Theology professor presents prayer, mysticism


Photo by: Layna Corbett

Inspiration hung in the air as renowned theologian Mark Miravalle presented the ascetical and mystical levels of prayer as outlined in the great spiritual traditions of the Church to a full Pugliese Auditorium on the evening of Nov. 29.

Miravalle, who holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, started his talk “The Nine Grades of Prayer” with a brief history of Christian spiritual tradition before continuing to describing the transition from active, vocal prayer to receptive, mystical prayer.

Miravalle said that the early Church’s spirituality was mainly one of asceticism. “These are practices where you are the primary agent,” Miravalle said. “You can always do vocal prayer. You can always choose to fast.”

Vocal prayer, which is the first grade of prayer, consists of any prayer with oral or written words, Miravalle said. According to Miravalle, verbal prayer should lead to meditation and affective prayer, where the mind considers a spiritual scene with consideration, application and resolution.

Miravalle said that meditation should always be accompanied by relating a spiritual mystery to one’s own life. Meditating on Christ’s sufferings on the cross should lead to thinking, “Jesus endured the passion with love; I’m going to try to endure my cross with more love,” said Miravalle.

In the 19th century, Dominican thinkers began teaching a universal way for both laity and religious to achieve holiness, Miravalle said.

“Start with emphasizing the ascetical, that which you can do with discipline,” Miravalle said. “Everyone is called to the mystical life, everyone, in different degrees and perhaps in different fashions.”

Miravalle said that the bridge between the ascetical and mystical is infused contemplation, which is brought about through what Miravalle called “the first dark night.”

The dark night of the soul is a period of time when prayer brings aridity, but Miravalle said that aridity can bring much spiritual value and progression in the interior life.

“Don’t describe the value of prayer based on consolation,” Miravalle said. “Describe it off our ability to carry the cross.”

This talk was the third and final installment of Miravalle’s Theology Live series for this semester. Theology Live will be continued in spring 2019.