"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Interior Castle by St. Theresa of Avila, Part 2

Here were my observations for the second and third mansions from the Goodreads Catholic Thought book club discussions on St. Theresa of Avila's Interior Castle.

You can read Part 1, here.  

Second Mansion

Susan Margaret wrote: "In the first paragraph on the Second Mansions, Teresa mentions something that I think all of us on Goodreads – Catholic Thought have in common and that is, “…most of us never get tired of the multitude of books that deal with matters of the soul” (pg 55, Mirabai Starr edition). I really like the fact that Teresa is such an avid reader; it gives me something I can easily relate to. "

Manny in repsnse: I'm amazed at how learned she is. I don't know the details of her biography; how did she become so well read and a fine writer for a woman of her age. It's a rare woman in her times that even got to go to school, let alone be so exceptional. 

Kerstin wrote: "I find her writing style a little rambling. It almost seems as if one has to make a synopsis of every paragraph to extract what the essence is."

Manny in repsonse: Kerstin, if I may speculate, I think what you're having trouble with is St. Theresa's poeticism. She writes like a poet. So much of what she says is in analogies, similes, and metaphors, and therefore it's not direct. And to be fair to St. Theresa, the subject matter doesn't lend itself to direct speech. Such spirituality is difficult to express, and one has to grasp for comparisons. I could be wrong. I could also be the translation. 

For me, I had similar issues at the beginning. But over time her style has worked its way into my head. I'm fifteen pages from the end, and her writing seems quite logical and conversive. 

Matthew in the Introduction section mentioned he felt he was mostly in the first mansion.  I would have to say for me—and I bet most of us here—are in the second mansion.  In the 2nd paragraph is where she describes those people:

“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.  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.”

Yes that probably describes me.  I pray and understand the condition of my sins, and understand the need to avoid them, but I can’t say I break free of them often.  She goes on in the next paragraph to understand the psychology of me and those like me:

“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.”

Though I hear our Lord, we are just too wrapped up in the business and amusements of this world, like the Super Bowl.  You would think that watching the Super Bowl would be relatively innocuous but it would amaze how many little sins will happen during the course of a Super Bowl party: the language, the bad thoughts, the gambling, the pleasure of watching someone lose, etc.  All venial sins, I’m sure, but sins nonetheless sins which pull you away from elevating the soul.  

Third Mansion

Along the line of needing a trusted spiritual adviser, this paragraph from the first chapter of the third mansion suggests that it would be helpful and that it might not:

"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.' "

You could look at that paragraph and conclude you can't do it on your own,  Even Solomon failed.  But it also warns that just because you have Theresa of Avila as a spiritual mother, it doesn't mean that you will progress.  I've never had a spiritual director, and it would have to be someone I really felt comfortable with if I were to take one on, but I don't know how much it helps.  I guess it can't hurt.

In reply to Andy above, I found this somewhere in the middle in the second chapter to be significant:

“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.”

Humility and submission to the will of God in all things—which is the same thing—is how one makes it to the third mansion.


  1. This is all too intellectual for me, Manny.

    God bless.

    1. It's not an easy read, but mostly because of the way she writes. Once people have explained what she means, it's not too intellectual. She employs different types of meditation to conform herself to Christ, and the closer she gets to Christ, the further in the castle she gets. It's not too different than Lectia Devina, if you know that sort of Jesuit prayer.