ROME, MAY 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- An exclusive emphasis on rational theology could lead to a weakening of the “mystical impulse” of the Church, according to an expert on angelology.
Father Marcello Stanzione, the president of the Center of Studies of Angelology at the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria La Nova in Campagna, Italy, is the founder of the Catholic association Militia of St. Michael the Archangel, which organizes an annual theological-pastoral meeting on angels.
The third annual meeting will be held June 1-2 with the theme “The Angels of the Mystics.”
The only meeting of its kind, numerous experts will discuss how angles have accompanied the lives of saints in Christian history, like St. Gemma Galgani, St. Francesca Romana, and St. Faustina Kowalska.
In an interview with ZENIT, Father Stanzione, said that one of the reasons for the decline in religious practice, especially in developed countries, is “the weakening of our mystical impulse.”
“The theology being taught in schools is based, rightly so, on the intellect — which is important and indispensable — but we must be careful to not fall into the trap of theological rationalism,” explained Father Stanzione.
“By that I mean, that when angels are spoken of one shrugs their shoulders as if to say: ‘Yes, angels exist, the Bible speaks of them and the catechism, but we don’t really know that much about them and they aren’t really that important, and therefore they are of no interest to us,'” he explained.
“It is rare,” he continued, “to find courses of systematic theology about angels and demons, and this is reflected in the preaching of the churches where one rarely hears talk of heavenly spirits.”
“Mysticism,” said Father Stanzione, “helps us to understand that God cannot be contained in our logical comprehension because he is obviously beyond it. The absence of mystics leads to spiritual aridity.”
“The climate of spiritual dryness,” the angelologist explained, “leads to many baptized persons who are educated in the Catholic faith to search for spirituality in Buddhist, New Age, or other meditation groups and alternative religious movements to the Church of Rome.”
“There are very few modern Catholic authors writing about angels,” said the priest who noted that in the past there were many texts written on the subject.
Father Stanzione added: “I am amazed when I enter a bookstore and find that the majority of texts written about angels are written by non-Catholics.”
The mystic is important, Father Stanzione said, because “he lives in constant union with God, and that union is not only an intellectual experience, but an existential experience.”
He quoted Dominican friar Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges who said that “there is, without a doubt a link between holiness and the existence of angels, but no one has ever become holy because they saw angels, but rather they saw angels because they were holy!”
The prize “Poems to the Angels,” which recognizes artists who include angels in their writings, will be inaugurated at this year’s meeting. Angela Ruggiero of Battipaglia, Italy, will receive the first award.