There are some basic steppingstones for each of the three stages of the prayer life and I will relate just some of the basic points. It’s not an exhaustive representation of the first three Mansions by any means, but it’s a start.
The first stage, or the First Mansion is a state of friendship with God – being in “good terms” with God, but not on the level of deep intimacy. A person in this stage does not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus, but is just living a godly life as best as possible.
That’s a big difference. One is trying to be as observant of one’s religion and faith as possible, live a good godly decent life, but doesn’t have a deep, personal relationship with God yet in the first stage. A person in the first stage usually makes a conscientious effort to avoid mortal sin, and is no longer captive to the world of the flesh and the devil, to the same extent as those outside the castle.
At least now, some kind of prayer life is in place. The common form of prayer in the first stages is vocal prayer: recited prayers, communal prayer, the rosary. For example, praying before meals and after meals, the rosary on occasions, going to Mass on Sunday, the Guardian Angel prayer before going to bed. Just simple things like this – the first stage.
There are no manifestations of the actions of God in this soul, nothing extraordinary or supernatural happening. The primary gift of the Spirit in this stage, in terms of what the Scholastics called the gifts of moral perfection, is Fear of the Lord, which is a good thing because this is the first stage of wisdom.
You don’t want to offend God. As we say in the Act of Contrition ‘My God I’m sorry for my sins in choosing to sin, and failing to do good.’ Fear of the Lord is a good start.
The second stage or Second Mansion is a deeper, more active life of friendship with God. A spiritual life now is starting to begin, and a personal relationship with Jesus is becoming more meaningful and important to me, personally in a deeper level.
At this stage, people say things like, ‘I was Catholic all my life, but I didn’t know it could be this good. I didn’t know adoration. I didn’t know about all these great treasures of the Church. I didn’t know any of that. I have been a Catholic going to church all my life and for the first time, I am discovering Catholicism, I am discovering Jesus.
This is the second stage. Searching for a deeper meaning in life, and all the strength of heart and will is now directed to growing spiritually. Whereas before, I was just into shopping, fashion, sports, television, entertainment and vacations. I was trying to be as good as possible, but ultimately, my passions were about those things.
But now, for the first time, I am serious about wanting to grow spiritually, and it’s actually important to me. I’m making it a priority. In this new birth in grace, one begins to become a new creation. A new self begins to emerge, the true self. The soul applies itself to a deeper prayer than before. Now, one has become exposed, interested, and begun to practice meditation, what Saint Teresa refers to us Mental Prayer or Recollection.
SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD