Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila


Editor’s Note: Article originally published in 2017.


Does Your Soul Need a Deep Clean?

My wife and I completed an intense bout of pre-spring cleaning (it was a mere 2 days before the official start of spring J) this past weekend. That coupled with a reference to avoiding desolation and clearing our soul from the “dustiness” of a dry spiritual life during my weekly parish men’s group influenced the title of this post and inspired me to write today.

I am a neat freak. In fact, one of the major three tenets my blog is based on is organization. I am passionate about decluttering, sorting, and cleaning dusty crevices in my house. Yet, when it comes to the spiritual life, why do I occasionally lack the same fervor that I have cleaning my physical house?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 797,

“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”243 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”.

The Cleansing Power of the Holy Spirit

This imagery of the Holy Spirt being housed in the church is not new. St. Paul clearly states this in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 to name just a couple verses. However, it was through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila’s writing that I especially encountered this truth recently.

She begins her greatest work, Interior Castle, with the following divinely inspired words, “ I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions.”

Teresa’s description of the soul is easy for me to understand yet at the same time illustrates the complexity of our human condition.

Throughout the Interior Castle the doctor of the Church takes readers on a spiritual journey by examining how in navigating through the castle of our soul we are able to grow in closer union with God.

Saint Teresa of Avila Pray for Us

Without a thorough examination of oneself and spiritual guidance we are not able to recognize the graces God grants us daily and gives ways for us to clear out the “dustiness” of our soul. Just like how my home needs frequent seasonal cleanings, the Church in Her wisdom has seasonal cleanings as well for us to grow in holiness.

My goal is to take a few minutes each week to reflect on St. Teresa of Avila’s words in Interior Castle. I hope you all prayerfully consider to join me in this journey and cleanse your own soul of the “dustiness” of sin and temptation.

spiritual surgeons

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Catherine of Siena

Spiritual Surgeons— Saint Isidore of Seville

Doctors of the Catholic Church: Definition and Complete List

Spiritual Surgeons— Alphonsus Liguori

Spiritual Surgeons—St. Lawrence of Brindisi

 

 

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How Saint Teresa of Avila Cut Through My Exterior with Her Interior Castle

I struggle with the sin of pride. I often hate to admit I made a mistake. Even if it is a minor one. I tend to blow the error out of proportion in my mind. This leads to me spiraling into a descent of despair. Reason goes out the window and I lash out at my loved ones.

One of the most effective saints at keeping my pride in check is Saint Teresa of Avila. I refer to her as one of the patron saints of my family. We asked for her intercession in May 2018 to protect our unborn daughter (my wife has a history of miscarriages). Since then my wife and I have sought Teresa’s help daily in our bedtime prayers.

This fall I’m am trying to get back into a regular habit of reading spiritual work. I discovered a free course on Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle featured on the Smart Catholic website. I study her work for about 20-30 minutes a day during the week.

Saint Teresa of Avila

Over the past several years I have allowed stresses at work, home, and the angst from the global pandemic and financial crises to accumulate. Like a cavity which forms over time due to improper care my spiritual life has suffered a similar hollowing out. I have developed a harder, more cynical exterior. In college, I was given the nickname “Cheese” because of my smile and excitement. I have long lost that attitude and title.

My wife called me on her way back between school buildings and I mentioned to her an ordering mistake I made at work. I tried to justify my error and planned ways on how I would tell my boss. My tone got angrier the more I talked about it and tried to rationalize how I was still blameless. The call ended abruptly because my phone’s battery died. I went back to the course on Saint Teresa and I came across a couple questions that cut through my anger.

Can any evil be greater than the evil which we find in our own house?

Wow! This question immediately pierced my hardened heart. It reminded me of Jesus’ comparison of judging others while being blinded by the log in your own eyes. In the end, there really isn’t any evil greater than the evil which we find in our own house. I’m not the Judge and I can only control my own actions and influences those people in my household.

As I pondered Teresa’s question I recalled Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus urged his followers to build a solid foundation on God and not be foolish with having a based built on sand. Judging others without any regard for my own failings is like creating a house on a shifty, weak foundation.

What hope can we have of being able to rest in other people’s homes if we cannot rest in our own?

This second question took me in the direction of thinking about the Catholic family as a domestic church. We are called to rest in the house of the Lord every Sunday but that’s a bare minimum. Our faith life is only as effective as we allow God’s grace to work in us. The simplest way to let God in is through the family life.

Can one truly rest in another’s house (and even in the house of the Lord on Sundays) unless we are able to rest in our own?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2685,

The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the “domestic church” where God’s children learn to pray “as the Church” and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church’s living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit.

Teresa’s second question convicted me. Was I doing my best as a father and husband? Do I lead my family in faith consistently as of late? These are questions I haven’t taken the time to think about. The good news is God is merciful and grants me the opportunity the grace of a new grace and a continual “second” chance to improve in my spiritual life.

No matter my past failures I am hope in God’s mercy and grace to help me renew my commitment to my family. I’m thankful for Saint Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle for cutting through my anger and tough exterior today!

Related Links

Windex, Storage Containers, and Teresa of Avila

Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

Smart Catholics: Interior Castle

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5 Stunning Facts about Saint Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena was one of the greatest followers of Christ. Her ability to articulate to Gospel and her ability to charitably bring the papacy to reform are among the key reasons she is one of my favorite saints. My youngest daughter is even named after this amazing saint. Here’s five amazing facts about Catherine.

Catherine of Siena

25 Kids and Counting

While it may seem astronomical to us, having 25 children was not insane back in the Middle Ages. Due to the low infant mortality rate and disease, families gave born to many children but unfortunately few survived to adulthood. Catherine was the 25th child born to her mother, but only half of her siblings survived childhood!

Still, it is incredible to think that if Catherine’s parents lived in today’s society, it would be very likely they would not have been as open to live of so many children. It is astounding that God works in miraculous ways to take one of the youngest of such a large family to grace her with the eventual title of Doctor of the Church!

None of the Nunnery

I always believed that Catherine was part of a religious order and lived in a convent  similar to spiritual greats like Therese of Lisieux and Teresa of Avila. After reading more about her, I learned that she actually never spent time in a convent.  Instead, Catherine joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. This permitted her to associate with a religious society while remaining within the confines of her home.

Gone too Soon

Why do the most innocent and vibrant of souls perish too early? From film stars to sports figures that perished at a young age, to maybe someone within your life that died too soon, it is natural to question the purpose of an early death. While I do not have the answer to that question, I found it interesting that Catherine of Siena died at the mere age of 33—the exact age that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and buried!

Never Let Obstacles Get in Your Way

It would have been easy for Catherine to give up when she wrote the pope but she remained steadfast. Her persistence and charity were instrumental in convincing Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome.

Catherine of Siena quote

Unseen Suffering

The stigmata are wounds certain saints received on their hands and/or feet. It is a sign of their closeness to Christ and was given to them as a reminder for Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. In the case of Catherine, the stigmata wounds were visible only to her. She accepted this unique suffering with grace and hope in God’s Providence.

God raises up holy individuals in times of great need. Saint Catherine of Siena is a perfect role model for Catholics in the 21st century in a world where it’s common to be less than enthusiastic about the faith. May we ask for her help to grow in love and devotion to God.

“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.”

― St. Catherine of Siena

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena’s Miracle in My Life

How Saint Catherine of Siena Leads You to God

St. Catherine of Siena: Saint of the Eucharist

Catherine of Siena Novena

 

 

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How the Sweetness of Our Lady of Mount Caramel Increases Your Spiritual Life

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Incredible saints have come from the Carmelite religious order: Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux represent this Catholic spirituality. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Spiritual Mother of the Carmelites.

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th. During the late 14th century, St. Simon Stock received a vision of Mary who advised him to wear a scapular as a sign of her protection.

Before I go further, I have to clarify something to avoid getting a ticket from the grammar police. I am aware I misspelled Carmel in the title (who hasn’t said caramel in place of carmel 😊 at least once?). I did not know much about the Brown Scapular (or any for that matter—there is blue, green, and white too!) until a few years ago. This Catholic devotion provides a sweet win over sin. However, God planted many hints of this devotion in my childhood.

Before my son’s First Communion earlier this summer, we showed him some sacramentals I received for my First Communion and on the top right of the felt-laden box was a brown scapular. My mother also made it a point to frequent the local Carmelite monastery when Mass was open to the public.

Sacramental, Not Magic

The Brown Scapular is not a talisman—it does not bestow magical protection for the wearer. According to the Catholic of the Catholic Church paragraph 1677, “Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men (and women) to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.”

Brown Scapular

While Mary promised protection (and salvation) to all wearing the Brown Scapular upon death, the sacramental is a sign pointing at sacramental living. I had a priest bless my Brown Scapular. It is suggested you make a consecration to Mary as well.

Initially, Marian consecration seemed excessive (I already pray the Rosary). But the more I petition Our Spiritual Mother for guidance the closer I am to Her Son. St. Louis de Montfort wrote, “We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek—Jesus, her Son.”

We Give Titles to People We Honor

I have learned that the more a person learns about a subject or person there exists a direct correlation in an increased amount of titles or synonyms to describe them. For example, I had a lot of nicknames as an infant and toddler because of my parent’s love toward me. I have inherited that same knack to create multiple monikers for my children as well.

Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Within the Catholic Church, our honor toward Mary, the Mother of God, lends itself to a burgeoning of titles to reference her too. She has over 2,000 titles! Her title Our Lady of Mount Carmel reminds us that closeness to Mary is closeness to Jesus. Mary’s promised Simon Stock, “Whosoever dies in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire.” Again, the Brown Scapular is not a lucky charm or talisman. Instead, it is an outward sign of an interior lifestyle. The principles of Carmelite spirituality include:

  • Frequent participation in the Mass and reception of the Eucharist
  • Frequent reading of and reflections on the Word of God in Sacred Scripture
  • The regular praying of at least part of the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Imitation of and devotion to Mary, the woman of faith who hears the Word of God and puts it into practice
  • The practice of the virtues, notably charity, chastity (accordion to one’s state of life), and obedience to the will of God.

 Mount Carmel—A Place of Sweet Victory

Another interesting fact about the Carmelites is Mount Carmel is the same mountain where the Old Testament prophet Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Ba’al. Elijah lived during a time when Israel succumbed to idol worship. His complete trust in God allowed him to be an instrument for God’s power and majesty (1 Kings 18: 20-39).

Our Lady of Mount Carmel testifies to the power of God in an even better way than Elijah. Mary’s total obedience to God the Father’s will led the birth of Jesus Christ—our savior. The Blessed Mother of God leads us to the Son. You will battle sin all your life. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel protects us and leads us to victory (through trusting in Jesus) over sin.

Related Links

History of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Priceless Treasure of Carmelite Spirituality

Information about the Brown Scapular

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Why Our Lady of Fatima’s Message is Relevant 100 Years Later

Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima pray for us! 🙏


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 13, 2017.


The centennial anniversary for any historical event is impressive. Reaching one hundred years is a relatively rare thing in the animal kingdom: humans, tortoises, bowhead whales, and jellyfish to name a few centenarians. May 13, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of Mary’s appearances to three young shepherd children in the city of Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady of Fatima’s message is always applicable. Here are three reasons why.

Mary is Always God’s Mother

Icon portraying Mary as Theotokos

The Catholic Church has always believed that Mary is the Mother of God. Jesus entrusted Mary as Mother of the Church in John 19:26-27. The evangelist writes, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

To combat a false teaching that tried to deny Mary’s role as the Mother of God, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. formally declared Mary as Theotokos—God-bearer. It’s also fitting the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima fell on the Eve of Mother’s Day! This is another reminder Mary is a spiritual mother to all.

The Fatima Prayer and Divine Mercy

One of the most popular Catholic prayers that we learned from this Marian Apparitation in Portugal is simply known as the Fatima Prayer. It is a simple yet powerful prayer:

O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

The most important message Mary brought to those three shepherd children to share with the rest of the world is— Divine Mercy. Mary desires to bring all people closer to her Son. God desires Christians to pray for the the salvation of EVERYONE!

Our Lady of Fatima as Bridge to Islam

The single greatest book I have ever read about Mary is The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. He begins chapter 17 of this book title Mary and the Moslems by mentioning the references Mary has in the Koran and the honor she has in the religion of Islam.

Fulton Sheen on Our Lady of Fatima

One of the best book on Mary I’ve ever read!

The passage I found most fascinating is when Sheen explains why Mary appeared to the small village of Fatima,

“Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: “Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary.”In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: “I surpass all the women, except Mary.”… Since nothing ever happens out of heaven except with a finesse of all details,

I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as “Our Lady of Fatima” as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too” ( The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God p. 141).

I agree with Sheen; the selection of Mary’s 1917 Apparition seems too fitting to be a mere coincidence. Let us continue to ask Mary to work in the hearts of non-Christians to draw them to Christ!

Today is also the completion of my wife and I’s Marian Retreat which culminates with a consecration to Jesus through Mary. Through drawing ourselves closer to the person who is closest to Jesus we ourselves are drawing ourselves closer to Jesus Himself. Thank you God for the gift of Our Lady of Fatima and we pray that all of humanity is able to more deeply grow in love!

Related Links and Resources

Our Lady of Fatima & Eucharistic Devotion

Fatima Family Center

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Windex, Storage Containers, and Teresa of Avila


Editor’s note: Article originally published on March 17, 2017.


My wife and I completed an intense bout of pre-spring cleaning this past weekend. Spring is a time of renewal of body and soul. A clean start.

Spring Cleaning for the Soul

spring cleaning gif

I am a neat freak. One of the three tenets my blog is based on is organization. I am passionate about decluttering, sorting, and cleaning dusty crevices in my house. Why do I lack the same fervor when it comes to my spiritual life?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church 797, states,

“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”243 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”.

Teresa of Avila on Cleaning the Soul

This imagery of the Holy Spirt being housed in the church is not new. St. Paul clearly states this in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 to name just a couple verses. However, it was through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila’s writing that I especially encountered this truth recently. She begins her greatest work, Interior Castle, with the following divinely inspired words, “ I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions.”

Teresa’s description of the soul is easy for me to understand. Yet at the same time her writing illustrates the complexity of our human condition.

Throughout the Interior Castle the doctor of the Church takes readers on a spiritual journey by examining how in navigating through the castle of our soul we are able to grow in closer union with God.

Saint Teresa of Avila quote

Without a thorough examination of oneself and spiritual guidance we are not able to recognize the graces God grants us daily. God can clean out the “dustiness” of our souls. Just like how my home needs frequent seasonal cleanings, the Church in Her wisdom has seasonal cleanings as well for us to grow in holiness.

My goal is to take a few minutes each remaining week in Lent to reflect on St. Teresa of Avila’s words in Interior Castle. I hope you all prayerfully consider to join me in this journey and cleanse your own soul of the “dustiness” of sin and temptation.

Related Links

Exploring the Cellars of the Soul

Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

Thank you for sharing!

How Saint Patrick’s Breastplate Will Shield You on Your Spiritual Journey

Saint Patrick lived in the 5th century and was a Christian missionary. He was instrumental in converting Ireland to Christianity. Known most for his usage of the shamrock to help explain the Trinity, Patrick’s successfully converted the pagans.

Saint Patrick

Several posts on this feast day focus on “little known facts” or about whether Saint Patrick was actually Irish. I’m going to on something a bit different. Saint Patrick’s Breastplate prayer always provided me a great comfort. This article will examine the various aspects to his prayer.

Here’s the short version of the prayer (for the long version check out the link in the related resources at the end of this article):

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Put on the Armor of God

Immediately, I think of Saint Paul’s description in Ephesians 6:10-18.  The Bible acts as a defense against the temptations of the devil and the world. Reading and listening to the Word of God shields one with truth. The Devil enjoys sowing discord and twisting truth to fit his desire― draw people away from God.

Saint Patrick Breastplate

Christ is always with us but sometimes it can be easy to forget. Sometimes we push God away or turn our back on Him. Saint Patrick’s breastplate prayer uses directional words to help remind one the closeness of Jesus. Jesus is beside you. He is with you. On the right and left. Christ’s presence envelops you as a protection like how armor surrounds a soldier in battle.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

In Matthew 22:39 Jesus tells the Pharisees, “The second (greatest commandment) is like it (the first): You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Saint Patrick loved God first, but he followed the second great commandment too. He served the Irish peoples by leading them out of the errors of paganism and towards the truth of the Gospel.

In praying Saint Patrick’s Breastplate prayer, one is reminded to see God in others. It’s easy to get frustrated at strangers who commit a wrong: cutting you off in traffic, providing less than helpful advice at a call center, or even those who annoy you at church. Patrick was a foreigner in Ireland (contrary to popular views he wasn’t Irish!). But he accepted God’s call to spread the message of Jesus Christ as Savior. And you and I are called to do the same in our words and deeds.

Drive Out the Serpent(s)

Saint Patrick drives snakes out of Ireland

Hiss-terical

The above image is a p(f)unny way to describe how Saint Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland. Joking aside, it was because of his cooperation with God’s will Patrick had the ability to perform such as miracle (herpetologists might disagree). Christ with me. Those opening words to the Breastplate prayer can give us hope. The battle and journey through life doesn’t have to be done alone. God is with us. He was (and still is in Heaven) with Saint Patrick during his early years when he was captured as a slave. And God was with Patrick as he drove the snakes (and the pagan ideologies) out of Ireland.

Saint Patrick pray for us to put on the armor of God, to love God and fellow men, and to relay on Jesus to help us drive out the spiritual serpents in our lives. Amen.

Related Links

Saint Patrick Breastplate Prayer: Long Version

A Better Way to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

 

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