St. Teresa of Jesus
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. 3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. 4 Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.
When I was a boy, and even now as I am not so much a boy, I liked Knights, and armor, and weapons and castles, and all the stories that went along with them. I remember reading about Sir Garrett, and Sir Dwaine. I even had knight Lego’s. I Love the knight Lego’s edition! I could make castles, and then I could storm my own castles, and they had little draw bridges and even a little damsel in distress. It was really wonderful. Also back in the day I was somewhat of an artist. I’ve drawn a year book cover, I drew my holy card for my first Mass, as well as se some other things. When I was really getting into drawing I used to draw knights. I have about forty pictures of knights and dragons, and swords, and muscles and sweat, and blood and all ugly things knights do. It was awesome! I love knights!
Saint Teresa of Jesus is who we are celebrating today, although you may know her by the name of Teresa of Avila, and she gave us a great image of our soul. She said that your soul, your interior life is like a castle that has seven rings, and in the center of your castle is a King who is Jesus. And your job is to protect your castle. Now those seven rings are actually seven stages of spiritual growth. You can think of the stages as the different age groups of basketball. There is bitty basketball and then middle school basketball, and then high school basketball, and then college basketball, and then professional basketball. They are all different levels of basketball, with different stages of growth. In the same way, you have different stages of growth in your spiritual self.
The image that Saint Teresa of Avila uses for the interior life is the image of a castle. It is a wonderful image because if you have a castle you have to protect it from enemies. There are basically three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Those are three things you have to protect your castle from, that are coming at you. So you have to have a strong outer wall which is prayer and fasting and other things like that.
However, it’s not enough to protect the outside of the castle you have to protect the inside of the castle. Saint Teresa of Avila used the image of snakes, and mice and spiders saying all these evil things are like desires, thoughts and vices that we have but shouldn’t. These would be the snakes and mice and spiders and they all need to get squished and moved out of our castle. For we have to have a clean interior castle especially if we are waiting to meet the King.
Like every Castle inside the king’s room is always the most plush, and this is the center of your soul where Jesus dwells. In a matter of fact St. Teresa called it the “Indwelling Trinity of The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” When you were baptized He went inside your soul. We protect that, like knights protecting a castle.
St. Teresa used seven stages of growth, but today I will give you three stages so that you can recognize the pattern of spiritual growth. The reason I am going to do this is because I want you to get excited about the spiritual life in very much the same way that the Royals baseball got as excited as little boys. They wanted to play baseball as youth and because they were excited then now they are going to the World Series. If you are not excited there will not be any growth. So before these first three stages I am going to give you somewhat of a foregone conclusion and it is this: Get excited! Actually get excited that God lives inside your soul that he dwells INSIDE you! Because of baptism and the Eucharist you have a Divine Being inside you.
The first stage after getting excited is the purgatives stage or to purge. That’s where Jesus said “just like a branch he is going to prune it” He is going to prune your branch so that it bares more fruit. So you have to prune yourself. You have to clean yourself. If you have thoughts that are not coming from Jesus you have to get rid of them. If you have desires that are not coming from Jesus you have to get rid of them, that is called the purgative stage. In this stage we go to confession a lot to be rid of these things.
The second stage is called the illuminative stage. To illuminate means to be enlightened. There is actually and experience of enlightenment that happens to a person in which the Gospel make since in a new way. It’s like going from analog TV to HD TV. It simply becomes clear. This is what happens with scriptures and Mass, and to your understanding of faith. You get illuminated. After you do that hard work of purifying your soul a light comes on.
Then the third stage happens. The third stage is union. The best image for this is marriage. Your soul gets wedded to God in an unbreakable bond. In this stage your love for God becomes pure and unified and one. This is the best stage, where you have the best experience of who God is.
When I was growing up I liked Knights, because they called me to protect something. Now I am calling you to protect your soul, and to get excited about growing through the Purgative, Illuminative and Unitive stages.