“Religion is belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience.” —Deepak Chopra
This quote pops up frequently on social media, and it speaks an important truth: spirituality is an experience of a relationship with the Divine. Such an experience is one of mystery. Another word we use for such an experience is mystical.
Unfortunately, in our culture, the word mystical has come to be synonymous with the word magical: something beyond the grasp of the common person. (After all, magicians claim to have supernatural powers that ordinary people do not have.) To be mystical, however, is simply to recognize “that our ordinary experiences are supernatural because God is present in them. We just have to learn to recognize God’s presence.” (Bob Burnham, Little Lessons from the Mystics) In other words, mysticism is the practice of finding God in all things.
As catechists, we are facilitators of encounters with the Divine. We are about the work of creating mystics: people who recognize God’s presence in the ordinary. We do this through what we can call mystical catechesis, a faith formation process that invites participants to learn the practice of recognizing God’s presence in the ordinary. Mystical catechesis, therefore, relies on a language of mystery, a language that transcends words and relies on sign, symbol, ritual, song and music, silence, gesture and movement, and storytelling.
Some of the storytelling that is part of the language of mystery relies on stories of the saints, many of whom are known as mystics. I’d like to recommend a book that can help with such storytelling: Little Lessons from the Mystics: 52 Simple and Surprising Ways to Experience the Mysteries of Faith, by my friend and Loyola Press colleague, Bob Burnham. As Bob writes in his introduction, his hope is that, “the lessons I share here will help you find God in all things, in places you would expect him to be, in places you’d never think of looking, and in places where you were sure God couldn’t be.”
This is precisely what we hope for those we teach: that they become mystics!