Friday, May 9, 2014

THE INTERIOR CASTLE



By St. Theresa of Avila

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INTRODUCTION

1.  RARELY has obedience laid upon me so difficult a task as this of writing about prayer;  for one reason, because I do not feel that God has given me either the power or the desire for it, besides which, during the last three months I have suffered from noises and a great weakness in my head that have made it painful for me to write even on necessary business." 
     
2.  However, as I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible, my will submits with a good grace, although nature seems greatly distressed, for God has not given me such strength as to bear, without repugnance, the constant struggle against illness while performing many different duties.  May He, Who has helped me in other more difficult matters, aid me with His grace in this, for I trust in His mercy.  I think I have but little to say that has not already been put forth in my other works written under obedience; in fact, I fear this will be but repetition of them.  I am like a parrot which has learnt to talk;  only knowing what it has been taught or has heard, it repeats the same thing over and over again. If God wishes me to write anything new, He will teach it  me, or bring back to my memory what I have said elsewhere. I should be content even with this, for as I am very forgetful, I should be glad to be able to recall some of the matters about which people say I have spoken well, lest they should be altogether lost.  If our Lord will not even grant me this, still, if I weary my brains and increase my headache by striving to obey, I shall gain in merit, though my words should be useless to any one.  So I begin this work on the Feast of the Blessed Trinity in the year 1577, in the Convent of St. Joseph of Carmel at Toledo, where I am living, and I submit all my writings to the judgment of those learned men by whose commands I undertake them.  That it will be the fault of ignorance, not malice, if I say anything contrary to the doctrine of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, may be held as certain. By God’s goodness I am, and always shall be, faithful to the Church, as I have been in the past. 

May He be for ever blessed and glorified.  
Amen.
     
3.  He who bids me write this, tells me that the nuns of these convents of our Lady of Carmel need some one to solve their difficulties about Prayer:  he thinks that women understand one anothers language best and that my sisters' affection for me would make them pay special attention to my words, therefore it is important for me to explain the subject clearly to them.  Thus I am writing only to my sisters;  the idea that any one else could benefit by what I say would be absurd.  Our Lord will be doing me a great favour if He enables me to help but one of the nuns to praise Him a little better;  His Majesty knows well that I have no other aim.  If anything is to the point, they will understand that it does not originate from me and there is no reason to attributed it to me, as with my scant understanding and skill I could write nothing of the sort, unless God, in His mercy, enabled me to do so.
 


A Discerning Hearts Recording read by Kris McGregor



FIRST MANSION - CHAPTER 1



By Saint Theresa of Avila
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1.  WHILE I was begging our Lord to-day to speak for me, since I knew not what to say nor how to commence this work which obedience has laid upon me, an idea occurred to me which I will explain, and which will serve as a foundation for that I am about to write.
     
2.  I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal, and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions.  If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight.  What, do you imagine, must that dwelling be in which a King so mighty, so wise, and so pure, containing in Himself all good, can delight to rest?  Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul;  however keen our intellects may be, they are as unable to comprehend them as to comprehend God, for, as He has told us, He created us in His own image and likeness.
     
3.  As this is so, we need not tire ourselves by trying to realize all the beauty of this castle, although, being His creature, there is all the difference between the soul and God that there is between the creature and the Creator;  the fact that it is made in God’s image teaches us how great are its dignity and loveliness.  It is no small misfortune and disgrace that, through our own fault, we neither understand our nature nor our origin.  Would it not be gross ignorance, my daughters, if, when a man was questioned about his name, or country, or parents, he could not answer?  Stupid as this would be, it is unspeakably more foolish to care to learn nothing of our nature except that we possess bodies, and only to realize vaguely that we have souls, because people say so and it is a doctrine of faith.  Rarely do we reflect upon what gifts our souls may possess, Who dwells within them, or how extremely precious they are.  Therefore we do little to preserve their beauty;  all our care is concentrated on our bodies, which are but the coarse setting of the diamond, or the outer walls of the castle.
     
4.  Let us imagine, as I said, that there are many rooms in this castle, of which some are above, some below, others at the side;  in the centre, in the very midst of them all, is the principal chamber in which God and the soul hold their most secret intercourse.  Think over this comparison very carefully;  God grant it may enlighten you about the different kinds of graces He is pleased to bestow upon the soul.  No one can know all about them, much less a person so ignorant as I am.  The knowledge that such things are possible will console you greatly should our Lord ever grant you any of these favours;  people themselves deprived of them can then at least praise Him for His great goodness in bestowing them on others. The thought of heaven and the happiness of the saints does us no harm, but cheers and urges us to win this joy for ourselves, nor will it injure us to know that during this exile God can communicate Himself to us loathsome worms;  it will rather make us love Him for such immense goodness and infinite mercy.
     
5.  I feel sure that vexation at thinking that during our life on earth God can bestow these graces on the souls of others shows a want of humility and charity for one’s neighbour, for why should we not feel glad at a brother’s receiving divine favours which do not deprive us of our own share? Should we not rather rejoice at His Majesty’s thus manifesting His greatness wherever He chooses?Sometimes our Lord acts thus solely for the sake of showing His power, as He declared when the Apostles questioned whether the blind man whom He cured had been suffering for his own or his parents’ sins.  God does not bestow these favours on certain souls because they are more holy than others who do not receive them, but to manifest His greatness, as in the case of St. Paul and St. Mary Magdalen, and that we may glorify Him in His creatures.
     
6.  People may say such things appear impossible and it is best not to scandalize the weak in faith by speaking about them. But it is better that the latter should disbelieve us, than that we should desist from enlightening souls which receive these graces, that they may rejoice and may endeavour to love God better for His favours, seeing He is so mighty and so great. There is no danger here of shocking those for whom I write by treating of such matters, for they know and believe that God gives even greater proofs of His love.  I am certain that if any one of you doubts the truth of this, God will never allow her to learn it by experience, for He desires that no limits should be set to His work:  therefore, never discredit them because you are not thus led yourselves.
     
7.  Now let us return to our beautiful and charming castle and discover how to enter it.  This appears incongruous:  if this castle is the soul, clearly no one can have to enter it, for it is the person himself:  one might as well tell some one to go into a room he is already in!  There are, however, very different ways of being in this castle;  many souls live in the courtyard of the building where the sentinels stand, neither caring to enter farther, nor to know who dwells in that most delightful place, what is in it and what rooms it contains.
     
8.  Certain books on prayer that you have read advise the soul to enter into itself, and this is what I mean. I was recently told by a great theologian that souls without prayer are like bodies, palsied and lame, having hands and feet they cannot use.  Just so, there are souls so infirm and accustomed to think of nothing but earthly matters, that there seems no cure for them.  It appears impossible for them to retire into their own hearts; accustomed as they are to be with the reptiles and other creatures which live outside the castle, they have come at last to imitate their habits. Though these souls are by their nature so richly endowed, capable of communion even with God Himself, yet their case seems hopeless. Unless they endeavour to understand and remedy their most miserable plight, their minds will become, as it were, bereft of movement, just as Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt for looking backwards in disobedience to God’s command.
     
9.  As far as I can understand, the gate by which to enter this castle is prayer and meditation. I do not allude more to mental than to vocal prayer, for if it is prayer at all, the mind must take part in it. If a person neither considers to Whom he is addressing himself, what he asks, nor what he is who ventures to speak to God, although his lips may utter many words, I do not call it prayer.  Sometimes, indeed, one may pray devoutly without making all these considerations through having practised them at other times.  The custom of speaking to God Almighty as freely as with a slave—caring nothing whether the words are suitable or not, but simply saying the first thing that comes to mind from being learnt by rote by frequent repetition—cannot be called prayer:  God grant that no Christian may address Him in this manner. I trust His Majesty will prevent any of you, sisters, from doing so. Our habit in this Order of conversing about spiritual matters is a good preservative against such evil ways.
     
10.  Let us speak no more of these crippled souls, who are in a most miserable and dangerous state, unless our Lord bid them rise, as He did the palsied man who had waited more than thirty years at the pool of Bethsaida.  We will now think of the others who at last enter the precincts of the castle; they are still very worldly, yet have some desire to do right, and at times, though rarely, commend themselves to God’s care.  They think about their souls every now and then;  although very busy, they pray a few times a month, with minds generally filled with a thousand other matters, for where their treasure is, there is their heart also.  Still, occasionally they cast aside these cares; it is a great boon for them to realize to some extent the state of their souls, and to see that they will never reach the gate by the road they are following.
     
11.  At length they enter the first rooms in the basement of the castle, accompanied by numerous reptiles which disturb their peace, and prevent their seeing the beauty of the building; still, it is a great gain that these persons should have found their way in at all.
     
12.  You may think, my daughters, that all this does not concern you, because, by God's grace, you are farther advanced;  still, you must be patient with me, for I can explain myself on some spiritual matters concerning prayer in no other way.  May our Lord enable me to speak to the point;  the subject is most difficult to understand without personal experience of such graces.  Any one who has received them will know how impossible it is to avoid touching on subjects which, by the mercy of God, will never apply to us. 



Discerning Hearts Recording read by Kris McGregor


FIRST MANSION - CHAPTER 2



By St. Theresa of Avila
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1.  BEFORE going farther, I wish you to consider the state to which mortal sin brings this magnificent and beautiful castle, this pearl of the East, this tree of life, planted beside the living waters of life which symbolize God Himself. No night can be so dark, no gloom nor blackness can compare to its obscurity.  Suffice it to say that the sun in the centre of the soul, which gave it such splendour and beauty, is totally eclipsed, though the spirit is as fitted to enjoy God’s presence as is the crystal to reflect the sun.
     
2.  While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it;  none of its good works merit an eternal reward, since they do not proceed from God as their first principle, and by Him alone is our virtue real virtue.  The soul separated from Him is no longer pleasing in His eyes, because by committing a mortal sin, instead of seeking to please God, it prefers to gratify the devil, the prince of darkness, and so comes to share his blackness.  I knew a person to whom our Lord revealed the result of a mortal sin and who said she thought no one who realized its effects could ever commit it, but would suffer unimaginable torments to avoid it.  This vision made her very desirous for all to grasp this truth, therefore I beg you, my daughters, to pray fervently to God for sinners, who live in blindness and do deeds of darkness.
     
3.  In a state of grace the soul is like a well of limpid water, from which flow only streams of clearest crystal. Its works are pleasing both to God and man, rising from the River of Life, beside which it is rooted like a tree.  Otherwise it would produce neither leaves nor fruit, for the waters of grace nourish it, keep it from withering from drought, and cause it to bring forth good fruit.  But the soul by sinning withdraws from this stream of life, and growing beside a black and fetid pool, can produce nothing but disgusting and unwholesome fruit.  Notice that it is not the fountain and the brilliant sun which lose their splendour and beauty, for they are placed in the very centre of the soul and cannot be deprived of their lustre. The soul is like a crystal in the sunshine over which a thick black cloth has been thrown, so that however brightly the sun may shine the crystal can never reflect it.
     
4.  O souls, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ, take these things to heart;  have mercy on yourselves! If you realize your pitiable condition, how can you refrain from trying to remove the darkness from the crystal of your souls? Remember, if death should take you now, you would never again enjoy the light of this Sun.  O Jesus! how sad a sight must be a soul deprived of light! What a terrible state the chambers of this castle are in! How disorderly must be the senses—the inhabitants of the castle—the powers of the soul its magistrates, governors, and stewards—blind and uncontrolled as they are!  In short, as the soil in which the tree is now planted is in the devil’s domain, how can its fruit be anything but evil?  A man of great spiritual insight once told me he was not so much surprised at such a soul’s wicked deeds as astonished that it did not commit even worse sins. May God in His mercy keep us from such great evil, for nothing in this life merits the name of evil in comparison with this, which delivers us over to evil which is eternal.

5.  This is what we must dread and pray God to deliver us from, for we are weakness itself, and unless He guards the city, in vain shall we labour to defend it.  The person of whom I spoke said that she had learnt two things from the vision granted her.  The first was, a great fear of offending God; seeing how terrible were the consequences, she constantly begged Him to preserve her from falling into sin. Secondly, it was a mirror to teach her humility, for she saw that nothing good in us springs from ourselves but comes from the waters of grace near which the soul remains like a tree planted beside a river, and from that Sun which gives life to our works.  She realized this so vividly that on seeing any good deed performed by herself or by other people she at once turned to God as to its fountain head—without whose help she knew well we can do nothing—and broke out into songs of praise to Him. Generally she forgot all about herself and only thought of God when she did any meritorious action.

6.  The time which has been spent in reading or writing on this subject will not have been lost if it has taught us these two truths; for though learned, clever men know them perfectly, women’s wits are dull and need help in every way. Perhaps this is why our Lord has suggested these comparisons to me; may He give us grace to profit by them!

7.  So obscure are these spiritual matters that to explain them an ignorant person like myself must say much that is superfluous, and even alien to the subject, before coming to the point. My readers must be patient with me, as I am with myself while writing what I do not understand; indeed, I often take up the paper like a dunce, not knowing what to say, nor how to begin. Doubtless there is need for me to do my best to explain these spiritual subjects to you, for we often hear how beneficial prayer is for our souls; our Constitutions oblige us to pray so many hours a day, yet tell us nothing of what part we ourselves can take in it and very little of the work God does in the soul by its means.  It will be helpful, in setting it before you in various ways, to consider this heavenly edifice within us, so little understood by men, near as they often come to it. Our Lord gave me grace to understand something of such matters when I wrote on them before, yet I think I have more light now, especially on the more difficult questions. Unfortunately I am too ignorant to treat of such subjects without saying much that is already well known.

8.  Now let us turn at last to our castle with its many mansions.  You must not think of a suite of rooms placed in succession, but fix your eyes on the keep, the court inhabited by the King.  Like the kernel of the palmito, from which several rinds must be removed before coming to the eatable part, this principal chamber is surrounded by many others.  However large, magnificent, and spacious you imagine this castle to be, you cannot exaggerate it; the capacity of the soul is beyond all our understanding, and the Sun within this palace enlightens every part of it.

9.  A soul which gives itself to prayer, either much or little, should on no account be kept within narrow bounds.  Since God has given it such great dignity, permit it to wander at will through the rooms of the castle, from the lowest to the highest. Let it not force itself to remain for very long in the same mansion, even that of self-knowledge. Mark well, however, that self-knowledge is indispensable, even for those whom God takes to dwell in the same mansion with Himself.  Nothing else, however elevated, perfects the soul which must never seek to forget its own nothingness.  Let humility be always at work, like the bee at the honeycomb, or all will be lost.  But, remember, the bee leaves its hive to fly in search of flowers and the soul should sometimes cease thinking of itself to rise in meditation on the grandeur and majesty of its God. It will learn its own baseness better thus than by self-contemplation, and will be freer from the reptiles which enter the first room where self-knowledge is acquired. Although it is a great grace from God to practise self-examination, yet ‘too much is as bad as too little,’ as they say; believe me, by God’s help, we shall advance more by contemplating the Divinity than by keeping our eyes fixed on ourselves, poor creatures of earth that we are.

10.  I do not know whether I have put this clearly; self-knowledge is of such consequence that I would not have you careless of it, though you may be lifted to heaven in prayer, because while on earth nothing is more needful than humility.  Therefore, I repeat, not only a good way, but the best of all ways, is to endeavour to enter first by the room where humility is practised, which is far better than at once rushing on to the others.  This is the right road;—if we know how easy and safe it is to walk by it, why ask for wings with which to fly?  Let us rather try to learn how to advance quickly.  I believe we shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavouring to know God, for, beholding His greatness we are struck by our own baseness, His purity shows our foulness, and by meditating on His humility we find how very far we are from being humble.

11.  Two advantages are gained by this practice.  First, it is clear that white looks far whiter when placed near something black, and on the contrary, black never looks so dark as when seen beside something white. Secondly, our understanding and will become more noble and capable of good in every way when we turn from ourselves to God: it is very injurious never to raise our minds above the mire of our own faults. I described how murky and fetid are the streams that spring from the source of a soul in mortal sin.  Thus (although the case is not really the same, God forbid! this is only a comparison), while we are continually absorbed in contemplating the weakness of our earthly nature, the springs of our anions will never flow free from the mire of timid, weak, and cowardly thoughts, such as:  ‘I wonder whether people are noticing me or not!  If I follow this course, will harm come to me?  Dare I begin this work?  Would it not be presumptuous?  Is it right for any one as faulty as myself to speak on sublime spiritual subjects?  Will not people think too well of me, if I make myself singular?  Extremes are bad, even in virtue;  sinful as I am I shall only fall the lower. Perhaps I shall fail and be a source of scandal to good people;  such a person as I am has no need of peculiarities.’
  
12.  Alas, my daughters, what loss the devil must have caused to many a soul by such thoughts as these!  It thinks such ideas and many others of the same sort I could mention arise from humility. This comes from not understanding our own nature;  self-knowledge becomes so warped that, unless we take our thoughts off ourselves, I am not surprised that these and many worse fears should threaten us.  Therefore I maintain, my daughters, that we should fix our eyes on Christ our only good, and on His saints;  there we shall learn true humility, and our minds will be ennobled, so that self-knowledge will not make us base and cowardly.  Although only the first, this mansion contains great riches and such treasures that if the soul only manages to elude the reptiles dwelling here, it cannot fail to advance farther.  Terrible are the wiles and strata-gems the devil uses to hinder people from realizing their weakness and detecting his snares.


13.  From personal experience I could give you much information as to what happens in these first mansions. I will only say that you must not imagine there are only a few, but a number of rooms, for souls enter them by many different ways, and always with a good intention. The devil is so angry at this that he keeps legions of evil spirits hidden in each room to stop the progress of Christians, whom, being ignorant of this, he entraps in a thousand ways.  He cannot so easily deceive souls which dwell nearer to the King as he can beginners still absorbed in the world, immersed in its pleasures, and eager for its honours and distinctions.  As the vassals of their souls, the senses and powers bestowed on them by God, are weak, such people are easily vanquished, although desirous not to offend God.


14.  Those conscious of being in this state must as often as possible have recourse to His Majesty, taking His Blessed Mother and the saints for their advocates to do battle for them, because we creatures possess little strength for self-defence. Indeed in every state of life all our help must come from God; may He in His mercy grant it us, Amen!  What a miserable life we lead!  As I have spoken more fully in other writings on the ill that results from ignoring the need of humility and self-knowledge, I will treat no more about it here, my daughters, although it is of the first importance.  God grant that what I have said may be useful to you.


15.  You must notice that the light which comes from the King’s palace hardly shines at all in these first mansions;  although not as gloomy and black as the soul in mortal sin, yet they are in semi-darkness, and their inhabitants see scarcely anything. I cannot explain myself;  I do not mean that this is the fault of the mansions themselves, but that the number of snakes, vipers, and venomous reptiles from outside the castle prevent souls entering them from seeing the light.  They resemble a person entering a chamber full of brilliant sunshine, with eyes clogged and half closed with dust.  Though the room itself is light, he cannot see because of his self-imposed impediment. In the same way, these fierce and wild beasts blind the eyes of the beginner, so that he sees nothing but them.


16.  Such, it appears to me, is the soul which, though not in a state of mortal sin, is so worldly and preoccupied with earthly riches, honours, and affairs, that as I said, even if it sincerely wishes to enter into itself and enjoy the beauties of the castle, it is prevented by these distractions and seems unable to overcome so many obstacles.  It is most important to withdraw from all unnecessary cares and business, as far as compatible with the duties of one’s state of life, in order to enter the second mansion.  This is so essential, that unless done immediately I think it impossible for any one ever to reach the principal room, or even to remain where he is without great risk of losing what is already gained; otherwise, although he is inside the castle, he will find it impossible to avoid being bitten some time or other by some of the very venomous creatures surrounding him.


17.  What then would become of a religious like ourselves, my daughters, if, after having escaped from all these impediments, and having entered much farther into the more secret mansion, she should, by her own fault, return to all this turmoil? Through her sins, many other people on whom God had bestowed great graces would culpably relapse into their wretched state. In our convents we are free from these exterior evils;  please God our minds may be as free from them, and may He deliver us from such ills.


18.  Do not trouble yourselves, my daughters, with cares which do not concern you.  You must notice that the struggle with the demons continues through nearly all the mansions of this castle.  True, in some of them, the guards, which, as I explained, are the powers of the soul, have strength for the combat, but we must be keenly on the watch against the devils’s arts, lest he deceive us in the form of an angel of light.  He creeps in gradually, in numberless ways, and does us much harm, though we do not discover it until too late.


19.  As I said elsewhere,  he works like a file, secretly and silently wearing its way: I will give you some examples to show how he begins his wiles. For instance: a nun has such a longing for penance as to feel no peace unless she is tormenting herself in some way.  This is good in itself; but suppose that the Prioress has forbidden her to practise any mortifications without special leave, and the sister thinking that, in such a meritorious cause, she may venture to disobey, secretly leads such a life that she loses her health and cannot even fulfil the requirements of her rule—you see how this show of good ends.  Another nun is very zealous about religious perfection;  this is very right, but may cause her to think every small fault she sees in her sisters a serious crime, and to watch constantly whether they do anything wrong, that she may run to the Prioress to accuse them of it.  At the same time, may be she never notices her own shortcomings because of her great zeal about other people’s religious observance, while perhaps her sisters, not seeing her intention but only knowing of the watch she keeps on them, do not take her behaviour in good part.

20.  The devil’s chief aim here is to cool the charity and lessen the mutual affection of the nuns, which would injure them seriously.  Be sure, my daughters, that true perfection consists in the love of God and our neighbour, and the better we keep both these commandments, the more perfect we shall be.  The sole object of our Rule and Constitutions is to help us to observe these two laws.


21.  Indiscreet zeal about others must not be indulged in; it may do us much harm; let each one look to herself.  However, as I have spoken fully on this subject elsewhere,  I will not enlarge on it here, and will only beg you to remember the necessity of this mutual affection.  Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s if we are always criticizing trivial actions which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through ignorance of their motives.  See how much it costs to attain perfection!  Sometimes the devil tempts nuns in this way about the Prioress, which is still more dangerous.  Great prudence is then required, for if she disobeys the Rule or Constitutions the matter must not always be overlooked, but should be mentioned to her;  if, after this, she does not amend, the Superior of the Order should be informed of it.  It is true charity to speak in this case, as it would be if we saw our sisters commit a grave fault; to keep silence for fear that speech would be a temptation against charity, would be that very temptation itself.


22.  However, I must warn you seriously not to talk to each other about such things, lest the devil deceive you.  He would gain greatly by your doing so, because it would lead to the habit of detraction;  rather, as I said, state the matter to those whose duty it is to remedy it.  Thank God our custom here of keeping almost perpetual silence gives little opportunity for such conversations, still, it is well to stand ever on our guard.


Discerning Hearts Recording read by Kris McGregor

SECOND MANSION - CHAPTER 1



By St. Theresa of Avila
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1.  Now let us consider which are the souls that enter the second mansions, and what they do there: I do not wish to enlarge on this subject, having already treated it very fully elsewhere, for I could not avoid repeating myself, as my memory is very bad.  If I could state my ideas in another form they would not weary you, for we never tire of reading books on this subject, numerous as they are. 

2.  In this part of the castle are found souls which have begun to practise prayer;  they realize the importance of their not remaining in the first mansions, yet often lack determination to quit their present condition by avoiding occasions of sin, which is a very perilous state to be in.

3.  However, it is a great grace that they should sometimes make good their escape from the vipers and poisonous creatures around them and should understand the need of avoiding them. In some way these souls suffer a great deal more than those in the first mansions, although not in such danger, as they begin to understand their peril and there are great hopes of their entering farther into the castle.  I say that they suffer a great deal more, for those in an earlier stage are like deaf-mutes and are not so distressed at being unable to speak, while the others, who can hear but cannot talk, find it much harder.  At the same time, it is better not to be deaf, and a decided advantage to hear what is said to us. 

4.  These souls hear our Lord calling them, for as they approach nearer to where His Majesty dwells He proves a loving Neighbour, though they may still be engaged in the amusements and business, the pleasures and vanities of this world.  While in this state we continually fall into sin and rise again, for the creatures amongst whom we dwell are so venomous, so vicious, and so dangerous, that it is almost impossible to avoid being tripped up by them. Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him. So sweet is His voice, that the poor soul is disconsolate at being unable to follow His bidding at once, and therefore, as I said, suffers more than if it could not hear Him.

5.  I do not mean that divine communications and inspirations received in this mansion are the same as those I shall describe later on; God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways. Sometimes He calls souls by means of sickness or troubles, or by some truth He teaches them during prayer, for tepid as they may be in seeking Him, yet God holds them very dear.

6.  Do not think lightly, sisters, of this first grace, nor be downcast if you have not responded immediately to Our Lord’s voice, for His Majesty is willing to wait for us many a day and even many a year, especially when He sees perseverance and good desires in our hearts.  Perseverance is the first essential; with this we are sure to profit greatly.  However, the devils now fiercely assault the soul in a thousand different ways:  it suffers more than ever, because formerly it was mute and deaf, or at least could hear very little, and offered but feeble resistance, like one who has almost lost all hope of victory.

7.  Here, however, the understanding being more vigilant and the powers more on the alert, we cannot avoid hearing the fighting and cannonading around us. For now the devils set on us the reptiles, that is to say, thoughts about the world and its joys which they picture as unending;  they remind us of the high esteem men held us in, of our friends and relations;  they tell us how the penances which souls in this mansion always begin to wish to perform would injure our health:  in fine, the evil spirits place a thousand impediments in the way.

8.  O Jesus!  What turmoil the devils cause in the poor soul!  How unhappy it feels, not knowing whether to go forward or to return to the first mansion!  On the other hand, reason shows it the delusion of overrating worldly things, while faith teaches what alone can satisfy its cravings. Memory reminds the soul how all earthly joys end, recalling the death of those who lived at ease;  how some died suddenly and were soon forgotten, how others, once so prosperous, are now buried beneath the ground and men pass by the graves where they lie, the prey of worms, while the mind recalls many other such incidents.

9.  The will inclines to love Our Lord and longs to make some return to Him Who is so amiable, and Who has given so many proofs of His love, especially by His constant presence with the soul, which this faithful Lover never quits, ever accompanying it and giving it life and being.  The understanding aids by showing that however many years life might last, no one could ever wish for a better friend than God;  that the world is full of falsehood, and that the worldly pleasures pictured by the devil to the mind were but troubles and cares and annoyances in disguise.

10.  Reason convinces the soul that as outside its interior castle are found neither peace nor security, it should cease to seek another home abroad, its own being full of riches that it can enjoy at will.  Besides, it is not every one who, like itself, possesses all he needs within his own dwelling, and above all, such a Host, Who will give it all it can desire, unless, like the prodigal son, it chooses to go astray and feed with the swine.  Surely these arguments are strong enough to defeat the devil's wiles!  But, O my God, how the force of worldly habits and the example of others who practise them ruin everything!  Our faith is so dead that we trust less to its teaching than to what is visible, though, indeed, we see that worldly lives bring nothing but unhappiness.  All this results from those venomous thoughts  I described, which, unless we are very careful, will deform the soul as the sting of a viper poisons and swells the body. 

11.  When this happens, great care is evidently needed to cure it, and only God’s signal mercy prevents its resulting in death. Indeed, the soul passes through severe trials at this time, especially when the devil perceives from a person’s character and behaviour that she is likely to make very great progress, for then all hell will league together to force her to turn back.  O my Lord! what need there is here that, by Thy mercy, Thou shouldst prevent the soul from being deluded into forsaking the good begun!  Enlighten it to see that its welfare consists in perseverance in the right way, and in the withdrawing from bad company.

12.  It is of the utmost importance for the beginner to associate with those who lead a spiritual life,  and not only with those in the same mansion as herself, but with others who have travelled farther into the castle, who will aid her greatly and draw her to join them.  The soul should firmly resolve never to submit to defeat, for if the devil sees it staunchly determined to lose life and comfort and all that he can offer, rather than return to the first mansion, he will the sooner leave it alone.

13. Let the Christian be valiant;  let him not be like those who lay down to drink from the brook when they went to battle (I do not remember when).  Let him resolve to go forth to combat with the host of demons, and be convinced that there is no better weapon than the cross. I have already said, yet it is of such importance that I repeat it here:  let no one think on starting of the reward to be reaped:  this would be a very ignoble way of commencing such a large and stately building. If built on sand it would soon fall down.  Souls who acted thus would continually suffer from discouragement and temptations, for in these mansions no manna rains;  farther on, the soul is pleased with all that comes, because it desires nothing but what God wills.

14.  What a farce it is! Here are we, with a thousand obstacles, drawbacks, and imperfections within ourselves, our virtues so newly born that they have scarcely the strength to act (and God grant that they exist at all!) yet we are not ashamed to expect sweetness in prayer and to complain of feeling dryness.

15.  Do not act thus, sisters;  embrace the cross your Spouse bore on His shoulders;  know that your motto should be:  ‘Most happy she who suffers most if it be for Christ!’  All else should be looked upon as secondary:  if our Lord give it you, render Him grateful thanks.  You may imagine you would be resolute in enduring external trials if God gave you interior consolations: His Majesty knows best what is good for us;  it is not for us to advise Him how to treat us, for He has the right to tell us that we know not what we ask.  Remember, it is of the greatest importance—the sole aim of one beginning to practise prayer should be to endure trials, and to resolve and strive to the utmost of her power to conform her own will to the will of God.  Be certain that in this consists all the greatest perfection to be attained in the spiritual life, as I will explain later. She who practises this most perfectly will receive from God the highest reward and is the farthest advanced on the right road. Do not imagine that we have need of a cabalistic formula or any other occult or mysterious thing to attain it our whole welfare consists in doing the will of God.  If we start with the false principle of wishing God to follow our will and to lead us in the way we think best, upon what firm foundation can this spiritual edifice rest?

16.  Let us endeavour to do our best:  beware of the poisonous reptiles—that is to say, the bad thoughts and aridities which are often permitted by God to assail and torment us so that we cannot repel them.  Indeed, perchance we feel their sting!  He allows this to teach us to be more on our guard in the future and to see whether we grieve much at offending Him. Therefore if you occasionally lapse into sin, do not lose heart and cease trying to advance, for God will draw good even out of our falls, like the merchant who sells theriac, who first takes poison, then the theriac, to prove the power of his elixir.  This combat would suffice to teach us to amend our habits if we realized our failings in no other way, and would show us the injury we receive from a life of dissipation.  Can any evil be greater than that we find at home?  What peace can we hope to find elsewhere, if we have none within us?  What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul, which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?  These seem to wage war on us as if they knew the harm our vices had wrought them. ‘Peace, peace be unto you,’ my sisters, as our Lord said, and many a time proclaimed to His Apostles.  Believe me, if we neither possess nor strive to obtain this peace at home, we shall never find it abroad.

17.  By the blood which our Lord shed for us, I implore those who have not yet begun to enter into themselves, to stop this warfare: I beg those already started in the right path, not to let the combat turn them back from it. Let them reflect that a relapse is worse than a fall, and see what ruin it would bring. They should confide in God’s mercy, trusting nothing in themselves; then they will see how His Majesty will lead them from one mansion to another, and will set them in a place where these wild beasts can no more touch or annoy them, but will be entirely at their mercy and merely objects of ridicule.  Then, even in this life, they will enjoy a far greater happiness than they are able even to desire.

18.  As I said at the beginning of this work, I have explained elsewhere78 how you should behave when the devil thus disturbs you. I also told you that the habit of recollection is not to be gained by force of arms, but with calmness, which will enable you to practise it for a longer space of time.  I will say no more now, except that I think it very helpful for those of you who are beginners to consult persons experienced in such matters, lest you imagine that you are injuring yourselves by leaving your prayer to perform any necessary duties. This is not the case;  our Lord will direct such things to our profit, although we may have no one to counsel us.  The only remedy for having given up a habit of recollection is to recommence it, otherwise the soul will continue to lose it more and more every day, and God grant it may realize its danger.

19.  You may think, that if it is so very injurious to desist, it would have been better never to have begun, and to have remained outside the castle. But, as I began by saying, and as God Himself declares: ‘He that loves danger shall perish by it,’ and the door by which we must enter this castle is prayer. Remember, we must get to heaven, and it would be madness to think we could do so without sometimes retiring into our souls so as to know ourselves, or thinking of our failings and of what we owe to God, or frequently imploring His mercy.  Our Lord also says, ‘No man cometh to the Father but by Me’ (I am not sure whether this quotation is correct, but I think so), and, ‘He that seeth Me seeth the Father also.’

20.  If we never look up at Him and reflect on what we owe Him for having died for us, I do not understand how we can know Him, or perform good deeds in His service. What value is there in faith without works?  and what are they worth if they are not united to the merits of Jesus Christ, our only good?  What would incite us to love our Lord unless we thought of Him?  May He give us grace to understand how much we cost Him; that ‘the servant is not above his lord’;  that we must toil for Him if we would enjoy His glory;  and prayer is a necessity to prevent us from constantly falling into temptation.


Discerning Hearts Recording read by Kris McGregor

THIRD MANSION - CHAPTER 1


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1.  As for those who, by the mercy of God, have vanquished in these combats and persevered until they reached the third mansions, what can we say to them but ‘Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord’?  It is no small favour from God that I should be able to translate this verse into Spanish so as to explain its meaning, considering how dense I usually am in such matters.  We may well call these souls blessed, for, as far as we can tell, unless they turn back in their course they are on the safe road to salvation.  Now, my sisters, you see how important it is for them to conquer in their former struggles, for I am convinced that our Lord will henceforth never cease to keep them in security of conscience, which is no small boon.

2.  I am wrong in saying ‘security,’ for there is no security in this life;  understand that in such cases I always imply:  ‘If they do not cease to continue as they have begun.’  What misery to live in this world!  We are like men whose enemies are at the door, who must not lay aside their arms, even while sleeping or eating, and are always in dread lest the foe should enter the fortress by some breach in the walls.  O my Lord and my all!  How canst Thou wish us to prize such a wretched existence?  We could not desist from longing and begging Thee to take us from it, were it not for the hope of losing it for Thy sake or devoting it entirely to Thy service—and above all because we know it is Thy will that we should live.  Since it is so, ‘Let us die with Thee!’ as St. Thomas said, for to be away from Thee is but to die again and again, haunted as we are by the dread of losing Thee for ever!

3.  This is why I say, daughters, that we ought to ask our Lord as our boon to grant us one day to dwell in safety with the Saints, for with such fears, what pleasure can she enjoy whose only pleasure is to please God?  Remember, many Saints have felt this as we do, and were even far more fervent, yet fell into grave sin, and we cannot be sure that God would stretch forth His hand to raise us from sin again to do such penance as they performed. This applies to extraordinary grace.  Truly, my daughters, I feel such terror as I tell you this, that I know not how to write it, nor even how to go on living, when I reflect upon it as I very often do. Beg of His Majesty, my daughters, to abide within me, for otherwise, what security could I feel, after a life so badly spent as mine has been?

4.  Do not grieve at knowing this. I have often seen you troubled when I spoke about it, for you wish that my past had been a very holy one, in which you are right—indeed, I wish the same myself.  But what can be done, now that I have wasted it entirely through my own fault?  I have no right to complain that God withheld the aid I needed to fulfil your wishes.  It is impossible for me to write this without tears and great shame, when I see that I am explaining these matters to those capable of teaching me.  What a hard task has obedience laid, upon me!  God grant that, as I do it for Him, it may be of some service to you;  therefore beg Him to pardon me for my miserable presumption.

5.  His Majesty knows that I have nothing to rely upon but His mercy; as I cannot cancel the past, I have no other remedy but to flee to Him, and to confide in the merits of His Son and of His Virgin Mother, whose habit, unworthy as I am, I wear as you do also.  Praise Him, then, my daughters, for making you truly daughters of our Lady, so that you need not blush for my wickedness as you have such a good Mother.  Imitate her;  think how great she must be and what a blessing it is for you to have her for a patroness, since my sins and evil character have brought no tarnish on the lustre of our holy Order.

6.  Still I must give you one warning:  be not too confident because you are nuns and the daughters of such a Mother.  David was very holy, yet you know what Solomon became.  Therefore do not rely on your enclosure, on your penitential life, nor on your continual exercise of prayer and constant communion with God, nor trust in having left the world or in the idea that you hold its ways in horror.  All this is good, but is not enough, as I have already said, to remove all fear; therefore meditate on this text and often recall it: ‘Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord.’

7.  I do not recollect what I was saying, and have digressed very much:  for when I think of myself my mind cannot soar to higher things but is like a bird with broken wings;  so I will leave this subject for the present.

8.  To return to what I began to explain about the souls which have entered the third mansions. God has shown them no small favour, but a very great one, in enabling them to pass through the first difficulties. Thanks to His mercy I believe there are many such people in the world: they are very desirous not to offend His Majesty even by venial sins, they love penance and spend hours in meditation, they employ their time well, exercise themselves in works of charity to their neighbours, are well-ordered in their conversation and dress, and those who own a household govern it well. This is certainly to be desired, and there appears no reason to forbid their entrance to the last mansions; nor will our Lord deny it them if they desire it, for this is the right disposition for receiving all His favours.

9.  O Jesus! can any one declare that he does not desire this great blessing, especially after he has passed through the chief difficulties?  No; no one can!  We all say we desire it, but there is need of more than that for the Lord to possess entire dominion over the soul.  It is not enough to say so, any more than it was enough for the young man when our Lord told him what he must do if he desired to be perfect.  Since I began to speak of these dwelling-rooms I have him constantly before my mind, for we are exactly like him; this very frequently produces the great dryness we feel in prayer, though sometimes it proceeds from other causes as well.  I am not speaking of certain interior sufferings which give intolerable pain to many devout souls through no fault of their own; from these trials, however, our Lord always delivers them with much profit to themselves. I also except people who suffer from melancholy and other infirmities. But in these cases, as in all others, we must leave aside the judgments of God.

10.  I hold that these effects usually result from the first cause I mentioned; such souls know that nothing would induce them to commit a sin (many of them would not even commit a venial sin advertently), and that they employ their life and riches well.  They cannot, therefore, patiently endure to be excluded from the presence of our King, Whose vassals they consider themselves, as indeed they are.  An earthly king may have many subjects yet all do not enter his court. Enter then, enter, my daughters, into your interior; pass beyond the thought of your own petty works, which are no more, nor even as much, as Christians are bound to perform:  let it suffice that you are God’s servants, do not pursue so much as to catch nothing.  Think of the saints, who have entered the Divine Presence, and you will see the difference between them and ourselves.

11.  Do not ask for what you do not deserve, nor should we ever think, however much we may have done for God, that we merit the reward of the saints, for we have offended Him.  Oh, humility, humility!  I know not why, but I am always tempted to think that persons who complain so much of aridities must be a little wanting in this virtue.  However, I am not speaking of severe interior sufferings, which are far worse than a want of devotion.

12.  Let us try ourselves, my sisters, or let our Lord try us;  He knows well how to do so (although we often pretend to misunderstand Him). We will now speak of these well-ordered souls.  Let us consider what they do for God and we shall see at once what little right we have to murmur against His Majesty.  If we turn our backs on Him and go away sorrowfully like the youth in the Gospel when He tells us what to do to be perfect, what can God do?  for He must proportion the reward to our love for Him. This love, my daughters, must not be the fabric of our imagination;  we must prove it by our works.  Yet do not suppose that our Lord has need of any works of ours;  He only expels us to manifest our goodwill.

13.  It seems to us we have done everything by taking the religious habit of our own will, and renouncing worldly things and all our possessions for God (although they may have been but the nets of St. Peter, yet they seemed much to us, for they were our all). This is an excellent disposition: if we continue in it and do not return, even in desire, to the company of the reptiles of the first rooms, doubtless, by persevering in this poverty and detachment of soul, we shall obtain all for which we strive. But, mark this—it must be on one condition—that we ‘hold ourselves for unprofitable servants,’ as we are told either by St. Paul or by Christ, and that we do not consider that our Lord is bound to grant us any favours, but that, as we have received more from Him, we are the deeper in His debt.

14.  How little is all we can do for so generous a God, Who died for us, Who created us, Who gives us being, that we should not think ourselves happy to be able to acquit ourselves of part of the debt we owe Him for having served us, without asking Him for fresh mercies and favours? I am loth to use this expression, yet so it is, for He did nothing else during the whole time He lived in this world but serve us.

15.  Think well my daughters, over some of the points I have treated, although confusedly, for I do not know how to explain them better. Our Lord will make you understand them, that you may reap humility from your dryness, instead of the disquietude the devil strives to cause by it. I believe that where true humility exists, although God should never bestow consolations, yet He gives a peace and resignation which make the soul happier than are others with sensible devotion. These consolations, as you have read, are often given by the Divine Majesty to the weakest souls who, I suppose would not exchange them for the fortitude of Christians serving God in aridities: we love consolations better than the cross! Do Thou, O Lord, Who knowest all truth, so prove us that we may know ourselves.

THIRD MANSION - CHAPTER 2

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1.  I HAVE known some, in fact, I may say numerous souls, who have reached this state, and for many years lived, apparently, a regular and well-ordered life, both of body and mind. It would seem that they must have gained the mastery over this world, or at least be extremely detached from it, yet if His Majesty sends very moderate trials they become so disturbed and disheartened as not only to astonish but to make me anxious about them. Advice is useless; having practised virtue for so long they think themselves capable of teaching it, and believe that they have abundant reason to feel miserable.

2. The only way to help them is to compassionate their troubles;  indeed, one cannot but feel sorry at seeing people in such an unhappy state. They must not be argued with, for they are convinced they suffer only for God’s sake, and cannot be made to understand they are acting imperfectly, which is a further error in persons so far advanced. No wonder that they should feel these trials for a time, but I think they ought speedily to overcome their concern about such matters. God, wishing His elect to realize their own misery, often temporarily withdraws His favours:  no more is needed to prove to us in a very short time what we really are.

3.  Souls soon learn in this way; they perceive their faults very clearly, and sometimes the discovery of how quickly they are overcome by but slight earthly trials is more painful than the subtraction of God’s sensible favours.  I consider that God thus shows them great mercy, for though their behaviour may be faulty, yet they gain greatly in humility.  Not so with the people of whom I first spoke; they believe their conduct is saintly, and wish others to agree with them.  I will give you some examples which will help us to understand and to try ourselves, without waiting for God to try us, since it would be far better to have prepared and examined ourselves beforehand.

4.  A rich man, without son or heir, loses part of his property, but still has more than enough to keep himself and his household.  If this misfortune grieves and disquiets him as though he were left to beg his bread, how can our Lord ask him to give up all things for His sake?  This man will tell you he regrets losing his money because he wished to bestow it on the poor.

5.  I believe His Majesty would prefer me to conform to His will, and keep peace of soul while attending to my interests, to such charity as this. If this person cannot resign himself because God has not raised him so high in virtue, well and good:  let him know that he is wanting in liberty of spirit; let him beg our Lord to grant it him, and be rightly disposed to receive it. Another person has more than sufficient means to live on, when an opportunity occurs for acquiring more property:  if it is offered him, by all means let him accept it;  but if he must go out of his way to obtain it and then continues working to gain more and more—however good his intention may be (and it must be good, for I am speaking of people who lead prayerful and good lives), he cannot possibly enter the mansions near the King.

6.  Something of the same sort happens if such people meet with contempt or want of due respect. God often gives them grace to bear it well, as He loves to see virtue upheld in public, and will not have it condemned in those who practise it, or else because these persons have served Him faithfully, and He, our supreme Good, is exceedingly good to us all;  nevertheless, these persons are disturbed, and cannot overcome or get rid of the feeling for some time.  Alas! have they not long meditated on the pains our Lord endured and how well it is for us to suffer, and have even longed to do so?  They wish every one were as virtuous as they are;  and God grant they do not consider other people to blame for their troubles and attribute merit to themselves!

7.  You may think, my daughters, that I have wandered from the subject, for all this does not concern you:  nothing of the sort occurs to us here, where we neither own nor wish for any property, nor endeavour to gain it, and no one does us any wrong. The instances I have mentioned do not coincide exactly, yet conclusions applicable to us may be drawn from them, which it would be neither well nor necessary to state.  These will teach you whether you are really detached from all you have left; trifling occasions often occur, although perhaps not quite of the same kind, by which you can prove to yourselves whether you have obtained the mastery over your passions.

8.  Believe me, the question is not whether we wear the religious habit or not, but whether we practise the virtues and submit our will in all things to the will of God.  The object of our life must be to do what He requires of us:  let us not ask that our will may be done, but His.  If we have not yet attained to this, let us be humble, as I said above.  Humility is the ointment for our wounds;  if we have it, although perhaps He may defer His coming for a time, God, Who is our Physician, will come and heal us. 

9.  The penances performed by the persons I spoke of are as well regulated as their life, which they value very highly because they wish to serve our Lord with it—in which there is nothing to blame—so they are very discreet in their mortifications lest they should injure their health.  Never fear they will kill themselves:  they are far too sensible!  Their love is not strong enough to overcome their reason;  I wish it were—that they might not be content to creep on their way to God:  a pace that will never bring them to their journey’s end!

10.  We seem to ourselves to be making progress, yet we become weary, for, believe me, we are walking through a mist;  it will be fortunate if we do not lose ourselves.  Do you think, my daughters, if we could travel from one country to another in eight days, that it would be well to spend a year on the journey, through wind, snow, and inundations and over bad roads?  Would it not be better to get it over at once, for it is full of dangers and serpents?  Oh, how many striking instances could I give you of this!  God grant that I have passed beyond this state myself: often I think that I have not.

11.  All things obstruct us while prudence rules our actions;  we are afraid of everything and therefore fear to make progress—as if we could reach the inner chambers while others make the journey for us!  As this is impossible, sisters, for the love of God let us exert ourselves, and leave our reason and our fears in His hands, paying no attention to the weaknesses of nature which might retard us.  Let our Superiors, to whom the charge belongs, look after our bodies;  let our only care be to hasten to our Lord’s presence—for though there are few or no indulgences to be obtained here, yet, regard for health might mislead us and it would be none the better for our care, as I know well.

12.  I know, too, that our bodies are not the chief factors in the work we have before us;  they are accessory: extreme humility is the principal point.  It is the want of this, I believe, that stops people’s progress.  It may seem that we have made but little way:  we should believe that is the case, and that our sisters are advancing much more rapidly than we are.  Not only should we wish others to consider us the worst of all; we should endeavour to make them think so.  If we act in this manner, our soul will do well; otherwise we shall make no progress and shall always remain the prey to a thousand troubles and miseries.  The way will be difficult and wearisome without self-renunciation, weighed down as we are by the burden and frailties of human nature, which are no longer felt in the more interior mansions.

13.  In these third mansions the Lord never fails to repay our services, both as a just and even as a merciful God, Who always bestows on us far more than we deserve, giving us greater happiness than could be obtained from any earthly pleasures and amusements. I think He grants few consolations here, except, perhaps, occasionally to entice us to prepare ourselves to enter the last mansions by showing us their contents. There may appear to you to be no difference except in name between sensible devotion, and consolations and you may ask why I distinguish them. I think there is a very great difference, but I may be mistaken.

14.  This will be best explained while writing of the fourth mansion, which comes next, when I must speak of the consolations received there from our Lord.  The subject may appear futile, yet may prove useful by urging souls who know what each mansion contains to strive to enter the best.  It will solace those whom God has advanced so far;  others, who thought they had reached the summit, will be abashed, yet if they are humble they will be led to thank God.

15. Those who do not receive these consolations may feel a despondency that is uncalled for, since perfection does not consist in consolation but in greater love; our reward will be in proportion to this, and to the justice and sincerity of our actions.  Perhaps you wonder, then, why I treat of these interior favours and their nature. I do not know; ask him who bade me write this. I must obey Superiors, not argue with them, which I have no right to do.

16.  I assure you that when I had neither received these favours, nor understood them by experience, or ever expected to (and rightly so, for I should have felt reassured if I had known or even conjectured that I was pleasing to God in any way), yet when I read of the mercies and consolations that our Lord grants to His servants, I was delighted and praised Him fervently. If such as myself acted thus, how much more would the humble and good glorify Him!  I think it is worth while to explain these subjects and show what consolations and delights we lose through our own fault, if only for the sake of moving a single soul to praise God once.

17.  When these joys are from God they come laden with love and strength, which aid the soul on its way and increase its good works and virtues. Do not imagine that it is unimportant whether you try to obtain these graces or no;  if you are not to blame, the Lord is just: what He refuses in one way, His Majesty will give you in another, as He knows how;  His secret ways are very mysterious, and doubtless He will do what is best for you.

18.  Souls who by God’s mercy are brought so far (which, as I said, is no small mercy, for they are likely to ascend still higher) will be greatly benefited by practising prompt obedience. Even if they are not in the religious state, it would be well if they, like certain other people, were to take a director, so as never to follow their own will, which is the cause of most of our ills. They should not choose one of their own turn of mind (as the saying goes), who is over prudent in his actions, but should select one thoroughly detached from worldly things;  it is very helpful to consult a person who has learnt and can teach this.  It is encouraging to see that trials which seemed to us impossible to submit to are possible to others, and that they bear them sweetly. Their flight makes us try to soar, like nestlings taught by the elder birds, who, though they cannot fly far at first, little by little imitate their parents:  I know the great benefit of this. However determined such persons may be not to offend our Lord, they must not expose themselves to temptation: they are still near the first mansions to which they might easily return. Their strength is not yet established on a solid foundation like that of souls exercised in sufferings, who know how little cause there is to fear the tempests of this world and care nothing for its pleasures: beginners might succumb before any severe trial. Some great persecution, such as the devil knows how to raise to injure us, might make beginners turn back; while zealously trying to withdraw others from sin they might succumb to the attacks made upon them.

19.  Let us look at our own faults, and not at other persons’.  People who are extremely correct themselves are often shocked at everything they see;  however, we might often learn a great deal that is essential from the very persons whom we censure. Our exterior comportment and manners may be better—this is well enough, but not of the first importance. We ought not to insist on every one following in our footsteps, nor to take upon ourselves to give instructions in spirituality when, perhaps, we do not even know what it is.  Zeal for the good of souls, though given us by God, may often lead us astray, sisters;  it is best to keep our rule, which bids us ever to live in silence and in hope.  Our Lord will care for the souls belonging to Him; and if we beg His Majesty to do so, by His grace we shall be able to aid them greatly. May He be for ever blessed!


Discerning Hearts Recording read by Kris McGregor