Monday, 23 May 2022

Prayer of the Heart

 If you want to learn about the Prayer of the Heart, check this informative page, with a lot of material:

Articles, Books, Videos.

Here are the contents:

  1. The Elements of the Prayer of the Heart
  2. The Movement Of The Prayer Of The Heart
  3. The Prayer of the Heart Explained by Jesus
  4. Jesus The Groom, What Does it Mean?

  5. The Sacred Threshold Of The Kingdom
  6. The Particular Help of the Grace of God in St. Teresa of Avila
  7. St. Thomas Aquinas’ Explanation
  8. What Depends On Us

  9. Mind, Heart and God In The Prayer Of The Heart
  10. “Meditation” Or “Consideration”?
  11. Praying With A Book
  12. How To ‘Dwell In Jesus’
  13. Distractions During ‘Prayer Of The Heart’
  14. Bringing The Mind Into The Heart

  15. Two Ways To Say The Rosary
  16. Holding Your Rosary During The Prayer Of The Heart

  17. Anatomy Of The Prayer Of The Heart
  18. Prayer Of The Heart, Sleeping Patterns And Gadgets

  19. How To Enter In Your Inner Room
  20. How Can We Enter Into The Sacred Heart? (On Mary)
  21. The Act Of Oblation of St Therese of the Child Jesus  (the core of the Prayer of the Heart)
  22. Why And How Mary In The Prayer Of The Heart
  23. Mary’s Fiery Prayer (most powerful teaching)
  24. Are We Always Aware That We Contemplate?
  25. Lectio Divina and Contemplative Prayer According to Carmelite Spirituality
  26. Quarantined Mass and Lectio Divina / Prayer of the Heart (video)
  27. Spiritual Communion According to St. Teresa of Avila
  28. The Eucharist According to St. John’s Last Supper
  29. Act of Desire or Just Desire?
  30. Lectio Divina & Prayer of the Heart at Two Important Turning Points in Spiritual Life 

  31. Videos on St. Teresa of Avila’s Teaching on the Prayer of the Heart 6 Videos (Sister Donna D’Alia)
  32. Relationship, Recollection and Receptivity: Prayer of the Heart According to Saint Teresa of Avila (Sister Gabriella Yi, OP)
  33. St. John Cassian’s 10th Conference on Prayer
  34. St. John Cassian’s 10th Conference 3 Videos (Father Benedict Croell OP)
  35. St. Symeon the New Theologian: The Three Ways of Attention and Prayer

See also articles on Contemplation especially on the two types of contemplation.

New Book: A Small Catechism On The Prayer Of The Heart

A Video Playlist On The Prayer Of The Heart

Saturday, 7 August 2021

209- A New Vocation in the Church: “Spiritual Formator”

Mary Shows the Way

The intention of the following text is to present in a succinct way a Function or Vocation in the Church that does not as yet exist as such: that of the Spiritual Formator. Some of the tasks involved in this function, like Spiritual Direction, Teaching Spiritual Theology… have been and are still realised by some persons in the Church. But never all the tasks of the Spiritual Formator. For instance, being a Master of Novices in a monastery or a formation house does not coincide exactly with being a Master in Spiritual Life. In fact, the Master of Novices is also in charge of the formation into religious life and he is not necessarily trained to become a Spiritual Formator. However, despite the existence of some of the tasks, performed by some members of the Church, there is no formal ad hoc preparation of Spiritual Formators.

Up to the present day we do not have a function or vocation that realises all the necessary tasks of a Spiritual Formator or Master in Spiritual Life. We do not have a specific training and formation for it.

The following text is meant to present the actual state of things and to outline the nature of this vocation and its function in the Church. It further suggests that what should follow would be to offer a journey of training for potential candidates for three to five years at least.

Being a Spiritual Formator in a way is a blend of an intellectually very well-formed person in philosophy, human sciences, theology, and spiritual theology, with a long and solid experience in Spiritual Life. For many years this person will have been a disciple to other experienced people, thereby allowing him or her to receive the needed discernment. This blend of intellect, experience and discernment, plus a Call from Jesus for such a ministry, constitutes this new vocation in the Church.

In addition, we can say that Vatican Council II reminded us that striving for Holiness is not the monopoly of the Consecrated life. As a consequence, there is a need to form and support all the persons who hear this call for Holiness but do not belong to any school of spirituality. Formation in Spiritual Life should be a specific ministry in the Church offered to all, with expertise and professionalism. There is a pressing need to prepare ministers for this function.

To reiterate, the need now for Masters in Spiritual Life, or Spiritual Formators, is more than ever necessary. In fact, this function has as its main task the formation of all the persons who receive Jesus’ Call to go deeper in their spiritual life, so that they become properly capable of handling their own growth and of responding properly to the call to Holiness and fullness of love.

Teaching the practical means to empower Christians, so that they can respond fruitfully to the Call to Holiness, however, cannot be done in an amateur way. It is a very sacred task to train Spiritual Formators and it requires all the effort from the Church to fill the void this absence leaves.

It goes without saying that such vocation and service in the Church goes alongside a much-needed renewal in Spiritual Theology and a concerted effort to produce a common Body of Teaching for the Prophetic Function of the Church, in charge of the spiritual journey from the Second Conversion, i.e. Jesus’ Call, till the end, namely, the fullness of love.

Here are twelve important points to understand and properly promote this vocation:

1- Spiritual Formator, as we define it, means a person capable of forming others in Spiritual Life. Formation is much wider than specific tasks or ministries. Essentially, a formator is a person capable of giving courses in Spiritual Life, following up a person for the implementation of the Spiritual Teaching, (Spiritual Tuition), and offering a more in-depth Spiritual Direction. It goes without saying that if properly trained other easier tasks will be performed at a higher and professional level: talks, short and long retreats. In sum, a formator will be capable of teaching, forming, understanding spiritual life, and will also be capable of a high-quality discernment in the different issues faced by spiritual persons, the obstacles and problems of spiritual life.

2- Many persons do perform some of the above missions in the Church but often they are offered in a fragmented and diluted form. Being a “Master in Spiritual Life” essentially combines three qualities well blended together: science, experience and discernment. A degree in Spiritual Theology doesn’t make the person a Spiritual Formator. Experience and discernment are needed and need to be led and formed.

3- The function (the job) itself of “Spiritual Master” doesn’t exist in the Church. If some missions in the Church like “Master of Novices” or “Retreat Guide” (eg: leading the Spiritual Exercises), or the Ancient Elder Monk, are quite close to it, they are not exactly the same and today no formal preparation in the Church for such a mission is offered.

4- “Spiritual Formation” is needed in the Church in all areas of the Prophetic Function: Monastic Life, Religious Life, Secular Institutes, New Movements in the Church, including individual lay persons striving toward a deeper spiritual life and holiness.

5- The weakness and fragmentation of the different spiritualities in the Church has led to a lukewarm consecrated life. The division into different schools of spiritualities has reached a point of fragmentation which prevents the Church from having a fundamental core pedestal for Spiritual Life and Spiritual Formation. A common Doctrine for a deep Spiritual Life is needed before finding ways for legitimate diversification in Spiritual Schools. Note: Spiritual Theology today is rather weak, diluted and fragmented. This has had negative repercussions on Spiritual Formation in the Church. For renewal to occur serious commitment is of the essence, people needing to dedicate their lives to it.

6- Having leaned essentially on fidelity to a Monastic Rule or to a Style of Life or a Horarium to become a saint, made many think that this is enough and that there is no need for a proper Spiritual Formation. Consequently, people have lost interest in Spiritual Theology and its role in Spiritual Formation. This has also led to a weakening of spiritual formation, its dilution and lack of development. Devotions, local habits and rites end up replacing robust spiritual life and giving the wrong impression that these are means of true sanctification.

7- The inner workings proper to spiritual life still constitute an invisible inner world often classified as difficult to describe and apophatic, leading to the conviction that there is no teaching and formation for spiritual matters, with the result that any common effort to develop spiritual formation is abandoned. This has led to allegedly relegating Spiritual Life to a private sphere -an inner forum- leading finally to ignorance, fragmentation and dilution of spiritual life. It is an error to think that Spiritual Life cannot be expressed. The thousands of written pages by St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross are here to show us the way.

8- The idea of focusing all our energy on the pursuit of God and Union with Christ and the fullness of His love becomes secondary or left to personal private effort. The reality of knowing how to maintain and ensure a steady spiritual growth is really non-existent. The need for a healthy spiritual emulation and support in spiritual growth has just not been met.

9- In order to realise this mission, the Church needs to form individuals in all walks of the Prophetic Function, to become professional Spiritual Formators, capable of facing such a difficult, complex, difficult mission.

10- Spiritual Formator, or Master in Spiritual Life, emerges and stands alone as a specific vocation in the Church that deserves all our attention and effort. Its influence on the Church, especially over the Prophetic Function will be immense. Progress in Spiritual Life will allow the lives of many persons engaged in the Spiritual Journey to reach completion and to bear amazing fruits for the Church and the World. It is very difficult to measure the fruits of the implementation of such a vocation.

11- In order to achieve this formation, one needs to offer a complete training in: knowledge/ science/ doctrine, in discernment, and in the practice of this vocation. The Church needs to offer a free space and time for each person to learn, practice and discern as it does with Religious and Seminarians in their first years of formation. This is why we call it a new “Vocation” in the Church, and also a new Function in the Church. But it is not necessarily binding as to formal consecration. One can go back to his or her diocese and serve or become part of the School of Mary. It is not a formal consecration as we know it today – one remains free.

12- Offering a residential possibility for this formation is a necessity. No other formal obligations or missions should be assigned to the person. Full freedom to be formed and trained should be given. Three years is a reasonable minimum time to have the basic formation. Further formation can be given leading to a Master’s Degree within two more years.

As a result of these twelve points, we need to concentrate all our efforts on training persons who have the call to serve their brothers and sisters as Spiritual Masters.

Jean Khoury

6th August 2021

Transfiguration of the Lord

Saturday, 21 March 2020

208- CoronaVirus

Dear Friends, 

We live in difficult times and the news of not being able to attend Mass leaves the majority of us in shock. We don’t know what to think. Also, confinement changes everything in our life, daily routine, relationships, family, community, work and movement. After the initial shock, we are trying to make sense of this trial. If we allow God’s wisdom to guide us, we might even find in it a deep benefit. In fact, is a great opportunity for us to deepen the fact that our Christian Worship should always be not only physical but also “in Spirit and in Truth” (John 4:23-24); with our heart and not only with our lips (see Matthew 15:8, Isaiah 29:13); entering into our inner room, closing the door of our senses and praying to God (see Matthew 6:6) who is spirit (John 4:23-24).

We often take for granted that the Mass is a right, while in fact the Mass is a Present from God. We take for granted that we have Priests while in fact they also are a Present from God. Without Priests there are no Masses! We need to pray for our priests, seminarians and for vocations to the Priesthood.

Today, what is available and offered to us is to attend Mass via the internet. It a challenge for us but it is also, paradoxically, a huge blessing. God is inviting us to really appreciate the beauty and spiritual depth of the Mass. He wants us to go deeper into it. How can this happen?

1- We have been constantly aware of the direct link between the Liturgy of the Word and Lectio Divina. The latter is the digestive process of the Grace received during the Liturgy of the Word. Today, in our confinement, let us take the opportunity to receive the Grace of Jesus’ Word for us today. Let us renew our practice of Lectio Divina in order to enter deeper into the first part of the Mass.

2- Also, in the second part of the Mass, during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, when the moment of Communion arrives, when the Priest invites us to do a “Spiritual Communion”, we need to really do it, opening our heart to Jesus who wants to come and dwell in us. More so, we can take a silent time right after our Spiritual Communion, in a “Prayer of the Heart” like attitude, in order to benefit from the Sacrament of the Eucharist. We can also, at any other designated time, resume the Prayer of the Heart, continuing to benefit from our Spiritual Communion.

Lectio Divina and Prayer of the Heart are intimately connected to the two Liturgies of the Mass, they allow us to digest the Grace of God received and benefit spiritually from it, grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus and discover in Him new depths.

During this time of confinement, God is calling us to the desert. He wants to talk to our heart and wants to offer us exceptional graces, drawing us closer to Him and revealing to us new dimensions in our Christian life. (see Hosea 2:14)

After this time of desert, by the Grace of God, we will go back to normal life, but it will be a transfigured Christian life, having benefitted from many graces given during this special time. It will be a new start.

Let us pray for each other, entrust each other to Our Lady, entrust our Country and all countries to Her and the entire World. Let us entrust the sick and the prisoners. May the Grace of Our Lord be always with us. 
Please pray for me.

Jean Khoury
Sunday 22nd March 2020

Friday, 21 February 2020

207- Does God Love Us Always?

Question: If God creates a “new man” in me and the old man has to go completely, what is it that God loves in me then? If I am "made in his image and likeness" and "he has called me by my name", what is it in me that He loves? Does He only love the capacity to be like Him? Does He love us as far as we do His will, are transformed into Him and live His life and therefore our Ego has to go? Do you see the question, psychologically? If we need to be transformed into Him does the fact that "I am" mean anything?


Is the Old Man Different from Our Self?

The real meaning of the expression "Old Man" encompasses a way of acting and its deep roots in us. "Purification" and trans-formation into God does not imply the cancellation of our being.
It seems that to “go completely” from one state to the other means throwing out the baby with the dirty water. We must avoid this, please. We need to properly understand what the expression “Old Man” alludes to. The “old man” concerns behaviour rather than being - certainly not all of our being. It most certainly does not impinge on the self, but on our way of acting. We, therefore, should distinguish between on one hand our behaviour, acts, choices and, on the other hand, our being, our soul, spirit, the faculties of our soul, and our self.
There is a definite difference between a faculty in our soul (mind, will) and the use we make of this faculty. Hence, while it is true to say God loves each one of us, we can all agree that He doesn't love our sins! But, still, after sinning He still loves us - for who we are, not for this or that act. He hopes also that we can change. He wants us close to Him. He enjoys our presence. He desires even more - He wants to be united to us.
When we say that the Old Man has to go, it doesn't mean that this happens in a mechanical way, like pressing "delete" and saying: "let us re-create from scratch". No. God doesn’t re-create us from scratch. He needs us, from the first day, He needs our full collaboration, given freely… willingly. This is why St. Augustine says: God created us without our consent, but He won’t save us without our consent. Our own salvation, realised on God’s side, by Jesus on the Cross, cannot be fully received, enacted, to transform us, without our consent being given, at each step! It is not accomplished by one act but through a multitude of acts, coming from our free will.
In this sense, He cannot realise his salvation in us (realised first on the Cross), without us. God needs us!!
So, returning to the question, it is fair to say that “sin” and “grace” don't cancel out our being. They are the result, the fruits of our being, they give a colour and a shape to our being, but still they are not our being. We are something different, bigger, exceedingly bigger. The biggest sin is infinitely smaller than each one of us is in His eyes.
Spiritual authors often take the following verse from St. John out of context and apply it to the “Old Man” and the “New Man”: "He must increase, I must decrease" (John 3:30). This verse is normally said by St. John the Baptist when talking about his mission. We can accept with tolerance the deviation in meaning. However, in order to understand better the meaning of Old Man vs New Man, it is better to re-read what St. Paul says in the following texts: Romans 13:12ss, Eph 4:13-27. See also: Rm 7:7-23); 2 Cor 4:16-17 ; Eph 3, 14-18. Newness of life, old man : Rm 6, 2-11 ; Col 3, 9-10.
Fundamentally we need to understand that the Old Man and New Man consist of essentially two different uses (and acts produced) by our faculties (eg. mind and will). The same faculties can collaborate or not with God’s Grace. One way of acting if repeated will essentially produce, by the grace of God, a virtue, a good supernatural habit. This makes our “new man” grow. We can act in “neutral” ways, in the sense that our acts are not bad acts, but they are not activated by the Theological acts of Faith, Hope and Love. It is true that the main driving engine of spiritual growth includes these three acts. They allow the New Man in us to grow, to learn how God sees things (Faith), to see what goal we are pursuing (Hope) and how to act in general, that is, to see whether we love God and our brothers in Him. Any act, in fact, goes either in the direction of feeding the growth of the New Man, or the growth of the Old Man.
It is true that the soul itself is the mother of its spiritual life. We ourselves are the mother of our own new being. Self stays but it grows in depth and finds new roots.
As a consequence, however, the disappearance of the Old Creature is not the disappearance of ourselves!!

God Loves Us Always

We often hear: “God loves us but not our sin”, or, “God love the sinner but not his sin”. Consider this, however: He loves our choices even the sinful ones for two reasons, not of course because of their sinfulness but because of on the one hand his respect for us, and on the other hand his capacity to offer us a further solution that will make us greater in his eyes.
In us we have “good” and “evil” as well as a “higher good”. Our choice is always between good and evil. This is fine. But in case (God forbid) we choose evil, God is capable afterwards of helping us reach a higher good! It is as if evil has opened a new potential in us for something greater. In a way God can always have the “final word”. But this depends on us. However, this never means that the door is open for sin! Knowing this and still sinning would be a real offence to his mercy and tempting Him: it is like throwing yourself from a high building and still expecting the angels to rescue you.
It is because of this understanding that not everything is lost after sin that we sing at Easter Vigil, while thinking of Adam’s fault: "O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer."
In conclusion it would be fair to say that we can't mix the “old creature” and “the person”. The “Old creature” is a way of acting, thinking seeing and is not the very self of this person, not the actual person itself.
When you take a shower after swimming in filthy water it is still you that emerges after the shower. This is a little like what occurs with the Old Man in us after purification. But it penetrates more deeply, in the sense that one has to introduce the notion of “purification” and “trans-formation” into the process.
Added to this, the act of sin adds new bad roots to the person, rooting the person in something else other than God. If your son or daughter does something bad do you love what they did? No. Do you love their act and the consequences of this act in them and outside of them? No. But you still love they themselves. The act of sin has just added a perished patch of cloth and bad roots to them, which only the experience of the Holy Spirit can show them from within, and which only He can remove; in fact we can refrain from sin, but the habits and bad roots which sin has created can only be removed by the Holy Spirit! Confession reconciles us with God, reopens the stream of the Grace of God, but it is the penance that we receive in confession that helps the Holy Spirit purify our being more deeply! This is why the penance has to be proportionate to the real gravity of the sin in order to help the grace of God enter deeply and change the person! The grace of confession is given but often not totally received and integrated. Therefore, the roots of our being can still hinder our future behaviour.

Transformed in God

Do we know what it is to be transformed in God? It is advisable here to pause and consider what is needed for God to instruct us. Let us take the example of clay. We are created in God’s Image and Likeness. The “image” of God that we are is the clay. The “likeness” is the form that the clay takes as a result of our acts. Because of sin, we lose only “the form”. The “clay” is still there, but, is half-dead (see the parable of the Good Samaritan and the state in which the man was left on the side of the road).
Only the Holy Spirit can show us what is left after total purification.

God’s Bowels of Mercy

Let us enter into the bowels of God, the bowels of his being, of Him being Love. He loves us when we are sinners. Not for our sin, but for our sake. If we remove our sins, there stands our being, whole and entire. But be in no doubt: at any stage of our growth we are loved. Either at the beginning of the journey i.e. where the Old Man is in great evidence, or in the middle, or towards the end where the New Man predominates in the main.
Is God’s love for us conditioned by His desire to have us Holy in front of Him? Would He continue to love us if we are sinning? Would He continue to love us even if we are far from Him and decided firmly to stay far away from Him? What is the “size” of his love for each one of us? Of course, He wants us to be with Him, but with our full collaboration. Does He know anything else other than “to love”? If we are far from Him, if his love can’t reach us, He still loves us, waits for us. Of course, He cannot consent to any act we make that leads us further from Him. But despite our choice and our act, He continues to love us and considers that we need Him more than others need Him! However, He cannot and will never move our will or act for us. He cannot and will not ever impose his love on us!
He leaves us free if we want to abandon Him and go off! He will continue to love us and wait for us. But He will not force us. Never. His respect for our will and choices is absolute. This, ironically, even constitutes a handicap, a difficulty for Him! He can only send messages, warn, try to convince us, but He will never force us. This is our being made in his image! We were created as his partners, but He will not force us to be his!
On an even more positive note we can say that, our sins, and what they generate in us (the Old Man) are still, in a way, like a thin crust, ugly, but we are still there, underneath it. Like being in a prison, but it is still us! He loves us, He wants us free, out of this prison. Our sins are like an illness! Our illness cannot kill our soul! We are still there, loved as if we were without any illness.
I would say that a person who is far from God is, in a way, loved by God even more! Why? Because of his understanding of the person, his compassion. If we humans see a person in pain, thirsty, hungry, we feel compassion for this person! Why wouldn’t God feel the same? But infinitely more!
It is true that we often hear this statement nowadays: “God loves us as we are”. On the other hand, we hear also, the statement found above in the question: “he loves me as long as I am doing his will”.
Both statements are correct. When He loves me, his gaze is capable of piercing the outer shell of my sin (the Old Man) to find me inside of this prison and darkness. Why would I deny this? Why would this be underestimated? He loves me, here, despite my condition, despite my illness. He even loves me more.
Does He love my condition? My illness? My sin? We cannot ask or expect God to do so!
But paradoxically He has the utmost respect and understanding of my choices! First, because they come from me, who is created in his image! “Created in his image” is really a big mystery, because this enables me to stand in front of God and allows me to say to Him and his love: “yes” or “no”! What dignity we have been given! What power we have over God, over God’s destiny!
We are as great as God, even if we are created by Him, in the sense that because of how we are created we have free will toward God himself…and He still loves us!
We can speak forever about the fact that God loves us, whichever the state in which we are in. Look at the behaviour of the father of the prodigal son. He still went to the top of the road of the road every day and waited for his son to return! Was he a happy person? No! Did he stay at home partying with this other son? No! He was “outside of himself”, in pain, part of Him was missing from him. His son, “flesh of his flesh”, “bone of his bones”, had gone away… he couldn’t force him to stay… but the father’s state, God’s state, is really bad! He is in huge pain! His son is away… “lost” … It wasn’t the Dad’s choice! It was the son’s choice! The father respected it! He waited… in pain, as if part of his body were missing, sad, sad, very sad. Crying! Waiting!
So yes, God loves us… we need to experience His love…
He is in a very bad state… He is out of himself… dead alive… part of Him is missing - his son - flesh of his flesh… He is in deep distress… He doesn’t know what to do! He can’t do that much! He respects his son’s decision… He certainly sent messages… inquired… but He feels empty, infinitely sad…, He waits….
So, yes, God loves you… Jesus loves you….
We do not know what it means. It is unconditional though! Totally unconditional, because this is God’s being and He cannot change his being!

Friday, 7 February 2020

206- Meditation or no Meditation?

Meditation Articles Raise Questions

My last two articles on Meditation could very well shake your confidence a little, causing you, in fact, to lose a measure of your spiritual self-confidence. Indeed, these articles are meant to provoke thought and consideration.
You might even self-doubt: have I ever gone through a Second Conversion? You might be tempted to say: “Maybe all I have been doing all this time is meditation - the brain can really play tricks on us!”
But let me reassure you here: all your Lectios are not pure brain work. Let us also remember that, in a way, “Meditation” is one of the steps of our actual Lectio Divina (Reading (1): Reading in order to understand what the text says), so that when the supernatural action of God doesn’t work in our Lectio we will be led to feel that we did a Meditation instead. The last two articles I have written, in fact, are capable of creating this kind of "trouble", and some trouble also in general. Hence the necessity for Discernment and not applying one or two criteria without thinking, plus taking into consideration all the other elements that constitute our reality and the reality of Lectio Divina. This has led me to deeply feel the necessity and need to offer a Course on Second Conversion. I consider it is becoming urgent.
To answer the above doubts, we need to remember that we need to accept humbly the doubts that can occur, without panicking. They make us humbler, and it is healthy to stay humble.
But in case you have such doubts, please do remember the powerful Lectio Divinas you have experienced... and many others less powerful.
Recently I commented in a lecture (see the video online) on a chapter from Fr. Marie Eugene where he talked about “Spiritual Growth”. In one of the three sections of the Chapter he states the existence of growth and stages of growth. In the following section, however, he seems to negate all that he has said, in the sense that it is full of “buts”, i.e. difficult to discern…we can make mistakes…it is not all felt… the essential part of the grace of God occurs deep inside of us, so we don’t know…we live in Faith, etc. Then, he finishes this dialectical movement by offering a third section and saying in one word: it is still important to have in mind growth etc. So, self-categorising should be done with great prudence. This Chapter is more for Spiritual Directors – not that we should never read about spiritual growth and spiritual stages as they do help, because they invite us to do things we are not doing, and recognise things in us to correct! Otherwise why did St. Teresa write “The Interior Castle”. My Master, Fr. Louis Guillet, never gave any importance to categorising (i.e. what stage has the person reached, or to tell the person where she is) despite the fact that he knew very well the changes in God's behaviour as regards this person. Why so? Because there is a sort of obscurity that pervades our whole Spiritual Life in general. True there are changes and sometimes drastic ones. But the advice given all along the journey is often very similar: practising Lectio Divina and Prayer of the Heart, humility, love, meekness, duty of state, God’s Commandments, Sacraments,… The very advanced person will still be under all this and having to be vigilant. Certainly, it will be lived differently, but the frame is the same.

Are We Then Changing Anything in the School?

The articles I have written do create a minor upset in the normal bearings within the School. But we stay the same. Why? As I have said above: I am seriously reluctant to teach only Meditation or give advice even to who only practise Meditation, and never to try proper Lectio Divina. I couldn’t deprive a beginner of the knowledge of proper Lectio Divina. Why? Because Christ sooner or later for this person will be at the Centre of their life. Because all our Christian life is “sacramental”, i.e. it has all the visible aspects we deal with every day, and yet we have the invisible grace of God trying to find us all the time and reach us. A Christian person sees through externals, sees the invisible. It is true that there is a stage where the mind will have to do more work, laying the foundations, studying Faith, in order to deepen belief. But, in the end, as “Meditation” is described in the Catechism: it leads to Christ, and Christ is at the Centre of everything, and we are called to be united to Him – even if we are still very far off (before Second Conversion). We have to preach the Truths about spiritual life to everybody! One day, the Truths will become alive in the person! A person has to fulfil the duties of the Mansions where she currently is, and in doing so, the person aspires toward higher realms, or better said: closer intimacy with Christ.
The articles on Meditation in a way, are like completing a teaching initially aimed to start from the Fourth Mansions. It is as if it is offering the first three Mansions (0, 1, 2, 3). By offering a more complete panorama, it sheds a new light, gives more clarity and offers nuances. They help us understand also what happens in a life within the first four Mansions! This is the life of the majority of Christians!!! The Parishioners! This helps you target your Parish audience more effectively, by knowing in advance that you will fail 95% of the time when you teach your Lectio Divina to a simple parishioner, despite all their good will.
The “Second Conversion” Teaching or Doctrine, then, assumes greater importance. As a teacher you already know the main points, which have been mentioned in these articles, and which sum up the teaching of St. Teresa of Avila concerning the first four Mansions (0, 1, 2, 3). They sum up all the core issues of the forty initial years of her life: the key points she had to implement in order to facilitate Second Conversion.
Till now, the unconscious tendency amongst St. Teresa’s commentators, over more than four centuries, has been to consider “Second Conversion” as a pure grace of God that nobody can foresee, prepare for, or even facilitate, like the catalyst in a chemical reaction, and least of all to trigger a reaction! It is a grace! One can’t trigger or merit it! Therefore, why bother studying it, if in the end it is a powerful grace she received while staring at a very small statue of Christ at the Column. This tiny statue shows our Lord and Saviour, naked torso, attached to the column, while being scourged, with his entire torso covered in wounds and blood. To reiterate as St. Paul says: it is God who has mercy on whomever He wants to have mercy! We can’t do anything here but wait! I think that the implicit Theology of the Grace of God that is present in the mind of the majority of the commentators is that since it is a grace that provokes the Second Conversion, we can’t do anything to obtain it. Dogmatically, the position is very seductive and seems perfectly orthodox. I just quoted St. Paul. Indeed, nobody can merit (or trigger) the Grace of the Second Conversion (or any grace). This is simple Theology of Grace. Nobody can normally challenge this position. So, commentators when they tell the story of her conversion, put the emphasis rather on the narrative, rather than on things she should have been implementing! They naturally will quote the account St. Teresa makes of her conversion, the powerful moment when it occurs; they will acknowledge the power of God’s intervention, and the story seems to end there! They seem to ignore that she spent twenty or so years in the sea of the world, struggling, to end by finding Christ and in a resolute way focusing, from then onwards, on Christ.
Who can challenge this? Almost nobody. Except that St. Teresa’s writings don’t seem to give this explanation only, but rather she adds more and opens ways to facilitate the Conversion. Very little is written on her Second Conversion, which is a surprise, especially when you can consult thousands of articles and books written on all sorts of aspects of her teaching!
I personally see in all her writings (not only in her Autobiography where she tells the story in chapters 9 and 23/24, but also in the Way of Perfection and Interior Castle), explanations of very brief indications given in her Autobiography. I think it took her years to understand, implement for her sisters and explain what happened: i.e. why for twenty years she wasn’t totally there for Christ and what should have been done in order to be totally with Him and for Him - at least on her part, using the “General help of the Grace of God” (see Way of Perfection, first half and the first three Mansions, especially the third one, in the Interior Castle, and include the way she shaped life within her monastery (Constitutions)).
When, in chapters 6-9, 23-24 of her Autobiography she speaks about her conversion, St. Teresa gives essential clues, such as the advice given by two different priests. However, the mention of these pieces of advice occurs in one or two sentences at most! By contrast she will need the entire book of the Way of Perfection to explain the true secret that facilitates the Second Conversion and the working of the “Particular Help of the Grace of God”. It has been only during the past few years that I have been given the grace to see the link between the two, because, like everybody, I tended to see her Conversion as the pure work of the grace of God, i.e. she couldn’t do anything anyway, there is no teaching regarding this powerful grace for us, other than just praising the Lord and waiting for His Mercy to shower down upon us – or something as close as this.

Question: Do these two articles on Meditation alter the way we would teach? Should we be speaking to youngsters?
Answer: When I talked to some French children (9-13 years old) last year I gave them Lectio Divina as I usually teach it, with the empty chair, and Jesus sitting there. The result was positive – they got the point. Children are so open! We are not! They are closer to God, to Jesus than we are.
The same result came about also many years ago when I taught Lectio Divina to 14-16 years old. Actually, I would “hate” teaching Meditation alone for as everything is Sacramental in Christianity because God became incarnate, we are invited in Christianity to "see" God through many different means. We are talking to Christians, not to pure Jewish people who have never heard of Christ.

Question: you mentioned in various Courses a passage in St. Paul where he says that when the Jew starts to believe, becomes Christian, the veil that was in front of his eyes is lifted and he starts to see Christ in the Old Testament. (Refer also to 1 Cor 10, where St. Paul makes the point about the Old Testament being “opened” i.e. revealed and tells us about Christ. See also the lesson given to the Disciples of Emmaus and the Apostles in Luke 24.) Is the veil so to speak lifted off the OT as a fruit of Baptism or is it a special grace? Can you clarify? Is it a fruit of general help or particular help?
Answer: It is the Particular help of the Grace of God. But it doesn’t always happen automatically, in the sense that the Teaching on the lifted veil to a Second Converted person (or Baptised) still needs to be given. Remember when teaching Lectio I do remind people of the “opening” that occurs during their baptism! Why do I do so? They are already baptised, so it should be working. No, it can be sleeping! The Seeds of Baptism, in many persons, can go into very long hibernation, especially when we enter adulthood, and is often synonymous with a distancing from faith, the Church, God, and Jesus. Therefore, it is important to revive the grace of Baptism, the awareness of what has been given to us and is buried in us, dormant, and needs awakening. When you teach, you help the Holy Spirit awake this “inner hearing”, or “inner vision” or sight. Remember the doctrine of the Fathers of the Church of the existence of internal spiritual senses: like our five senses, they are new capacities that grow through this awakening and help us see, hear, sense, taste Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. This is an ancient teaching on spiritual life that is rarely taught and when it is mentioned “en passant” in Theology, in Patrology, it is mentioned as if you were talking about a piece in a museum! Now you can appreciate how the Charismatic Renewal is a huge opportunity for the Church, still not perfectly understood theologically and integrated properly into the life of the Church.
Teaching therefore is essential. Reminding people of what they have buried in them, helping the Holy Spirit awaken the inner spiritual sight depends on the Teacher. Often it is not automatic.  Things occur when the Teaching is imparted. Mystagogy as practised by the Fathers of the Church is a Sacred Teaching, a Communication of the Holy Spirit. However, who talks about it today? Who implements it today? When? How? With which understanding?
Sometimes – and in the 20th century we had many – Second Conversions are extremely sudden and powerful. Remember one Christmas night when St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus received a very powerful grace that took her from the life of a youngster into adult life. She says that from that day on, growth never stopped, and she reached great heights. A Giant Race she calls it!
Remember, also, Paul Claudel’s Second Conversion, or simply double conversion, first and second. True he was initially catholic, but as an adult he drifted totally, becoming rather an atheist. One day, on Christmas day 1886 he went to follow Christmas High Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and came back for the Vespers, when the children’s choir was singing the Magnificat (today there is a commemorative plaque on the floor where he was standing, at the foot of Our Lady on the Column, to the right of  the main Altar). He recorded his second conversion thus: “In one instant my heart was touched, and I believed. I believed with such a powerful adhesion, with such a lifting of all my being, with such a powerful conviction that didn’t leave any space for any doubt, that from that moment, all the books, reasonings, randomness of an agitated life, weren’t able to shake my faith, or even touch it.” He entered atheist and came out believing as a fully-fledged catholic would do, in all the articles of the Creed, which seemed to be glowing with their inner truth and more especially the “tearing feeling of the Innocence, of God’s eternal childhood [or youth] an ineffable revelation”.
However, ordinarily, Second Conversion doesn't always happen in a sudden way. It took Teresa of Avila more than twenty years. (When we read the history of the Church, we find that during the three hundred years before St. Teresa was born, the Church, through various Councils tried to reform itself and failed, hence the birth of the Protestant Reformation. It was taking the Church three centuries trying to reform itself and it never succeeded. As if the key to reformation (i.e. Second Conversion) were lost. This is why the first forty years of St. Teresa’s life are a bit like the paradigm of a Church wanting to reform itself and failing. This is why the elements that constitute St. Teresa’s Conversion are of huge importance for the whole Church.
In some lives Second Conversion never occurs. Why? Because certain things should be done beforehand as I have explained and will again explain.
Having undergone her own second conversion and knowing what it entailed, you would think that St. Teresa, after her conversion, would have learned the lesson and would then offer to her daughters of the new reformed Monastery only one option: Second Conversion life and therefore Contemplation. But mysteriously, and for three reasons at least, she tones down her wording and expectations (see Way of Perfection). Her reasons for this were:

1. Contemplation is not always felt,
2. She might have a nun who hadn’t crossed the line of SC, but who was still very obedient and followed all that the Carmelite Rule demanded as well as St. Teresa’s advice, or at least did her best to do so. As long as the nun was “dans les rangs” (“within the ranks”) and was not making alterations or trouble, she would keep her,
3.Grace is always a matter that depends at the end of the day on God. He is free to do what He wants and how He sees things.

Hence, she leaves the door open to a possibility: maybe God doesn’t envisage having to give contemplation to all the nuns, i.e. some are left without it. You will notice also, a few years afterwards when writing the Interior Castle, she deliberately does not start her book with the Fourth Mansions! That would be following the exact hard logic of considering that all the nuns in her new reformed monastery would be at the point of “after Second Conversion”. No, she starts by exposing four other mansions, Mansion zero being outside of the Castle. Then you have the three Mansions inside of the Castle: 1, 2 and 3, and only then, does she start to talk about the supernatural (the Fourth Mansions). Why? Why is she talking to her nuns about the first four Mansions? In fact, she is telling her own story, and allowing for the possibility of some of the nuns being at the Third Mansions at the very least. The Third Mansions are really amazing, because they seem to describe a perfectly committed Catholic. There is no sin, there is fervour to fight against venial sins etc. the person, in fact, is morally sound! Doing his or her duties! Think of an excellent Opus Dei person for instance! This could be a perfect nun in any of St. Teresa’s Monasteries! Indeed, she writes for all these good people.

What About the Third and Fourth Soils?
Some have wondered why in my article I haven’t addressed the third and fourth soils, why I just stopped at the second in the Parable of the Sower and the Seed?
My answer is very simple: I do agree, it seems truncated. I should mention that the third soil is a prolongation or extension of the second soil’s effort. Of course, it deserves an explanation. But it wasn’t the core of my subject and would fit better in an article on the Second Conversion. But the essence of the third soil belongs to the essence of the second soil. Our context, instead, is that of the pre-Second Conversion. While the fourth soil, is the new world of the Supernatural, where God acts directly in us, and where He brings about growth in three progressive stages of development: 30, 60 and 100-fold.

Be Careful not to Push Certain People too early on into Lectio
Alluding to this sentence in the text: “Therefore, one needs to be careful not to push people too much into applying Lectio Divina as taught, or try to “torture” them by asking them to repeat the process and to keep on trying to do so, as this could lead to their even feeling guilty because it is not “working”, a reader wrote: “I list myself as among the tortured...” Some readers thought then that I had given the wrong advice by choosing to teach Lectio Divina and never Meditation.

My answer is: I have never addressed the issue before or considered teaching Meditation because I always considered and took for granted that people whom Our Lady enticed to the Solid Foundation Course came after their Conversion. I left the job to Her.
Plus, my personal experience has never led me to practise Meditation! From day one I was on to Lectio Divina! So, I always thought, why deprive others of the gift of Contemplation and the Grace of God? Why go backwards?
After my conversion I did “Spiritual Reading”, and certainly meditated, and reflected, on my readings, but never refrained from doing Lectio Divina from day one! (But it is true, it was after my Second Conversion!)
I always considered that people who came to the school did so after their Conversion! Hence my “refusal” to go there! My Master, Fr. Louis, considered that a good Carmelite novice nun was beyond it, and that God started quite early on to pour out His Graces (Fourth Mansions).
I do consider also for instance that any person going to a Charismatic renewal group does so certainly after his Second Conversion! So... no need to teach Meditation, or a replacement for Lectio Divina.

Question: “Replacement of Lectio Divina”?
Answer: Yes, if you chose “Meditation” as your way of praying, you are considering that you are not worth “Contemplation”, or, you are before Second Conversion, and therefore, only Meditation is for you. So, in this case, your feeling is to forget about the Lectio Divina as described by the School, and practise Meditation only or, call your Meditation Lectio Divina - which is for me an improper, gloomy situation.

Question: Regarding the question about the School teaching Meditation, is this not something that is already well served by others in the Church e.g. Jesuits? Are those who come to the First Level course (Solid Foundations) not self-selecting i.e. most likely to attend if they have already experienced the Second Conversion?
Answer: I deeply believe in the two branches of the Church, the Priestly (before Second Conversion) and the Prophetic (after Second Conversion). I have to confess, however, that a great paradox exists today: this ecclesiological distinction is present in many texts in the Church’s life and in its structure and management, Canon Law, etc, but the sharp awareness and the consequences for Spiritual Life and Spiritual Theology of this distinction is rather absent. So, if any person outside of the School will hear or read about it as presented and explained in the School, they will need some time to think and ponder, overcoming their initial surprise. This is strange but this is a fact.
It also sheds an amazing light on many issues in the Church. Example: Adult Catechesis is the mission of the Parish, and while being in the Parish, we need to receive this formation. While, once the Second Conversion has occurred, one finds very quickly how short is the food given in the Parish. True that Mass and Confession stay totally solid and nourishing for the soul, but formation-wise, the Parish and the Parish Priest don’t have any qualification to offer the deeper Spiritual Formation that is characteristic of the new life of the post Second Conversion. Every day one has confirmation of this very important ecclesiology point.
Having said this, I deeply consider that all that is needed to bring any of the Faithful to the edge of one bank, right before crossing to the other bank, should be provided by the Parish. So, the first three or four Mansions’ formation is normally provided by the Parish. This includes Meditation.
The School belongs completely to the Prophetic branch of the Church! It opens the “Noviciate room” you find in any Abbey or Religious Order and teaches the richness of the basics of the Spiritual Life of this new life, of this new part of the Journey.
Please see the drawing below that shows that the journey is like one path, but there is like a border-like division between the Parish and the Desert (red line on the diagram).
IMG_0333 copy
Think of St. Anthony the Great, called by Jesus during the Proclamation of the Gospel in his Parish to leave everything and follow Jesus! He leaves his parish and heads toward the Desert and becomes the disciple of some monks in a community. He goes from one “economy” to another. One “management” to the other. Both are under the supervision of the Bishop, or the Patriarch. But they are very different.
Again, the SOM's mission should be from the Fourth Mansions onwards, when spiritual life begins.

Question: Does the School have the capacity to comprehensively address issues of growth for the earlier Mansions?!
Answer: As mentioned above, I do deeply believe that this is the task of the Parish. It is true also – and we will see it in a clearer way – that the Parish mission is failing to attain its full capacity.
Its mission is not only about teaching some methods of meditation. Implementing “Meditation” is not on its own sufficient to draw Parishioners closer to the second conversion. A comprehensive platform offered by their Parish is needed. It should include also many other aspects: duty of state, moral life, work, growth in virtues, growth in understanding our Faith, commitment in the Parish, ascesis, gift of oneself to the Lord. By this I mean that it's not so much that the School has to change - it’s more that the school should have a new awareness and that this can help with discernment should problems arise, thus for example one could then point people to other courses etc.
Some still think, however, that it is still beneficial to get the teaching from the School in order to know what to do when one reaches the stages further along, so to speak. A big undertaking.