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Learning Spiritual Discipline

 

In the spiritual life, we are meant to prod our souls to regular discipline so that in doing so our hearts will be softened to serve those whom Jesus served. The gentle Jesus wants clean hearts from us, not sacrifice; deep down basic commitment, not simply blue ribbons for winning the spiritual marathons we’ve run to make ourselves feel holy.

—from the book In God's Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics by Sister Joan Chittister

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What the Desert Monastics Knew

Clearly one of the pillars of the spiritual life, as far as the Desert Monastics were concerned, was a time and place for reflection. A cell. A place to which we can retire in order to find our way back to our best ideals, our fullest selves, our life with God. A physical place, not a mental one, where we are truly alone and truly in peace. The cell is the place where clamor and chaos stop at the door. It’s the place where we get back in touch with our best selves. It’s the center of our very own, private, spiritual universe.

—from the book In God's Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics by Sister Joan Chittister

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Look to the Saints

The Church has given us the gift of the saints to show that God does great things in people’s lives. The saints, after all, were ordinary people, too. They needed to call on the Lord for help.

By actively praising God and giving thanks, our hearts will find the resting place that we so desire. Saint Teresa of Avila said this:
“Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing away:
God never changes.”

—from the book Praise God and Thank Him: Biblical Keys to a Joyful Life by Jeff Cavins

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What Is a Mystic?

The mystics cultivate awareness. They listen for God’s word; they respond with concrete, often heroic, actions when they hear it. A mystic, then, is one who shows the rest of us who we really are, who we can become, if only we would realize the gift of God that is already within us and respond in our concrete daily lives to God’s great gift of love. The mystic shows us how not to let God’s word return to God empty. The mystic uncovers the mystery, a mystery inside each one of us, and models what it looks like and what it accomplishes. In all of this it is important to remember that God takes the initiative—both in the ordinary believer’s life and in the mystic’s life. One cannot force God’s hand or woo God to make one a mystic. But once that initiative is taken, the mystic’s heart is changed, and he or she falls in love with God.

—from the book Mystics: Twelve Who Reveal God's Love by Murry Bodo, OFM

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Eyes Fixed on the Lord Jesus

In exploring Francis as a mystic, we are reminded again to look upon Christ on the cross and know that despite what things look like from a human point of view, God is love, and everything we do and everything that happens to us takes place within God’s love—even to death upon a cross. Remaining in that love, no matter what befalls us, is to remain in God. The questions are not, “Why is this happening? How can God allow this? Why doesn’t, didn’t God prevent this?” but rather, “Can this separate me from the love of God? Is God’s love still here despite this?” God is love, and though love does not always do our will, it does not mean that God’s love is not there, even though that is what we may feel is happening.

—from the book Mystics: Twelve Who Reveal God's Love by Murry Bodo, OFM

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We Are Rich Soil for God's Word

All of us are invited to be rich soil for God’s word, and all of us have become rich soil in baptism. All of us have heard God’s word in Scripture, in nature, in prayer, and all of us experience intimacy with God, especially in the sacraments (the external signs of a deep, interior reality). What makes the difference is both in the fullness of our response and in the level of consciousness of what is really going on within us. The kingdom of heaven is already within and around us, but because of our often lukewarm response of heart and action, we don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear.

—from the book Mystics: Twelve Who Reveal God's Love by Murry Bodo, OFM

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Mystics Are Chosen by God

One of the truths that is becoming more evident to me the more I study and think about the mystics is that they are not ordinary but chosen souls whom God came to when they were not expecting such a visitation. That they are chosen and special is God’s choice, not something they somehow merit. The rest of us try daily to go to God in our ordinary lives by living in faith, while the mystics spend their lives responding to the great gift of God’s extraordinary entrance into their lives. They show us what it is like to be taken over by God while at the same time cautioning us that we cannot merit God’s tangible presence. But given those distinctions, even we in our ordinary lives can embrace Christ on the cross. We can place ourselves physically and spiritually in a space or place that makes it at least a compatible space for “hearing” God’s voice and “seeing” God’s manifestations, should God decide to show us the divine presence in a way that is beyond the faith we have from our baptism.

—from the book Mystics: Twelve Who Reveal God's Love by Murry Bodo, OFM

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God's Creative Will

God’s creative will is an eternally sustaining will, namely, that my existence will not end, summons me to humble acquiescence and dialogue—or to proud, illusory self-sufficiency, which is a kind of hell because it severs the bond of love and results in a turning in upon oneself. God’s love, in contrast to self-absorption, overflows, and though the eternal creator chooses to become one with love’s creation entering the created world as creative word becoming obedient to the Word’s own speaking of what it means to be a creature, obedient, as Saint Paul says, even “to the point of death— / even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Christ was broken and died on the cross: Life did not spare the eternal Son, just as life will not spare us, but God’s Incarnate Word confirmed for us that love endures, no matter what humans or fate or life does or refuses to do. And in the end obedient love rises from the grave.

—from the book Mystics: Twelve Who Reveal God's Love by Murry Bodo, OFM

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What Can We Learn from the Mystics?

The mystics teach us that one who tries to know and love God sooner or later becomes aware that God is unknowable, but one can love God intimately despite God’s ultimate unknowableness. With this awareness comes the further realization that all one’s desire to know and love God has from the beginning been God’s work and that, try as one may, two things are certain: You cannot find God who has already found you by running away from yourself, your own problems, your own unresolved fears; and secondly, everything you leave in order to respond to God’s love is in the end redeemed, transformed and given back to you wholly new and in an unpossessive way. It is as if you have returned to the garden of paradise illumined and purified so that you can walk again with God in the earthly paradise God intended for you from the beginning.

—from the book Mystics: Twelve Who Reveal God's Love by Murray Bodo, OFM

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