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Catholic Spiritual Direction

I am stuck in my spiritual growth… how do I get unstuck? This is frustrating! Part II of II

Dear Sister Carmen, I feel like I am stuck in somewhere in mansion one or two. Is this normal? Where do most people get stuck in the journey through the mansions and is there any common way you can suggest that we get unstuck? Maybe I am just impatient. I feel like I should be growing but I am not.

In our first post in this two part series we talked about a few of the reasons we get stuck and touched on the key issues we often face in the first three mansions. In this post, we will provide a little summary of the first three mansions through a brief examination of conscience may help to determine just where you “feel stuck”. Perhaps the following will be of some help.

Since one enters the Castle through the gate of prayer the person entering the first mansion already feels drawn to prayer. Teresa does not talk much about prayer in the first three mansions but she does talk about what may help or hinder prayer.

First Mansion

  • How generous are you in the development of your prayer life?
  • Are you growing in the poverty of self-knowledge which in turn helps you to know God better?
  • What for you are occasions of sin and what determined means do you take to avoid them?
  • How frequently do you avail yourself of the sacrament of confession?

Second Mansion

  • How are you strengthening the practice of virtue?
  • Is your prayer becoming more simplified?
  • Are you growing in a healthy concept of perfection?
  • Do you quiet your own voice in order to discern the gentle voice of God?
  • Do you seek guidance in learning to conform your will to God’s?

Third Mansion

In the third mansion we see that true conformity with God’s Will is reached only when our “false gods” (centers of our lives) die and integration takes place not only in relation among these centers, but new life emerges as a result. “Unless the seed falls into the ground and dies…”

  • Are you desirous not to offend God even by venial sin?
  • Do you eagerly perform penance?
  • Do you spend quality time in prayer?
  • Do you use your time well?
  • Is your life orderly?
  • Do you practice works of charity?

Teresa speaks of seven mansions or main rooms. But there are rooms within each mansion. Our movement within these “rooms” is fluid not static. Although we may spend more time in one room than in another we tend to move in and out and may have brief glimpses of rooms to come, if the Lord chooses.

This whole process is about change or transformation. Change can take place only through our generosity and willingness to surrender. In the example of our butterfly above there are four main life cycles: 1) the egg or beginning stage; 2) the caterpillar or growth stage; 3) the chrysalis or transformation stage; and 4) the adult or perfected stage. We might compare the growth stage here of the caterpillar to the first three mansions. Without this growth the transformation might never take place and thus perfection would be stunted.

This is all a preparation for what lies beyond the first three mansions which is God’s to give not ours to produce.

 

PS: To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters visit our web site: www.carmelitesistersocd.com and for more information please contact the sisters at contact@carmelitesistersocd.com, or 626-289-1353 Ext. 246, 920 East Alhambra Road, Alhambra, California 91801.

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  • Cjbruner17

    Sister Carmen, you defined these 1st 3 mansions so simply…. can you  define the other 4 and talk about the rooms within a room at some point?  thank you for your wonderful insight on this subject =)

  • judeen

    this is so important in our lives… and the steps in the faith of walk get harder.. till we get to the center of our hearts and past…. so all the room in our hearts and souls are for God… I have found in my walk .. I need to forgive.. even the kids on the play ground for the most littlest things that hurt me.. and I still hang on… for the teachers that were mean , or ignored me.. so I never exceled in my life.. for each time one goes deeper God shows a wound one must repair in ones life.. or what makes me mad… why? connected to may past. ? what hurts me? a rememinder of a wound from the past? or is it vantity? or pride? why do I want to acceive so much… is it because it makes life good or is it greed or envey… or even I was really poor in the past -envey…. each time 1 over comes a fault.. 1 grows in HOlyness

  • Piobaire

    Can someone expand this a little more for me: “Are you growing in the poverty of self-knowledge which in turn helps you to know God better”?
    How is self knowledge poverty and how does it help us to know God better?

    • Becky Ward

      I’m with you here!!  The word poverty means a lack of something.  I understand that in a spiritual sense, sometimes there are paradoxes that when we reflect on them in prayer we can understand.  I ‘think’ I almost have a grasp on the ‘poor in spirit’ equating with humility.

      In this case however, poverty, or lack of self-knowledge is not making sense to me – aren’t we supposed to grow in self-knowledge as we progress on the path of holiness?

      I like Mary’s explanation in her comment……..yet I see her understanding that she can do nothing without God as an increase in self-knowledge…….not poverty.

      Help!  What do I have twisted or mixed up here?

    • Paulusberendt

      self-knowledge make one to realise that we need the wealth only GOD can make available.

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  • Mary

    My poverty of self knowledge is knowing that I can do nothing without the grace of God.  The more I become aware of my disordered desires, weaknesses of character, and sin in my life, the more I must surrender to Our Lord to transform me.  I have no power to change myself, therefore, I must surrender and rely on God alone to bring awareness and grace to conform to His Holy and Perfect Will. 

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Very well said

    • Clare

      Daughter,
      say Transfigured in My Love
      then My Transformation can take place
      If not, your obedience to Me will only be short lived and most likely you will meet your disobedience,
      sooner than you think

      My Lord, You Teach Well,
      Unless one is Transfigured and Transformed in Jesus Christ any attempts to place self, sin, and temptation,altogether away, will only be short lived and most likely you will meet them again,
      sooner than you think

      Clare

  • judeen

      poverty….       self knowledge is learning what is keeping you away from God and union with God.. as I grow , in seeking God , it is the hidden things with in me come out.. suddenly I will remember when I was a child and some one hurt me.. or suddenly , I will have a vision of a sin I did when I was a child.. or realing to me why I get mad or hate something.. an old wound so deep , forgotten yet it affects my personality and life… each 1 needs to forgiven , repaired… so too the things that bother us ,- no longer bother us.. a peace,, nothing can steal it.. the devil will try over and over to remind you… stay forgiven.. he will give up.. and spiritual gifts will be given…   to you from God… we only can handle so much.. the deeper the wound the harder it is to over come.. then we let go our accomplishment… for we give up our will to do Gods will, people start to see God instead of you.. His love His kindness ,  poverty.. less of me more of God… a rejoicing..
      

  • akpennongun_tarbunde

    Brethren,

    There is unity of themes in Catholic Spiritual Exercises.

    What may appear unclear (making us feel stuck), may be checked up in another ‘format’ of Catholic spiritual exercises, e.g., the Carmelite may be cross-referenced with the St. Ignatius of Loyola spiritual exercises, & vice versa, including Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ.

    Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s simplified teaching/classes on the Ignatian spiritual discernment on EWTN.com, may be helpful hints, when stucked in devotional prayers.

    My darlings of books are: St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, & +Fulton Sheen’s Lift Up Your Heart.

    So, please, we may try & look up a matter in a similar spiritual exercise text of our Church.
    The themes are the same, whether we wish to spiritually climb Mt. Carmel, or the Ladder of Perfection.

    May the grace & guide of the Holy Spirit remain with us. 

  • Jill

    Mary, I love your comment about knowing that we can do nothing without the grace of God.  For me, poverty of self knowledge means learning to depend less on my own understanding & knowledge of things & more on trying to trust in the will of God for my life (knowing God better).  In the past, when I was confronted with a problem, my first reaction was to try to “solve” it based on my own understanding of things.  It’s only recently that I’ve been able to say “Lord, I lay this at your feet.  I don’t know the answer to this problem.  Show me your will for my life & help me be obedient to it.”  There are many Scripture passages I could  quote here, but the one that speaks to me the most is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)

  • Rowenalitorja

    The gate of entry is Prayer, prayer is the door that opens up into the mystery of God. We must trust to Jesus who will enable us to see and enjoy the beauty of His mystery. But in order to give ourselves to him we must first learn to know him as the divine lover. God turned to the Soul in love. We shall never completely know ourselves if we don’t strive to know God. Journey to the mansion can be obtain if we desire
    it, this desire cannot be a matter of words only, Souls must undergo many trials, including dryness in prayer( St Teresa, Interior Castle). Teresa thinks undue concern about dryness is a sign of lack of humility. We prove our love by deeds, and determination of our wills. We needs God’s loving mercy

  • LizEst

    Sister Carmen,

    Many here have a question on the term you used “growing in the poverty of self-knowledge.”  Would you please provide an explanation of that…as well as sketch out the other mansions as you have done with the first few here.

    As best as I can understand it, the poverty of self-knowledge would be that the more one grows in self-knowledge, the more one growns iin knowing how poor one is before God and how utterly dependent on God one is.  That’s where, I think, the growth in the poverty of self-knowledge comes from.

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    Thank you, Sister Carmen.  Though the “Theology of the Mansions”  and the writings of the Doctors and Fathers of the Church are at times,  way over this old lady’s head, the Stages you explain here are clearly understandable to me.   I can, by reading them, touch base and try to discern when I am failing and where I need God’s Grace to  move on.

    But this oldie properly understands, and is able to strive to live the simple Theology of Saint Faustina Kowalska….she tried to emulate her Divine Friendship with Jesus, which she gives to us in her Diary – “Divine Mercy in My Soul”….

    As for how my Spiritual growth is progressing……well, I leave that at the Feet of Jesus…..I always remind Him that we do not have much time and He must help me daily to stay on course, frequent slippings and falls notwithstanding….But the sure knowledge that He wont’s leave me alone is truly consoling……..and our love-filled personal encounters during the daily 3.00 O’Clock Holy Hour, praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and offering Intercessory Prayers for those who have asked me to pray for them, followed by another Hour of just quietly sitting before Him, ending the day with the Holy Mass and, of course, the Holy Communion are the best moments in my life…..just as our precious weekly encounters in His Tribunal of Mercy cements our Relationship, the daily Prayer Schedule of the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, and the Divine Office, does cover what, Sister, you explain in the Third Mansion!!!!!! 
    Taking  His Message of Divine Mercy wherever He sends us – the  Apostolate to which He has called me – is a cherished Service we joyfully fulfill through His Strength and the Holy Spirit’s Inspirations….in short, though deficient in deep Theology, I believe Jesus is guiding me to where He wants me to be even if, at times, I am totally clueless of the Routes He is taking me through…..The greatest joy I have is that, through my Intercessory Prayers, my children have developed very strong Faith in God since each time when, in desperation, they have asked Mummy to go on her knees, Jesus has come through for them…..only last week one of my daughters sent me a joyful sms, after  grave problems they were facing with her husband regarding the education  of their two children were sorted out beyond their expectations proclaiming……”Halleluiya,  Jesus Lives!!!!!.  Mummy, you must have sent your Prayers by sms!!!!!!” 

  • MIchelle

    thank you sister for such a concise and useful guide! You have made the mysterious mansions come alive to me!!!

  • Smcolombiereocd

    This is in response to some requests put forth both as to what is meant by the poverty of self knowledge and wanting to explore also the higher mansions:
     
    Human activity is doing our part in preparation for intimate communion with God. Part of this human activity is our coming to self-knowledge and our human attempts at prayer. Self knowledge must be rooted in humility and humility opens our eyes to the poverty of our situation. We all know the frustration of trying to keep our good resolutions or persevere in prayer when consolations are absent or we are caught up in the endless concerns of life.  We are part of a society which places much emphasis on methods and do-it-yourself techniques and while this may have its place in some arenas, when it is carried over into our spiritual lives it can be quite discouraging. God does want us to do our part but He also wants us to admit that we can only go so far and then we must trust Him to supply what is lacking and move us to the next level. Jesus chided Martha not because she wanted to be at His service and provide suitable welcome for Him but rather because she tried to decide His needs and worked herself up into a frenzy. Had she better self knowledge at that point in time, she could have provided hospitality for Him and also been nourished by Him.
    Let me take an example from St. Bernadette. When her family found it necessary to move to “Le Cachot” (a 12-foot square former prison) they had sunk to a wretched form of poverty. The dress that Bernadette wore was old and worn, but always clean, neat and meticulously mended. Poverty did not rob her of human dignity. She provided the human activity to maintain that dignity and God clothed her soul in the beauty of faith, abandonment and love. She knew the poverty of her external and interior being, did what was humanly possible and trusted in God to act in her. This brought Bernadette to know God better. Anyone who has read the responses of Bernadette to questions asked of her realizes that with the very meager education she had these responses were not from textbooks, rather they were God’s revealing Himself to her.
    St. Teresa of Avila has told us that most persons spend a very long time in these first 3 mansions, thus we are moving slowly through them. That means exploring the rooms within each mansion, such as “getting stuck in patterns of sin” “dealing with pesky reptiles”, “depression”, “frustration”, “attachments”, etc. These are some of the rooms we have explored and there are many others before going into the higher mansions.
     
    Sister Carmen Laudis

    • Becky Ward

      By Jove!  I think I’ve got it!!  :)  Thank you Sister Carmen.

      Growth in self-knowledge shows us how poorly equipped or incapable (poverty) we are of doing anything without God.  More self-knowledge leads to deeper understanding of this truth, thus we grow in this “poverty of self-knowledge”.

      Yes?

    • LizEst

       Thank you Sister Carmen.  What we’ve been waiting to here.

    • http://www.marythedefender.wordpress.com MariaGo

      Really needed to hear that Martha example. Thank You!

  • C J Sebastian333

    Sister Carmen: 2 questions please… When one knows that God exists, experientially, it’s not really faith is it? Faith is believing God exists, knowing is another story. Having experienced God in a “gentle breeze,” can I call faith Trust instead? It’s almost as if Trust (or issues that revolve around Trust) have replaced Faith. Hard to explain in words that which is beyond words… but when one comes to “know” God, has faith been transformed into something else or something more?

    I cannot unexperience anything in this life, I can’t go back… but only forward… now St. John of the Cross comes to mind. I think that what Theresa and John had to share combined, was completed by the other in some ways. Prayer without trust, faith without works, etc., are not complete without the other. All is grace. So here is the other part of my question: When one knows God and sins, is the sin twice the offense than before one came to know God?

    My “surrender” in some ways has become (at this point in time), an acknowledgement that: There is nothing greater than God’s love, no greater love than Jesus, and that I must place ALL my trust in Jesus and not limit His Mercy in any way by any lack of trust on my part. Your thoughts please?

  • Smcolombiereocd

    Dear C J Sebastian333,
     
    Your questions are important but would take a very lengthy response here. The Catechism of the Catholic Church certainly addresses your question of whether you can call Faith Trust instead. Let me refer you to the section on the theological virtues: #1814 on Faith; #1817 on Hope (trust) and # 1822 on Charity (love). You will see there that Faith is our belief in what God has revealed; based on this belief Hope then is the desire we have for eternal life. You may want to go back also to #153-158. We can know God exists through our human intellect but faith reveals God to us in a way that makes us want to have an intimate relationship with Him. Human reason and faith act together since both are given to us by God.
    Your final question “When one knows God and sins, is the sin twice the offense than before one came to know God?”  Knowledge brings responsibility, therefore with knowledge we are more accountable but we cannot measure that quantitatively. There is an objective guilt in transgression, but only God knows the degree to which we are guilty since many other factors enter into the circumstances of the transgression.
     
    If you do not have a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church you can go online to the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va

    SIster Carmen Laudis

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