Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Seven Mansions and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit-A Meditation Series on the Interior Castle

The Fourth Dwelling Place

In this chapter St. Teresa focuses on distractions in prayer and the difference between consolations and spiritual delight. She also begins to speak of the Prayer of Quiet. Please refer to my previous post on consolations. You can access the article on the sidebar under "Spiritual Life Dictionary."

In this fourth mansion the soul begins to travel the road of infused (supernatural) prayer. This infused prayer of recollection (Prayer of Quiet),is a prerequisite-of-sorts that opens the soul to receive divine consolations. The Prayer of Quiet is the doorway to the deeper mystical prayer gifts of simple union and spiritual marriage that take place in the higher mansions. It is the first of the supernatural prayer experiences. St. Teresa explains what the soul may experience in this holy recollection.

In my own words, I would say that she is speaking of the type of prayer that wells up within a person sometimes when one least expects it. It is a peaceful experience of our interior thoughts being absorbed in God, although we are going about our daily activities. 

Perhaps you've experienced this type of prayer on the way to Mass, before praying the Divine Office, before going to Adoration, or before receiving Holy Communion. The soul is anxious to be alone with the Lord and as soon as one is able to sit down and pray the eyes close without effort (at this point it would take great effort to open them) and one is totally absorbed in God. St. Teresa says that the senses lose their hold on us during this prayer of recollection. One may shed tears without effort. These tears do not cause distress but are spiritually refreshing and comforting. There are no major distractions during this prayer. Maybe you've experienced this as well. You are in church praying quietly and the sounds and distractions of people coming and going do not disturb you. The soul in this state does not care about the world and the pressing matters one may have to attend to. The soul's one desire is to remain in the company of the Beloved. And if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit we will not be moved to go about our business until He releases his hold on us.

We must remember that we cannot produce this prayer through our own efforts. The Holy Spirit prepares our heart for the Lord's coming by the gradual, peaceful, recollection that takes place within us before he captivates the soul in prayer.

When a soul is given this gift of absorption in prayer, St. Teresa warns that people become afraid to move and to breathe, fearful that the Spirit and the experience may leave them. She finds this foolish thinking because God is in control, not us. In fact, St. Therese and many other saints recount a similar experience in which they were given the prayer of recollection that lasted for days at a time. We know that St. Therese in the midst of this experience went about her daily activities in the monastery although she was amazed at how she could do this and be so absorbed in God.

The fourth dwelling place is a time of spiritual transition. The soul may experience distractions and wanderings of the mind. St. Teresa tells us to pay no attention to these distractions, because as long as we live in the body we will have them. Satan tries to discourage beginners and people in this transition period to focus on the distractions and lose heart over them, and thus give up prayer. This is the great deception. St. Teresa warns us to NEVER, EVER give up prayer. In this stage she tells us to:

*Keep praying

*Seek greater solitude without neglecting one's duties

*Detach ourselves from worldly pleasures

In this dwelling place we need the Holy Spirit and his gift of:


The gift of knowledge is the Spirit's gift of interior light that illumines our mind and helps us to understand truth. This is the gift that helps us to see ourselves as we truly are.  St. Teresa teaches us that when one begins to pray, the Lord begins to teach us about ourselves and our many attachments, faults, and failings. This self-knowledge can be extremely painful!  This knowledge is the gift that the holy and perfect possess-the gift that surpasses all understanding.

Let us pray that if the Lord has brought us to this dwelling place where mystical prayer begins, that we keep the door of our hearts open to him at all times. This holy dwelling place is none other than our heart-may he purify it and possess it forever!

O Mildest Comforter, Holy Spirit, come to me. My soul sighs for you! My heart thirsts for you! You alone can satisfy my longing; you alone can make me happy. Despise not, O Divine Bridegroom, the dwelling of my poor heart.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS

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