishment. While we know and have been told countless times that God is not bound by the sacraments that He instituted, we are bothered by a naturally human desire to return to normal.
Underlying these rational disturbances, human desires and emotional discontents is a gentle reminder to live out our universal mystical vocation. Many definitions are being broadened these days out of a good inclination to maintain parodies of our common daily experiences before the global pandemic; community has been relegated to video chat, education to recorded lectures and leisure to an expectation, rather than a reward. Because of these expanded definitions, excuse me for my suggestion that our vocation, especially today, is one of a mystical nature.
A mystical reality is defined by a sense of mystery. In my lifetime, and I would venture to guess in the lifetimes of many persons alive today, there has not been a time defined so clearly by mystery. Is this due only to the lack of mystery that we entertained in our pre-virus existence? Is it only because of the assaults on the dignity of the human person, most clearly exemplified by the attacks on marriage and family, gender ideology and a contraceptive culture that have shocked us so thoroughly by our lack of control made evident by this pandemic? Certainly, the culture of death of which the Great Pope warned us could not have prepared us for this violent seizure of our former cultural perceptions that man can neglect his Creator without ramifications.
It is our duty, then, to re-embrace our hunger for the mysterious. If this shared experience has taught us anything, it is that our lives are not our own. Mystics knew and know this to their bones. Watching video footage of Padre Pio, for example, makes this clear. When one sees the holy friar walk around with his brother Capuchins and enter a confessional next to a line of countless people, one sees a man who appears to be a visitor in his own body.
He expected nothing from man and everything from the invisible grace of God. Padre Pio knew the life of surprises through which God led him, and simultaneously reveled in the joy of past surprises and anticipated those yet to come.
Another modern mystic of the Church has prepared us with great wisdom for this time. St. Gemma Galgani spoke of her two reactions when the Precious Blood of Our Lord was first seen and felt by her:
“The first one was to love Him… and the other was a great desire to suffer something for Him, seeing how much He had suffered for me!”
What reason would she have to document these experiences and desires if not to contribute to the wisdom of her holy mother, the Church? What reason would the Church have in fulfilling and developing this wisdom if not for the guidance of her members? The unique experiences of mystics like Gemma were not designed by God so that His other children might be dejected by their lack of participation, but so that we might draw in more closely to His daily mystical invitations.
While remaining aware of the possibilities that exist within the providential gaze of God, it should not be expected that we will soon encounter the extraordinarily rare mystical graces of some of God’s elect. But it should be expected that we observe and consider the enigmatic reasons and consequences of this pandemic as mystically significant; the silent pedagogy of Our Lord and His Mother continue to enlighten us through our consistently held call to prayer. No longer should we exclude ourselves from that mystical vocation because it is within that way of life that we come to know the purpose of the Incarnation:
“I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.”
~ John 10:10