Showing posts with the label St. Teresa of Avila

How can you grow in prayer?

So, you have set aside a certain time every day to converse with God. You are reading short passages of Scripture as a basis for your conversation. You recognize that dryness is a normal part of prayer that even the saints experience.

Meditation on Sacred Scripture is just the beginning. God has much more in store for you. He desires the closest union with you. Now that you have taken the first big step, how can you continue to grow? Let’s explore what you need in order to steadily come into more intimate union with God.
St. Teresa of Avila wrote about the virtues necessary for continued prayer growth. The first virtue is perseverance. In Interior Castle she says to beginners in prayer, “Perseverance is the most necessary thing here.”

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St. Teresa of Avila and the Joy of the Lord

Pope Francis and St. Teresa of Avila have a lot more in common than first impressions might lead you to think. 
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The suffering of the sixth mansions

Getting back to Interior Castle, we’ve been talking about the sixth mansions. Last time we looked at raptures and ecstasy. There are many more types of mystical phenomena that one can experience in the sixth mansions. Among them are what St. Teresa of Avila calls transports, touches, wounds of love, flights of spirit, and even levitation. Teresa sometimes experienced the last of these in community prayer, to her great embarrassment.

All of these are external phenomena that are rooted in the growing union of love between God and the soul.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Is Centering Prayer Catholic?

“What is Centering Prayer? What are its origins? Is it a form of New Age meditation, or a thoroughly Catholic prayer method that can lead to contemplation? Connie Rossini digs into the writings and public statements of Fr. Thomas Keating, one of Centering Prayer’s foremost proponents. She compares his words with the writings of St. Teresa of Avila on prayer, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on New Age spirituality. Find out if Centering Prayer is a reliable method for union with God, or a counterfeit that Catholics should avoid.”


Is Centering Prayer Catholic? Fr. Thomas Keating Meets Teresa of Avila and the CDFA new book  by Connie Rossini.

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Centering Prayer's errors about God

I recently decided to dig deeper into understanding Centering Prayer, so I could advise readers on it. I bought Fr. Thomas Keating’s book Open Heart, Open Mind and wrote a review that will appear at in September.

But one blog post was not enough. The errors in this book were so many and so serious, I decided it needed a more thorough response. So I am writing a quick ebook called Teresa of Avila Debunks Centering Prayer. It should be ready for publication in a couple of weeks. Here is an excerpt, on Centering Prayer’s errors about God. It still needs to be edited, so please excuse anything my editor/husband would refer to as “infelicities.”

The first error concerns the distinction between God and man.

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Life in Teresa's Fourth Mansions

How should a person behave when he enters the fourth mansions? How should he act throughout the day? How should he pray?

First, let’s look at our behavior during prayer. As I have said (some might say ad nausuem) contemplative prayer is a gift from God. It does not come from the soul’s willing it or applying any technique.

Spiritual growth through the seven (groups of) mansions is gradual. Contemplative prayer begins subtly. It usually grows slowly deeper. Infused recollection blends into the prayer of quiet, which blends into the union of the fifth mansions.

A soul in the fourth mansions will probably not experience contemplation every time she prays–at least not at first. What should she do? She should not try to produce contemplation, since that’s impossible. Instead, she should go back to meditating on Sacred Scripture, affective prayer, or acquired recollection.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

The prayer of quiet

The prayer of quiet is the second type of contemplative prayer God gives in St. Teresa’s fourth mansions. Here is Teresa’s description of the prayer of quiet from Way of Perfection:
This is a supernatural state, and, however hard we try, we cannot reach it ourselves… In this state the faculties are all stilled. The soul, in a way which has nothing to do with the outward senses, realizes that it is now very close to its God, and that, if it were but a little closer, it would become one with Him through union. The faculties that Teresa refers to are the powers of the soul, namely, the powers of thought, will, and memory. Teresa states that the will is occupied during the prayer of quiet, captivated by God, and enjoying a love communion with him.
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4th mansions: consolations versus spiritual delights

Now we begin to look at contemplative prayer as Teresa of Avila sees it. The fourth mansions are the transition from prayer that is produced by the soul to prayer that God gives the soul. In this post, I want to look at what Teresa says about consolations versus delights. This is from the first chapter of the fourth mansions.

Consolations are produced naturally by the soul. We can’t say that God has no part in them, for everything that brings us closer to him is in some way his gift. But they are completely different from delights, which he gives without our doing anything to receive.

It’s so important not to mistake consolations for infused delights!

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The Purgative versus the Illuminative Way

In our study of Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, we have come to the end of the third mansions, the end of the Purgative Way. The fourth mansions begin the second stage of the spiritual life, the Illuminative Way. How are these stages different?

Souls in the Purgative way are beginners–yes, even those in the third mansions. They may be very zealous about following God, but they have not yet advanced very far. Thus far they have been combating sin and attachment with the ordinary grace God gives Christians. They have had to work hard. But eventually they come to a place where that is no longer enough. They have advanced as far as they can without greater help. Then God steps in and begins to cleanse them himself.

Pere Marie-Eugene writes:
We come now to the souls that are in the first three Mansions, or in the first phase of the spiritual life. To say that there is in them a mystical life would be formally to contradict Saint Teresa who characterizes this phase by the predominan…

Lay people and the third mansions

My most recent post at was about the one path to holiness. Everyone, I wrote, is called to deepen their relationship with God through prayer. Everyone becomes holy by prayer and virtue. As always when this subject comes up, some want to argue that Teresa of Avila’s teaching on the mansions was not meant for lay people.

Lay people are too busy to be expected to pray much, the argument goes. So they must be content with offering their day to God and the like.

Now, I have no problem with lay people offering their day to God, making their work a prayer, praying as they work, et cetera. Of course we should do that. But I do have a problem with the notion that only monks, nuns, and priests are called to contemplation, or that only they need to spend much time dedicated to mental prayer.

So I was happy to read the second chapter on the third mansions in Interior Castle. In this chapter, although Teresa is writing primarily for her cloistered nuns, she uses lay people i…

The third mansions and preparing for Lent

Are you ready to begin the season of Lent? What does Lent have to do with St. Teresa of Avila’s teaching about the third mansions in the interior castle?

Teresa offers us many images to aid our understanding of the interior life. First, she asks us to imagine the soul as a castle, with God the Divine King dwelling in the central room. Then she speaks of the first mansions as filled with reptiles. The second mansions are a battlefield. What of the third?
The person in the third mansions, she says, is like the rich young man of the Gospel. He has great desires. He wants to inherit eternal life. He even goes so far as to keep the commandments.

But, as we know, that wasn’t the end of the story.
Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’
When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” (Mt 19:21-22) This serves as a warning to all of us.

Acquired recollection in the third mansions

The next stage of prayer that we have to talk about has been called by so many names that it is often hard to tell that various writers are talking about the same thing. Teresa of Avila calls it recollection. But she also calls the first stage of infused contemplation recollection. This adds to our confusion.

On my blog I will call this stage of prayer acquired recollection, as opposed to the infused recollection that is a pure gift of God. Other authors use the terms acquired contemplation,theprayer of simplicity, or the prayer of simple gaze.

In Interior Castle Teresa doesn’t speak much of prayer in the third mansions, except to say that souls at this stage “spend hours in recollection.” If we find prayer tedious, tend to avoid it, or cut it short, we are probably not firmly in the third mansions. People in the third mansions love to pray and would spend much of their day praying if they could. In fact, they begin to recollect themselves throughout the day as their duties allow the…

Prayer in the third mansions

We’re going to start discussing the third mansions from St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle with the most exciting part–prayer. In the third mansions, prayer begins simplifying, as the soul prepares herself to receive infused contemplation.

Now, when I say prayer begins simplifying in the third mansions, that doesn’t mean that a stark line lies between one mansion and another. We don’t one day say, “I’m going to take one step forward and leave second mansions behind forever, entering the third.” More likely, we peer through the doorway, thinking, “Those rooms look interesting.” Then we look over our shoulder and say,” But I’m comfortable here.” We might go through the door, make a small circle, and go back out. We might lean against the door frame, with one foot on each side.

My point is that our prayer might start simplifying long before we leave second mansions completely behind. But when it is habitually simpler–and accompanied by growth in virtue–we can assume we …

Checking In with Pope Francis

Just over a year ago, Pope Francis gave the world his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he extends an invitation:
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.

So how are we doing?

Check in at Praying with Grace to take a little prayer quiz!

Prayer in the second mansions

Reading Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, we might find ourselves surprised. The Church has proclaimed Teresa a Doctor of Prayer, but the first part of her master work on the subject barely mentions prayer! If prayer is so vital to the spiritual life, why hasn’t she said more about it? How can we grow into the later stages if she doesn’t tell us what to do in the early ones?

The first thing we need to get clear is that for Teresa prayer and virtue grow together, no matter where we are in the seven mansions. Some people think that everyone can be contemplatives, regardless of their lifestyle. This is one of the basic problems with Centering Prayer, as we discussed a few months ago.
Real growth in virtue takes commitment to prayer Others have the opposite problem. They think that if they are living a moral life, that’s all they need. Not committed to prayer, they think they are nonetheless spiritually advanced, so they see no reason to start praying more faithfully. This is a dang…

St. Teresa's first mansions

Okay, you’ve all poured over the chart of the seven mansions from Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle that I posted last week and now you’re ready to study each in depth, right? Let’s dig right in.
Many people, unfortunately, live completely outside the castle of their souls. These include the unbaptized, atheists and agnostics, and Christians who have unconfessed mortal sin.  Their state is truly pitiable and only an act of God can open their eyes to it.
So accustomed have they grown to living all the time with the reptiles and other creatures to be found in the outer court of the castle that they have almost become like them; and although by nature they are so richly endowed as to have the power of holding converse with none other than God Himself, there is nothing that can be done for them. Unless they strive to realize their miserable condition and to remedy it, they will be turned into pillars of salt for not looking within themselves, just as Lot’s wife was because she looked…

Where are you in St. Teresa's seven mansions?

Today I’d like to start digging a little deeper into Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. Specifically, let’s talk about the seven mansions and how each of them is different.

While Teresa divides her book into sections talking about seven different stages of the spiritual life, we should note that she speaks about “first dwelling places,” et cetera, not “the first mansion.” What does this mean? Each stage has several rooms. Not everyone follows exactly the same path to union with God.
You must not imagine these mansions as arranged in a row, one behind another, but fix your attention on the centre, the room or palace occupied by the King. Think of a palmito, which has many outer rinds surrounding the savoury part within, all of which must be taken away before the centre can be eaten. Just so around this central room are many more, as there also are above it. In speaking of the soul we must always think of it as spacious, ample and lofty; and this can be done without the least exag…

Your soul is a castle

Teresa of Avila wrote Interior Castle in obedience to her superiors in 1577. She had written extensively about prayer and her experience of it in her autobiography (Life) several years before, but that book was now in the hands of the Inquisition. She had no desire to write another book. She was busy with the monasteries she had founded, in the midst of what could be an official quashing of her reform, and she had terrible tinnitus that made her head ring with noise. But she obeyed, having no idea what she was going to say.

She prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The result was one of the most iconic images of the soul ever created.
I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions.” (First Mansions, Chapter 1) The King (Jesus) dwells in the center of the baptized soul like a burning sun. Light from this sun reaches every corner of the castle, b…

The foundation of St. Teresa's teaching

On Wednesday the Church celebrated the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, founder of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and Doctor of the Church. The Carmelites are celebrating the 500th anniversary of her birth with an entire year of events beginning this month. Over that time period I hope to have many vibrant discussions here about Teresa, her life, and her teachings.

Sometimes we become interested in a saint when we hear one story about him or her. We don’t always view that story from the total context of a saint’s life and teaching. With my melancholic temperament, I like to look for the unifying principles behind things. This gives me a greater grasp of the meaning of individual facts. For St. Therese, that unifying principle was a childlike trust in God.

So what is the unifying principle behind true Teresian spirituality? Intimacy with Jesus.
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The 7 Most Mindblowingly Liberating Things I've Learned By Being Catholic

I finally figured out what matters. This is it.
(1) I do not need a happy ending in life.

The Meaning:Life isn't meant to be a fairy tale. Whether....
The Freedom:No matter how my life ends, ....
(2) How I feel about my life doesn't matter. 

The Meaning: Whether I think my life is going well or not is....
The Freedom: Less time wasted with pointlessly evaluating my life in....
(4) Even if I became a god or goddess, it wouldn't matter.

The Meaning: Having "personal power," or realizing the greatness in my soul in order....
The Freedom:Who cares who I am?...
"Lord, when we ask you for honors, income, money or worldly things, do not hear us."
-St. Teresa of Avila
(7) Never stop asking- "How Could I Do Better?" 

The Meaning:It doesn't matter...
The Freedom:This is the annoying part...

Here's the rest of this post: "The 7 Most Mindblowingly Liberating Things I've Learned As A Catholic," Laura Paxton, Carmel Heart.