Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spiritual Direction with St. Teresa of Jesus

In this post we will consider the qualities of the person who has entered the third dwelling place of the interior castle. Keep in mind, that this is still far from the seventh mansion where the soul enjoys perfect contemplation and union with God as is attainable in this our earthly life with God.

Concerning souls in the third dwelling place, St. Teresa has this to say:

...They long not to offend His Majesty, even guarding themselves against venial sins; they are fond of doing penance and setting aside periods for recollection; they spend their time well, practicing works of charity toward their neighbors; and are very balanced in their use of speech and dress and in governing their households.
Way of Perfection, Chap. I, No. 5

Do you see yourself in this description?  Do you know someone who fits this description?  I certainly do, and I am humbled when I consider the holy lives they lead. They are true spiritual inspirations to help one keep the course on the way of perfection.

I attended a retreat once in which the priest said that most people who are trying to be good and please God are in the third dwelling place. He said many good Christians, many good Catholics are in this dwelling place. The problem is that most people remain in this dwelling place without seeking to advance in the spiritual life.  They become complacent and settled in their ways, settling for the spiritual life they enjoy at this point. They haven't yet embraced the cross and cultivated a desire to be united with the Crucified and Risen One in the spiritual marriage. 

The soul in the third dwelling place seems just about perfect. Right? They try to avoid venial sins, they perform works of charity, are very modest and balanced people; all this goodness in just the third mansion!  We can only imagine what it must be like to live with or know someone in the higher mansions. 

Let us get back to the lesson at-hand today and consider that the soul who is "stuck" in the third mansion is one who is afraid to leave their spiritual comfort zone. They enjoy a wealth of blessings from the Lord and are not eager to leave this dwelling place. St. Teresa teaches us that the soul in this state is like the rich young man whom the Lord disappointed when he said he must leave his wealth behind to follow him and be perfect. This is the comparison St. Teresa makes about the soul and the rich young man:

We all say that we want this good. But since there is need of still more in order that the soul possess the Lord completely, it is not enough to say we want it; just as this was not enough for the young man whom the Lord told what one must do in order to be perfect. From the time I began to speak of these dwelling places I have had this young man in mind. For we are literally like him; and ordinarily the great dryness in prayer comes from this, although it also has other causes. 
Way of Perfection, Chap. 3, No. 6

Now, St. Teresa begins to speak of the dryness that a soul may experience because one does not want to leave behind the spiritual consolation he is enjoying.  The soul in this state believes he is entitled to entry into the higher mansions. St. Teresa describes this person's attitude:

They cannot accept patiently that the door of entry to the place where our King dwells be closed to them who consider themselves His vassals.
Way of Perfection, Chap. I, No. 6

Then she instructs her nuns:

Enter, enter, my daughters, into the interior rooms; pass on from your little works. By the mere fact that you are Christians you must do all these things and much more. It is enough for you to be God's vassals...Behold the saints who entered this King's chamber, and you will see the difference between them and us.
Way of Perfection, Chap. I, No. 6

During this Advent season, when the entire Church is on retreat, let us take this opportunity to pray for ourselves and each other. Let us pray for the gift of humility that allows our heart to be satisfied with being true servants of the Lord without any desire for a reward. 

May he give us true self-knowledge that comes from prayer and recollection; self-knowledge that lets us see ourselves as we are before him. May he give us the desire to be one with him; to return love for love.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie of the hearts of Jesus and Mary, ocds

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