By Sean Mulcare
God is always at work in souls to lead them closer and closer to himself. It is up to us whether or not we will be open to him working in us and to allow him to transform our lives. The primary way that he works in our souls is in prayer. That is why in the last post I talked about the great importance of daily prayer in our lives. We will simply not grow spiritually if there is no communication with God. To grow closer to God is a natural part of the intended human experience. Trees grow from seeds deep in the ground to tiny trees popping out of the ground. Those tiny trees grow to small fragile trees and eventually to strong hearty trees that can withstand nearly every storm. Growth in the spiritual life is natural and will happen if we allow ourselves to be open to the waters of grace. God will provide it. It is a choice and we are not forced to grow like a tree is forced to grow. We can stop growing, staying right where we are, or (even worse) we can completely give up like a little tree overtaken by weeds or a big tree struck by lightning. If we persevere to the end, we will be like the giant trees that will endure. Sanctity is the goal, and we are all invited to be like those giant trees. But it’s our choice.
Here is a chart showing how this analogy fits with the 7 mansions that St. Teresa of Avila describes in The Interior Castle. She lays out the spiritual life as a castle with many rooms. The 7th room is the one closest to the king. Most of my information will come from that book.
- Seed hitting the ground
- Covered with dirt
- Growing roots
- Popping out of ground
- Firm small base with weak branches
- Firm large base with strong branches many leaves
- Giant tree spreading thousands of other seeds and providing shade for the Lord.
Let’s first talk a little about the majority of souls who are in this first stage: the seed that has just hit the ground. Recall Matthew 13 with the parable of the sower. The sower spreads many seeds but only some will grow. The seed (soul) in a way, decides on which soil it lands- rocky, thorny, or fertile. A soul in the first stage is like someone who prays but only a few times a month. They are attached to the world and not all that interested in the things of God. They lack humility and self-knowledge. They are good people who at least have some connection to God and maybe a slight desire to grow closer to him, but they are unwilling to do what it takes and to make the sacrifices necessary to develop a strong relationship with God. This unwillingness to grow must be overcome if the soul is to grow. However, we must understand that God has already been at work in the soul by inspiring them to have any desire to come closer to him, and there has been some degree of openness. God desires their growth but will not force it. He is glad the seed has hit the ground but wants it to be open and receptive to him so that it can grow and be safe from the many dangers that threaten it here. He will take care of its growth if it is open. Openness comes in the form of praying, going to Mass, avoiding sin the best one can, and countless other ways. Growth is a pure gift from God. We will continue to talk about souls in the first stage as well as those in the second next time.