In the first mansions, the soul is an easy prey. It has only one means of escape; to retire into the inner Mansions where the light shines more brightly, where life is invigorated, where peace reigns and fruit is gathered in. The soul must flee to God!
The quest for God must guide its steps and inspire all its actions.
St. Teresa of Jesus invites the soul to enter into itself by the door of “prayer and meditation”. To know God in Himself and the riches that he pours into the soul is why prayer is necessary. The knowledge of self also depends on the knowledge of God. A loving converse of Him leads us to a knowledge of self and of God – this is the source of all we need in the spiritual life.
Beginners in the first Mansions pray only a few times a month, and as a rule they are thinking all the time of their preoccupations. These preoccupations make it easy for the evil spirits to cause havoc to the soul. St. Teresa says, “If we fill the palace with vulgar people and all kinds of junk, how can the Lord and His Court occupy it?” (Mansion II Interior Castle) The effort of detachment to “things” must be persevering. A person living in the world must create a rule of life, a plan that is stable, yet flexible, in order to have the time for prayerful converse with God. St. Teresa states that this King does not allow Himself to be taken except by one who surrenders wholly to Him. Detachment, humility and absolute poverty (not being attached to our material goods) and perfect charity for the love of God and neighbor, draws down the outpouring of divine love and prepares the soul for divine union. Therefore, determination and courage are necessary for beginners.
St. Teresa demands courage for the beginner. Entering into the second Mansions with a resolute spirit and courageous will – will experience trials. Satan will do all he can to keep a soul from entering deeper into the castle of one’s soul. St. Teresa says: “The soul will certainly suffer great trials at this time, especially if the devil sees that its character and habits are such that it is ready to make further progress.” (Interior Castle, II Mansions)
The soul will require a certain violence to turn to God to renounce bad habits, to be more alone in order to freely seek God and live according to His light. It is in these early steps that their labor is harder.
We need to remember that God is merciful and is so anxious for our friendship and our sanctity that we should desire Him and strive after His companionship. He calls us ceaselessly, time and time again to approach Him; and this voice of His is so sweet that the poor soul is consumed with grief at being unable to do His bidding immediately; and therefore it suffers more than if it could not hear Him. These appeals come to us through our conversations of good people, or from sermons, or through reading of good books; and there are many other ways of which God calls us.
The evil spirits cannot let that soul escape to God without exerting all their efforts to bring it back or to bar its way, especially when they understand that “its character and habits are such that it is ready to make further progress. The devil brings great confusion into the soul and distresses it. The devils once more show the soul the things of the world and they pretend that earthly pleasures are almost eternal. They remind the soul of the esteem in which it is held in the world, of its friends and relatives, of the way in which its health will be endangered by penances and of impediments of a thousand other kinds. Fighting off these temptations with more fervent prayer and self-denial will allow our Saviour to recognize His valiant friends.
At this point, discouragement is a great temptation; and if one gives in to it, it has disastrous consequences. The soul must set its courage and persevere in spite of all. St Teresa says: “His Majesty is quite prepared to wait for many days, and even years, especially when He sees we are persevering and have good desires. This is the most necessary thing here; if we have this, we cannot fail to gain greatly.” (II Mansions of Interior Castle)
We must persevere in the struggle despite all obstacles, not to halt until the goal is reached. All that one has to do is be resolute and prepare himself with all possible diligence to bring his will into conformity with the will of God. This is what constitutes the greatest perfection on the spiritual road to union with God – says St. Teresa.
2. DISCRETION AND LIBERTY OF SPIRIT
Perseverance rather than violence and intermittent effort is important and effective in the way of prayer. Recollection cannot be begun by making strenuous efforts but must come gently, after which you will be able to practice it for longer periods at a time. Violence can spoil everything and will foster discouragement.
The tricks of the devil must be noticed, otherwise, he will do all to stifle the good will of a soul on its journey toward God. St. Teresa says:
“In the early stages, then, one should strive to feel happy and free. There are some people who think that devotion will slip from them if they relax a little. It is good to have misgivings about oneself and not to allow self-confidence to lead one into occasions which habitually involve offences against God… Yet there are many circumstances in which… it is permissible for us to take some recreation, in order that we may be stronger when we return to prayer. In everything we need discretion.” (Life, p. 74)
3. GREAT DESIRES
It is known that St. Teresa of Jesus has a magnanimous soul. She had great desires and great desires are the hallmark of a great soul. Great desires alone can inspire courage necessary to surmount the obstacles that beset its way. They are the wind that carries the soul high and far. St. Teresa say:
“We must have great confidence, for it is most important that we should not cramp our good desires, but should believe that, with God’s help, if we make continual efforts to do so, we shall attain, though perhaps not at once, to that which many saints have reached through His favor. If they had never resolved to desire to attain this and to carry their desires continually into effect, they would never have risen to as high a state as they did. His Majesty desires and loves courageous souls if they have no confidence in themselves but walk in humility; and I have never seen any such person hanging back on this road, nor any soul that, under the guise of humility, acted like a coward, go as far in many years as the courageous soul can in a few.” (Life, p. 74)
St. Therese of Lisieux writes in her “Story of A Soul”:
“As I reflected that I was born for great things, and sought the means to attain them, it was made known to me interiorly that my personal glory would never reveal itself before the eyes of men, but that it would consist in becoming a Saint.
This aspiration may very well appear rash, seeing how imperfect I was, and am, even now, after so many years of religious life; yet I still feel the same daring confidence that one day I shall become a great Saint. I am not trusting in my own merits, for I have none; but I trust in Him Who is Virtue and Holiness itself. It is He alone Who pleased with my feeble efforts, will raise me to Himself, and by clothing me with His merits, make me a Saint.” (Autobiography, p. 55)
Fr. Marie Eugene ends with the conclusion that at the point of departure, a soul must be thirsty for God, have a true judgement, a great desire for great things and hasten on with all the energy of their soul to those summits where shines the light of God that is drawing them irresistibly on.
I will of course add that we can do none of this without the aid of our good Mother and Queen. We must live in true imitation of Her humility and love. We must beg Her at every step to help us as we are too feeble to walk alone without the hand and help of our generous and loving Mother.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us.
Good St. Joseph, pray for us.
All ye holy saints and angels, pray for us
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene