Mystical Mystique of the Society of Ignatians from the Mystical Depths of Catholicism
“Mystical” in everyday language is about the mysterious and indeed the sublime and it also has this meaning in Catholicism. But it also refers to the identity of both the Church and individual Catholics.
Firstly, the “mystical” dimension of reality whereby man senses that his reason is utterly incapable of answering the great why of the existence of the universe, of humanity, and indeed of himself as a particular, unique individual. The great mystery of the fact that things exist is a dimension that, although largely absent in the noisy and escapist present age, is perceived by man when he silently contemplates his existence and that of the universe.
This mystical dimension of reality is intrinsic to the Catholic spirit. In a sense mysticism is the common sense of Catholicism, its universal experience of reality.
This is due to the paradoxical nature of Catholicism as the religion with a tremendous sense of both the mystery and the rationality of reality.
The Catholic ethos insists on pushing the mind to its utter limits in exploring the mystery of reality. It will not budge on either the role of man’s intellect or the unfathomable nature of the mystery of the Creator and His Creation.
Nor will it give way on its definition of the mystery of God and of His divinely revealed truths as realities whose existence is absolutely undoubtable and to which assent is rationally justifiable on the basis of reason (the praeambula fidei) even though its essence (the nature of God and the supernatural) is beyond the capacity of the human mind.
That is why the divinely revealed core doctrines (dogmas) of Catholicism transmitted by Catholic Tradition are the principles of all Catholic thought and action; they are not to be tampered with but must be guarded from generation to generation.
The Mystical Life: Goal of the Ignatian
- The Ignatian’s ardent lifelong thrust to form a chivalric heart is founded not on wishful thinking but “by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13) through whom the life of the Crucified and Risen Christ, “God’s power to us who are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18), flows through the veins of his soul ‒ this is the mystical source of the chivalric ethos.
- “Mystical” therefore refers to the mystical life that is his by virtue of being united to Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior, as a member of the Church which the Ignatian looks upon not as a mere institution but as the Mystical Body of Christ, according to the doctrine of Tradition as synthesized by Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis.
- This mystical life is no mere “spirituality” but the real, vivifying, enlightening, and energizing supernatural power traditionally known as “sanctifying grace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2000)
- The Ignatian enters into this new life through the gateways of the sacred liturgy of the Church – in his case, the traditional liturgy of the classical Roman rite ‒ composed of the sacraments, sacramentals, and prayers bonded to asceticism and intellectually convinced assent to Catholic Truth.
- Ignatians understand the liturgy in the light of Catholic Tradition with its scriptural and patristic foundations as synthesized by St. Thomas Aquinas. Through this powerful lens the entire liturgy is viewed as the enactment in the soul of the great cosmic “mystery” (mysterium or sacramentum) of God’s creative and salvific plan (Catechism, 1139)
- The existential living out of this incorporation to the mysterium is therefore mystical (the adjective mystikos is from the same root as the noun mysterion) since the language in which the liturgy is expressed, although in accordance with reason, touches the deepest capacities of man for intuition through the use of signs and symbols.
Mystical Mystique of Society of Ignatians versus Modernism
Thus Catholicism and its mystical spirit is the antithesis of the heresy that has ravaged the fields of the Church over the past sixty years: Modernism.
Modernism is the child of Enlightenment rationalism, a warped epistemology that although theoretically refutable is difficult to destroy because at this stage it has bonded with the spirit of modernity that dominates every dimension of globalized culture at the beginning of the Third Millennium.
Indeed it has become a close ally to the “Dictatorship of Relativism” (Benedict XVI). For Modernism there are no immutable principles in Catholicism; indeed, there are no truths. Modernism considers the Catholic Faith not as rational but merely as psychological. It is determined that Catholicism become a religion that is subservient to man’s psychological needs which in turn are dependent on the culture of the age.
Against this intellectually weak but culturally and politically strong ideology the Society of Ignatians is resolved to ground its spirit on the mystical dimension of Catholicism.
At the core of this mystical dimension is firstly the recognition that the Catholic Faith is eminently intellectual and in no way contradictory to reason.
And secondly it views the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ: she is no mere institution but is the mysteriously sublime reality of the totality of those men and women incorporated to Christ whether in Heaven, Purgatory, or still on earth.
She is the mysterion of which the New Testament speaks: the powerful salvific presence of God in history seeking to liberate men from the “Kingdom of Darkness” through participation in the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ through sanctifying grace. This doctrine has been expressed authoritatively in Pope Pius XII’s encyclical letter, Mysticali Corporis.
It is from this mystical spirit that chivalry was born (Chivalry’s historical Catholic origins). With this mystical spirit the Ignatian lives out the chivalric mystique of the Society: united to his Lord, Jesus Christ, the one and only Rescuer of mankind, defending His Bride the Church, conscious of his role of fatherhood of souls, of his mission as a priest to be a militant leader of men, with a war to fight against the ancient Axis of Evil, his gaze fixed on Christ Crucified and on the homeland towards which he is guiding souls.
Thus he lives out the Sacrifice of the Mass, his relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the saints, and with souls.
Life lived mystically is lived idealistically within the drama of God’s redemption of mankind, the dramatic enactment of God’s eternal designs for each and every person.
The Ignatian knows that in the great drama of salvation history he has a providential role to play. He does not waste time in thinking whether his role is great or small, comparing his part with that of others; all that matters is to play out the part he has been given conscious that it has an importance in the overall plot.
For as an Ignatian, he is a priest, a pontifex, a bridge between time and eternity for men.
Thus he lives alert like a soldier, with a vision of the eternal dimensions of everyday existence in which the drama of the perennial conflict between good and evil occurs.
It confers an intensity to the daily; makes him aware of the preciousness of people and time; gives it a beauty that floods daily existence with light, warmth, and energy.
In synthesis: The Ignatian’s chivalric spirit derives from his mystical spirit which in turn springs from the mystical nature of Catholicism whereby men live out the Lordship Of Jesus Christ in His Mystical Body, the Church and pro-actively are pro-convert for the honor of God and the salvation of souls.