All Are Called To Mysticism-OFFICIAL!

Interview with Carmelite Father Luigi Borriello

By Miriam Diez i Bosch

ROME, SEPT. 1, 2010 ( Mysticism is not just a secondary aspect of theology, but is something that all people are called to, says Father Luigi Borriello.

The Carmelite priest knows about mystics: Not only does his Carmelite family claim many in its history, such as St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), but he is also co-director of the “Dictionary of Mysticism” of the Vatican Publishing House.

The Ecstasy of St Teresa

Father Borriello is a consultor of various Vatican dicasteries and a theology professor at numerous universities in Rome.

He spoke with ZENIT about the mystical experience, and stressed the importance of clarifying what Christian mysticism is, at a time when many religions are interested in this field.

ZENIT: Mystics are famous for being from another world, but you say this is not so.

Father Borriello: Mystics are men and women of this world.

Today there is a tendency to trivialize mysticism, as if it were something of another world, and that it has nothing to do with us. But it isn’t so. Moreover, the mystics’ experience fits in the Church and is related to faith, not foreign to it.

Mystical experience cannot be separated from faith; it can only take place in it. Mystical experience calls for a mystical theology, a reflection whose basis is mysticism itself.

Today there is a persistence of the mystical event. It is part of the post-modern society. This universal mystical richness is rediscovered in Western and Eastern religiosity. And Eastern mysticism has exercised great fascination in the West.

Also in the present climate of crisis, of confusion and syncretism, there is a temptation to confuse the authentic nature of mysticism with New Age or Next Age realities.

Religion and mysticism are different realities, and it is necessary to make distinctions.

ZENIT: In fact, many seek in the East what Christian mysticism already contains.

Father Borriello: Indeed. It’s a paradox.

Many Christians don’t know the wealth of their own mystical tradition and they turn to the East, seeking what is in the interior of that tradition.

Moreover, it is important to recall that there is a mystagogy in all mystical experience: You can also experience this as the other does.

Although the mystic is reserved, what he says is for others.

In this sense we must say to ourselves that we are all called to sanctity and to mysticism. And the mystical experience is a call to witness.

ZENIT: Christian mysticism always recognizes the “You” of God.

Father Borriello: Yes, it isn’t dissolution; it is encounter.

Christian mysticism is characterized by the Incarnation, which is always a gift; it isn’t something that the human being gains.

In it, the “You,” the duality of a God who gives himself and the man who receives, though there is fusion, always recognizes the other.

We are speaking of duality in unity, as a spiritual marriage. The two always recognize one another; they are not confused; they keep their own identity.

ZENIT: Would it be appropriate to desire a mystical experience?

Father Borriello: It is not a question of asking for it but of receiving it when it comes, if it comes.

Experience is a category that is used in all the disciplines. I prefer to speak of mystical experience; it is something that God gives to man who receives it passively, and, in fact, makes an effort on receiving it.

It is what John of the Cross calls “the night.”There is a collaboration in the acceptance, but the initiative is always God’s, who makes himself known. And the greatest revelation takes place in Jesus Christ.

Hence, mystical experience is always Christ-centered and Trinitarian. And it is revealed only gratuitously, without our merits.

This entry was posted in Catholic Culture, Catholic Orders and Congregations, Church History, Devotion, Living Catholic lives, Mysticism, Spiritual Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to All Are Called To Mysticism-OFFICIAL!

  1. toadspittle says:

    What an extraordinarily curious work of art chosen to illustrate. Almost indecent. The arrow-wielding cherub’s expression is positively sadistic. And hers…


  2. golden chersonnese says:

    You recognise the sculpture, don’t you, Toad? It’s well known.

    It’s Bernini’s Ecstasy of St Teresa in the Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome (I think it’s a church of St Teresa’s Discalced Carmelites).


  3. golden chersonnese says:

    I think the scene comes form the saint’s autubiography:

    It was our Lord’s will that in this vision I should see the angel in this wise.

    He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful—his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call cherubim. Their names they never tell me; but I see very well that there is in heaven so great a difference between one angel and another, and between these and the others, that I cannot explain it.

    I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.

    Click to access life.pdf

    (on page 194, starting in paragraph 16)


  4. golden chersonnese says:


    “I think the scene comes from the saint’s autobiography:”

    I seem to recall, Toad, that it was after reading St Teresa of Avila’s writings all in one night, St Edith Stein, the assistant to Husserl and friend of Max Scheler, converted.


  5. shieldsheafson says:

    I think St. Teresa’s ecstacy is called transverberation – or is this what happens when I set my phone to ‘silent’ and it goes off during mass?


  6. toadspittle says:

    No further comment required from me on this lurid topic, I feel.

    I rest my case.

    But…Golden C…

    Interesting to read from Kathleen, that our old china, Scheler, later unconverted. (If I understood it correctly.)
    Back to Burrogurru and his swings and roundabouts I ‘spose. Win a few, lose a few.


  7. golden chersonnese says:

    Why do you say lurid, dear Toad?

    It all seems quite normally strange to me. 🙂


  8. golden chersonnese says:

    shieldsheafson says:

    I think St. Teresa’s ecstacy is called transverberation – or is this what happens when I set my phone to ‘silent’ and it goes off during mass?

    Isn’t that what you get when you eat a lot of fibre?

    This might settle the matter:


  9. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad says:
    But…Golden C…
    Interesting to read from Kathleen, that our old china, Scheler, later unconverted. (If I understood it correctly.)

    Would you know why, dear Toad?


  10. toadspittle says:

    golden chersonnese

    I am beginning to find anything about Scheler interesting. So, yes, please.


  11. kathleen says:

    Hi Toad,
    You were asking about Max Scheler, and why he “unconverted” from Catholicism.

    Well, I’ll tell you why it seems he did, but I don’t pretend to be an expert on either Scheler or philosophy in general. Most of what I know about him is through reading about the connections of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) with him; and also the interesting 39 part series on EWTN, “A Knight for Truth”, on the life and work of the Catholic philosopher and author, Dietrich von Hildebrand (who I mentioned on another thread two days ago) and his friendship with Scheler.

    Max Scheler was the son of a Jewish mother and a Lutheran father. He converted to Catholicism when he was still quite young. After a while it appears that he drifted away from Catholicism, only to return publicly to it again in 1916. In 1921 he fell in love with one of his pupils and wanted to marry her; so he asked the Church to annul his previous marriage. When this was denied him, he married her in a civil ceremony. He left not only the Catholic Church, but also belief altogether in God, whilst moving towards a pantheistic approach to life. The strange thing is, although he left the Church, it seems he always retained a sort of affection and loyalty towards it ever afterwards nonetheless.
    (Only God knows us in the innermost depths of our hearts.)
    Scheler died suddenly from a heart attack in 1928 at the age of 54.

    Hope this helps.



  12. kathleen says:

    Anyone interested in knowing more about Dietrich Von Hildebrand in the programmes, “A Knight for Truth”, in the EWTN audio library, can click here:


  13. toadspittle says:


    Thanks for the Scheler biog. You know a lot! I find the idea of God evolving novel and rather interesting. I have also found out he was on wife number three when he died. (Scheler, that is, not God, of course.)


  14. annem040359 says:

    After having a LONG very LONG which lasted for me midnight night of the soul (let’s just say it last for many years for me); after going to holy confession this past Saturday, I have found a new sense of peace in my heart/soul. 🙂 =^..^=


  15. kathleen says:

    I’m very happy for you Anne. Deo gratias.

    Also for sure, a big welcome to the blog.


  16. toadspittle says:



    Not enough different voices on this fine blog, I think.


  17. golden chersonnese says:

    Ditto. Annemo. Welcome. 🙂


  18. omvendt says:

    Says Tōad: “I find the idea of God evolving novel and rather interesting.”

    It’s not exactly a new idea, Tōad: it’s known as panentheism, mate.


  19. toadspittle says:

    Says Tōad: “I find the idea of God evolving novel and rather interesting.”
    It’s not exactly a new idea, Tōad: it’s known as panentheism, mate.says Omvendt.

    Well, thank you for that Omvendt, mate.We learn something new every day, don’t we? Always nice to be instructed in a kindly fashion.
    The beatings and burnings will come later, if I don’t follow the ‘logic’ quickly enough, no doubt.


  20. omvendt says:

    “The beatings and burnings will come later, if I don’t follow the ‘logic’ quickly enough, no doubt.”


    Mos’ def’. 😉


  21. toadspittle says:

    He’s at it again!

    He’ll end up in the pokey with Burro!
    You see if he doesn’t!

    Sadism Pure & Simple! Teresa, Joyful, Kathleen, everybody -Help!!!


  22. toadspittle says:

    Good evening, friends!


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