Hello. I am new here and I need some help. I was raised Catholic and when I became a teenager I started looking at other spiritual forums. I have been through it all from Messianic Judaism, Islam, all various sects of Christianity, amd the new age. I have come back home to where I started, to the Catholic Christian faith.
My dilema is two fold.
1) Even though I feel that I have come home with my tradition I do not hold some of the beliefs that more mainsteam/conservative Catholics hold and that makes it very difficult for me because in suburban America conservative views rule the day.
2) The second part of my dilemma is what I really need help with...
I really enjoyed the mystical side of things when investigating Hindu sects and Sufi sects of Islam. I have yet to find that segment in the Catholic population. I fund that the churches I attend have , as I've said, a very conservative view of spirituality. I doesn't seem that many people outside of the Vocational Religious have an interest in true communion with God. I am seeking that personal experience and I am not finding a community to help nurture that process.
As I've stated, I feel very at home with the Catholic tradition and it helps because my wife and children are Catholic as well. I just need to find people, community, resources that help nurture my need to find the mystical side of Christianity.
Be at peace! I am reading an Alan Watts biography. He was raised in a strict evangelical Anglican environment with the notoriously abusive British upper middle class militaristic scholling. He went Buddhist at 15, but became an Anglican priest at 30 anyway. After many years of excess, he left a confusing but interesting legacy at 53. A good example of how not to do it from the not-quite Christian end.
If you want the best of both worlds, try Thomas Merton or Bede Griffiths, depending on whether you prefer Zen and Chuang Tsu or Vedanta. Merton also liked Sufism. Kahlil Gibran is an interesting case. Then there is Christianity in the form of the Native American Church (do you like peyote)? Celtic, Nestorian, Coptic, Orthodox and Catholic varieties of experience abound, as well as Quakers and Charismatic experience.
Step up to the buffet. What about kundalini?
Have people, community, resources, will share!
caritas, mm <*))))><
I can somewhat relate to your frustration. Do you feel you have done an exhaustive search in your own area? Are there any Catholic monasteries nearby that offer private and group retreats with spiritual direction? These might be the place to look, and if enough locals participate, you might be able to start your own prayer group. Although it might be best to ask a priest or deacon to lead a class, as this can often draw more people. In the end, the numbers who stick it out may be small, and that is often best handled by those who are spiritual directors sensitive to various tolerance levels for the increased vulnerability regular prayer life brings. But don't be surprised if you are dissapointed with some of the clergy as well, as not all of them are inclined to the intimacies small prayer groups can generate.
So have you ever spoken with one of your parish clergy about starting a prayer group? There are many methods to choose from, including St. Ignatius' model and Lectio Divina, the latter my preference, and which has a group format. Consider the link for Lectio Divina on the following website where it can be reproduced, and which includes formats for both individuals and groups:
Re: how deeply aware, or spiritually inclinded, others in your parish are, I'd not be hasty in assessing that.
One last concern: Are you returning to the church expecting others to share the view that all roads lead to Rome, as it were? You say you've learned much from Hindus and Sifis, but does that mean you feel Jesus Christ is but one of many saints providing access to grace, or do you feel He is unique, as in orthodox Christian notions, such as His being fully God and fully man like no others before or since?
The reason I ask is not so much for a discussion on Christian metaphysics or Christology, but for knowing whether or not you might carry a more syncretist expectation into a prayer group where others might find such notions foreign or even threatening.
Adding my welcome, Sojourner.
You've already gotten some good feedback, so I'll only "pile on," here, by saying that it's a BIG CHURCH. There are lots of writers on contemplative spirituality, and there are retreat centers offering a wide array of spiritual formation opportunities.
(Follow-up questions/comments welcomed, of course.)
Welcome to our happy think tank of knowledge. We have a little bit of everything here which may be of value to you. Look forward to more of your sharing with us.
Thank you all for your warm welcome. Let me comb over your input and I will be getting back to everyone soon. I guess my next question is: What are some daily practices and routines I can get into that will get me on my way? I do love yoga and meditation. In response to one of the responders I favor vedanta and would love to apply some of these eastern influences to my Catholic faith. I will get back to everyone soon with some more in depth questions and comments.
Phil, w.c., mysticalmichael, and freebird:
What authors would you recommend. Do you know of any respurces in the Philadelphia area?
I have a short story to relate. For some reason, I feel inspired to do so. It has to do with a spiritual Master whom I studied under for 7 years. I remember, we used to have walking meditations, and as I passed him, I would not feel "Him" per say, but Christ. It was a strange experience for me, as I often felt Christ in my prayers and Mary also. Many years later, after I left this truly blessed Master, I sent him in email telling him how I would not have left him if I had not felt the inspiration of two other Masters in the inner world. One was Christ and the other was Ramana Maharshi. He sent me a letter back telling me that what I had said was true and significant. He never tried, in other words, to draw attention to Himself, even though Christ worked through Him. Now why I share this now? I dunno. Sometimes God is mysterious and works through one Master and through Him one may be guided to another. Whenever I truly felt the purity of Christ, I started balling, as I understood him as "home." He is "home" in some sense, but not his church. For me, anyway. This happened often in the presence of this "Hindu" Master. But this teacher was not into Kundalini, although he had written about it and opened his chakras. His energy was like silk, at the same time, it forced you closer to whatever image of God worked through. Now I tend to see Christ from my Moslem background, as a prophet. But a prophet whom I feel at home in. I could never say that he is the son of God. I know him moreso as a friend. And as pure awareness.
Now I tend to see Christ from my Moslem background, as a prophet. But a prophet whom I feel at home in. I could never say that he is the son of God. I know him moreso as a friend. And as pure awareness.
Why "pure awareness," Asher? What is it about this experience of consciousness that seems "Christic" to you? Why could that not be the experience of your own spirit in its non-reflective, observational aspect?
Just wanting to understand, better.
There are several contacts you might wish to e-mail
Probably very good people. I'm glad you are here as
it might jog a few brain-cells and get me back to focusing on what I am passionate about.
Very few and far between, these individuals...
caritas, mm <*))))><
Well, I went to my church yesterday because they have exposition of The Blessed Sacrament. It htought it would be a wonderful opportunity to spend some time alone with Christ and let His energy move me. I was very tires because I work nights, I work two jobs, go to college and have 2, almast 3 kids. All this aside it was a wonderful experience and I realized how lucky I am to be as in touch as I am. It was mentioned that I should involve myself in a prayer group. Well, when exiting the church I found a flyer for a one day workshop on contemplation at a Dominican retreat house. God seems to be putting the tools in my lap.
I also admit that one of my faults is underestimating my fellow parishoners spiritual convictions. I just listen to them talk and it saddens me because they seem to get wrapped up in the rubricks of the faith, "the letter of the law" as opposed to the message. I will have to work on this flaw and accept everyone for where they are. Just as I want people to accept me as part of The Body of Christ, I have to be slower to judge and more accepting, even if I don't agree with someone elses beliefs or actions.
As you stated its a Big church and there is room for all off us. I still do not find some of the Magestirium, especially at this time, to be promoting the personal esperience with Christ - personal gnosis if you will - not to be confused with the Gnostic movement. I will have to reconsile my feelings toward the current hiarchy as things move forward.
I realized after I wrote "pure awareness", that is what I was alluding to, Phil: "non-reflective, observational awareness." This is not "Christ." It was the other aspect which I called friend which has a Christic component in it. There is no mistaking this for anything, but Christ. Finally, it is this feeling which translates for me in finding "home." Home in the friendship of Christ. If I were to paint a picture of this "energy", it would look like a vast catherdral. It makes one fall to ones knees and gives one a sense into a tremendous purity, blessedness, humility and height and, at the same time, a sense of ones own poverty.
I would add the word "space" to these latter qualities and also something undefinable - a closeness and intimacy - like I have known this for ever and it is so large and yet ever so close. This spacious quality may be more related to the "awareness" aspect - like some form of "non-reflective observational awareness" meets this friendship aspect.
Hope this makes it clearer.
Keep us updated as you go along, if you like. I can relate with your veneration of the sacrament: a place to receive and worship Him, sometimes even intimate with others present who are otherwise strangers. Glad to see you found a workshop to attend. Maybe there will be one or more who want to form a prayer group. In my experience, it doesn't take many.
I can relate somewhat to what you are saying, Asher.
During my experience I "know" it was Christ and not the non-reflective self. I know it was Christ- he allowed me to know it was him. When one experiences Christ in this manner there is absolutely no way in the unvierse to mistaken it for something else. You know when it is Christ and when it is not. I am 100% positive.
Hi Eric-Yeah, and I'm usually one to examine every nook and cranny of an experience to understand it completely. In these experiences, there is 100% certainty. Sometimes, I think it's good to "test" any insights/experiences you may have. Recently I have been testing clairvoyant abilities and find that they have been so on the mark precise. Other experiences are so on the mark, there is no questioning. The mind doesn't function in the same way during those experiences.
I have had similar problems as you have experienced Sojourner...you could say though I have tried various Protestant churches and like you, found they adhere to a very literalistic and shallow interpretation of the Bible, constantly prate about how it is 'Jesus or the fire' (or imply it), and don't seem to think for themselves. Added to that I found there was no explanation for some of the experiences I was having, until I read John of Cross and found his experiences matched mine perfectly.
I have also explored Sufi Islam, Kabbalah and Jewish Apocalyptic mysticism (Chariot mysticism) and what I have come to understand with these paths is you need to master the basic practices and creeds of Islam or Judaism before you can engage in the mystical. A problem with a lot of the New Age stuff is it takes the profound mystical insights of the world's different religions but cuts them off from their foundational moorings; properly, all mystical teachings are designed not to be plunged into randomly by people outside the faith but rather by spiritually gifted people who have already mastered the elementary basics of the 'traditional' faith. The kabbalah for example, relates a tale of four rabbis who were iniated into kabbalah before they were ready; one went mad, another became a heretic, and a third become an atheist, while only the fourth could cope with the raw infinity of the Godhead. Likewise, the Sufi master Rumi emphasized God keeps himself veiled, otherwise a full 'showing' would burn the entire universe and all created beings up, such is the infinity and majesty of God.
Similarly, Christian mystics like Denys the Areopagite emphasized the deepest mystical teachings of the Christian faith are not to be 'divulged to the uninitiated' because if someone is not ready spiritually, mystical teachings can sound like complete heresy or madness.
Spiritually, it is always best to pick at least one path and stick to it, and go through it slowly; if you through things too quickly (sadly like a lot of 'born again' conversions) the result is dangerous mental instability, hysteria, pathological mental states and even mental illness. Likewise, if you don't accept at least one highly informed spiritual teacher to guide you in your growth, you are wandering into an 'abyss of darkness' as Rumi said.
The Christian faith has a very long heritage of contemplative spirituality. In your own Catholic faith you should consider the Carmelite Order. I've met a Catholic priest who is a member of the Carmelite order here and he was very friendly and understanding, and also gave me wise advice. It is also good to talk to other Catholic contemplatives, and there are good writings by contemplatives like Thomas Merton and John of Cross.
However the mystical path is a difficult one to journey on and it is vital to have support and guidance in the process. And one should not try to follow more than one path at once, though there is nothing wrong in studying other paths (as Thomas Merton did in great depth with eastern religions).
Just wanted to say that you're not alone among the confused. I'm a 'youngster' here with 2 intense events over the past three years. I'm only 25, and trying to read all I can about these odd, beautiful experiences. Luckily a friend on a Christian mysticism discussion board led me here. Thank the Lord!
Hello there Sojourner, just wanted to wave to you as a fellow Catholic with your very same dilemma! hehe, welcome to the club *joking*
Just so you know, youre not alone!
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