Chapter IX – Regulated Life and Simplified Prayer
This chapter is about those who have reached the third Mansions. St. Teresa indicates that this is an important stage to be reached and is very precious. She does mention its temptations and pitfalls as well. She gives a vivid description of these souls:
“They are most desirous not to offend His Majesty; 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; and they are very careful in their speech and dress and in the government of their household if they have one. This is certainly a desirable state.” III Mansions I; Peers, II, p. 221
A. Regulated Life
As one can see, the soul that has reached this state breathes order and correct appearance. They do not let their works or their devotions interfere with their duties of family life or of society. Their religion is of good quality. When compared to the soul in the first Mansions with its temptations of being saturated with the maxims of the world and given up to its evil tendencies so that it thought of God very little; this soul in the third Mansions seems more on the road to perfection. We can assume the tenacity of effort it required and the length of the struggle against self and others to avoid occasions of sin, to mortify evil tendencies, to put order into one’s life, to introduce into its life some regular exercises of piety, to accomplish with care all the duties of one’s state, to give to works of charity the time that pleasures or distractions formerly took, to avoid sin in every way, to acquire the virtues; in short – to regulate one’s whole exterior, ones words and actions, so that in them there might shine a discreet reflection of good interior dispositions. Good habits have been acquired and are practiced in daily life. For the soul that has entered into the third Mansion, this is a triumph that is due to the persevering energy of the will enlightened by reason.
B. Simplified Prayer
These souls have their hours of recollection in the third Mansions but they also have their periods of aridities. The efforts that have been exercised so perseveringly have created a certain facility for recollection. In the first and second Mansions, vocal prayers were necessary in order to remain near the Master, now there is a simplicity of activity that aids in the exchange of friendship with God. The simple gaze of the soul and to peacefully rest near the Master, replaces the noisy activity of words. This silence and rest are attitudes expressive of love; they favor excellently exchanges of friendship:
“The fire of Divine love is the more readily enkindled in them (these souls); for they are so near that fire that, however little the blaze has been fanned with the understanding, any small spark that flies out at them will cause them to burst into flame.” Way of Perfection, Ch. 28 P. 117
Therefore, the prayer of simplicity can be defined as a gaze of the soul upon God in silence. This gaze of the soul on a distinct truth or a living form of Christ, is active; the attractiveness of the object renders it peaceful and silent. Consequently, there is a double element of this prayer of simplicity --- the gaze fixed on its object and the calm or silence that this produces. One must have regard for the activity and for the silence (calm). This calm is more beneficial and nourishing than all the chains of reasoning, and so it must be respected and maintained. The necessary activity must not trouble the fruitful silence that pervades certain regions of the soul. St. Teresa states that the faculties of the soul must do what they must in the way of activity in this Mansion until God gives the soul a better way (in the next mansions).
In this kind of prayer, made up of successive pausing at certain scenes rather than of reasoned thought, the work of the soul consists in moving from scene to scene, delaying before each in an admiring comprehensive gaze, and then passing to the next peacefully when interest in the previous one fails. But it is not the distance covered nor the multiplicity of ideas that matter; it is uniquely the strength that is left in the soul by reason of its contact with the realities that the ideas represent. The peace that results seems to indicate that such a contact is established and that the soul is drawing fruit from it. Hence, it can be said that this prayer is incomparably richer than all the more active forms even should they be more ardent and more luminous.
The prayer of simplicity is the fruit of higher and finer forms of the activity of the intellect. The soul enters upon the way of perfection by putting to the service of its ideal all its intellectual and moral energies. The third Mansions show us the triumph of human effort in the search for God yet the third Mansions are still far from the summit.
C. Deficiencies and Difficulties
“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord.” There is joy in his heart; and yet, too many dangers threaten him, for him not to be armed with fear. The progress of the soul is not yet stabilized. The soul is barely mortified in its most exterior manifestations. The well-regulated exterior might deceive us, as unfortunately it deceives the soul itself. St. Teresa says that a lack of humility prevents us from making progress. It is certainly normal that, as the soul makes progress towards sanctity, there continue to exist within it side by side evil tendencies and sublime virtue. St. Therese of the Child Jesus avows that she finds herself more and more imperfect in the measure that she advances; but she finds her joy in this, because misery draws down mercy.
Many souls in the third Mansions lack the view of little St. Therese. They brood over these difficulties and woes and make up their minds that they are suffering for God’s sake and thus never really understand that it is all due to their imperfection. And in persons who have made so much progress this is a further mistake. St. Teresa adds that these persons become restless if they are despised in any way or lose some of their reputation – although they do meditate on what a good thing it is to suffer as our Lord did. St. Teresa goes further to explain that it is difficult to reach these people. Words are not enough, any more than they were for the young man who approached Jesus about what to do after he was living the commandments. Jesus told him to go and sell everything. He would not listen. St. Teresa says that when giving advice to these souls – they remain stubborn and will not listen as well. Fr. Marie-Eugene does not make it clear about what it is that would remedy these problems. I can only see that humility and persistence in prayer are the remedies.
Of course, at the end of each of these chapters, I must add some words on Our Lady. She is our Teacher, Our Guide and Our Mediatrix of all Graces. As stated in the last chapter, it is difficult to obtain a good spiritual director to guide our souls when we fall into a pit. We have Our Lady, we can, with tears, pray to Her for advice and guidance. She will guide us in prayer. She will never abandon us – She is the way to find Jesus. Let us turn to Her always and at all times so that we can remain humble in knowing who we truly are before God and let Our Good Queen and Mother guide us to “The Way of Perfection”.
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene