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If you can’t accept trials, you are not saintly

08 August 2014

The last of the extracts from Elizabeth Ruth Obbard's retelling of The Interior Castle by St Teresa of Avila

Spiritual pride: an illustration by Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, from her book

Spiritual pride: an illustration by Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, from her book

HAVING come thus far, you may be tempted to self-satisfaction, but don't rest on your laurels. It is a great thing to have reached the third mansion, but we are not secure at this stage. We still have to be aware of the enemy at the gates. The only true security is when we reach heaven. Even some saints fell into grave sin, despite having come a long way in God's service. So keep alert and watchful.

We may have Our Lady as patroness of Carmel, but that does not guarantee our own holiness. David, too, was a holy man, and look at what his son Solomon became. If we are living excellent lives and being faithful to prayer, we must always remember the scripture verse "Blessed is the one who fears the Lord" (Psalm 112.1), and be not over-confident.

THERE are many people in the third mansion who have overcome their initial difficulties. They avoid even small sins. They find joy in mortifying themselves. They spend hours in prayer and recollection. They use their time well. They are charitable towards their neighbours. They fulfil the duties of their state of life conscientiously.

We tend to say that such people are "saints". Well, I say otherwise. Holiness is far more than an outwardly well-ordered life. Remember the rich young man who was living a good life, yet faltered when challenged to sell everything if he wanted to be perfect.

Doing what one has to do anyway is hardly great holiness, and certainly not perfection. Remember that we are only God's servants, and bound to do what is right and good, without looking for reward or congratulations from others, never mind congratulating ourselves.

Jesus was a true servant, and never looked for compliments or rewards; instead, he was focused on the Cross and on giving his life for us. If we are expecting God to reward our faithfulness with sweetness in prayer, we have the wrong idea of the spiritual life altogether, never mind expecting other people to congratulate us on our good living.

The way to discover if we have really advanced is to notice how we react when tested. Oh, my! How some people who seem to be such good Christians go under at even small trials! I have been driven crazy by such people and their constant complaining.

It is no use offering them advice, as they think they are far advanced on the spiritual path and know all the answers. Their only hope is to realise that they are still needy people, and not as good as they thought.

It is one thing to meditate on the sufferings of the Lord, but quite another to accept a bit of suffer-ing ourselves. Thinking on the Passion is fine in its own way. Putting the lessons of the Passion into practice in our life is quite another matter.

Loss of reputation makes people in this mansion restless. They also become depressed over really trifling matters, and if they do manage to rise above trivialities for a time, they think themselves absolutely wonderful. How ridiculous can you get! If you cannot accept the trials of daily life, stop considering yourself saintly, and return to basic humility.

This is the last of four edited extracts from Travelling Inwards: St Teresa's Interior Castle for everyone by Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, published by New City at £5.95 (CT Bookshop £5.35  - Use code CT217 ); 978-1-905039-21-0.

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