I have known Margaret for years and years. Recently, she asked if she could share something with my blog readers and, of course, I said yes. Thanks for this beautiful piece Margie.
A bit about Margaret,
41 years old, mother of three, married 15 years, Catholic. I was a cafeteria Catholic for many years and rediscovered this gift in my thirties. I have learned patience from this journey back to Christ. I have learned to earn it. It is worth the time - something we really do have so little of. If I make it Heaven I envision that I will stand before Jesus and He will reach out His arms and hug me like a long lost child. Happy to have me home.
St Teresa of Avila
The Interior Castle is a contemplative view of the soul through the lens of sincere prayer. It can be a tough read and requires concentration and focus. I have picked it up and put and down for months now. Taking it in bit by bit has had a powerful impact on the way I view my self and my soul. Teresa envisioned the soul as "a castle made of a single diamond . . . in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions."
"Let us now imagine that this castle, as I have said, contains many mansions, some above, others below, others at each side; and in the centre and midst of them all is the chiefest mansion where the most secret things pass between God and the soul. You must think over this comparison very carefully; perhaps God will be pleased to use it to show you something of the favours which He is pleased to grant to souls..."
"Many souls remain in the outer court of the castle, which is the place occupied by the guards; they are not interested in entering it, and have no idea what there is in that wonderful place, or who dwells in it, or even how many rooms it has. You will have read certain books on prayer which advise the soul to enter within itself: and that is exactly what this means.
...the door of entry into this castle is prayer and meditation: I do not say mental prayer rather than vocal, for, if it is prayer at all, it must be accompanied by meditation.
She goes on to describe the state of the soul in mortal sin and the darkness that surrounds the castle as one enters it for the first time.
This is where I come in with my personal story to share about this journey to my Interior Castle.
Meditating seems like an impossible task for some people. It was for me. I had difficulty concentrating and turning off the thoughts in my mind. Repetitive prayer is very helpful - especially when it is heard externally - a CD with music or Mother Angelica on EWTN reciting the Rosary. The repetition and even tone of the voice helps to center my thoughts and allows me to visualize the meditations. This is a very powerful form of prayer that allows you to put yourself into the meditation. I often meditate to the Rosary and visualize myself somewhere in the moment. For instance, one of my most powerful meditations is visualizing myself kneeling next to Jesus as he suffers in the garden of Gethsemane. I cry with him, I feel His suffering and I can't do anything to relieve it but to be there with Him and experience His emotional pain. I envision reaching up and touching His foot as He hangs on the cross.
This visualization is actual - I mean that I do not change who I am in the moment. I wear the same clothes as present time, etc., - In essence - I am myself.
"As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble.
This brings me back to the Interior Castle. I found this visualization particularly difficult because I was using St. Teresa suggestions of the castle to meditate and it wasn't working. I continued trying and praying on it and the answer was revealed. For a few years now (prior to me reading The Interior Castle") I have had a recurring dream about living in a huge white house with uncountable rooms in it. In the dream it is always dark outside and I am wandering the house looking at the rooms - some are appointed and decorated - some are not. Sometimes my whole family is in the house - meaning my family and my parents and brothers and sisters.
I am continually drawn to an entry door that is in disrepair and I am afraid someone will break in. I am acutely aware that someone or something is outside and just waiting to break in if I don't take measures to lock or bolster the entry way. There is always one room in the house that I perceive to be evil. When I pass by the room it feels like a strong magnet is pulling my entire body towards it and I immediately begin to recite the Hail Mary. Sometimes I am forcefully dragged into the room and I experience a powerful magnetic feeling - pressing in all over me - that is only relieved by praying the Hail Mary. I am terribly scared at first but I almost always surrender myself to the will of God and then I find myself out of the room.
"With regard to these first Mansions I can give some very useful information out of my own experience. I must tell you, for example, to think of them as comprising not just a few rooms, but a very large number. There are many ways in which souls enter them, always with good intentions; but as the devil's intentions are always very bad, he has many legions of evil spirits in each room to prevent souls from passing from one to another, and as we, poor souls, fail to realize this, we are tricked by all kinds of deceptions. The devil is less successful with those who are nearer the King's dwelling-place; but at this early stage, as the soul is still absorbed in worldly affairs, engulfed in worldly pleasure and puffed up with worldly honours and ambitions, its vassals, which are the senses and the faculties given to it by God as part of its nature, have not the same power, and such a soul is easily vanquished, although it may desire not to offend God and may perform good works. Those who find themselves in this state need to take every opportunity of repairing to His Majesty, and to make His blessed Mother their intercessor, and also His saints, so that these may do battle for them, since their own servants have little strength for defending themselves. In reality it is necessary in every state of life for our help to come from God. May His Majesty grant us this through His mercy. Amen.
So...This has been an enlightening experience for me. I can now more realistically visualize my "Interior Castle" and work through prayer, meditation and good works to journey through the castle to the center where Christ lives.