For many of us, the last two years may have seen the dismantling of the scaffolding of our ordinary lives. The pandemic has brought about so many changes: the inability to attend usual activities, the visiting of friends or places of worship, just to name a few. We have had the opportunity to reflect on many aspects of the way we live our lives, examine what is important and what is not.
Amidst this reflection, our need and desire for God may have also increased, as the distractions of busyness are replaced with an inner search for authentic peace. For some, this is a welcome relief and has clarified a call to listen more deeply to God in our lives. It can be difficult to put this yearning into words. It is as though the more our psyches are bombarded with frightening news of human atrocities and tragedies, the deeper we need to find our “footing” in faith.
We search for the peace that passes all understanding. When our heads and minds are exposed to so much suffering, we need to access our heart and God’s heart to find the resources to be bearers of Life. Our help on this journey can come from our Elders in the faith. Thankfully throughout Her history, the Church honours the experience of mystics. There is a groundswell of renewed interest in the Christian mystics as trustworthy guides in uncertain times.
For excellent guidance in this area, you can access the podcast, “Turning to the Mystics”. It is hosted on the website of the Centre for Action and Contemplation (www.cac.org) and can also be found on Spotify or subscribed to through Apple and Google podcasts.
The teacher is Dr James Finley, a contemplative teacher, writer, and retired psychologist. As a young man, he was a member of the community of the Abbey of Gethsemane, and received spiritual guidance for six years from Thomas Merton. His experience with Merton had a profound and lasting effect on his life. He has since written several books, including Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, which is a series of prayerful explorations into the spirituality of Thomas Merton. Finley has studied some of the major mystics in depth, and has the ability to translate in today’s language “the heart and poetic sense” of the wisdom they have to offer. The podcast has been running weekly since February 2020 and was fortuitously up and running when the pandemic hit. Thus far, teaching has been given on the following mystics:
Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, Guigo 11 (a 12th century Carthusian monk), and the author of the Cloud of Unknowing (with more to come!)
Jill Montgomery, on behalf of the
Christchurch Diocesan Spiritual Directors Group
Whakakōngo o te Ngakau: The Yearning Heart.