One of the many amazing things about this summer is how much my friendship with the saints have grown. I love getting to know these Heavenly brothers and sisters, and how much I am able to relate to their stories.
One of my summer reading projects has been The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila. Ironically, while I’ve been gone, one of our parish priests has been using the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila as material for his morning mass homilies! Great minds think alike, I suppose.
If you don’t know much about Saint Teresa, let me introduce you to her. She’s pretty amazing.
She was born in 1515 in Spain, and even from a very young age showed great devotion to a prayer life. She would go on silent retreats as a child, and was always known for giving away her things to the poor. When she was five years old, she told her little brother she wished to go fight the Moors and be a martyr. Her mother and her grew very close, but her mother died when she was only a teenager. At that point, she dedicated herself to Mama Mary as her mother, a relationship that continued throughout her life.
She went to a convent-run school at age 16, but later became very sick. Yet she used her time as a patient to grow in spiritual reading, and favored medieval mystics – most of whom Ignatius based his spiritual exercises off of.
In 1535, she entered the Carmelite order, but quickly became aware of the worldliness that had seeped into the order. High name society visited often, and luxury instead of poverty reigned. So in the early 1560s, she founded new monasteries and convents that followed the original, stricter rule and embraced the vows of poverty. Her reform movement sparked concern and she was then investigated during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, but charges were not followed through.
She wrote some amazing pieces on prayer and spirituality and is now a Doctor of the Church – one of only four women to be honored with that title.
It is her work, The Interior Castle that was my adoration hour companion this morning. Although I am a pretty speedy reader, this book is something that is being very slowly consumed. I had to share this passage in light of struggles I have had recently and the culture that surrounds us today.
“But we speak of the other souls, who finally enter the castle, because, though they are very much entangled with the world, they have good desires, and sometimes, though rarely, they commend themselves to the Lord, and consider what they are, though not very thoroughly. Perhaps they pray several times a month, yet with many distractions, since their minds are almost always occupied with business, and because they are so attached to it, their heart is where their treasure is. Sometimes however, they disentangle themselves, and self-knowledge shows them plainly that they are not in a good way to reach the gate.
Finally, they enter the first room on the lower floor, but many reptiles enter with them, and they do not permit them to either see the beauty of the castle, or to find repose in it; it is, indeed, much that they have entered at all.“
– The Interior Castle, First Mansions
That passage hit me like a ton of bricks…mostly because I discovered that I was reading the description of my life. How easy it to read about the Lord, talk about the Lord and never once have a legitimate conversation with Him? To let prayer became mundane, a duty that is often shirked for ‘better things to do’ and then simply counting actions as prayer instead of sitting and listening to God.
And I think the biggest culprit is the lack of knowledge on how to structure a prayer life.
And the second biggest culprit is the access that I give the world into my life. And how much I enjoy it’s presence there instead of being ok with the knowledge that this world is not my home, and Heaven is my end goal, not a fleeting sense of ‘happiness.’
There be reptiles. There be dragons.
How do we fight them?
For me, today, it was deleting a lot of social media apps off my phone, and then committing to not checking it nearly so often during the day. Because the reptile of social media plays a pretty darn large role in the blocking of my view from the beauty of the castle inside my heart. Maybe it’s removing a deadly friendship that is in your life, or picking up the Bible at a set time each day and not letting that slip.
Mother Teresa once wrote, “Be careful of all that can block personal contact wit the living Jesus. The Devil may try to use the hurts of your life, and sometimes our own mistakes to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting to tell you.. Not only that He loves you, but even more. He longs for you. He Misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes. He is the one who accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe – you are precious to Him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet – only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest.”
If the goal of this life is to know, love, sand serve God and be ultimately with Him in Heaven, then I think my life could use some simplifying. I think the world could use some simplifying, in all honesty.
So, hopefully with a little help from my Saintly friends – especially Teresa of Avila, this journey into the interior castle can begin.