Interior Castle

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Interior Castle

St. Paul says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19).

I was reading the “Interior Castle” of St. Teresa of Avila for the second time when her imagery of our soul as a beautiful castle made of precious diamond where God lives struck me for the first time as vivid and picturesque. Our soul is so precious to God, in a way we can never understand. Then it just struck me how majestic and grandiose God is and it is He Who actually dwells in my soul, created in the image and likeness of Himself. Suddenly, all through my thick layers of human flaws and imperfections, I felt the Spirit of God within the deepest part of me. I felt humbled that such a great God is in me.

Then the imagery of St. Teresa’s silkworm wrapped in its cocoon that has emerged into a beautiful butterfly struck me even more. The worm is myself, very human, very weak. Like the silkworm, I have to use all my human faculties and skills within my power to spin the silk for my cocoon, and God will do His part of transforming such ugly worm into a beautiful butterfly.

Or to use another imagery of St. Teresa, I am just a wax in the Hand of God. For Him to leave His imprint on me, I will just have to let Him stamp His seal on the wax. All I have to do is be pliant.

Suddenly, I thought of the many times when I harshly condemned myself for all my faults and failings. I said to God, “Lord, I don’t want to condemn myself anymore. You know how very weak, very human, very sensual I am. But whatever human part I have, I offer to you completely. I am the human part. You are the Divine part of me. I will do what is within my power as human. I will observe the precepts, teachings and laws of Mother Church. And I leave to You whatever work You want to accomplish in me.”

Then, I felt a kind of peace in me like I never felt before. All my anxieties about pleasing God were dispelled. I only have to cooperate with God. The main action will all depend on Him. Suddenly, things looked relatively simpler than I perceived them before. I will go to Mass as frequently as possible, do my spiritual readings, go to confession regularly, practice charity to my neighbors, and do my work conscientiously. Even my prayer took on a simpler light: pray for priests, for the conversion of the world, and for the salvation of souls. When I entrusted the major work to God, taking on only what really pertains to me as mere human, I felt a ton of burden lifted from me. For the greater part of my life, it was like I was too worried how God would accomplish my salvation, feeling all too burdened by it. The moment I entrusted it all to God, I felt free and light, with a gentle joy and peace in my heart.

God in my soul as His Castle! Keep this Castle pure and worthy of You, Lord. Truly, the Kingdom of God is within us! (cf. Lk 17:21) The King of the Universe dwells in our soul!

Postscript

After several days, I was made to understand that even the human actions that I do are not mine alone. Perhaps, to make me realize that even my efforts at saying my prayers depend on God’s grace, I seemed to have lost one time the sense of devotion and tenderness that I usually had. Truly, everything is grace, both the human and the divine. Even my human nature is a mystery which I cannot arrogate unto myself. Both pertain to God alone! Glory to God forever!

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“I’m Always Mary”

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When the Gospel one day was about Mary and Martha, a friend asked me who I was, Mary or Martha. And I answered readily, “I’m always Mary.” Then speaking Jesus’ part, she answered, “You chose the better part. And it will never be taken away from you.”

In my faith relationship with Jesus, I’m always Mary, choosing always to sit at the feet of Jesus to listen to His words, to ponder at the mysterious ways of God, and to relish His mercy and compassion in my life and for the rest of the world. There are times when I’m so loquacious, droning over and over to Jesus about my daily experiences in life, most of the time grumbling away all my pains. But there comes a point when the pain and weariness become so unbearable that you merely stay in silence at the feet of Jesus, crying, just feeling His presence with you, just knowing that He is there and you are not alone. It is like gazing at the face of Love and Truth, and just being merely with Him gives you comfort.

Being Mary at the feet of Jesus, I felt I wanted to be a Tertiary Carmelite contemplative, following the examples of my Patron Saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, and my Spiritual Mother, St. Teresa of Avila. I started as an Observer in November 2012. I was attending the second Sunday formation together with the aspirants, novices and other fully professed Carmelites. Midway, I was rethinking my intention of being a Carmelite, questioning my presence there. After several months as an observer, I stopped going to the Sunday monthly formations. I wanted some actions in my life, like Martha, always restless, always planning ahead of time and of herself. I said to myself, I would rather concentrate on my work, improve my service to the public through my profession, and just do my own readings of the works of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux. I said all these things to myself, despite my earlier promise to God and to St. Teresa and St. Therese that I would become a Carmelite.

It seems that God, and my insistent Spiritual Mother, St. Teresa, do not take a promise lightly. A promise is a promise which is a very serious matter with them. Slowly but surely, I just felt that they wanted me back at the Carmel House, no if’s and but’s, no long winding arguments and explanations, no sagacious interlocutions, they just wanted me there. God seemed to be missing me just sitting there at His feet, and I missed just being there gazing at the Face of Love and Truth. I wasted no time after that realization and in August 2013, I was back at Carmel, together with my Carmelite brothers and sisters. I did not only miss being at the feet of Jesus. I missed my brothers and sisters there.

St. Teresa said we cannot be priests but what we can do is pray for these ministers of Christ and for the conversion of the world. How blessed our calling is!

“My Daily Dose of Vitamins”

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I used to dream of becoming a saint one day. In fact, I keep a quasi library full of books about my favorite saints and various books about our faith and the Church. I love and admire all the saints, especially my favorite ones.

Little by little, though, I have come to the bitter truth that, maybe, I can only be a big fan of my favorite saints, admiring them from afar, but never to be like one of them. I saw myself as a terrible far cry from my beloved saints that for a time, I stopped going to daily Holy Mass, convinced that I was not worthy. My mind had never been in such darkness and confusion since I stopped going to daily Mass. I was living every day of my life without a sense of direction and purpose. But I always felt moved to hear the Wednesday Mass with the Novena to our Mother of Perpetual Help. It was like there was a force moving me to hear Mass on a Wednesday. Every novena, I prayed to our Mother of Perpetual Help for all spiritual and material graces that I and my family needed. And it always amazed me how solicitous and magnanimous our Mother of Perpetual Help was in providing all our necessities. Every time I heard the said Wednesday Mass, it gave me a feeling of comfort and peace that I thought the Enemy must be succeeding in preventing me from going to daily Mass by giving me all sorts of apprehensions and doubts. All those times that I was not going to daily Mass, my heart and mind were like plunged in darkness. I had no clear idea of God. I just knew that I was and would always be completely dependent on Him. That one Wednesday Mass felt so good, it dispelled all my grief and doubts about being loved by God.

The Holy Mass is the One Sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Atoning Victim to the Father for the sins of humanity which we celebrate over and over in memorial of that One Sacrifice. Jesus is the active and prime Doer, Who bestows on us every spiritual and material benefit that we need. And I am like a sick patient in need of God’s healing. The Holy Mass is truly my efficacious and potent vitamin which I need to take daily. It gives me strength of mind and spirit and fills me with all hope in the love and mercy of God for a terrible sinner like me. Whatever we are, no matter how grievous our sins are, God’s timing and action in our souls, when and as He sees fitting, will never be amiss. Like the song goes, “I will be still, know You are God.”

Christian Charity and My Funny Foibles

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Memories of my college days keep rushing back. My friends back then would always wonder at a very peculiar trait of mine. I could go to any place without money. It was not intentional, though. I would always forget my purse back in the dormitory and I would always travel around the campus penniless. Maybe, at a subconscious level, I was enjoying the charity of people who were very kind to help a poor, penniless girl. I could eat at a fast food place on a mere promise that I would later pay. It was not even a promissory “note.” It was on a mere verbal commitment to pay later. People were so trusting and I was enjoying every experience of people’s generosity.

One time, I made sure that I had my purse with me. There was a vendor on the streets selling native delicacies such as rice cakes which we call “puto” and “bibingka” in the vernacular. Then I took a jeepney which was plying round and round the campus. When I opened my purse, all I had left was a P500.00 bill. I had no small change. The driver asked me for a smaller amount. I told him I just spent the last small change I had on food. The driver quipped back that it was still early he had no change for a big bill. Having been used to generous and kind people with whom I dealt all the time, I offered as fare the rice delicacies which I just bought. The driver laughed at me like I was telling him a big joke. I was thinking of what to offer him next as a bargain. Then the guy seated next to me, himself a student, interrupted and said, “I’ll pay for her fare.” And he gave the coins to the driver. I was very grateful for the unexpected help coming from a student like myself. I was so touched I offered him likewise my rice delicacies, which he declined.

Even when I graduated already from college, started to work and got married, I have not shunned that eccentricity of leaving my purse at home and traveling penniless. Call it strange, but I had that funny feeling that when I needed money, I would always come across a generous soul. I on my part have imbibed that generosity shown to me by strangers that I in turn could spend my last centavo on my friends.

The Bible says, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10) Knowing that God is the Owner of the Universe and that He would always provide for my needs, I never worried that He would not supply what I need when I need it. 

Money is no matter to God. When He needed it, He nonchalantly ordered Peter to catch the first fish and he would find the money to pay for His tax and for Peter’s as well. (Cf. Mt. 17:27) Never allow money to stop our charity. 

“The Not So Rich Fool”

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In the Gospel of Luke 12:13-21, Jesus told the “Parable of the Rich Fool” to a man who asked Jesus to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him. The greedy rich man was struck down dead just when he thought he had all material gains ensured for himself.

Deviating a little from the parable, I was a fool many times in my life, but not as rich as the fool in the parable. I remember a time in college when I was so high and on fire with God. There was a parish church in the university campus and I and my friends would go to Mass everyday before lunch. The priests were so kind to the student parishioners and were friends to most of us. After the mass, the priest would hear confession in the confessional box.

One time, I felt moved to say my confession right after the Mass. I was very young and naive and all too trusting. The priest was inside an enclosed booth while I was outside the booth without any enclosures. It was a very fervent and heartfelt confession such that I kept my eyes closed all throughout that thirty minute confession through sobs and tears. After the priest gave me his advice and absolution, I opened my eyes and stood up with complete relief. I noticed right away that my bag which I placed in front of me when I was saying the confession was not there anymore. I was alarmed and asked the priest, “Father, where’s my bag?” The priest said defensively, “What bag? I did not get it.” Then I renewed my crying, “Father, my bag was in front of me when I was saying my confession. My eyes were closed I did not see who took it away.” We looked around inside the church and there was no one nearby inside except the two of us. I cried harder and said, “Father, all my things and money are in the bag. I cannot eat lunch.” The priest gave me some money for lunch and advised me to take better care of my things even inside the church. I thanked him for the money and promised to be cautious next time.

Being the victim of theft felt nightmarish. I could not get over it for almost a week. And I felt bad that it took place right inside the church when I was saying confession. Looking back now, I said to God, “That bag contained a Bible (Old and New testament), my rosary beads, my book “Why, Oh Lord?” on suffering, and all cards (stampitas) of my favorite saints. I would be happy if that man who stole my bag would have been converted when he saw the contents of my bag. My money inside that bag was only P200.00, it was not much for his material intent. Then I thought of Henri Pranzini, the first convert of St. Therese of Lisieux, who despite appearing impenitent at the point of his execution through the guillotine, turned back to the priest who was holding the crucifix and kissed the wounds of Jesus three times. It was the sign that St. Therese asked from Jesus if her prayers were working for the conversion of sinners.

In heaven, there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance. (Lk. 15:7)