Well-being and Mysticism

From the Regional Director of Oceania

Fr Trevor Trotter Regional Director of Oceania

Last week I attended the National Conference of Catholic Religious of Australia (CRA). As usual, it was a good event. I like to go because there is always something to be learnt from what other religious congregations are talking about.

Readers of this column will be very aware that my theme over the past four years or more has been to explore the missionary identity of all of us as baptised Christians. We have Columban missionaries overseas and we are used to calling them "missionaries" for the last one hundred years. The challenge has been to take on board the Vatican II statement that we, as Christians, are called to participate in God's mission for the whole world. God loves the whole world and calls us to do the same with the help of the Holy Spirit.

It is not only people in the parishes who find it a bit strange to call themselves "missionary disciples", as Pope Francis calls us. Some of us older Columbans also find it hard to call ourselves missionaries as we are not overseas baptising lots of children or burying the dead, or working in justice and ecology groups.

As I age, I keep asking myself, what is the purpose of old age? How can I be a missionary disciple when my knees are not so good anymore, and my brother Columbans are struggling with sight and hearing difficulties? This was the question I took to the CRA Conference.

The pleasant surprise was hearing what the Christian Brothers are doing. They are working with other experts, including some from Australian Catholic University, on a research project on "Well-being and Mysticism". I do not know much about it, but I suspect that they may help me find an answer to my question. They are about to start the second phase of their project, which consists of about forty Brothers being individually interviewed on this topic.

We often talk about "Health and Well-being", and I think most of us could give a reasonable answer if asked what do we expect of someone on the "Health and Well-being committee?" "Health" is clear enough. During the pandemic, we had plenty of talk about listening to the "health advice". What about well-being? I am sure the experts have some good descriptions of this too. One aspect of the term appeals to me. We are talking about "being" rather than "doing". For aged persons, "being" seems easier than "doing".

At the level of spirituality, there comes a time in our lives when the emphasis is upon us doing less and letting God do more in our lives and through our work. When we get older, we are physically and mentally limited in what we can do, and we are not as resilient as we once were. This is where sayings like "Letting go and letting God" come into play.

This brings us to the other half of the project's title, Mysticism. Mysticism has not always been viewed positively. Often it is associated with strange visions and strange behaviours. I prefer to think of mystics as people who have become spiritually aware. We are surrounded and permeated by the spiritual world. As the catechism says, "God is everywhere". Most of us spend our time living in the material world, unaware of the spiritual. All of us are spiritual and are connected spiritually with many others, including the whole of nature. To become aware of this spiritual world and live in it is to be a mystic.

I will be delighted if the Christian Brothers project can help us understand and appreciate the mystical/spiritual dimensions of our lives. My question will have found an answer, I believe. Thanks to the Brothers for taking on this project.

Fr Trevor Trotter signature

Fr Trevor Trotter
Regional Director of Oceania
rdoceania@columban.org.au

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