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If it wasn't enough, mystically speaking, that last week saw a papal consecration of the world to Fatima, with participation of representatives from shrines at Akita, Japan, and Medjugorje, Bosnia-Hercegovina (Akita being a site where a statue wept and messages about the future were allegedly heard), there is also the fact that, in what to many was a surprise move, the canonization of a major mystic was announced in the same flurry of activity.

A comeback for mysticism?

The new saint will be Angela of Foligno, who lived between 1248 and 1309 and became devout after Saint Francis of Assisi appeared to her in a dream.

As Pope Benedict explained back when she was beatified:

"Certain events, such as the violent earthquake in 1279, a hurricane, the endless war against Perugia and its harsh consequences, affected the life of Angela [photo, above] who little by little became aware of her sins, until she took a decisive step.

"In 1285 she called upon Saint Francis, who appeared to her in a vision and asked his advice on making a good general Confession. She then went to Confession with a Friar in San Feliciano. Three years later, on her path of conversion she reached another turning point: she was released from any emotional ties. In the space of a few months, her mother's death was followed by the death of her husband and those of all her children. She therefore sold her possessions and in 1291 enrolled in the Third Order of St. Francis."

What Angela, once married, and a mother, with quite a luxurious, worldly lifestyle, experienced is what's known as total mystical union, which goes so far beyond earthly experience as to be ineffable. There was communication, but not in the verbiage we know. It is, so to speak, over our heads. "I truly heard these words", she confessed after a mystical ecstasy, "but it is in no way possible for me to know or tell of what I saw and understood, or of what he [God] showed me, although I would willingly reveal what I understood with the words that I heard, but it was an absolutely ineffable abyss." Angela of Foligno presented her mystical "life", without elaborating on it herself because, said Benedict, "these were divine illuminations that were communicated suddenly and unexpectedly to her soul." [Click here for the Pope's full remarks; here to read, for free, her book]

It takes a while, as we can see, for certain people to be declared saints and for their mysticism to be accepted.

Saint Teresa of Avila, who we honor this day, experiences mystical union along with what she called "rapture."

"I should like, with the help of God, to be able to describe the difference between union and rapture, or elevation, or what they call flight of the spirit," she wrote. "I mean that these different names all refer to the same thing, which is also called ecstasy.

"It is much more beneficial than union: the effects it produces are far more important and it has a great many more operations, for union gives the impression of being just the same thing in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, and it all happens interiorly. But the ends of these raptures are of a higher degree, and the effects they produce are both interior and exterior.

"In these raptures the soul seems no longer to animate the body, and thus the natural heat of the body is felt to be very sensibly diminished: it gradually becomes colder, though conscious of the greatest sweetness and delight. No means of resistance is possible, whereas in union, where we are on the ground, such a means exists: resistance may be painful and violent but it can almost always be effected.

"But with rapture, as a rule, there is no such possibility: often it comes like a strong, swift impulse, before your thought can forewarn you of it or you can do anything to help yourself; you see and feel this cloud, or this powerful eagle, rising and bearing you up with it on its wings."


[resources: Fear of Fire and The Bridge to Heaven]

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