When those, though holy, begin to misunderstand our distinct path to union with the Beloved, Our Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus in the book of Mansions tells her daughters that this is a good sign. The anonymous monk who wrote the book Hermitage Within says that “it is those we love best” who are good and holy that God uses as instruments to help detach us from self.
If we kept getting approval, even from holy priests, it is likely that we will not move out of the first few Mansions and fail to ever reach the seventh. I was moved to pick up Our Holy Mother’s Interior Castle once more when a dear friend reached out and told me she is reading a book on it; one of her quotes was powerful to say the least and confirmed everything I have thus far relayed:
“Teresa speaks of how we should only associate with those at our level and in the same Mansion. She communicates how lonely it can be when those around us are not on the same path. Those who are not where we are can hold us back.”
In fact, this same friend reminded me that Teresa had more than twenty different Directors in her life and it’s very normal to outgrow them. This is not a pride of “I am holier than thou” but as Teresa said, they can hold one back and often make the soul doubt herself. Throughout most of Teresa’s own journey through the Mansions, Our Lord permitted her to suffer and be misunderstood specifically by priests. It was the people Teresa never expected that came to her aid, rather than the clergy. That is a painful thorn to those who love priests. She was accused of being deceived by the devil for wanting to begin her Discalced reform.
In one of our former blog posts, Ann Emmerich wrote how, in one of her visions, she saw the irritated reaction of Peter to the Magdalen for always following Our Lord around; and I think it is so clear that this “annoyance” and “suspicion” is all linked to the Fall. It makes sense because Eve was the one who ultimately tempted Adam, and it is only natural for the sons of Adam to question ANYTHING that women might offer them but now the rest the daughters of Eve, Teresa being one of them, have/are suffering from it as a result. This suspicion and competition never existed between Our Lord and Our Lady. Our Lord believed in the mission of Mary just as fervently as Mary believed in His.
As Our Holy Mother Teresa said, the priests are often “suspicious” at the holiness of women, while Our Lord says, “let them alone; it is not your affair”. I would NEVER say that all men and that all priests are this way; nay, I am no feminist. But immediate suspicion rising, rather than belief of coming from God, is a direct result of the Fall. Men cannot help it; they can recognize this immediate suspicion and fight it by being reminded that Mary is the New Eve and does not temp but leads Her sons to the Tree of Life; and She is THE Woman.
When I said Teresa was accused of being deceived from Satan for desiring the Carmelite reform, this is where I noticed a powerful trend (I have even seen it in my own life) of when women introduce anything holy like the founding of a religious order etc. they are automatically accused, but when a man comes forth with the same desires, they are told by the hierarchy: “how can we help?” How could creating a more disciplined way of life, as we saw with the reform strengthened to directly combat Protestantism, be from the Devil? He, who knows NOTHING of the spirit of penance. Right. We simply need to be reminded that Our Lord and Our Lady have restored that perfect harmony between the sexes, which Adam and Eve used to have, before the Fall. To the priests we say: we do not want your authority or your role, we want your help and Fatherly protection and guidance.
Another problem is when a daughter of God in the religious life advances in the Mansions and desperately needs a guide, like Teresa, they begin to see the priests turn their backs on them when they actually start showing real signs of holiness. I have posted this quote at least twice on this Blog, as well as in The Practice of the Presence of Mary but it is worth repeating, of the distinct suffering Teresa suffered for being a woman:
When Thou wert in the world, Lord, Thou didst not despise women, but didst always help them and show them great compassion. Thou didst find more faith and no less love in them than in men, and one of them was Thy most Sacred Mother, from whose merits we derive merit, and whose habit we wear, though our sins make us unworthy to do so. We can do nothing in public that is of any use to Thee, nor dare we speak of some of the truths over which we weep in secret, lest Thou shouldst not hear this our petition.
Yet, Lord, I cannot believe this of Thy goodness and righteousness, for Thou are a righteous Judge, not like judges in the world, who, being, after all, men and sons of Adam, refuse to consider woman’s virtue as above suspicion. Yes, my King, but the day will come when all will be known. I am not speaking on my own account, for the whole world is already aware of my wickedness, and I am glad that it should be known; but, when I see what the times are like, I feel it is not right to repel spirits which are virtuous and brave, even though they be the spirits of women.
Since the Fall there seems to be a sort of “spirit of competition” between the sexes because one of the “fruits” of the Fall is Adam, and the sons of Adam, feel as though they constantly have to fight to regain their authority, that does not belong to the daughters of Eve. I am the first to admit that I do NOT want that authority; rather, I desire to simply see daughters of Eve, or should I say daughters of Mary, receive the proper guidance from those who hold positions of authority in the Church, and recognize in these daughters’ holiness worthy of belief and thus present them to Christ their Bridegroom. Priests: stop the suspicion and discord and help the daughters of God, who, are also YOUR daughters.
If brides of Christ, or anyone seeking union with God, cannot find a proper guide this doesn’t mean that one is doing something wrong or back-tracking in the spiritual life. She is indeed seeking a guide; Our Lord sees all of this and desires her to patiently put up with herself. She should bare this cross with fidelity, give everything to Our Lady and await the RIGHT Spiritual Director, chosen by Our Lord, who will guide her properly. The waiting is not back-tracking or being lazy; how many times have we found ourselves knocking at dozens of doors before the right one finally opens?
That silly expression “he who hesitates is lost” is simply not the case with having the proper guide in the vale of tears. If we impatiently seek to find any old priest JUST to say, “I have a Director”, when this member of the clergy could be the complete wrong fit (a Spiritual Director should ALWAYS be a member of the clergy) will be more dangerous to the soul then if she did not have one at all. Having the right Director is really… like dating… and I will end with another powerful quote found in the book Learned, Experienced and Discerning Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross on Spiritual Direction:
This goes for men, too: if anyone, even a priest, tells you that you are on the wrong path because you have no Director, you have every right to gently remind them that you are seeking the RIGHT one most suited to your soul and being picky means that you are a soul who desires to be perfect; that is not a pride, it means you are guarding your soul, the garden of the Trinity and the Immaculate Heart, with jealousy. Only YOU know the interior of your soul; the exterior does a poor job at showing the learned who we really are. A Director could be one of two things: your ruin or your means of reaching the seventh and final Mansion, which, is Spiritual Marriage. Be picky and trust your great God, it will be worth it in the end.