The beauty of the Catholic Church is not there in any other religion said a Catholic priest in his homily about an hour ago at a church in Rome.He said that there cannot be Christ without the Catholic Church.
We cannot separate the two.He was speaking on the necessity to remain in Christ to bring 'good fruit'.Without Christ as our centre we cannot be called Christians he said.
One may be a priest, deacon or any one else in the Church but if Christ is not at the centre of your actions and life then your not a Christian and neither are you producing good fruit as Christ would want it.
The homily was on the Gospel of John 15: 1-8
Jesus said to his disciples:
These days, I have been reading a book in Italian. A Spanish writer reviews his clear understanding of Teresa's Interior Castle, inspired by the Holy Spirit. I have held on to that book, totally captured, while alone,for hours together, quite a few times over, many years back.I also read, The Way of Perfection and the book of her Life, in English.It was with Teresa that I found true Catholic spirituality.It was missing every where around me.
At that time I was a teacher of Transcendental Meditation (TM)and would be teaching it to others. I remember the Parish Priest Fr. Francis once came over to the house and was talking in the garden with my Dad. I was in my room with my books and the silence and solitude I loved.
Then my Dad shouted out and called me. I did not know that Fr. Francis had come to complain about me teaching that meditation.
I was happy to see Fr.Francis. He was a good priest who always wore his white cassock.He was very polite and made it seem like this was a family visit and asked me how was I doing.I straight away began talking about my Teresa, like a 'pazzo'( as they would say in Italian). I thought perhaps he would understand me.No one else could among relatives and friends.
He listened politely for a while without commenting or offering any reasons.
Then he looked at my Dad and said, "If he is reasoning Teresa of Avila, then it is all okay', and he got up and said good bye and left.
My Dad smiled. Then I had a clue as to why this priest had come over to the house.
Teresa says that there is discursive prayer( meditation) and the mystical prayer, which is infused and comes through grace and without effort( contemplation). According to the writer Tomas Alvarez, first there is the prayer of quiet and then the prayer of recollection.The prayer of recollection is the entry point into the fourth mansions ( Alvarez uses the plural).
To reach the fourth mansions says Alvarez it does not require any special ethics or virtue. It is a gift that can be received by any one.The river flows and one just taps into it. But at Number Four we are still at the natural level.It is not supernatural yet.Yoga and Eastern forms of meditation can take you up to the fourth mansion. Then there is Satan or an angel waiting.They will see in which direction you go or be taken to.
To get pass the fourth mansions we need grace, says Teresa, and you need the person of Jesus. Don't try to get pass the fourth mansions, without the image or person or Jesus she cautions.Contemplation must always be with Jesus.It is safest with Jesus on the Cross.
Grace is accompanied with bliss and joy, Alvarez says, citing the saint, and it is there for any one.It can be reached, irrespective of ones religion, through discursive prayer, which is making an effort. Up to the fourth mansions only, of course.
Further than that Satan and one's ego will create blockages.
From the fourth mansion says Alvarez, quoting Teresa, one has to be a warrior in prayer. It is not the simple praying we know and are familiar with in Church.It is a war with Satan.Prayer is one's protection and source of entry into new realms of remaining with Jesus as the Gospel mentions today.It is a war with temptations. Today I see so many men wearing earrings. This shows that they have lost the battle.They have been subdued by Satan and are still in the First Mansions.Prayer was necessary.
Even with the discursive prayer which we have all learned since childhood we can tap into the that river of grace says Alvarez- still at the fourth mansions.However there is another prayer which is like drawing water from an aqueduct, he says,which is abundant and received without effort.From the fourth mansions this is the prayer given to whomever Jesus chooses.He decides. We cannot reach it with mental techniques, nor through our efforts or actions, says Alvarez, a Carmelite.
It is this prayer which takes one past the fourth mansion and in my experience you cannot get there without Jesus.I gave up Transcendental Meditation a long time back. I had gone on two pilgrimages to Medugorje which changed my heart. I just could not go back to TM, even if I tried to.
I am still at the fourth mansion in the book but I know Teresa well and so I know how 'the plot' will end.I am also still at the fourth mansion and below in real life.But Teresa has always been someone special for me with my ups and downs with my personal meditation experiences.I felt she was the only friend I had at that time. As soon as I get to Heaven,if she doesn't show up immediately - I'll call her out.
So back to the homily of the young priest today.How do you remain with Jesus? He is the vine and I am the branch but do I remain with Him in the prayer of quiet only or the prayer of recollection ? Then for how long?
Teresa has the whole day in mind. Alvarez will say the same soon in the book, I gather.We have to pray always.
Can you be recollected in prayer when you are not in church, but walking on the streets ? Yes.
Can you do it while talking to other people and working in the office or kitchen? Yes, say the saints. They were given the grace by Jesus.
St.Faustina Kowalska writes that Our Lady taught her how to be recollected in Jesus always, even while doing her manual and other work in the convent.Teresa was given the same grace. St. Francis of Assisi was given the same grace, St. Teresa of the Child Jesus was given the same grace.They knew how to do it.
It is God who decides.Techniques can prepare us. But they cannot take us there.A guru can give you experiences but he cannot take you there.
Long hours of meditation and eating the right food can help but they cannot take you there.The Vedas mention the rakshasas, people or beings who spent years doing tapas, austerities and disciplines, but they were following the Left path, the path of Satan.Wiccans know this too.
Finally it is grace.Tapping into the aqueduct and remaining there is all grace.
Teresa was special for Jesus. She got the gifts many holy people and great saints did not have.She says that one of the mistakes we make in prayer is that we do not talk to Jesus as a person.For me it is important to be in the present moment, to know Jesus in the present moment.Often when I am praying my rosary I have to keep coming back to the present moment, where Jesus and Our Lady are present with me.
Teresa di Ahumuda, also known as Teresa of Jesus and the Castillian Saint, remained in Jesus and Jesus in her, in the fifth, sixth and seventh mansions something I can only imagine with my poor intellect and understanding.She had a direct vision of the Trinity as did Faustina Kowalska.She was united to God and remained in God and with God at the highest Mystical levels allowed for us mortal.For long periods she was with her Beloved in the flow of that river of grace.
The priest said - that we are all called to holiness we are all called to be saints. The Catholic Church, in which so many have become saints he said calls us to be saints.To remain in Jesus and with Jesus, as saints.-Lionel Andrades