Blog posts

MYSTICAL WOMEN: Joan of Arc—Breaking the Mold

December 14, 2011

This is the story of Joan of Arc’s first trial. No, it’s not what you think.  In fact, before Joan had to stand before the judges arguing for her very life, she was on trial twice.  And as I wrote, above, this is the tale of her first encounter with the forces of justice.  But, first, for better understanding of this trial, a glimpse into her youth. When Joan was thirteen, she had her first vision.  At the second public examination of Joan (The Trial) on Thursday, February 22, 1431, she described to the judges assembled before her her first mystical experiences: Asked if she received the sacrament of the Eucharist at other feasts than Easter, she told the interrogator to move on.  Then she confessed that when she was aged [...]


December 13, 2011

As I rummaged around the fundamentals of prayer looking for ways to talk about it I happened upon a concept that would have flown right past me as I grew up and studied the miracle and joy that is prayer. Unquestioningly I would have included God in the effort. But, I realized, not everyone would be so accepting about the fundamentals of prayer, and take them on without thinking them over first. So the question is, why God? Why pray to God? Why include God in our petitions to the universe? There is, after all, a system of writing out affirmations for our perceived wants and needs. If I want a new job then all I have to do is write out, for a specified number of times, I, Julia, will find a new job this week. Or some such formula. Why not [...]

PRAYER: The Great Tomorrow, by Helen Steiner Rice

December 13, 2011

There is always a tomorrow. Tomorrow belongs as much to you as it does to me. The dawn of a new day means the dawn of a new life. We cannot peer into its storehouse, but the very impenetrable mystery which enwraps the every-approaching tomorrow is the one thing that keeps the fires of hope constantly burning. No matter what our yesterdays have been, tomorrow may be different. As long as we have life, the fires of hope will not die out; the flame may burn low, but the thought of a new day, the flame which seemed dead leaps forward and the sparks once more fly upward to spur us on. Even if our today is filled with sadness and defeat, who can foretell what the next day will bring to us? Let us all eagerly await what destiny will deal us. We [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: A Turning Toward Church

December 12, 2011

Evelyn Underhill was born in 1875 England.  Although her family was associated with the Anglican church, neither her mother nor her father were practicing Anglicans.  Evelyn addresses this situation when she writes, “I was not brought up to religion.” Her father turned away from the church when he grew tired of the constant chapels he was required to attend in boarding school.  Oddly, though, his younger brother had the opposite reaction and eventually became an Anglican priest. In spite of this, at 15, Evelyn began study for her confirmation into the church.  She keeps herself an arm’s length away from true conviction.  She writes in her diary, As to religion, I don’t quite know, except that I believe in a [...]

PRAYER: A Prayer For Courage by Evelyn Underhill

December 12, 2011

O Lord Christ, who in this difficult world was tempted in all things, as I am, yet fell into no sin, look pitifully, I pray you, upon me.  Guide me with your adorable wisdom.  Teach me in everything and in every hour what I ought to do.  You alone know both that I suffer and what I need.  To you, that perfect path that I should walk is known.  Show it to me and teach me how to walk it.  Keep me, O Savior, in body, mind, and spirit, for into your strong and gentle hands I commit myself. Give me, O Lord, I beseech you, courage to pray for light and to endure the light here, where I am on this world of yours, which should reflect your beauty but which we have spoiled and exploited.  Cast your radiance on the dark places, those crimes [...]

SOUL STRUCTURE: The Quality Of Innocence

December 9, 2011

It is an interesting occurrence when people declare that they don’t believe in souls.  We can’t see them, after all, so how do we know they are there?  Well, I can’t see your thoughts or feelings either, so do I have the choice of believing that they exist because they are unseen? Our souls are the vessels into which God pours his energy and grace.  We carry God within us whether we want to or not, whether we are aware of it or not, or even whether we let it change us or not. I will deal with the actual structure of souls in later posts.  There is one thing that nearly always overwhelms me about Christianity.  It is what separates us from all other religions.  It is the quality of innocence that Jesus brought into the world. [...]

MYSTICISM: Hildegard de Bingen, An Early Vision

December 8, 2011

When Hildegard was five years old, she was out walking with her nanny.  They saw a cow, and Hildegard looked deeper and could see the unborn calf inside the cow.  She described the coloring of the unborn calf, amazing her nanny. When the calf was born, Hildegard’s vision proved accurate. Shortly after this, Hildegard decided not to share the content of her visions, until she worked with her spiritual teacher, Jutta.  After Jutta, Hildegard kept the her visions secret until her early forties. Hildegard on the Creation, from the Book of Divine Works The leaping fountain is clearly the purity of the living God.  His radiance is reflected in it, and in that splendor, God embraces in his great love all things whose reflection appeared [...]


December 7, 2011

To begin any and every writing about God, it is necessary to acknowledge the three fundamental laws of God: respect, courtesy, and gratitude.  No matter if you are dealing with having visions, praying for a friend, or grocery shopping, these three laws always apply.  If it’s not respectful, courteous, or grateful, it’s not God. I have found over the years that God can be understood to some infinitesimal degree.  And in that understanding one can find simplicity.  The above laws about God are simple.  If you want to follow God, even in a small way, and find yourself yelling at your neighbor about raking their leaves into your yard, find a way to back out of the argument and look for something respectful to say.  Or [...]

PRAYER: Thanksgiving For Beauty by Satyavati Chitambar Jordan

December 7, 2011

We thank you, our Father, for the beauty that lies about us: this Earth, lovely in springtime, with its bursting buds and the riot of color in flowering gardens; the cool relief of the first heavy shower after a parched summer; the golden fruitfulness of autumn; and the bracing cold of the winter months. We thank you for the symphony of sight and sound in nature – deep blue skies and green, grassy lawns; moonlit nights and the first flush of dawn; the chirp of the cricket, the sweet note of the robin; the droning hum of the bees, the excited welcoming bark of a loved pet dog. We thank you for home and friends and family and the deep content of the fireside in beloved human companionship – with the crisp, sharp cold outside. You have [...]

ANGLICANISM: The View From The Nearly Abandoned Treehouse

December 7, 2011

It takes a lot to be a mystic.  In addition to having the ability burned into you at birth, it takes patience and endurance, courage and endurance, flexibility and endurance, and just plain endurance.  At times it means suspending all that you’ve grown to accept as reality and expanding the boundaries just a bit further out into the unknown, over the chasm, and plunging into unspeakable discomfort, only to find yourself sitting still and knowing that He is God. But it doesn’t take that much from the world to keep a mystic going.  From almost the beginning of the church, mystics have had a penchant to take themselves away from the world — into monasteries and convents, hermitages and anchorite cells.  For me, though, to [...]


December 4, 2011

When I was seventeen I had a series of visions.  For the first time in my life, however, the visions were really visual.  I could see them. They lasted for four nights.  For the first three nights, I was awakened in the night, in my large, dark, four-poster bed, to see a nun standing serenely and silently at the end of my bed.  She made no demand on me.  She looked at me.  I wondered if I were imagining that she looked at me with expectancy.  Nothing about the experience disturbed me.  I easily sunk back into my pillow and went back to sleep. On the fourth night, the vision changed.  Instead of the nun, a man appeared at the end of my bed.  I didn’t know much, if anything, about appearances like this, so I just assumed, [...]


December 1, 2011

Did your breath catch in your throat just before you touched the barrel of water?  Did your hand tingle or tremble before it laid God’s love onto it?  Did you turn your head to see if someone was gaping at your foolishness, or did you shrug into yourself, shutting out what might be coming your way? Did they stare directly at you when they learned what you had done, or did they slide glances at you from the edge of their eyes, hoping that, in seeing you standing there, the story would prove false?  But they had been drinking all night.  Was what happened to them just a foolish blur, a twirl of life that, realized the next morning, was easily shrugged off in the brilliant light of the day’s work in front of them?  The fields needed [...]


November 30, 2011

There are many definitions of prayer.  Evelyn Underhill calls it a loving intercourse with God.  Myriad descriptions refer to it as being a quenching of a thirst.  We, people, somehow and for some reason yearn to connect with God and prayer is one way that satisfies this yearning. All this is well and good.  And very poetic.  But I take a much more practical and concrete approach to prayer.  Here is my definition: Prayer is the act of taking of an idea and bringing it into reality through God. All of us who pray have a general, if fuzzy, understanding of how  prayer works.  We may even have strong feelings about the form it should take — it should involve knees and/or a bowed head.  We should stand.  A cross should be [...]