• Sarah Raad


Oh, what value there can be in giving away this life to God… “Try to fill your soul with Christ so that it is not empty.” (Saint Porphyrios).

Saint Teresa of Avila's "Interior Castle"

When she was a little girl, one of my younger sisters dreamed that one day she would meet Prince Charming and when he proposed to her, he would offer her a gigantic pink diamond ring and they would live happily ever after in their castle – or mansion – or some other such wonderful palace of a place.

Now, when my sister wished for these things she was a very young girl indeed. In fact – though her beautiful husband offered her a lovely engagement ring when the time came to get engaged and then married, she did not receive a massive pink diamond, and she and her family live in a very ordinary sort of house in a very ordinary sort of suburb – where there are no castles of mansions to be seen.

But still, I do not think she has any regrets…

I have been praying for that sister and her family quite a lot over the last few days, as I pray often for my family – and for yours too. As I have been praying for her, this very old memory has floated often into my mind. In fact, the memory has surfaced so many times that it occurred to me that perhaps there is something important for me to reflect on in this…

After all, that diamond was something that my sister valued when she was a little girl and it reminded me of another crystal that I have recently been reading about…

In the 16th century text, “Interior Castle”, which was written by the great doctor of the Church, the Spanish Carmelite nun, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Teresa describes the interior castle of the soul as a huge crystal palace which has God at its centre, who emits a great light. In this text, Saint Teresa describes the various parts of the “interior castle” which is the soul. Inside that castle, Saint Teresa explains that there are seven mansions or levels.

The aim of the soul is to reach the innermost mansion, which is the most valuable and beautiful of all mansions, and that innermost mansion is at the centre of all the mansions and contains God, who emits radiant light that shimmers through the crystal.

Souls in the outer mansions are distracted with worldly and sinful things, which Saint Teresa describes as serpents and toads, and these distracted souls cannot see the beautiful light of God that shines so strongly in the interior mansion. Saint Teresa explains that it is our Earthly obligation to aim to reach that innermost mansion through close communion with God which is achieved through sacrifice and mortification.

Saint Porphyrios said the same sort of thing when he said, “When people are empty of Christ, a thousand and one other things come and fill them up: jealousies, hatreds, boredom, melancholy, resentment, a worldly outlook, worldly pleasures. Try to fill your soul with Christ so that it is not empty.”

When I read Saint Teresa’s work, one thing was immediately clear – the innermost castle – where God Himself was contained and from whence the great light in the soul resonates – was the entire focus of her life. That was the thing that she valued in this lifetime.

He text reminded me of the words of a later Saint, Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, who died at the end of the 18th century, who said, “My brother, give yourself to God before death comes to you. Detach yourself instantly from everything which removes, or can remove you from God. Let us instantly renounce the goods of the earth, before death strips us of them by force.”

It is important to reflect on the things that we value. After all, Saint Francis of Assisi reminded us that the only thing we can take with us to Heaven is our good deeds. And Pope Saint Gregory the Great said, “The more numerous the gifts we have received from God, the greater the account we must render Him.”

And it is for this reason that I pray the prayers of Saint Faustina in her Diary 366, “O my Jesus, be patient with me. O my Jesus, be patient with me. I will be more careful in the future. I will rely, not upon myself, but upon Your Grace and Your very great goodness to miserable me.”

For if I pray like this, I can hold something of great value in the palms of my hands – for in mt worthless little hands, I will hold my life’s work, which shall be to follow the advice of Saint Padre Pio… “Give to God the remaining years of your life. Beg God to use them in the kind of life that is pleasing to Him.”

For now, I can see, that what has value is more than gold and jewels, and far more than gigantic pink diamonds… It is God – God Himself and no other…

“If men only appreciated the value of a holy Mass, they would need traffic officers at church doors every day to keep the crowds in order.” (Saint Padre Pio)

For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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