Appealing To Apostate Roman Catholic Mystics For Protestant “Spiritual Formation”

Due to the importance of the issues concerning the influx into evangelicalism of corrupt Contemplative/Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) and its so-called “Christian” meditation of Contemplative/Centering Prayer(CCP)—which flowered in the antibiblical monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism, i.e. no longer Christian—Apprising Ministries is doing all we can to bring this to the attention of the Body of Christ. And one of the primary sources—if not the primary source—for this reimagined neo-pagan “Christian” mysticism infecting postevangelicalism and the Emerging Church is The Cult of Guru Richard Foster.

You need to know that this CSM has now also slithered into evangelicalism as well because right now Living Spiritual Teacher and Quakermystic “Roshi” Richard Foster, with an able assist from ordained Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard, is conditioning more and more mainstream evangelical pastors, leaders, and ministers (think frog in the kettle) through spurious Spiritual Formation (SF) courses in college and/or seminary to see this CSM as a viable approach to God.

In Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism As Methodology For Spiritual Formation I mentioned that as a continuing series AM will be seeking to help the Body of Christ to “question” various teachers so often appealed to as “expert witnesses” for what I see as a counterfeit form of Christianity through their neo-pagan “spiritual disciplines,” e.g. Who Is Henri Nouwen? It’s my contention that this CSM is a growing and corrupt spiritual blight, which is currently spreading apostasy under the guise of SF throughout the evangelical camp as explosively as an Oklahoma wildfire.

Highly Subjective “Visions” Of Direct Revelation And A “Mystical Marriage” To Christ

So with this as our background we turn now to the introduction of the “Biographical article by Edmund G. Gardner” for the Catholic Encyclopedia which says that “St. Catherine of Siena,” who was born Catherine Benincasa, was a “Third Order Dominican, hermit, reformer, mystic”:

Dominican Tertiary, born at Siena, 25 March, 1347; died at Rome, 29 April, 1380. She was the youngest but one of a very large family. Her father, Giacomo di Benincasa, was a dyer; her mother, Lapa, the daughter of a local poet. They belonged to the lower middle-class faction of tradesmen and petty notaries, known as “the Party of the Twelve”, which between one revolution and another ruled the Republic of Siena from 1355 to 1368. From her earliest childhood Catherine began to see visions and to practise extreme austerities. At the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ; in her sixteenth year she took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries, and renewed the life of the anchorites of the desert in a little room in her father’s house. After three years of celestial visitations and familiar conversation with Christ, she underwent the mystical experience known as the “spiritual espousals”, probably during the carnival of 1366. (Online source)

From History of the Christian Church we learn from Philip Schaff that:

Catherine Benincasa was the twenty-third of a family of twenty-five. Her twin sister, Giovanna, died in infancy… As a child she was susceptible to religious impressions, and frequented the Dominican church near her father’s home. The miracles of her earlier childhood were reported by her confessor and biographer, Raymond of Capua… Once devoted to religious life, she practised great austerities, flagellating herself three times a day,—once for herself, once for the living and once for the dead. She wore a hair undergarment and an iron chain. During one Lenten season she lived on the bread taken in communion. These asceticisms were performed in a chamber in her father’s house…

At an early age Catherine became the subject of visions and revelations. On one of these occasions and after hours of dire temptation, when she was tempted to live like other girls, the Saviour appeared to her stretched on the cross and said: “My own daughter, Catherine, seest thou how much I have suffered for thee? Let it not be hard for thee to suffer for me.” Thrilled with the address, she asked: “Where wert thou, Lord, when I was tempted with such impurity?” and He replied, “In thy heart.” In 1367, according to her own statement, the Saviour betrothed himself to her, putting a ring on her finger. The ring was ever afterwards visible to herself though unseen by others. Five years before her death, she received the stigmata directly from Christ. Their impression gave sharp pain, and Catherine insisted that, though they likewise were invisible to others, they were real to her…
(Vol. 6, 195, 196) 

Eternal World Televison Network, a “Global Catholic Network,” then adds:

When Catherine was twelve, her mother, with marriage in mind, began to urge her to pay more attention to her appearance. To please her mother and sister, she dressed in the bright gowns and jewels that were fashionable for young girls. Soon she repented of this vanity, and declared with finality that she would never marry. When her parents persisted in their talk about finding her a husband, she cut off the golden-brown hair that was her chief beauty As punishment, she was now made to do menial work in the household, and the family, knowing she craved solitude, never allowed her to be alone. Catherine bore all this with sweetness and patience Long afterwards, in <The Dialogue>, she wrote that God had shown her how to build in her soul a private cell where no tribulation could enter…

In the small, dimly-lighted room now set apart for her use, a cell nine feet by three, she gave herself up to prayers and fasting; she scourged herself three times daily with an iron chain, and slept on a board. At first she wore a hair shirt, subsequently replacing it by an iron-spiked girdle. Soon she obtained what she ardently desired, permission to assume the black habit of a Dominican tertiary, which was customarily granted only to matrons or widows. She now increased her asceticism, eating and sleeping very little. For three years she spoke only to her confessor and never went out except to the neighboring church of St. Dominic, where the pillar against which she used to lean is still pointed out to visitors.

At times now she was enraptured by celestial visions, but often too she was subjected to severe trials. Loathsome forms and enticing figures would present themselves to her imagination, and the most degrading temptations assailed her. There would be long intervals during which she felt abandoned by God. “O Lord, where wert Thou when my heart was so sorely vexed with foul and hateful temptations?” she asked, when after such a time of agonizing He had once more manifested Himself. She heard a voice saying, “Daughter, I was in thy heart, fortifying thee by grace,” and the voice then said that God would now be with her more openly, for the period of probation was nearing an end.

On Shrove Tuesday, 1366, while the citizens of Siena were keeping carnival, and Catherine was praying in her room, a vision of Christ appeared, accompanied by His mother and the heavenly host. Taking the girl’s hand, Our Lady held it up to Christ, who placed a ring upon it and espoused her to Himself, bidding her to be of good courage, for now she was armed with a faith that could overcome all temptations. To Catherine the ring was always visible, though invisible to others. The years of solitude and preparation were ended and soon afterwards she began to mix with her fellow men and learn to serve them. Like other Dominican tertiaries, she volunteered to nurse the sick in the city hospitals, choosing those afflicted with loathsome diseases—cases from which others were apt to shrink.
(Online source)

No less an authority on CSM than Richard Foster himself in Renovare’s Devotional Classics informs us:

Few women of the twentieth century have done more to further our understanding of the devotional life than Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941). Her scholarly research and writing have helped saints and skeptics alike in the study of religion and spirituality. Her highly praised book Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness has gone through many editions and continues to be a foundational text for all students of spirituality. (94)

Mighty heady praise indeed from Foster and in the aforementioned “foundational text” Underhill points out that Catherine:

was subject from childhood to imaginary visions and interior words, had long been conscious of a voice reiterating the promise of this sacred bretrothal; and that on the last day of the Carnival, A.D. 1366, it said to her, “I will this day celebrate solemnly with thee the feast of the betrothal of thy soul, and even as I promised I will espouse thee to Myself in faith.” “Then,” says her legend, “whilst the Lord was yet speaking, there appeared the most glorious Virgin His Mother, the most blessed John, Evangelist, the glorious Apostle Paul, and the most holy Dominic, father of her order; and with these the prophet David, who had the psaltery set to music in his hands; and while he played with most sweet melody the Virgin Mother of God took the right hand of Catherine with her most sacred hand, and, holding out her fingers towards the Son, besought Him to deign to espouse her to Himself in faith.

It is not difficult to discern the materials from which this vision has been composed. As far as its outward circumstances go, it is borrowed intact from the legendary history of St. Catherine of Alexandria, with which her namesake must have been familiar from babyhood. (Mysticism, 291, 292)

Underhill also tells us in her The Mystics of the Church that Catherine’s “chief literary work, the Divine Dialogue, largely consists in an account of the direct teaching she received from God in her ecstasies and contemplations, with the results of her own meditations thereon” (160). And Dominicans Central now gives us a table which chronicles the major events of Catherine’s life and includes:

1353-4. As a child, Catherine is peculiarly joyous and charming. When six years old she beholds the vision of Christ, arrayed in priestly robes, above the Church of St. Dominic. She is inspired by a longing to imitate the life of the Fathers of the desert, and begins to practise many penances. At the age of seven she makes the vow of virginity. She is drawn to the Order of St. Dominic by the zeal of its founder for the salvation of souls…

1363-1364. She is vested with the black and white habit of Saint Dominic, becoming one of the Mantellate, or Dominican tertiaries, devout women who lived under religious rule in their own homes.

1364-1367. She leads in her own room at home the life of a religious recluse, speaking only to her Confessor. She is absorbed in mystical experiences and religious meditation. During this time she learns to read. The period closes with her espousals to Christ, on the last day of Carnival, 1367. (Online source

“A Magazine Of Evangelical Conviction” Romances Roman Catholic Mystics 

Through an excerpt from the book 131 Christians Everyone Should Know at Christian History & Biography, which is part of Christianity Today, we’re told Catherine of Siena was a “Mystic and Activist” and we also find out that: 

As a young girl, Catherine often went to a cave near her home in Siena to meditate, fast, and pray. At about age 7, she claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus with Peter, Paul, and John the evangelist; then she announced to her parents her determination to live a religious life. Convinced of her devotion, they gave her a small room in the basement of their home that acted as a hermitage…

Mystical child
After moving into her hermitage, she slept on a board, used a wooden log for a pillow, and meditated on her only spiritual token, a crucifix. She claimed to have received an invisible (for humility) stigmata by which she felt the wounds of Christ. At one time, her parents tried to persuade her to marry, but Catherine was steadfast and at age 15, she cut off her hair to thwart their designs…

From ages 16 to 19, Catherine continued living a secluded life at home and attracted many followers, who were drawn by her feisty personality and exemplary sanctity. During this time, she learned to read and became familiar with the church fathers, like Gregory the Great and Augustine, as well as popular preachers of the day. At the end of this three-year seclusion, Catherine experienced what she later described as “spiritual marriage” to Christ. In this vision, Jesus placed a ring on her finger, and her soul attained mystical union with God. She called this state an “inner cell in her soul” that sustained her all her life as she traveled and ministered…

Catherine died in Rome at the age of 33. In 1970 the Roman Catholic Church declared her a doctor of the church, an honor bestowed on only 31 others (and only one other woman). (Online source)

And as I pointed out in Christianity Today Promoting the Roman Catholic Mystic Catherine of Siena on his website Dr. Peter J. Leithart has posted an excerpt from the book Ritual in Early Modern Europe by Edward Muir where we learn a bit more concerning her alleged “marriage” to Christ: 

Other than the consecrated host and perhaps some drops of blood shed on the cross, the fleshy residue from the infant Jesus’s circumcision would have been the only bodly remnant of Christ on earth since the rest of the his body was resurrected and ascended to heaven. The researches of Caroline Walker Bynum have shown that the cult of the holy foreskin seems to have had a certain charm for female mystics. When Catherine of Siena experienced her mystic marriage to the infant Jesus, she received from him a ring made not of gold but of his foreskin.” (Online source) 

A December 2006 article from Christianity Today called “Dating Jesus” also confirms the above:

eros-laced sentiments directed at Jesus aren’t a new trend. Neither is reading the Song of Solomon and other biblical passages as erotically charged letters addressed directly to the reader. Several of those whom liturgical Christians call saints considered themselves wives of Christ. Catherine of Siene received a vision in which Christ married her and gave her a ring. It was made from foreskin left over after his circumcision. (Online source)

But let us never forget that it was this very kind of repugnant superstition and idolatry—at the very heart of apostate Roman Catholicism—which would greatly grieve the Spirit of our Lord. And so disgusted was God over the religious bondage under which the Church of Rome had placed people, not to mention their obscuring the beautiful simplicity of His glorious Gospel with their sordid sacramental system, that He would raise up His Reformers to return His Church to proper Christianity spirituality.

I close this with some wise words from Dr. Gary Gilley in his excellent series on Mysticismwhere he examines this kind of mysticism, “which has its roots in Medieval Roman Catholic monks and hermits (the desert Fathers).” Gilley brings out the heart of the matter as it concerns evangelicalism today turning its back on Sola Scriptura in her lust for mystics when he enlightens us that:

the mystic has no confidence in human knowledge accessible through normal means such as the propositional revelation of God (Scripture).  If we are to know God, it must come from a mystical union with Him that transcends the rational thought process or even normal sensory experience.  This takes place through following the three stages of purgation, illumination and union; implementing the spiritual disciplines and most importantly, practicing contemplative prayer.  Roman Catholic monk, William Johnston describes the mystical process this way, “In this mystical life one passes from one layer to the next in an inner or downward journey to the core of the personality where dwells the great mystery called God.”

Other well-known mystics, holding to these or similar views, throughout church history include: Meister Eckhart, Juliana of Norwich, Thomas à Kempis, Teresa of Ávila, Evelyn Underhill, St. Francis of Assisi, Madam Guyon, George Fox, Thomas Merton and Agnes Sanford.  Modern mystics of import include Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning and most importantly, Richard Foster.  Of Foster, Eugene Peterson enthusiastically writes on the cover of the 25th anniversary edition of Celebration of Discipline, “Richard Foster has ‘found’ the spiritual disciplines that the modern world stored away and forgot, and has excitedly called us to celebrate them.  For they are, as he shows us, the instruments of joy, the way into mature Christian spirituality and abundant life.” 

What Foster “found” many others are discovering as well.  As a result classical, Medieval Roman Catholic mysticism has been dusted off and offered as the newest and best thing in spirituality.  But there is one little problem.  If this is how God wanted His followers to connect with Him why didn’t He bother to say so in His Word?  If contemplative prayer (We will further describe this in a future paper.) is the key that will unlock this greater dimension of spirituality, as we will see is being claimed, why did God not give us instructions on how to pray in this manner?  Why did He leave it up to monks and nuns hundreds of years later to unveil this key to true godliness?  Of course, the answer is that He did not.  God’s Word is sufficient; all that we need for life and godliness is found there (I Peter 1:4; II Timothy 3:16,17). (Online source

See also:

Contemporary Christian Divination: The False Claims and Practices of Christian Mystics by Bob DeWaay