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St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle [Catholic Caucus] ^ | October 14th, 2010 | Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Posted on 10/14/2010 10:44:42 PM PDT by Salvation

St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle

October 14th, 2010 by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

October 15th is the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila. A Carmelite nun living in the 1500s, one of her most famous works is “Interior Castle” (known as “The Mansions” in her native Spain) which she wrote at the request of her confessor. A mystic who communed intimately with God, she had experienced a vision of “a most beautiful crystal globe, made in the shape of a castle, and containing seven mansions, in the seventh and innermost of which was the King of Glory, in the greatest splendour, illuming and beautifying them all. . . outside the palace limits everything was foul, dark, and infested with toads, vipers and other venomous creatures.” This castle became Teresa’s metaphor for the soul. Teresa truly believed that anyone who knew what treasures lay in the center of this castle would never want to sin because sin mires the soul in “misery and filth.” “Interior Castle” explores each of the seven mansions in great detail. Her intended audience was the sisters who made up her cloistered religious community, however her insights offer much to the world at large.

Teresa wrote reluctantly and felt that she had little to offer that had not already been said. She also emphasized that her description and her path to the center of this castle was not the only one. She believed that “Our Lord will be granting me a great favour if a single one of these nuns should find that my words help her to praise Him a little better.” She focuses on the beauty of the soul and laments that we spend so much attention on our physical body and so little on the divine spark that is within.

Teresa focuses on gaining self-knowledge, but not in the way we in the 21st century interpret that term. For her, self-knowledge means coming to know the soul within. It means understanding our dependence on God and gaining humility by acknowledging that we are nothing without Him. The route to self-knowledge and entry into the interior castle comes through prayer and meditation. As one progresses through the mansions, one comes to know and long for God more and more and to reject the world and its attractions. Teresa encourages the beginner in prayer “to labour and be resolute and prepare himself with all possible diligence to bring his will into conforming with the will of God.” She also offers encouragement: “If, then, you sometimes fall, do not lose heart or cease striving to make progress, for even out of your fall God will bring good.” Teresa also makes the point that prayer leads to action rooted in love. “True perfection consists in the love of God and of our neighbor, and the more nearly perfect is our observance of these two commandments, the nearer to perfection we shall be.”

As one makes her way ever deeper into the heart of the castle, increased spiritual consolations and trials become par for the course. Many (perhaps even most) do not reach the most inner mansions in this lifetime. Teresa is quick to point out, however, that “the Lord gives when He wills and as He wills and to whom He wills, and as the gifts are His own, this is doing no injustice to anyone.” Indeed she cautions her readers to never believe that they deserve any gift that the Lord bestows upon them, nor should we set out to obtain any consolations or mystical experiences because “the most essential thing is that we should love God without any motive of self-interest.”

Teresa was truly granted amazing gifts of insight and experience from God. While we may not fully share in her experience, “Interior Castle” offers a unique portrait of our souls and invites us into a deeper relationship with God.


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has a Master of Arts degree in Applied Theology from Elms College, and is editor of She is also the author of Letters to Mary from a Young Mother (2004).

(This article is adapted from a weekly column Patrice writes for, and is used by permission.)

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Prayer; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; interiorcastle; saints; saintteresa; stteresa; teresa
A Doctor of the Church!
1 posted on 10/14/2010 10:44:45 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: Salvation


2 posted on 10/14/2010 10:46:45 PM PDT by GOP Poet (Obama is an OLYMPIC failure.)
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To: GOP Poet
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3 posted on 10/14/2010 11:02:21 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
“the most essential thing is that we should love God without any motive of self-interest.”


4 posted on 10/14/2010 11:12:32 PM PDT by marron
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Large Bump.

5 posted on 10/14/2010 11:56:01 PM PDT by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: Salvation

This is a good book. It is kinda hard to follow due to the antiquated language used, tho. Someone should write a nice 2 or 3 page handout with bullet points describing each of the levels of sanctification as she identifies them.

The other famous book of hers, written to the ladies under her care, is really good, too. A bit easier to follow, as it is more practical.

6 posted on 10/15/2010 12:46:35 AM PDT by TeachableMoment
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To: TeachableMoment
From the Office of Readings this morning.

Reading St Teresa of Avila
Let us always be mindful of Christ's love
If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.
  Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.
  What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.
  Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favours, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.
All those who abandon the Lord shall perish. To be near God is my happiness: I have made him my refuge.
He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. To be near God is my happiness: I have made him my refuge.

Let us pray.
Almighty God, our Father, you sent Saint Teresa of Ávila to be a witness in the Church to the way of perfection.
  Sustain us by her spiritual doctrine, and kindle in us the longing for true holiness.
[We make our prayer] through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
  God for ever and ever.

7 posted on 10/15/2010 8:36:19 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Thank you. Home run.

8 posted on 10/15/2010 9:26:31 AM PDT by marron
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To: Salvation

Her Interior Castle also has a warning that even though you have entered, you can also never in some cases enter deeper and even return to the outside and all its evils.. Great reading...easy to understand...GG

9 posted on 10/15/2010 10:29:33 AM PDT by goat granny
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