Interior Castle is the work of 16th century Carmelite nun and Christian mystic St. Teresa of Avila. She wrote Interior Castle as a spiritual guide to union with God. Her inspiration for the work came from a vision she received from God. In it, there was a crystal globe with seven mansions, with God in the innermost mansion. St. Teresa interpreted this vision as an allegory for the soul’s relationship with God; each mansion represents one place on a path towards the “spiritual marriage”–i.e. union–with God in the seventh mansion.
Read it at CCEL
A sequel and continuation of Ascent of Mount Carmel, the Dark Night of the Soul is a spiritually moving and mystical book. In it, St. John of the Cross continues his description of the soul’s journey–the “dark night”–to the “divine union of the love of God.”
Read Ascent of Mount Carmel at CCEL
Read Dark Night of the Soul at CCEL
St. Therese of Lisieux was born at Alencon, Normandy. In 1886 she underwent a religious conversion and thereafter dedicated herself to monastic life. Entering the Carmelite convent at Lisieux at fifteen, she was appointed assistant novice mistress in 1893. One year before her death (1897) from tuberculosis, she volunteered to join the Carmelite missionaries in China.
Her devotional book, The Little Way, was widely acclaimed, as was her autobiography The Story of a Soul. Miracles of healing and prophecy soon were attributed to her name, and an account of these was appended in 1907 to the autobiography.
Read The Story of A Soul At CCEL
Read The Poems of St. Therese at CCEL
On December 14, the church will commemorate the life of St. John of the Cross, the doctor of the Church who first wrote about the “long dark night of the soul.”
John of the Cross was born in the 16th century into a family which had fallen out of wealth. His father, a silk trader, had been disowned by his own family for marrying a woman of a lower social class. The family survived as silk weavers, but John’s father died while John was very young. The boy began to work in a hospital while attending school part time. It is said that he seemed incapable of learning any trade.
He entered the Carmelite Order, but became disillusioned and thought of leaving. Then he met St. Teresa of Avila. Together with the saint, he reformed the Carmelite order by founding the Discalced (literally“shoe-less”) Carmelites. At the time, many Carmelites had moved from a life of fasting, prayer and penance. They resented the reforms.
John was kidnapped by members of his own order and imprisoned in a small, cold and dark cell. He was beaten regularly. Yet in this time, he wrote some of his most profound poetry. Eventually, he escaped and was able to share some of his mystical writings with the world. He is famous for having written “The Ascent of Mt. Carmel,” “The Dark Night of the Soul,” and “The Spiritual Canticle.”
He died at the age of 49, and was canonized in 1726. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.
Today he is considered one of the first, and greatest mystics.
Read his timeless and classic work “The Dark Night of the Soul”
Read “The Life of St. John of the Cross”
A couple of Amazon reviews of a book recently recommended by one of our readers:
Fr. Dubay exposes the dangers of self-deception
, November 12, 1999
I was interested in this book because of the topic and the author. The topic, because of my 15 years in a charismatic community which professed to be able to discern the movements of the Holy Spirit and his counterfeits. The author because I respect him after reading Fire Within.
Thomas Dubay argues that the gift of discernment of spirits is real, but it is reserved for the mature, well-trained, obedient person. It is not a gift that should be claimed rashly for oneself. Fr. Dubay emphasizes the role of Church authority in determining the validity of private revelations. He mentions how St. John of the Cross warned readers to beware of private locutions, even legitimate ones. We are not to run after extraordinary phenomena for their own sake, but should be content with an ordinary life of prayer and sacrament. Even when St. John believed he had personally heard from God, he consulted a priest. If the priest disagreed with John’s revelation, John would always obey the confessor.
Thomas Dubay systematically discusses the pitfalls in discernment. For example, he discusses how even a valid “word” from God may be misinterpreted by even the sincere, mature Christian.
He uses the scriptures and the Spanish mystics to describe the qualities of a prophet. He describes the importance of conversion to Christ in being able to discern his will. Other elements are important too: obedience to authority in the larger Church. Unity of a community is an essential sign that it is being guided by the Holy Spirit. An appreciation for sound doctrine. The living of a moral life.
The author’s musings on the selectivity of our minds in rationalizing our positions, particularly in dissent against the magisterium, made me examine my conscience. There was a passage that jived perfectly with The Seven Storey Mountain, which I had just finished.
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful:
Gourmet Chicken Soup for the Soul
, April 14, 2002
Seldom is a work on prayer and discernment so clear, comforting, and intellectually stimulating. This work is excellent for Catholics looking for an orthodox, contemporary work on discernment. Fr. Dubay, a widely renowned spirtitual director and expert on Sts. Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross, dispels the myths surrounding authentic mysticism.Many are suprised when they hear that St. John of the Cross was extremely skeptical of all private revelations and illuminism. He submitted all of his discernment thoughts to the test of offical Church teachings and the opinion of his confessor. Sound reasoning and many Scriptural references demonstrate that authentic discerment derives from steady prayer, spiritual reading and obediance.
I also highly recommend this work to Protestants. Fr. Dubay has soaked this work with Scripture. He clarifies the often misunderstood Catholic concept of genuine mysticism which is often mistaken for gnosticism or superstition.
Sufficed to say Fr. Dubay’s clear yet gentle way of caring for souls is rare. Few are able to write such a practical work that is free from the campy, “how-to” shallowness of modern spiritual writing.
See it or buy it at Amazon
Book suggestion by: lindsayraemyers