I would like to begin studying, meditating on, and sharing with you Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. But even before beginning a question arises: Why should we bother about stages of the spiritual life?
Fr. Thomas Dubay answers this objection:
One of the most common mistakes made by some spiritual directors is to dismiss as irrelevant the question of where a directee is in prayer development.” (Fire Within, 73)
He proposes these reasons, taken from Teresa’s writings for knowing stages and where we fit into them:
- People who are on a journey must know their destination or they will not reach it.
- Knowing the difficulties and trials of each stage saves us from anxiety when we encounter them.
- If we don’t recognize the gift of contemplation for what it is, we might act in a way that prevents us from receiving it.
- Each stage has its own appropriate practice of prayer and virtue.
- Seeing that we have made some progress encourages us to keep moving forward.
- We need to be able to distinguish between true prayer development and self-deception or deception by the Devil.
Given all this, I’d like to begin discussing the different stages of prayer and how we should act at each stage. We will look not only at the beginnings of the spiritual life, but at the middle and advanced stages as well. I hope we will all recognize ourselves in one (or more) of Teresa’s mansions, and be inspired to keep striving towards the next stage. Let us keep each other in prayer as we study and discern.
Speaking of prayer, I will be giving a talk on Learning to Trust God at a parish in the Twin Cities tomorrow morning. Please pray for me and my listeners. God reward you!
Note: You can purchase Interior Castle on Amazon and I will earn a small commission through the affiliate program. I recommend the translation by Kieran Kavanaugh, either the Study Edition or Volume 2 of The Collected Works of Teresa of Avila. I will be using this second edition and referring to its page numbers. If finances are tight, the older translation by E. Allison Peers is free online. I will be reading Peers’ commentary and may at times remark on the differences in the two translations. If you don’t read along, I hope to discuss the book in enough detail here that you can still benefit.