Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Navigating My Interior Castle

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Rom 3:23

For every step forward I take in understanding and growing in my Catholic faith, there are moments that put me right back at "start." Sometimes these moments are triggered by stressful events, while other instances are more interior, when I become aware of the myriad ways I fall short of expectations.

Perhaps I said and did the right thing today, handled people and situations with an outward appearance of calm and grace. That doesn't mean that I followed through with my thoughts and feelings. The truth is, I fall terribly short every minute of my life.

Quite honestly, I find it hard to be Catholic without fighting an urge to judge others. There is nothing humble about thinking my way of living is right, and other ways are wrong. I also turn the judgement on myself often. This presents me with a large moral conflict. I think it is interesting that a study of humility can turn a devoted Catholic's faith upside down.

A few weeks ago I was reading Interior Castle by St. Theresa of Avila and I was trying to place myself somewhere in the text. What I mean is that St. Theresa discusses levels of spirituality in her book. The castle is the metaphor for the soul and the rooms lead to God in the center. (Wouldn't that make a very cool Wii game?!) Anyway, St. Theresa, in speaking about our journey toward God says,

"Look at the saints who have entered the King's chamber and you will see the difference between them and ourselves."

That's when I realized where I am in my castle; I'm sitting in the lobby. Sometimes I take the stairs up a few floors, but then somehow I end up in the elevator on the way back down to the first floor again. I'm not sure if castles have lobbies, but you get my point. My spiritual journey can be likened to a frustrating dream. Is this lack of progress reflective of my intelligence? In other words, am I a moron? I don't know, maybe.

The point is, I try, and I fall short again and again to understand my religion. It was not so hard for me when I was a child. What adults told me was my moral law. I colored the picture of Jesus with the children; I stuffed envelopes for Sister Diane. My understanding of and devotion to God was so simple and certain. My children remind me of how I used to be.

When I took my daughter to the Amsterdam Theater in NYC to see Mary Poppins, and we entered the mezzanine, she looked up at the elaborate gilt plaster carved with cherubs, angels, leaves and roses, topped by a glowing golden ceiling, and said in the most certain, serious tone,

"Mommy, Jesus built this place."

My little daughter knows God much better than I do. She sees Him everywhere. Her level of humility and gratitude makes me take notes. My children, in a way, have become my spiritual teachers.

St. Theresa writes,

"let us desire that not our wills, but His will be done. If we have not progressed as far as this, then, as I have said, let us practice humility, which is the ointment for our wounds; if we are truly humble, God, the Physician, will come in due course, even though he tarry, to heal us."

In addition to trying to follow Catholic teaching, a quest for humility is at the root of my own spiritual struggle: doing work with joy, accepting suffering with gratitude, forgiving others, giving of my time, talent and treasure, loving myself as much as I am loved.
Sometimes when I open a book of prayers to a random page, the words seem to give an answer to my thoughts. This happened this morning when I read:

"Jesus, I feel within me
a great desire to please you
but, at the same time,
I feel totally uncapable of doing this
without your special light and help,
which I can expect only from you.
Accomplish your will within me-
even in spite of me."

-St. Claude La Columbiere, SJ

Prayer is from the book Hearts on Fire; Praying With the Jesuits
Picture above is by Frederic Venne.


rhymeswithplague said...

An excellent post.

Jesus said, "Except you become as little children, you will in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."

In fact, reading all of chapter 18 of Matthew's gospel will tend to put the fear of God into a person.

Loren Christie said...

Good Morning Mr. Brague. Nice to hear from you.

Putz said...

are you talking about me when you say you step back and judge me not???????do you know how far away i am personally from "meeting expectatiopns"i can't even spell decent....or fix a toiliet right....how am i going to be able to progress??????....when i talk in high flowery spiritual terms, i am of course hypothetical, only daydreaming....when children outdo us it makes one want to progreesss backwards like benjamine button

Loren Christie said...

No Mr. Putz, I think you are a very nice man. What I am referring to here is an observation that my religion sets the bar very high. I see other Catholics and myself fall miserable short all the time. There are few Catholics that truly live the doctrine of the church, (Many don't even make an effort to understand it!)and there is a lot of pressure to be complacent. In thinking this I have to stop and ask myself- "Who are you to judge other Catholics, anyway."

Also, there are times in my life when I utterly fail to follow Catholic doctrine, although I truly want to adhere to my faith.

Daily Grace said...

What a beautiful and insightful posting! It appears that your spirituality is greater than you credit yourself with. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog today.
God Bless

Loren Christie said...

Dear Daily Grace, Thank you for reading my post. Your comment means a lot to me.

jenX said...

that bright light in children - the one that illuminates christ so early - fades too fast. i'm doing everything in my power to grab hold of that light in my little ones and keep it burning for as long as possible.

Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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