As Catholics we understand we can experience Christ in several ways: through the deposit of faith in the Church, through scripture, through the sacraments, through each other, and through mystics.
Mystics? Isn’t that totally forbidden by the Church?! You’re thinking of mediums. Mediums and psychics are those who open the door to communicate with the dead. They perhaps have a mystic gift but they use it in a way that is not condoned by the Church; it is called necromancy. A mystic on the other hand, is a person who is deeply aware of the powerful presence of the divine spirit: someone who seeks, above all, the knowledge and love of God and who experiences to an extraordinary degree the profoundly personal encounter with the energy of divine life. Mystics often perceive the presence of God throughout the world of nature and in all that is alive, leading to a transfiguration of the ordinary all around them. However, the touch of God is most strongly felt deep within their own hearts. (King 2001, 3)1 Those who are mystics have a very unique and passionate relationship with God.
Does the bible have any examples of mystics? There is at least one in 2 Corinthians 12: 2-4, I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. Also, we cannot forget the Lord’s prophets who spoke His words with their tongues.
Are we permitted to consider the words of mystics? We are. We are not required to take into account what they say, but we are given permission to hear them and use what they say to deepen our faith in reason and practice. There are many mystics who are approved by the Church. It is important for us to stay close to the Church’s guidance because there are mystics who are false and deceptive like Sr. Magdalena of the Cross (1487-1560) who sold her soul to the devil and Gigliola Ebe Giorgini (b. 1934) of Italy who founded a false movement and stole money from thousands. Both can be found with an internet search.
There are several mystics that you may have already heard of such as Padre Pio and St. Faustina, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, or St. Bonaventure and St. Catherine of Sienna. There are also several you may not have heard of such as Ann Catherine Emmerich, Heinrich Seuse, or St. Hildegard of Bingen.2 These and many others were skilled in contemplative prayer and given private revelations from God to be handed to us. Revelations that stood the scrupulous discernment by Holy Mother Church so we can look to them as an avenue leading to a deeper personal union with Christ and His Church.
1King, U. (2001). Christian Mystics. Mahwah: HiddenSpring