Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Wishes 2015

Dear Friends,

This Christmas is a very special Feast, taking place as it does during this very unique year that started on the 8th of December 2015 and that will finish with the Solemnity of Christ the King, on 20th of November. It is a year, in accordance with the wishes of the Holy Father, in which the floodgates will be opened to allow the torrents of God's mercy to flow freely upon us all. Indeed, this year is dedicated to the discovery and deepening of God's Mercy, making it a year of inestimable value.

Christmas is the second major Feast in the Liturgical Year after Easter, and this means that each one of us – those who are both close to as well as far from God – is invited to receive a very special and powerful healing Grace. The Mercy of God is manifest in a very unique way each Christmas: again and again we can live that moment where humanity was expecting a Saviour, a Messiah. He is God's Gift, given freely, where He humbles himself and reaches out to each one of us. In the Baby Jesus, the Most High does not ask us to climb the heights to reach Him – He himself comes to us in an overwhelming act of Mercy.

This year, therefore, the School of Mary will follow the intentions of the Pope and do its best to deepen our experience of God's Mercy.

As you know the School is a place for teaching Spiritual Life. “Teaching” is an act of Spiritual Mercy. The School sees the great poverty of today's world, especially the First World which thinks it has the means and the power, which considers itself to be highly civilised, but does not know how poor it is spiritually, how needy it has become. The half-dead man of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is often before us in the First World, waiting for somebody to come and take good care of him, giving him the Spiritual Doctrine that can restore him to real Life, giving his life Light, Guidance and Meaning.

Let us, in the School of Mary, humbly renew our commitment to serve Spiritual Life and Spiritual Theology. It is a very hard mission, and even if the door is wide open very few undertake it. Let us entrust ourselves to Mary, as God the Father entrusted to Mary and Joseph his Eternal Son, incarnate as a little Baby.

May the Lord bless us all and bless our families, and may He give us plenty of Graces especially this year, day after day, so we can discover, deepen and dwell in God's Mercy for ever.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to read, meditate and put into practice the Pope's Letter on Mercy (please click here to find it); it embodies a very deep message which is essential and to the point for all of us Christians. Mercy is not optional in the Gospel, it is God's Face, it is our Way to Him...

The teaching this year in the School of Mary will pay special attention to Mercy in Spiritual Life. A new and very exciting Course on the Sermon of the Mount will be announced soon which will be open to everybody. Further courses for 2016 will be announced at the appropriate times.

Counting on your prayers as always, I wish each and every one of you a Happy Christmas filled with the choicest blessings, and graced by the Presence of Our Lady.


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Solid Foundations Course Lent-Easter 2016

Exciting new course to for those looking to build solid foundations for spiritual growth…

Dear friends,

We are delighted to let you know that the School of Mary will be running an introductory course to the spiritual life starting in February 2016. 

Solid Foundations (previously known simply as “the first level course”) is for all of us who have found our feet in starting to practice our faith (weekly Mass, some prayer) but who now want to know “is there something more?” and “how can I start to draw closer to the Lord?”. 

The Solid Foundations course draws on the insight and practical advice of the great spiritual writers including St John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila and St Therese of the Child Jesus to help us understand the basics we need to put in place and the part we are invited to play to begin to grow in our relationship with God… and how much more lies in store!

The course has been broken into three sections so that those wanting to complete the full course in one year can do so, but equally those who can only do a more limited number of Saturdays can choose to do just one or two of the sections now and the rest at a future point:

· Solid Foundations – Praying with Scripture will run on 27th February, 5th and 12th of March
· Solid Foundations – How the spiritual life works takes place on the 16th and 23rd of April
· Solid Foundations – Praying with the Heart will happen on the 11th, 18th and 25th of June

The course will run at St Mary of the Angels, in Bayswater and, as the venue has limited capacity and we expect demand to be high, participants will need to register and pay a deposit in advance.

Please see below for further details on the course and how to register. If you have any questions then please do contact us on

The School of Mary

What topics does this course cover ?
This course looks at how we can grow in relationship with God, what gets in the way and what can help.  Participants will have the opportunity to put the teaching into practice for themselves and there will be time for question and answer sessions in each section so that people can make sure they grasp the content and begin to make it their own. 

What topics are covered?
The course draws on the teachings of three Doctors of the Church who focus on the spiritual life – St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and St Therese of the Child Jesus – and focuses on three key areas:
1. Praying with Scripture: understanding how to pray with Scripture, what to expect when we begin to pray in this way and the opportunity for some hands on practice
2. How the spiritual life works: looking at the shape of the spiritual life, the role of Our Lady and the guiding principles which we need to understand in order to start to co-operate more easily with what God is inviting us to
3. Praying with the heart: finding our bearings with contemplative prayer – what it is, how to pray in this way and what to bear in mind as we find our feet… as well as the chance to put it all into action

Where and when will the course be taking place?
The course will take place at St Mary of the Angels, Moorhouse Road, Bayswater, London, W2 5DJ from 10am to 4:30pm on the following Saturdays: 

· Solid Foundations – Praying with Scripture: 27th February, 5th March and 12th March 
· Solid Foundations – How the spiritual life works: 16th and 23rd April
· Solid Foundations – Praying with the heart (moving into contemplative prayer): 11th, 18th and 25th of June

The course will be taught by Jean Khoury, a theologian who has studied and taught Spiritual Life in the Church for over 20 years. As well as lecturing world-wide on spiritual life and meditation, Jean is the author of several books, articles and studies on spiritual life and the founder of the School of Mary, a 3 level formation in spiritual life ( Jean obtained a degree in Philosophy from the Institut Catholique de Toulouse (France), a Licence in Theology from the Teresianum (Rome) and a Masters in Spiritual Theology from the Institut Catholique de Toulouse (France). He is currently completing his PhD in Spiritual Theology at the Angelicum (Rome) with Monsignor François-Marie Léthel. 

How much will the course cost?

The cost for the course is £25 per day / £200 for the full course. As the venue has limited capacity and we expect demand to be very high, participants will need to register and pay a deposit of £75 in advance with any remaining balance to be paid on 27th February.

Please email to register your interest and we will send on details of 
how to make payment by bank transfer or cheque.

Should you have any questions about the course then please don’t hesitate to contact us by email at

Monday, 30 November 2015

142: "Ensuring Steady Growth" Testimonies

After having attended the 4 Saturdays Course on "Ensuring Steady Growth" Carlos De Vera wrote the following text and he is happy to share it with us:

"To embrace 'Deeper Mystagogy'


St Augustine in his Confessions famously observed in the beginning of that great work that "You arouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." This statement alone to me sums up the situation of the faithful Catholic living in the world today. Having long had such "restlessness" and taken a number of courses with great teachers in university years ago on Catholic history and intellectual life, as well as having widely read contemporary authors on Catholic faith, I was craving a practical course that addressed the spiritual life, what it means, how to grow in it, and how to know I am making progress. All too easily, faithful Catholics "settle" for accepting a faith consisting of partaking of the sacraments, merely attending mass and being on the right side of the Ten Commandments, believing this is the extent of what Jesus meant when he said "I came so that you might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).  Understandably, getting Catholics to regularly come to mass weekly or attend confession can already be an achievement in itself for clergy. But for those of us who already do that, yet remain "restless" and want to grow further in the "abundant life", there is little guidance on what to do next or what such growth looks like.

4th and 5th Mansions

The story of Catholicism for those who do not yet know Christ is not merely promoting a 2000 year old institution of dogma, doctrine, theology and liturgy, but also a Church that actively encourages the faithful to embrace a deeper mystagogy and the means for the new and current faithful to approach Mary and Jesus more spiritually and confidently.
As part of the New Evangelization sought in Vatican II, this should change.

Holiness is the goal of all the faithful, not just for those ordained or religious. Vatican II's Lumen gentium (40, 41) states that

all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society….The forms and tasks of life are many but holiness is one….Therefore all the faithful are invited and obliged to holiness and the perfection of their own state of life.

With the above in mind, this is why the course from the School of Mary on "Ensuring Steady Growth", answered a need in me providentially at just the right time and the lectures provided by Jean Khoury helped me pull together many disconnected strands on Catholic history, faith and the rich mystical experiences of the Church's great spiritual masters - a treasure of the Church that should be made more accessible to the faithful.
I thoroughly enjoyed the course and came away with three quite profound insights.

1. The notion of "triggering" the Grace of God in one's spiritual life through loving as Jesus loved and by engaging in certain spiritual practices done by the Church's spiritual masters
2. The experiences of the Church's spiritual masters (Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, etc.) are consistent with each other - they may be described, or different aspects emphasised, in different ways - but there is a reassuring consistency on what it means to grow in spiritual life as a Catholic regardless of the era.
3. God designed all human beings with the inner capacity to know Him, to be nourished by Him and to grow closer to Him and that such capacities are not reserved for those like Moses and the "burning bush" or those ordained or religious persons like monks or nuns. All Catholics, lay or ordained, are obliged to "wake themselves up" to such inner capacity (see Lumen Gentium above “obliged to holiness and the perfection of their own state of life”) through practices like lectio divina and Prayer of the Heart, encouraged by the experience and insights of the Church's spiritual masters.
I hope this particular course of the School of Mary is more widely promoted in the Church, at least in London; it answers the restlessness of the faithful and gives them the applicable tools and context by which to approach God in the "burning bush" of their lives and in the process open up God's graces so that, as Jesus promised, we “might have life and have it more abundantly". "

Carlos De Vera

The course on "Ensuring Steady Growth" was one of the best I have ever taken on Catholicism, thank you for the great lessons.

From the First Lesson:

Another person wrote:

"Thank you for the amazing Course which exceeded all my hopes and expectations. It has renewed my hope and commitment for the future.

There were so many practical points and such a depth of understanding imparted in concise and impactful presentation that it will be a source of inspiration for a very long time." (P.R.)
Please find here the Video of the First Lesson of the Course. If you are interested to watch the videos of the entire 4 days Course, please do contact us at SchoolofMaryLondon (at)

Friday, 27 November 2015

141: The Duties of My State

For some the teaching of the First Level Course will look as if it is focusing exclusively on the practice of Lectio Divina and the Prayer of the Heart (LD and PH). A further cause for concern may be that, initially, many may feel they do not have the time in their daily life to dedicate one hour to one and one hour or more to the other. People, being full of good will, can then become very frustrated and feel that they are failing God, by failing to implement two practices that seemed absolutely sound and stimulating in the course.

In the case of those who cannot initially find time (there might be many), I offer an important piece of advice and a "trick" to solve the problem. First it is important not to worry and not to panic because of the fact that one cannot find the time. Then I suggest that there is a powerful prayer we can say and if it is done with sincerity, an extremely powerful response on the Lord's part could be released, namely,

"Dear Lord, I see the importance of the daily practice of Lectio Divina
and of the Prayer of the Heart,
but as you know I don't have time, but please find me the time,
reorganise my life in order to reach this goal."

In fact it is God's part to help us at this stage. Our part is to open our eyes to see how he will do it. In the meantime we do what we can, with five, ten or fifteen minutes found here and there.

But let us say that for a while God does not do anything, for the simple reason that our duties cannot change. A mother of young children remains a mother of young children, her situation will not change that much for a few years. She might then feel very frustrated, disappointed, and maybe depressed by the fact that, on one hand she really earnestly wants to take time for Jesus only, and on the other hand she cannot because of her daily duties as a wife and mother. Here I would like to indicate some important ways on how to manage this time of our life, until, some greater windows of time can open up. Ironically what I am about to say will seem opposed to what the teaching in the Course advises.

The element of the "duties of the state" (devoir d'état) is a fundamental element. It is a strong, clear, immovable manifestation of God's will for us. The duties of the said wife and mother are clear and evident, but Jesus calling her to follow Him at this stage of her life should not overwhelm unnecessarily, for He knows what He is doing perfectly well. Therefore a positive outcome can be entertained, with the possibility of following Him in this context of lack of time for intimate prayer.

It is undeniable that the obstacle of the lack of time during the day looks insurmountable, and this reminds me of what St Therese says about the horse. Celine her sister (Sister Genevieve) tells the story in her book Conseils et Souvenirs:

"All discouraged, and with a heavy heart because of a combat that looked unsurmountable I came to see her saying: This time it is impossible, I can't rise above it!
- This doesn't surprise me, she replied. We are too little to put ourselves above the difficulties, we need to cross them from underneath.
She reminded me of something that happened to us in our youth. We were at Alençon at some friend's place; a horse was just in front of the entrance of the garden's gate preventing us from entering. while other persons were searching for another access, our little friend [Therese Lehoux, who was seven, the age of Celine] easily found the solution of passing underneath the horse. She went first, extended her hand to me; I followed her taking with me Therese and without bowing too much our small bodies we reached the goal.
She concluded by saying: this is what we gain when we make the effort to be small. There are no obstacles for the small ones, they sneak everywhere. [...]" (Conseils et Souvenirs, Sr Genevieve)

What seems an obstacle to us is the duties of our state, the difficulty to find some spare time in order to dedicate it to Jesus (LD and PH). This is the "horse", standing in our way to Jesus in prayer. The good news is that if we are small, humble, accepting our place in life and our state, we can "sneak through" meaning we can find Jesus through the events of our day. Otherwise, we will not see through them, we will seek alternate means, and we will try to find a way in the midst of them, like the adults in the story, and we will get more and more frustrated, angry, and maybe in the end depressed, feeling that we have failed Jesus and that this is our fault. It can become a constant fight, generate great tension, and put our nerves on edge.

Rather the focus should be on Jesus who entered into the life of this young mother and called her when she was married and with children. So this is the actual frame-work of His Call for her. He knows that and He is capable of renewing her within this framework. In his wisdom He knows what suits her and us best.

In the Spiritual Life we cannot separate "the moments of prayer" from the moments of "daily life". Why? During the moments of prayer we meet Jesus the individual, in an intimate way. He is the head of an immense body. The first people to pay attention to in this body are one's husband, and one's children i.e.: one's family, one's daily life. Then of course come neighbours, friends, more distant family... All these make up Jesus' Body. But Jesus is One, the Head, the one we want to meet in our personal prayer-time while we meet his Body during the rest of the day. Jesus is the one we love, and Jesus cannot be split into two, or simply "beheaded", with our keeping only the intimate Jesus and casting His Body aside. It is of utmost importance to find and love Jesus' Body according to the new way of loving He is teaching us, to be led by Him. It is important to attend to the detail of His Presence in His Body... the beauty of meeting Him in His Body... through His Body... of loving Him in His Body.

What did Our Lady do? She too, was a wife, and a mother. She had her house to manage, her family to take care of. Yet - after Jesus - she had the deepest possible spiritual life on earth. Seen from outside, she led a very simple life, similar to millions and millions of other women. But hers was totally, totally different....

The "framework" is the same... but she was able to dedicate time to all her duties as well as find God in all her spare moments and be with Him. Let us invite her into our homes to teach us. Otherwise our spiritual life can be seriously jeopardised.

Jesus is really present throughout the day. Attention and care given to Him during the day in the persons we meet, in the different circumstances of the day, are a fundamental Spiritual Experience. All things considered, maybe this was not mentioned enough in the opening course (Initiation into Spiritual Life). However, in my view I felt this this would unbalance the course, because the said course not only encourages a full new attention to Christ, but it also provides the tools for achieving this. Admittedly I do not take ”exceptions” into consideration.... Maybe one could say that "exceptions" are the norm for many busy persons who come to the course. Maybe so,but still, in my humble view, the contents of the course should first and foremost provide the tools – bearing in mind that the first level course is not everything, it is only the starting point. So the "lesson" of this post is a continuation of the above-mentioned course.

Taking all this into consideration, we can conclude that it is important to remember that if we have a huge desire to find Jesus and follow him, He Himself has a desire that is thousands of times greater to find us and grab hold of us. Let us then, in all simplicity, allow him to find us and to draw us close to him. Let us leave Jesus and not us, to be in control of our spiritual life. Let us trust Jesus, humbly, totally, unconditionally, let us trust the one who called us, the one who knows all the details of our day, and the one who is hidden within each of these details, "playing" hide and seek with us.

"Lord Holy Spirit open my eyes so I can see Jesus within each event of my day,
open my eyes so I can notice the immense richness of each moment of my day,
make me understand that there is no lost time during the day,
important moments and less important moments.
Teach me O Lord how to leave God for God*.
Lord Jesus teaching me how to love at every moment of the day."

I hope this helps...

* "Leave God for God" is an expression used by St Vincent de Paul, explaining to his daughters that when a poor person knocks at their door while they are praying, they should leave God (in the chapel) for God (who is knocking at the door).

140: Finished and Unfinished Lectio Divina

from 'General to 'Particular' Light

The most challenging part in Lectio Divina is 'Listening'

The practice of Lectio Divina involves three movements: I- Preparation II- Listening III- Putting into Practice.
The first part gives us the spirit in which we practise Lectio Divina. It takes little time but it actually permeates the entire process of Lectio. The third part is the goal of Lectio: by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, we put into practice a Word we have heard from Jesus. On a practical level, experience shows that the most challenging part in Lectio is the second: "listening", where by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, we become capable of "hearing" and being touched by a practical word given to us by Christ.

Experience shows that the process of Listening is longer and more complex than we might think at first sight. It involves at least five stages (see the fifteen steps of Lectio Divina):

1- Listening to Jesus' word by reading in order to understand the text.
2- Listening to Jesus' word by reading in order to discover Christ’s will.
3- Listening to Jesus' word by reading until only one light is seen.
4- Listening to Jesus' word by reading until the light becomes clear.
5- Listening to Jesus' word by putting it into writing so we become more aware of the word received, and to have it ready to be put into practice (optional but recommended).

The various progressive phases of listening are normal for every human being, especially the need to read the text of Holy Scripture many times in order to compensate for our weak memories. In fact, for many today memory is very weak. This, however, was not the case a few decades ago, or even further back when culture was more oral and transmission was preferred through oral means and memory. Memory consequently grew stronger. When we read the passage about Mary: "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19) we are faced with a time where memory was still capable of retaining information with great ease. In this light "pondered them" could be translated by: "often dwelling on them in her mind", which means constantly repeating them in her mind.
This initial effort is dependent on a previous phase: to gather everything that happened and to "keep all" of it in the mind. This is the role of the memory.

"Listening", next, is a listening “through”... listening to God who speaks through the words and facts of an event.

Stages 3 and 4 require great delicacy when listening.
Providing we listen carefully, with all our heart, the supernatural action of God, will cause his words to come alive and capable of “talking” to us. In this case some words in the two or three readings start to talk to us, all in one and unique light, as if alive. We are touched by one light, one meaning, for example, mercy, love, forgiveness, patience,... At this stage, stage 3, we are facing the supernatural action of God but we do not have a clear practical insight on what to do exactly. The notion received is two abstract, in the sense that it is too general.
The first temptation now is to take this notion and apply it by ourselves to an area in our life that needs it. This, however, constitutes our interference in the process of the descent of the Word of God in us.

As the drawing reveals, we ourselves can create a diversion in the normal course of the action of God's Light, and we bring it down applying it to an area different to the area God wants to act upon.

Another much more common temptation is to first rejoice that the supernatural action of God has started - the proof is that the two or three texts are saying one thing - and secondly, at this point, not to progress toward a clear indication of God's will received at the end of Lectio Divina. Some would think that this was a complete Lectio Divina, while others will remain with their hunger unsatisfied by not having seen anything practical emerging from their lectio, with no change of will being indicated and nothing practical to perform.

What has really happened is that Lectio has been brought to a halt in the middle of the stream of thought, and although a light is being offered, it is left hanging between heaven and earth. (see the diagram below)

Apologies for making the following comparison because it might seem very brutal and inappropriate, but if we stick to its real meaning it will help: when Lectio is stopped at this stage, Lectio is 'aborted', which means it fails to reach our will, where it fails to achieve fruition. Fruition, therefore, means to allow God's light to descend until it reaches the point that God desires to touch in our will. This is the end of stage 4 (see diagram below).

More significantly this indicates that between where we are and the region God wants to reach, there is still some work to do in order to facilitate the way for the Light to descend. See in the diagram below the part that is left in darker blue:

The image of the motorcade will clearly illustrate this. When an important political personality is travelling, sometimes we have two sets of motorcycles opening the way for him or her. Similarly, we are not the Light, we do not direct the light. We just open the way for it, descending closer to our will that needs to be healed. Thus we humble ourselves, we beg and ask, being more attentive to Jesus' whispering (remember Elijah's gentle breeze), telling us what He wants to change in us. This entails another effort to be humble and beg being made to allow what is now already supernatural but too general, too abstract, to become precise, clear and practical. Only when the light has reached our will, indicating, first, a practical area that needs changing in our heart, may we then consider that fruition is in sight.

As a conclusion, therefore, when we practise Lectio Divina, and when we start to sense that the supernatural light of God is starting to appear, occurring when the two texts say the same thing, it is important not only to rejoice with gratitude, but to continue to open the way, humbling ourselves more and more, asking the Lord to tell us how He want to incarnate the word or light or indication He is revealing to us. Only humbling ourselves will open the way for Jesus' Word to reach us, touch our will, heal us, challenge us, enflame us. Within reason, therefore, we should not stop Lectio until the grace of God has touched us.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

139: Why 'Ensuring Steady Growth'?

Recently a number of people have been following a Foundation Course bearing the name: “Ensuring Steady Growth” in spiritual life. The following thoughts summarise the reason for the need of such teaching. These thoughts will lead to a better understanding of a very important passage written by St Teresa of Avila, to be found at the end of this article.

The First Formation in Spiritual Life

Those who received the First Formation in Spiritual Life, received tools for growth and will have started implementing them:
Taking on board Jesus and Mary,
Practising on a daily basis Lectio Divina, Prayer of the Heart, the Theological Acts,
Learning how to respond to ups and downs, temptation
And most of all learning how to remain faithful to the Holy Spirit and to respond constantly to to His Action.

Two aspects of this process, however, remain imperfectly understood:

First a necessary stage has to be reached: the Union of Will. It is a victory, a liberation, a stability, a short moment of rest, a break, an enjoyment. This first stage is within hand's reach but it is necessary to focus in order to take this big step. It is a veritable Crossing of the Red Sea.

Secondly that there are conditions to fulfil in order to reach “Union of Will”. Hence the word “ensuring” in the title. It is necessary to ensure that this will happen in their lives.

Because of this two-fold “ignorance” people can go round in circles, with ups and downs, but never cross over. We may compare it to a situation of the People of God in Egypt: they began gathering at a distance from the Egyptians, outside of the main cities, but they continued to do some work for them - they were not allowed to have total freedom. They remained physically in Egypt, under the rule of Pharaoh, even if they chose a piece of land beyond the cities.


When the human being starts his journey, implementing the tools mentioned above, he can be compared to a pregnant woman with twins: the old man and the new man. Of course the twins constitute a different life, and are not equal in size and influence: the Old Man is almost full-sized with strength and influence, while the New Man in us is very tiny, vulnerable. The Lord compares this to the smallest seed in a field. The person is not aware that there are two challenges in Christian life, not one: opting for Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Guide/Master, and allowing the new man in us to grow in order to lead us on our path as followers of Jesus Christ. It is true, then, that the goal of life has changed and has become “Jesus” - this as a result of its conversion. But it is nonetheless equally true that the means to follow Jesus should change as well. We have in us a real battle for real supremacy between the Old Man way of functioning and the New Man way of functioning. For the time being, even if Jesus is the Master and Guide, de facto, one is rather led - unconsciously - by the Old Man’s way of doing things. Our love of neighbour is full of imperfections, led by our sensitivity/emotions/taste/personal choices, our lack of real humility.Not having that virile capacity to put Jesus’ Truth in us above everything in us, we are still attached to various ties, especially blood-related ties, and we are concerned about our health, thinking that a too committed ascetic Spiritual Life (fasting, making sacrifices, training our body, praying,...) could damage our health. As yet the spirit of the world, our flesh and the devil have a share in our way of functioning.

Under these conditions, having a divided heart, not working to perfection on the essential evangelical virtues, real progress is jeopardised! The result is that too much effort is required, and there are too many leakages, ups and downs, of going round in circles.... We can safely say that the heart of the human being is divided, and that he epitomises the third soil of the Parable of the Sower: the good seed has been sown, it has really started to grow, striving to reach the maturity that will allow it to bear fruits, but sadly the soil bears another seed - attention to the world, with heart and emotions divided.

St Teresa of Avila

There is a well-known Saint who went through this very difficult situation of not being able to commit totally to Jesus: St Teresa of Avila. She remained in this troubled sea for almost twenty years with its ups and downs, receiving graces from the Lord, but not being able to keep them safe, and especially prone to a divided heart through which these graces seeped. It was, in her own words, a very hard situation, because on the one hand we have a person attracted to others, seeking their affection and support, while on the other hand she meets the Lord who wants from her all her heart, not a mere part of it. Facing the Lord in prayer with this attitude, certainly becomes an ordeal. Jesus wants all our attention, all our emotions: he wants us to love him with all our heart and not just a part of it (the upper one) the other part being given to human beings.

It becomes then a necessity to study the conversion of St Teresa of Avila, at the age of thirty-nine, and to deepen our understanding of
a- how rich in humanity her heart was
b- how it was divided
c- what constituted the elements that contributed to her conversion (studying her conversion),
d- how in fact all these elements structured her whole life.

The following is a very important passage of St Teresa of Avila where she speaks about the Union of Will with the Lord. Very few things have had to be adapted to the modern reader by putting them between squared parenthesis:

But note very carefully [dear friends] that the silkworm [the Old Man] has of necessity to die; and it is this which will cost you most; for death comes more easily when one can see oneself living a new life, whereas our duty now is to continue living this present life, and yet to kill it ourselves ["it" alludes to "the life of the silkworm", the Pauline old man]. I confess to you that we shall find this much harder, but it is of the greatest value and the reward will be greater too if you gain the victory. But you must not doubt the possibility of this true union with the will of God [Union of Will]. This is the union which I have desired all my life; it is for this that I continually beseech Our Lord; it is this which is the most genuine and the safest. But alas that so few of us are destined to attain it!

A person who takes care not to offend the Lord and has [decided to start the Journey of Spiritual Life] may think he has done everything. But oh, there are always a few little worms which do not reveal themselves until, like the worm which gnawed through Jonas's ivy [Jonas 4:6-7] they have gnawed through our virtues. Such are self-love, self-esteem, censoriousness (even if only in small things) concerning our neighbours, lack of charity towards them, and failure to love them as we love ourselves. For, although late in the day we may fulfil our obligations and so commit no sin, we are far from attaining a point necessary to complete union with the will of God.” [St Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, 5th Mansions, Chapter 3]

As we see, in this quote from St Teresa of Avila, she lays considerable stress on the fact that committing to spiritual life (in her case it is included in Religious Life) is not enough. One has to be aware of the worms that undermine steady growth. Indeed, she emphatically declares that the old man has to die, and even more so she underlines the necessity of a first important victory: reaching Union of Will. This passage is a hymn to the Union of Will and its importance in Christian Life.
These words of St Teresa of Avila are also a warning given to all the Church, and this warning should be taken seriously, because it comes from a Saint who is also a Doctor of the Church. A Saint who was sent to us at a time in the life of the Church where Reform was needed and showed us the way to true Reformation. It is simply not enough to commit to Spiritual Life, it has to bear the conditions of real steady growth in order to reach Union of Will with the Lord. Deep analysis of St Teresa helps us to avoid pitfalls as we proceed along the way.

Many are called, many engage in Spiritual Life, but how many succeed in reaching this first stage of Spiritual Life? And we are not talking about Spiritual Marriage....