By Sean Mulcare
The soul in the 7th stage has reached the highest point it can reach in this life. Through many toils and snares, it has reached its summit and it sees the world with the perspective of God because it is so united with him. This is the goal of the Christian life. The self has been totally consumed by God, and the soul has reached the point of total self-abandonment and self-forgetfulness out of a pure, burning love for God that has penetrated its entire being. It is now a living saint. It has been led through its purgatory on earth during the Dark Night of the Soul during the 6th stage. Not all (and I believe few) who reach this stage will ever be known by the world. They may not be canonized as saints by the Church, but they are saints in the eyes of God.
What is life like for a soul who has reached the summit? All who have reached it struggle to describe it. I think tranquility is a word we could use. St. Teresa of Avila says this about it: “It may be called another heaven: the two lighted candles join and become one; the falling rain becomes merged in the river,” (Interior Castle). She calls it “Spiritual Marriage.” On occasions there are miraculous things that happen in the soul, but these things happened occasionally in earlier stages as well. In the 7th stage, there is a continual, gentle awareness of the presence of God. Whatever the person is doing, they are aware that God is with them. Even if bad things should happen to the individual, they know God is with them, so they keep their gaze on God rather than worrying about the bad thing. Above all else, the soul greatly desires that the will of God be done. The soul loves God and others to such an amazing degree that when someone has the rare privilege of meeting someone in the 7th stage, they have a feeling as if they have meet God himself. They radiate his love.
Why do I think it’s valuable to tell a young adult group about these far-off things? Because I think we all need to be able to strive for something; we need a goal. When we finally see the mountain in the distance that’s no longer covered by clouds, then we can strive with everything we have to climb it. We must give ourselves totally to Christ, but we have to keep in mind that there’s simply no way that we can decide, “I’m going to reach the 7th mansion.” We can only be led there by love. That’s how the saints became saints: GREAT love. Being in love with God is how we can reach this perfect contentment and peace in this life. Love is how we will overcome our sins. Love can only come from a relationship; it’s not a project. However, there are numerous things we can do to help us to love more. It’s by doing little acts of love (both for God and others) that great love begins to form. Like a great plant that starts off as a little seed, doing little things with love will cause your love to grow, and eventually love will consume you and control your life. It is by losing your life to love that you will gain it. When we say love, we can’t forget that there’s two aspects to love: love of neighbor and love for God. We need both. If we have one and not the other, it’s like having sun but no water or water but no sun. If a plant is to grow, it needs both. We will talk more about love and how we can foster a greater love for God and others next time. Love is the main ingredient in the Catholic faith, and that is how we can become saints.
P.S. If you would like to learn more about these 7 stages, check out Fire Within, The Fulfilment of All Desire, and Interior Castle.