St. Teresa writes In the Way of Perfection, “Be very careful about your interior thoughts, especially if they have to do with precedence.” We might wonder why concerns about who is first, or who works the hardest, or who is being treated better in our community would have an impact on contemplative prayer. She asks, can God not grant consolations in prayer to those who are less detached than this? St. Teresa acknowledges that God in his infinite wisdom can grant consolations to whomever He pleases. These consolations will lead the soul to become detached and humble in any environment. This detachment will be harder for those who dwell outside the cloistered religious life, but she acknowledges that this experience is for everyone. This is an important thought. The Church teaches that there is a universal call to holiness based on our Baptismal vocation. This must also imply that there is a universal call to experience contemplative prayer. The universal opportunity for these graces does not mean they are universally experienced, but the call to holiness remains for each of us.
Even for those in a cloistered life the dangers of pride and attachment to worldly things remains. These disordered desires lead to a lack of progress in the interior life. She notes,
Though persons who do so may have spent years in prayer, or rather in meditation (for perfect prayer eventually destroys [all] these attachments), they will never make great progress or come to enjoy the real fruit of prayer.
It is very likely that a lack of progress in the interior life is a result of yielding to the temptations of pride and worldly attachments. St. Teresa writes; “God deliver us from people who wish to serve Him yet who are mindful of their own honor.”
St. Teresa’s teachings are the perfect backdrop for this Sunday’s readings. Qoheleth writes; “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” (Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23). Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool highlights the short-sightedness of being focused on attachments to things in this life (Lk 12:13-21). It has been pointed out that six times in the short discourse by the rich man he refers to himself. It is not the possessions themselves, but his extremely self-centered attitude which is the problem. We must let go of our own desires and turn our hearts to God.
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Learn more about St. Teresa this Fall in our upcoming Bishop Helmsing Institute course Writings of the Saints, which will be a book study of her work, The Interior Castle.