Friday, June 21, 2013

"In sum, my Sisters, what I conclude with is that we shouldn't build castles in the air." Therefore, do not live virute in imagination, make it real, no matter how small a deed.

St Teresa of Avila wrote the The Interior Castle at the request of her spiritual director to the Carmelite Sisters. She was a Cloistered Discalaced Carmelite and was the main figure in history to reform the Carmelite order, along with St. John of the Cross. The writing discusses the work of God in the soul as it conforms increasingly to His will. It is a spiritual classic and thankfully given to the Church. Every time I pick it up, I benefit from her guidance. I know she wrote for the Cloistered, but I see Motherhood as a call to prayer and service, very liken to a cloistered life, yet in the world. Motherhood is a gift from God to grow in holiness and virtue. So when she is talking to her sisters, I feel she is also speaking to me, a stay at home mom who desires union with God and that my children come to know Him deeply and follow Him. The below excerpt is from the last six paragraphs of the writing before the Epilogue. It came from Volume Two of the Collected Works of St.Teresa of Avila translated by Rodriguez, O.C.D. and Kavanaugh, O.C.D. Using her words, I address this to you and every Catholic Mother who struggles to do God's will and grow in prayer and virtue. If you are stretched for time, jump to the bolder print, at least for today.

A point to make before you read: St. Teresa links Mary, the sister of Martha, as the same Mary Magdalene, the one caught in adultery and also with the one who washed Jesus' feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. To her they are the same woman, interesting indeed. And remember woman walking alone in streets is a very impure thing indeed in her time, and probably in Christ's time as well.

The Seventh Dwelling Places;  Chapter 4; Paragraphs 12-16:
      "This is what I want us to strive for, my Sisters; and let us desire and be occupied in prayer not for the sake of our enjoyment but so as to have this strength to serve. Let's refuse to take an unfamiliar path, for we shall get lost at the most opportune time. It would indeed be novel to think of having these favors from God through a path other than the one He took and the one followed by all His saints. May the thought never enter our minds. Believe me, Martha and Mary must join together in order to show hospitality to the Lord and have Him always present and not host Him badly by failing to give Him something to eat. How would Mary, always seated at His feet, provide Him with food if her sister did not help her? His food is that in every way possible we draw souls that they may be saved and praise Him always.
      "You will make two objections: one, that he said that Mary had chosen the better part. The answer is that she had already performed the task of Martha, pleasing the Lord by washing His feet and drying them with her hair. Do you think it would be a small mortification for a woman of nobility like her to wander through these streets (and perhaps alone because her fervent love made her unaware of what she was doing) and enter a house she had never entered before and afterward suffer the criticism of the Pharisee and the very many other things she must have suffered? The people saw a woman like her change so much - and, as we know, she was among such malicious people - and they saw her friendship with the Lord whom they vehemently abhorred, and that she wanted to become a saint since obviously she would have changed her manner of dress and everything else. All of that was enough to cause them to comment on the life she had formerly lived. If nowadays there is so much gossip against persons who are not so notorious; what would have been said then? I tell you, Sisters, the better part came after many trials and much mortification, for even if there were no other trial than to see His Majesty abhorred, that would be an intolerable one. Moreover, the many trials that afterward she suffered at the death of the Lord and in the years that she subsequently lived in His absence must have been a terrible torment. You see she wasn't always in the delight of contemplation at the feet of the Lord.
     "The other objection you will make is that you are unable to bring souls to God, that you do not have the means; that you would do it willingly but that not being teachers or preachers, as were the apostles, you do not know how. This objection I have answered at times in writing, but I don't know if I did so in this Castle. Yet since the matter is something I believe is passing through your minds on account of the desires God gives you I will not fail to respond here. I already told you elsewhere that sometimes the devil gives us great desires so that we will avoid setting ourselves to the task at hand, serving our Lord in possible things, and instead be content with having desired the impossible.   Apart from the fact that by prayer you will be helping greatly, you need not be desiring to benefit the whole world but must concentrate on those who are in your company, and thus your deed will be greater since you are more obliged toward them. Do you think such deep humility, your mortification, service of all and great charity toward them, and love of the Lord is of little benefit? This fire of love in you enkindles their souls, and with every other virtue you will be always awakening them. Such service will not be small but very great and very pleasing to the Lord. By what you do in deed - that which you can - His Majesty will understand that you would do much more. Thus he will give you the reward he would if you had gained many souls for Him.
      "You will say that such service does not convert souls because all the Sisters you deal with are already good. Who has appointed you judge in this matter? The better they are the more pleasing their praises will be to our Lord and the mroe their prayer will profit their neighbor.
       "In sum, my Sisters, what I conclude with is that we shouldn't build castles in the air. The Lord doesn't look so much at the greatness of our works as at the love with which they are done. And if we do what we can, His majesty will enable us each day to do more and more, provided that we do not quickly tire. But during the little while this life lasts - and perhaps it will last a shorter time than each one thinks - let us offer the Lord interiorly and exteriorly the sacrifice we can. His Majesty will join it with that which He offered on the cross to the Father for us. Thus even though our works are small they will have the value our love for Him would have merited had they been great.
    "May it please His majesty, my Sisters and daughters, that we reach that place where we may ever praise Him. Through the merits of His Son who lives and reigns forever and ever, may He give me the grace to carry out something of what I tell you, amen. For I tell you that my confusion is great, and thus I ask you through the same Lord that in your prayers you do not forget this poor wretch."

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