22 June 2009

Humility, briefly

Both of my parents were Third Order Carmelites. I have a bookcase full of books on Carmelite spirituality and numerous other topics that they left me. After years, this Cradle Catholic is finding there is more to this thing of prayer than going to Mass, saying my prayers, novenas and chaplets, and receiving the sacraments.

It's funny how you get to a point where you are all "fat and happy" with yourself, your spiritual life, and God is there where you want Him. It's also funny how God doesn't let you stay in this stage with your usual comfort food, essentially boxing Him in, but prompts you to move along.

I've finally cracked open some works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. Yes, St. John of the Cross is blunt, but coming from a long line of military folks, I can almost hear my father's voice in St. John.

I'm pretty certain that my father must be looking down at me wondering why it's taken me so long to get moving. After all, the books have been in my bookcase for nearly a decade.

Yes, I'm behind the power curve on my history and faith. So much to learn. My brother would call me a "passive learner," getting all my knowledge and information from listening to homilies, tuning in to programs on Relevant Radio and EWTN, but never endeavoring beyond.

I think I need Cliff Notes for St. Teresa's Interior Castle. I can't distinguish one room (mansion) from another very well, even though this was explained to me before I even started. Pathetic, really!

Right now, I feel like I'm in the woods well outside the castle walls, almost like Dawn of the Dead...if I can only make it to the mall.

"...self-knowledge is so important that, even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should like you never to relax your cultivation of it; so long as we are on this earth, nothing matters more to us than humility. And so I repeat that it is a very good thing -- excellent, indeed -- to begin by entering the room where humility is acquired rather than by flying off to the other rooms. For that is the way to make progress, and, if we have a safe, level road to walk along, why should we desire wings to fly? Let us rather try to get the greatest possible profit out of walking. 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."
Interior Castle, First Mansion, Chapter 2.


Anonymous said...

I read the Interior Castle for Lent a couple of years ago. Well, having named a child after the good lady I thought I should read her work.
Honestly I a too dumb to get it. I loved reading it-kind of basking in the holiness, but I didn't get it.
I haven't read St John.
I do read my beloved St Bridget quite often.
Nothing like reading these saints to keep you OUT of that comfortable phase!

Anonymous said...

I, too, need a Cliff's Notes version!!! Yes, that archaic text translation is really tough going. My spiritual advisor said he'll get me the title of a "modern language" version which would hopefully be MORE ACCESSIBLE--I'll pass it along. I wanna know this stuff--but maybe I'm just too dumb.

whocares? said...

My spiritual advisor recommends this book: "Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer" - Thomas Dubay.

Thomas Dubay also has an EXCELLENT lecture series "Contemplative Prayer" (13 episodes/3 DVDs)available at Netflix.