This week we return to our series on the Interior Cas- tle taken from the book Fire Within by Thomas DuBay S.M. If you have not read the other letters of this series you can find them on our parish web- site where our bulletins are stored.
We are continuing to walk with St.Teresa of Avila through the SEVEN MANSIONS of the Interior Castle. I have been using the book Fire Within as our guide because it gives such a great synopsis of what it means to be in each Mansion and how to move through the Mansion towards where the Lord Himself dwells within us as King.
Perhaps some of you have wondered why I have been focused on this as we come closer and closer to election day. The reason is be- cause in this focus on the spiritual life we have the greatest answer to our world’s problems, let alone the problems of politics in our own country. The answer is our own personal growth in holiness and our relationship with the Lord Jesus. Despite what people may think in our modern world, prayer is the most powerful agent we have in converting ourselves and our world.
St. Teresa says there are “many souls in the world who reach” the THIRD MANSION. (Fire Within, p. 84) She says “these men and women of tender conscience are careful not to offend God: They avoid committing even venial sins; they love doing penance; they spend hours in recollection; they use their time well; they practice works of charity toward their neighbors; they are very careful in their speech and dress and in the government of their household if they have one.” (p. 84-85)
Our saint says remarkably little about prayer in this mansion but instead insists again on doing the will of the Father, which itself requires prayer. She says “in the first three mansions human nature is an oppressive burden on the spirit, like a great load of earth. She adds that it shall be otherwise in the following mansions. Anyone who has labored faithfully in the first stages of prayer knows how true this is, for it is only later, with the reception of infused prayer, that inner freedom becomes pronounced. Then one does more easily and joyously what ought to be done and omits what ought to be omitted. However, while one at this stage sometimes receives a few glimpses of delights later to be had in prayer, for the most part he finds few spiritual joys.” (p. 85)
There is no real timeline as to how long someone will remain in these first three mansions, even though St. Teresa tells us that most people spend a long time within them. She says “It seems that, in order to reach these Mansions, one must have lived for a long time in the others; as a rule one must have been in those which we have just described, but there is no infallible rule about it, as you must have heard, for the Lord gives when He will and as He will and to whom He wills, and, as the gifts are His own, this is doing no injustice to anyone.” (p. 85)
The first three mansions then, are about preparing our souls for the Lord to do His part. We can’t force that, it comes purely as a gift; we can only prepare ourselves. Prayer in this 3rd mansion is still some- what discursive, that is spoken either silently in our minds or those spoken out loud. However, St. Teresa does say “that an active focusing on the indwelling presence (of God) is the best way to prepare for (notice she does not say produce) the prayer of quiet, but this advice applies to the first two mansions as well.” (p.85)
Let us continue to put forth the effort then to prepare our souls for that prayer of contemplation, the prayer that comes as a gift from the Lord!