Month: October 2017


(Saint Catherine of Siena)

“Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Corinthians 6:2)

There is a reason why the feast of All Saints is, in essence, the culmination of all other Feasts! This is because each new saint is a manifestation of the triumph of the Gospel. Thus, the great spiritual writer, Father Olier, says:

“In a certain sense the feast of All Saints seems to me to be greater than that of Easter or the Ascension because this mystery perfects our Lord. But Jesus as Head is not perfect except in union with all His members, who are the saints….This feast is very glorious because it is an external manifestation of the life hidden in Jesus Christ, for all the excellency of the perfection of the saints is nothing more than an emanation of His Spirit poured forth on them” (The Mystical Evolution, Volume 2, p.501).

It would therefore be a mistake to think that the saints have merely an ornamental presence in Heaven. As Saint Paul says rather boldly at 1 Corinthians 6:2, “Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world.” Commenting on this verse, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible says: “Only here in the Bible do we learn that Christians will condemn both unbelievers (6:2) and fallen spirits (6:3) at the final judgment” (see also Revelation 20:4).

In a profound text entitled, “How the Saints Save and Judge the World”, the great Dominican, Father Albert L. Weiss, says:

“In His merciful Providence God sent each saint to remind the world of its duties and to save it from its corrupt life. The saints, whose lives are a flagrant contradiction to the worldly spirit in general and to that of their own age in particular, are selected as instruments of salvation by the compassionate Doctor to the nations. But he who does not accept them as mediators, must accept them as judges, just as he must accept Jesus Christ, who did not come to judge the world but to save it (John 3:17)…. For those who receive the saints, they are a great means of salvation. A people will never fall hopelessly into corruption as long as they have a single saint” (The Mystical Evolution, Vol. II, p. 373, as edited).

“The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were ‘put in charge of many things.’ Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2683).

And on this subject of the importance of the saints, Father Faber warns us to not underestimate the dignity and power they hold:

The honor of God …is deeply implicated in the worship paid to the saint. In some sense [God] is more jealous of it than of His own; less patient of levity with [His saints] than with Himself, and frequently punishes persons for this [levity]. The saints themselves have entered into the dispositions of God, and, with a sort of vindictive holiness, hard for us in our present state to understand, resent familiarities and impertinences….  Faith is the chief ingredient in a true devotion to the saints; faith is the reality of their power, and of their relationship towards us. It is a great sign of a man being supernatural when he fears to offend a saint. The favors of the saints form a great department of the Divine Mercies, and play an important part in the sanctification of holy men….” (from: Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects, Volume I, pages 381-82.).

Father Weiss explains that “the saints have always been the most faithful sons of the Church….The more united anyone is to the Church, the more certain he is of union with her Founder and Lord, the author of all graces and the model and end of all sanctity. The more tightly one is bound with the mystical body of Jesus Christ, the more he adheres to this divine Head….” (Id at 485).

“All the good we do,” says a great spiritual writer, “Jesus Christ does in us.” Accordingly, “we may say that [Jesus] has done, in a manner, all the good works of the Saints….” Thus, “when we keep the feast of some Saint, we keep the feast of Jesus Christ, who is the author of all the sanctity of the Saints” (Father L. Lallemant, The Spiritual Doctine, p.262).

What could give Jesus more glory than the success of the Gospel verified by the saints? The saints, then, are the fruit of the redemptive Incarnation, and are coheirs with Jesus Christ, sharing in His glory (Romans 8:17). “God is glorified in His saints” ( 2 Thes. 1:10).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Saint Catherine of Siena by an anonymous painter, 19th century (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

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“…we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….”  (Hebrews 12:1)



(Father Solanus Casey who will be beatified on Nov. 18, 2017)

                           “[God] is Glorified in His Saints” (2 Thes. 1:10)

We are all looking for evidence and knowledge that points to the ultimate meaning of life. And the purpose of this note is to suggest that the Catholic Saints hold the key (or should I say a key) to unlocking and discovering the meaning of life. Indeed, the more we study the lives of the saints, the more we will discover the meaning of life.

This interest in the saints “is not an interest of mere pious curiosity. It is inspired by the growing realization that the saints, and the saints alone, have found what all other men are vainly seeking – a real life. It is beginning to dawn on the intelligence of those who are sincerely searching for the truth and who, with unprejudiced minds, are seeking for a solution to the problem of existence that the real men and women are the saints and it is only they who know what life is” (The Holy Spirit, p. 11, Father Edward Leen).

Father Leen. a great spiritual writer who died in 1956, adds: “Earnest souls are beginning to regard the saints…as men and women who have received a deep initiation into the secret of living and who are, in consequence, apt to initiate others. It is felt that they alone know while all others are but groping in a state of more or less blindness. The saint is recognized to be the one who really succeeds in finding life and is, therefore, studied chiefly as an ‘essayist on living’. They considered their highest knowledge to be…persevering contact with God.”

Take, as one example, Father Solanus Casey, who lived and worked for many years in Detroit as the door-keeper at Saint Bonaventure’s (not very far from where I am writing this note). Although he is presently only “Venerable,” this Capuchin priest who died in 1957, and will be beatified on November 18 of this year, was deeply initiated into the true meaning of life. As a consequence of this initiation he had great confidence in God and a profound love for the poor and sick. A number of books have been written about his ministry to the sick (who would come to see him at St. Bonaventure’s where he was a simple porter) and the many healing miracles attributed to him (from which he got the reputation as a miracle worker). His simple life touched the lives of so many people seeking hope, healing and encouragement, and continues to do so. I have personally sought his intercession at the site of his tomb in the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit, and I know many other people who have done likewise (see Father Solanus, pictured above, is one example of how a “Saint” shows to us the true meaning of life.

Take, as another example, the renowned and holy priest of Ars, Saint John Vianney. He died in 1859 and was canonized in 1925. He labored incessantly to restore the faith and vitality of the villagers in Ars, sometimes spending up to 18 hours a day in the confessional. He lived a very austere and mortified life. One thing we can learn from his life, in contrast to the cynicism and anti-supernaturalism of our age, is that miracles actually do occur. This saintly priest tells us in his own written words of a miracle he personally witnessed. He tells a story  about a parishioner of his who was having trouble believing the host really becomes the body of Jesus Christ at Mass. The parishioner said a sincere prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary asking her to help him believe. St. John Vianney then relates what happened as he was distributing communion:

“I do not say this happened to someone else, but that it happened to myself. At the moment this man came up to receive Holy Communion, the Sacred Host detached Itself from my fingers while I was still a good way off, and went off Itself and placed Itself upon the tongue of that man.”

And in more recent times we have the Eucharistic prodigy involving Blessed Alexandrina da Costa. Her life was one of expiatory suffering and was intimately tied to the Passion of Jesus. She lived exclusively on the Eucharist for 13 years and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 26, 2004, now himself a Saint! To understand the incredible magnitude of this Eucharistic miracle, consider for a moment that a human being would be lucky to survive even one week without water.

There is a beautiful book about her by Francis Johnston in which is revealed the revelation she received that many people would become “ardently Eucharistic” through devotion to her. Please note that she was placed in a hospital for forty days and under intense observation was observed to keep her Eucharistic fast, living only on the Bread of Life, which was her sustenance (the official report of Dr. Araujo “confirmed the prodigy as ‘scientifically inexplicable,’ [and stated] it is absolutely certain that during forty days of being bedridden in hospital [Alexandrina] did not eat or drink….”).

She died in 1955. The manner in which she predicted the supernatural decomposition of her body was observed to have occurred, and no doubt this sped up the process of her rapid beatification. If you are looking for truth, the life of Blessed Alexandrina da Costa says look to the Eucharist!

A great spiritual writer, Father John G. Arintero, tells us that “one saint is sufficient to illumine a century.” And in our present times how many of us were greatly influenced – and even returned to the Catholic faith – because of the illuminating life of Saint Pope John Paul “the Great.” It is not possible in this short note to relate how this priest, pastor, philosopher and Pope, not to mention mystic and theologian, profoundly influenced the course of the Church and world events for the better. But his impact and holiness were so huge that he has already been canonized a Saint, and there is little doubt that his encyclicals and other papal writings will greatly guide the church for years and decades to come. And what does this saint tell us?: he tells us that a major turning point in his life, in his growth in holiness, was the consecration of his life to the Virgin Mary.

And Saint Mother Teresa, canonized by Pope Francis on September 4, 2016, also had a huge impact on the world through her devotion to the poor. And, like Saint Pope John Paul II, she made and greatly valued the DeMontfort consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Additionally, she placed a high priority on the Eucharist and Eucharistic adoration. She was always seen carrying a rosary. An excellent book which sets forth the nature of her mystical life, and the communications she received from Jesus and Mary, is Come Be My Light by Father Brian Kolodiejcchuk.


The great spiritual writer, Father Albert M. Weiss, says that those who “receive the saints” find a “great means of salvation.” He adds: “A people will never fall hopelessly into corruption as long as they have a single saint.”

Can we not see that the lives of the saints, with all their supernatural manifestations of grace, show us what truth really is and WHO truth really is?

The Saints are so many mirrors reflecting the life of Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Photo Attribution: The photo of Mother Teresa is by Turelio, July 13, 1986 under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license (found at Wikipedia). The photo or drawing of Father Solanus Casey is by photographer Mohatma Gandhi under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license (at Wikipedia).

ReferencesThe Holy Spirit by Father Edward Leen; Saint John Paul the Great by Jason Evert (see quote by Cardinal George on back cover); Nothing Short of a Miracle by Patricia Treece; Alexandrina: The Agony and the Glory by Francis Johnston; The Mystical Evolution by Father John G. Arintero; The Little Catechism of the Cure of Ars (TAN); and Dictionary of Saints by John Delaney.

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                       “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

In his encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI does a wonderful job of demonstrating how 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 clearly supports the doctrine of Purgatory. It is interesting to note, as well, that Dr. Scott Hahn, a Protestant convert, mentioned this New Testament passage in 1 Corinthians as being decisive for him in accepting the Church’s teaching on Purgatory (he says, “I must admit that theologically and psychologically 1st Corinthians 3 basically sealed it up. It was all sewn up for me when I worked through this, praying, studying, pondering. I think it’s strong and clear.”).



    “I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond.”

Introduction: This note is merely a summary of Saint Teresa of Avila’s great book on Catholic mysticism, The Interior Castle, which was first published in 1588. The Saint herself, a Carmelite nun, was a great mystic, and her personal style of writing demonstrates that she composed The Interior Castle from profound personal experience. Her Feast Day is October 15.

1. The soul.  Saint Teresa of Avila begins her famous book about the soul’s progress in prayer and virtue by lamenting how little effort many people make to care for their immortal souls. She states that “faith tells us that we possess souls” made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we should take time to consider the “soul’s great dignity and beauty,” and to “carefully preserve the soul’s beauty.” (Intr. 11; IC 28-29)

2. The castle metaphor. Teresa envisions the soul “as if it were a castle made of a single diamond” in which there are seven mansions (each mansion containing many rooms). The outer walls of this castle constitute the human body. Outside the castle there are many “venomous creatures” who represent the attraction of sin which the soul is now trying to overcome. Those outside the castle are paralyzed by sin. (IC 28)

3. God dwells in the soul. A central concept of Teresa’s spirituality is the realization that God is immanent – that is, He dwells within the innermost mansion of the human soul (thus, using Teresa’s image of the castle, He dwells in the seventh mansion). “All harm comes to us from failing to realize that God is near.” For “the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).

4. The soul’s mission. The soul can journey within these mansions to unite itself to God, so as to plant itself, like a tree, in the “living waters of life.” This journey to God is the soul’s essential mission. Even in this lifetime, the soul can make it all the way to the seventh mansion where it is completely united with God. This journey is completed in Heaven where the soul experiences the beatific vision. (IC 33)

5. The soul’s enemy: mortal sin. If we knew how much damage one mortal sin does to the soul, Teresa believes we would go to the “greatest trouble imaginable” to avoid committing such a sin. “No thicker darkness” clouds the soul than mortal sin: it produces nothing but “misery and filth,” bringing “endless and eternal evils in its train.” (IC 33-34)

6. The journey begins with forgiveness. We need to “beg” God to “deliver us” from such evil, and to redeem ourselves “in the blood of Christ,” so as to “remove the pitch which blackens the diamond.” (IC 35)

7. We enter the castle through prayer. Escaping the “snakes and other poisonous creatures” that live outside the castle, and redeemed by God’s boundless mercy, the soul enters the castle through prayer. “Souls without prayer are like people whose bodies and limbs are paralyzed.” (IC 31)

8. THE FIRST MANSION. Entering the first mansion through the practice of prayer, the soul needs to spend time in the rooms of “self-knowledge” and humility. In these rooms, the soul spends time meditating on its own “baseness” and God’s goodness, and turns from thinking about itself to setting its “eyes upon Christ, our Good,” lest the devil should deceive the soul once more to prefer sin to God. Teresa sternly warns the nuns she is writing to that “without humility all will be lost.” (IC 38)  To defend itself from the attractions of “worldly pleasure” and “worldly ambition,” as well as the deceptions of the devil, Saint Teresa advises the soul “to make the [Lord’s] blessed Mother” the soul’s “intercessor, and also His saints, so that these may do battle for the soul….” (IC 40)

NOTE: Mansions 1-3 correspond to the purgative stage of the journey (turning from sin to virtue); mansions 4-5 correspond to the illuminative stage of the journey (entering into supernatural prayer); and mansions 6-7 correspond to the unitive stage of the journey (spiritual betrothal and marriage). Additionally, mansions 1-3 correspond to the active part of the journey, where the soul is conscious of its own effort, supported by grace, to overcome sin and draw closer to God, whereas mansions 4-7 correspond to the passive part of the journey, where the soul becomes aware that God is acting upon it. (Reference: Mary E. Giles, 161; and as explained by Saint Teresa herself)

9. THE SECOND MANSION. In the second mansion the soul is growing in holiness through perseverance in prayer, conversations with good people, reading good books and listening to edifying sermons. The soul spends time in the room of the practice of prayer. The soul is moving farther into the castle as it purges its imperfections and grows in charity. It now has a greater desire for God. Here the devil begins to wage a fierce war against the soul, reminding the soul of the pleasures and honor the soul formerly experienced outside the castle. Consequently, for the soul to persevere, it is vital that the soul “flee evil companionship” and be willing to embrace suffering. The soul must not abandon prayer, and should immediately seek God’s mercy should it fall or stumble. (Intro. 11; IC 47)

By now the soul is advancing in prayer. Besides meditation, it is now learning how to concentrate the mind in order to effect recollection of the soul (the prayer of active recollection, IC 52). Teresa tells us that if we quietly speak to Him within our souls, He will hear us. She says, “The Lord is within us and we should be there with Him.” She further states that this prayer is “called recollection because the soul collects together all the faculties and enters within itself to be with its God.” The prayer of active recollection begins by the soul withdrawing the senses from all outward things, and thus consciously closing its eyes the soul looks inwardly to be with her King (God). We thus retire within ourselves to find God. This is not yet supernatural prayer since the soul’s own effort is crucial and controlling. Teresa explains in detail how to enter into this type of prayer in The Way of Perfection, chapters 28-29. Regarding this prayer, Teresa states:

 “I only beg you to test it, even at the cost of a little trouble. I assure you…you will find Him within you.”

Teresa recommends practicing this form of prayer for six months to a year, saying that once the “Lord has granted it, you will not exchange it for any treasure.” As a practical matter this exercise is best carried out in a quiet setting and in a prayerful posture. Then, after having recollected yourself, look inwardly and speak with your mind and heart to the infinitely good Father who dwells within (note: above paragraph based primarily on The Way of Perfection).

Note: Here we see a fundamental difference between meditation and mental prayer. We meditate using images and symbols, such as meditating on a Gospel scene. In mental prayer, the aim is to bypass mediated, symbolic knowledge and to seek direct contact with God in our soul. Meditation and active recollection are similar to the extent they involve primarily the soul’s own effort in prayer, whereas passive (supernatural) recollection involves God’s own action upon the soul. Thus, when I use the terms interior, mental, mystical or contemplative prayer, I am referring to what Saint Teresa calls the prayers of active and then passive recollection, all in contrast to meditative prayer. However, meditative prayer is still invaluable even when the soul begins to make progress in mental or interior prayer (moreover, meditation can effectively serve as a platform for interior prayer, having ignited a flame through reasoned considerations contained in a book, for example, so that the soul then seeks God inwardly).

Recommendation: If you begin the practice of interior prayer (active recollection, it is recommended that you do so in conjunction with a trustworthy and experienced spiritual director, in order to avoid pitfalls along the way.

10. THE THIRD MANSION.  Souls entering the third mansion have overcome their “initial difficulties” and are “most desirous not to offend His Majesty.” They “avoid committing even venial sins,” spend “hours in recollection” (prayer), practice “works of charity,” and are “very careful in their speech.” They “make good use of their lives and possessions.” They experience consolation and spiritual sweetness in prayer and meditation. They are living “upright and carefully ordered lives.”

However, a greater reward necessitates a greater love, and the souls in this mansion are still governed by reason: “their love is not yet ardent enough to overwhelm their reason.” They need to learn that “perfection consists not in consolations, but in the increase of love.” These souls have not yet made a “full surrender of their wills to God” (Intro. 12; IC 67). To increase the resoluteness of the soul’s will, God may allow it to experience long periods of aridity in prayer. Teresa tells her nuns not to panic when this happens, for God “knows well” how to test us. Such a test has the effect of making the soul conscious of its misery, to gain a “clearer perception of its shortcomings,” and to realize that it still has strong attractions to “earthly things.” This experience helps the soul to gain “a great deal of humility,” to learn the value of perseverance and suffering, and prepares the soul for the life of mystical prayer which will come in the fourth mansion.

11. THE FOURTH MANSION. Entrance into the fourth mansion marks a significant advancement in the soul’s journey to a greater and more profound intimacy with God. As Teresa states, “the soul is now getting nearer to the place where the King dwells.” The fourth mansion marks the transition from the purgative and active stage of the journey to the illuminative and passive stage. In short, in this mansion the soul is beginning to enter into supernatural prayer as the King (God) takes more direct action to communicate Himself to the soul.

It is in this mansion that Teresa explains the difference between active and passive recollection. The soul in the first three mansions was primarily involved in prayer that constituted active recollection. Active recollection involves the soul’s effort in prayer, such as choosing the time and place to pray, and consciously closing his eyes in order to turn within towards God. The soul may experience sweetness and consolation during this type of prayer, but these consolations are more akin to natural satisfactions than to God’s supernatural activity. However, in the fourth mansion the soul begins to experience for the first time two types of supernatural or mystical prayer, namely:

               1) The Prayer of Supernatural (or passive) Recollection; and

               2) The Prayer of Quiet

Teresa reminds us that the interior world of God is always close hand, and that if we continue to persevere in the practice of prayer, overcoming obstacles, trials and servile fear, a greater, disinterested love of the King will arise in the soul preparing it for the gift of supernatural prayer. If there is one point Teresa wants to make it is this: don’t abandon prayer. In the prayer of supernatural recollection, the soul “involuntarily closes his eyes and desires solitude,” not out of choice but because of God’s action upon the soul. The soul then begins to experience a “temple of solitude” being built around it, “like a hedgehog or a turtle withdrawn into itself. The senses and all external things seem to gradually lose their hold on him, while the soul, on the other hand, regains its lost control.” The soul cannot force this experience on God: it is a pure gift for which praise and thanksgiving is the appropriate response. This type of prayer is a form of contemplation or infused loving – as are the forms of mystical prayer in mansions 4-7. In short, mansions 1-3 correspond first to meditation and then to active recollection; mansions 4-7 correspond to contemplative prayer (or infused prayer). In active recollection we are like a man-made aqueduct that is miles away from the ocean; in contemplation we are tapped directly into the ocean (Saint Teresa’s metaphor).

The prayer of quiet is an even deeper form of recollection which comes directly from God. It is “accompanied by the greatest peace and quiet and sweetness within ourselves.” With “no effort the soul drinks directly from God” and experiences an incredible feeling of peace. “As this heavenly water begins to flow from this source…it proceeds to spread within us and cause an interior dilation and produce ineffable blessings.” The soul should not strive for this type of prayer, because God gives it when the “soul is not thinking of it at all.” Yet Teresa states that the Lord “will not fail to grant this favor” to the soul who reaches “true humility and detachment.”

12. THE FIFTH MANSION. Entering the fifth mansion, the soul is still in the illuminative stage of the journey. There are still “hidden treasures” in the castle. Teresa wonders how she will ever be able to explain the “riches and delights” found in the fifth mansion. She also tells us that many of her nuns make it to the lofty state of prayer found in this mansion.

The soul will now go even deeper in prayer – to unite herself to God in what is appropriately called The Prayer of Union. Some scholars call this prayer the prayer of incipient union or the prayer of the sleep of the faculties. Here the soul “falls asleep to the things of the world,” and in this sort of death becomes united to God. Thus the faculties are suspended, and there is virtually an unconsciousness, as the soul appears to have withdrawn from the body. The hallmark experience of this prayer is the certainty that, however short in duration, the soul was united to God. Teresa explains:

“God implants Himself in the interior of that soul in such a way that, when it returns to itself, it cannot possibly doubt              that God has been in it and it has been in God; so firmly does this truth remain within it that, although for years God may never grant it that favor again, it can never forget it or doubt that it has received it. This certainty of the soul is very material.”

Teresa compares the soul’s growth and progress (in a “celebrated analogy”) to the silkworm. This large and ugly worm appears to be almost dead in the winter, but when the warm weather comes it begins to feed on mulberry leaves, and then to spin silk from twigs on the ground, as it makes itself into a very tight cocoon. “Then, finally, the worm…comes right out of the cocoon a beautiful white butterfly.” Likewise, the soul spins its own cocoon through penance, prayer and mortification until it becomes hidden in God. When it becomes quite dead to the things of this world “it comes out a little white butterfly.”

Having experienced the prayer of union, the soul now has the most “vehement desire” for penance, solitude “and for all to know God.” It is overwhelmed for having “merited such a blessing.” The soul is now being prepared for the betrothal to the King which will take place in the sixth mansion. Teresa warns the soul to remain humble, for the “power of hell” is still capable of winning the soul back to sin. The soul is still susceptible to the perils of pride and self-delusion. Self-love must be crushed. The soul must keep her “eyes fixed on the King’s greatness,” and grow in love. “Love is never idle.” The soul must keep advancing.

13. THE SIXTH MANSION.  Entrance into the sixth mansion marks the transition from the illuminative stage of the journey to the unitive stage. The soul has fallen deeply in love with the King, and is now ready for spiritual betrothal to Him. However, the journey through the sixth mansion will not be without danger and affliction, and to persevere the soul will have to suffer much. “Oh, my God,” Teresa laments, “how great are these trials which the soul will suffer, both within and without, before it enters the seventh mansion.”

Still, the suffering to be experienced by the soul in the sixth mansion will be counter-balanced by many mystical experiences the soul undergoes of a truly amazing nature. It is in the sixth mansion that the soul begins to experience extraordinary mystical phenomena that one associates with some of the great saints like Padre Pio and John Bosco. These experiences of God, which Teresa is recounting from personal experience, include:





            -tearful desire to be taken out of this earthly exile

            – flights of the spirit, and

            – jubilations

             (IC 139-157)

Teresa explains these experiences in significant detail (there are eleven chapters describing the sixth mansion), but cautions the soul not to rely on them for the fear the soul might think too highly of itself or even become delusional. Yet it is in these raptures that the King speaks secretly to the soul and the soul “becomes consumed with desire” for the King, “so clearly conscious is it of the presence of its God.” These ecstatic visits from the King constitute, in essence, an engagement period prior to the spiritual marriage which will take place in the seventh mansion.

Mixed in with these ecstatic experiences are terrible times of suffering. In mansion three the King tested the soul’s resolve by subjecting it to a profound period of aridity. Passing this test, the soul moved on to mansion four, entering the illuminative stage and experiencing infused prayer. To enter into mansion seven the soul is going to have to withstand even greater hardships. These hardships include physical illness, depression and persecutions, and even seemingly insignificant trials like backbiting and undeserved praise (Intro. 13). Teresa tells the soul that some of these sufferings are “comparable only with the tortures of hell.” And yet the soul bears it all because of her intense love for the King.

Teresa calms the soul by encouraging her not to neglect meditative prayer. The soul is not to restrict itself to contemplative or infused prayer. It is beneficial that the soul meditate on the sacred humanity of Jesus, on the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on the lives of the saints.

Teresa is really making a very important philosophical point: that the world of supernatural prayer cannot be separated from the categorical world of time and space. Thus, practicing meditative prayer keeps the soul grounded in reality and protected from delusion. This is a practical warning from Teresa that the soul should not chase after mystical phenomena unless it is firmly rooted in the historical faith of Christianity.

The soul in the sixth mansion has been on a roller-coaster ride, experiencing the highs of many phenomenal mystical experiences and the lows of many trials and afflictions. She has proven to her beloved that, like a faithful marriage partner, she will stay with Him in good times and in bad. She has weathered the storm and is ready to enter the peaceful confines of the seventh mansion.

14. THE SEVENTH MANSION. When the soul comes to the seventh mansion, she enters into spiritual marriage with her bridegroom, the King. The soul has penetrated to the very center of itself “where His Majesty alone dwells.” Teresa refers to this place in the soul as a “second Heaven.”

The soul “is brought into this mansion by means of an intellectual vision” where the “Most Holy Trinity reveals Itself in all three Persons. Here all three Persons communicate Themselves to the soul and speak to the soul” (IC 209). Teresa is, no doubt, recounting here what she experienced when she entered the seventh mansion. She indicates that in addition to this experience she also was granted a vision of Jesus “in great splendor, beauty and majesty” after receiving communion. Jesus spoke to her at that moment.

There are many wonderful effects produced in the soul as a result of this spiritual marriage. These include:

     – a “self-forgetfulness which is so complete that it really seems as though the soul no longer entirely is she employed seeking the honor of God”

     – there is produced in the soul “a great desire to suffer” and the soul bears no “enmity to those who ill-treat them”

     – the soul has a “marked detachment from everything,” experiences “no aridities or interior trials,” but always maintains a “tender love” for the Lord, wanting always to give “Him praise”

    – the soul experiences almost constant “tranquility”

    – the soul has “no lack of crosses,” but they do not “unsettle” the soul’s peace

    – the soul “loses its fear” and acquires great “strength” to serve the Lord and the Church

    – the soul is ready to bear any cross for the love of the Bridegroom

    – the soul experiences the almost constant “presence” of the Bridegroom

      (IC 210-231)

Teresa returns to the image of the silkworm to help describe the transformation the soul has undergone in the seventh mansion. This worm, which after much toil and labor, emerged from its cocoon as a beautiful white butterfly (in the fifth mansion), “dies, and with the greatest joy, because Christ is now its life.” The soul is now “endowed with the life of God.”

St. Paul’s exclamation, “I have been crucified with Christ, I live, not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:19-20), is illustrative of what has happened to the soul. In fact, Teresa points to Paul as a preeminent example of this total transformation in Christ, for having so completely united himself to the Lord through visions, prayer and contemplation, he was ready to suffer “terrible trials” for the Lord, never remaining idle.

Teresa ends her book by reminding her nuns that prayer is not a thing in and of itself, as if for personal enjoyment and to satisfy a quest for mystical phenomena. Rather, prayer is necessary to acquire the strength that makes one fit for service, and to lead souls to God. She also reminds her nuns that humility is the foundation of the interior castle. “Without humility all will be lost” (IC 229, 37).

Saint Teresa finished writing Interior Castle in 1557 “on the vigil of St. Andrew.”

15.  Five crucial points made by Saint Teresa in Interior Castle:

1) God is always near. He dwells within the soul (“for the Spirit of God dwells within you”  – Romans 8:9);

2) Prayer is absolutely, unequivocally indispensable, with humility and self-knowledge (knowledge of my weakness and God’s Infinite Goodness) being the foundation of prayer;

3) All harm comes to us when we fail to realize that God is near; therefore, DO NOT take your gaze off of Jesus, the King of your soul;

4) The spiritual journey, although sustained by grace, demands intense effort, including detachment, mortification and perseverance, as well as patience, as the soul waits for God to act on it (desire for God is crucial); and

5) Progress on the spiritual journey is not only possible and desirable, but is also necessary.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: According to Wikipedia, “This is the one portrait of Teresa that is probably the most true to her appearance. It is a copy of an original painting of her in 1576 at the age of 61” (original by Fray Juan de la Miseria), Public Domain, U.S.A.

References: I am relying primarily on the text of Interior Castle itself, including the Introduction by E. Allison Peers (Image Books); and the essay on Teresa of Avila by Mary E. Giles in Great Thinkers of the Western World (HarperCollins); and The Way of Perfection by Saint Teresa of Avila (Image Books); and Ralph Martin’s  audio presentation on Saint Teresa available at Regarding 15.4 above, Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, “[Although] the journey is totally sustained by grace, it nonetheless demands an intense spiritual commitment” (NMI 32). The word “mystical” can apply even to the purgative stage of the journey inasmuch as the life of sanctifying grace is a supernatural power.

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“The part played by the senses in the perception of beauty is even rendered enormous in us, and well nigh-indispensable…only sense knowledge possesses perfectly in man the intuitiveness required for the perception of the beautiful.” (Jacques Maritain)

I am convinced that many people would experience improved mental well-being if they increased their contact and communion with the natural beauty of God’s creation. 

God, who is, as the scholastic theologians say, in His creation by His POWER, PRESENCE and ESSENCE is most assuredly present in the transformative beauty of the natural world.


“In this context, appropriate allowance is made both for God’s mercy towards the sinner who converts and for the understanding of human weakness. Such understanding never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil in order to adapt it to particular circumstances.” (Pope John Paul II, VS 104)

Amoris Laetitia, no. 303, contains a very controversial statement made by Pope Francis. It reads, in pertinent part:

“Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.”

In his great encyclical on Catholic morality, Veritatis Splendor, Saint Pope John Paul II specifically foresaw and rejected the type of argument put forth in Amoris Laetia (303) quoted above. He stated very clearly that

“It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man.” (VS 103) 

Still further, Saint John Paul II stated:

“circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act “subjectively” good or defensible as a choice.” (VS 81)

Pope John Paul II explained in Veritatis Splendor the clear Catholic teaching that an intrinsically evil act cannot be creatively transformed into something willed by God under concrete circumstances (the suggestion put forth in AL 303 and 301).

“The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever.” (Veritatis Splendor 67)

“The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception.” (VS 52)

By trying to claim that an intrinsically evil act like adultery, fornication or other “irregular union” may be the most generous response a person can give to God at a certain moment in his life, Pope Francis has strayed far from the firm and authentic foundations of Catholic morality. Pope John Paul II had already warned that such an argument is clearly erroneous.

CONCLUSION: In light of the above discussion, Amoris Laetitia is on very shaky ground. To repeat Saint John Paul II’s own words: “It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man.” (VS 103).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

References: I am relying largely on the following three internet articles which are available on-line. 1. Amoris Laetitia and John Paul II by John Kusch (containing some of the important VS quotations I have used); 2. Is Amoris Laetitia really Thomistic and against “decadent scholasticism”? Let’s hear what the Angelic Doctor says! by Luisella Scrosati; and 3. Is ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Really Thomistic? by Edward Pentin.

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                                          “Jesus belongs to us” (F.W. Faber)

The mysteries of Jesus’ life belong to us! He lived them for us and for our well-being. Jesus’ mysteries are “life-giving realities,” says Father Jacques Philippe, “for those who contemplate them in faith.” As Blessed Abbot Marmion has pointed out, “the mysteries of Jesus…are ours as much as they are His. It is an inexhaustible source of confidence for a soul that loves Jesus to know that [Jesus] unites her intimately to each of His mysteries.” 

Meditating on the mysteries of Jesus’ life will thus bear much fruit for us. On this point Father Jacques Philippe quotes the great spiritual writer, Cardinal Berulle, who states: 

“[t]hese mysteries …are past in certain circumstances, and they are lasting and are present and perpetual in a certain other way. They are past as regards their execution, but they are present as regards their virtue, and their  virtue never passes away. So…the spirit, the state, the virtue, the merit of the mystery is always present….That obliges us to treat the things and mysteries pertaining to Jesus not as things which are past and dead, but as things living and present, from which we too have to harvest fruits which are present and eternal.” (59-60).

In his Apostolic Letter, The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, Saint John Paul II encourages us to live more profoundly by the rosary. Here is a prayer we may have first lisped at a very early age which now has the power to take us even deeper into the life of Christ. The Pope states:

“The Rosary mystically transports us to Mary’s side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is ‘fully formed’ in us (cf. Gal 4:19).”  (#15)

Furthermore, as the Pope carefully points out, meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary has a profound anthropological significance:

“In the light of what has been said so far on the mysteries of Christ, it is not difficult to go deeper into this anthropological significance of the Rosary, which is far deeper than may appear at first sight. Anyone who contemplates Christ through the various stages of his life cannot fail to perceive in him the truth about man. This is the great affirmation of the Second Vatican Council which I have so often discussed in my own teaching since the Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis: “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man is seen in its true light”.The Rosary helps to open up the way to this light. Following in the path of Christ, in whom man’s path is “recapitulated,” revealed and redeemed, believers come face to face with the image of the true man. Contemplating Christ’s birth, they learn of the sanctity of life; seeing the household of Nazareth, they learn the original truth of the family according to God’s plan; listening to the Master in the mysteries of his public ministry, they find the light which leads them to enter the Kingdom of God; and following him on the way to Calvary, they learn the meaning of salvific suffering. Finally, contemplating Christ and his Blessed Mother in glory, they see the goal towards which each of us is called, if we allow ourselves to be healed and transformed by the Holy Spirit. It could be said that each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man.” (#25)

Using meditation we learn to “live more profoundly by the rosary,” because we begin to enter more deeply into the redeeming mysteries of our Lord’s own life. We are not merely to chant, but we are to chant and meditate and ask Mary to help us see things about our Lord that deepen our understanding and love for Him.  In this light, the Pope refers to the Rosary as an “exquisitely contemplative prayer.” He says:

“The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: ‘Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed.” (#12)

The Pope makes two concrete suggestions to help us meditate more on the mysteries of the Rosary. The first suggestion by the Pope is to listen to the Biblical passage associated with each Rosary mystery. The Pope explains:

“In order to supply a Biblical foundation and greater depth to our meditation, it is helpful to follow the announcement of the mystery with the proclamation of a related Biblical passage, long or short, depending on the circumstances. No other words can ever match the efficacy of the inspired word. As we listen, we are certain that this is the word of God, spoken for today and spoken ‘for me’.

If received in this way, the word of God can become part of the Rosary’s methodology of repetition without giving rise to the ennui derived from the simple recollection of something already well known. It is not a matter of recalling information but of allowing God to speak. In certain solemn communal celebrations, this word can be appropriately illustrated by a brief commentary.” (#30)

The second suggestion of the Pope is to pause for a period of silence to focus attention on the mystery in question. The Pope says:

Listening and meditation are nourished by silence. After the announcement of the mystery and the proclamation of the word, it is fitting to pause and focus one’s attention for a suitable period of time on the mystery concerned, before moving into vocal prayer. A discovery of the importance of silence is one of the secrets of practicing contemplation and meditation. One drawback of a society dominated by technology and the mass media is the fact that silence becomes increasingly difficult to achieve. Just as moments of silence are recommended in the Liturgy, so too in the recitation of the Rosary it is fitting to pause briefly after listening to the word of God, while the mind focuses on the content of a particular mystery.” (#31)

In addition to the two suggestions of the Pope, I am going to suggest another way to use the Rosary to deepen meditation, a method that may be more advisable when you are praying the Rosary alone and have ample time. It is permissible and even encouraged in meditation to use our imagination to enter a Bible scene one may be mediating on to adore the Lord (as in His Nativity), or to console the Lord (as during His Agony in the Garden), and ultimately to converse with the Lord in an intimate manner. Saint Teresa of Avila is adamant that meditation should lead to conversation (see, for example, Peter Thomas Rohrbach’s book, Conversation With Christ)! Thus, in the period of silence proposed by the Pope one could use his or her imagination to “enter into” the Rosary mystery in order to praise, adore or console the Lord, and then to talk to the Lord. As previously mentioned, these mysteries are “living and present” and contain particular fruit for each of us. Jesus came for each one of us: therefore, enter into the mystery, talk to Jesus, stay with Him for a while, share with Him His joys and sorrows, console Him, and let Him console you, and tell the Lord your problems and needs. Allow yourself to be present to the Lord in the mystery you are praying. You can then linger with the Lord in the mystery as you pray the Our Father and the ten Hail Marys. With practice, this method of praying the Rosary could deepen your level of intimacy with the Lord.

EXAMPLEYou come to the First Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden. Per the recommendation of Saint Pope John Paul II, you read and listen to a Gospel account of our Lord’s Agony in the Garden, and then observe a period of silence to focus on the mystery. I am then recommending that you use your imagination to walk into the garden of Gethsemane to kneel next to Jesus, to look at Him, to console Him, and then to converse with Him. You might even put your arm around Him and tell Him of your own sorrow for the sins you have committed. Become a very dear friend of Jesus. Then pray the prayers for that decade with the mystery and your encounter with Jesus lingering in the background. You need not do this for every mystery, but it should prove fruitful if you can do it for one or two of the mysteries, depending upon how much time you have.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Reference: In my opening sentence I am following Father Faber whose opening sentence in All for Jesus is “Jesus belongs to us.” Those first few pages of All for Jesus are well worth reading. Some books which discuss the role of imagination and conversation in Catholic meditation include: Time for God by Jacques Philippe and Progress through Mental Prayer by Edward Leen. I borrow from Father Garrigou-LaGrange the phrase, “living more profoundly.”

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