Father Robert Elias, OCD: Easter – 3rd Mansion: generosity & meditation

In the Teresian analysis, the conditions for growth in prayer, the foundation for growth and prayer, is humility, detachment, and love of neighbor, as she has described in The Way of Perfection. Humility, detachment, and love of neighbor are the foundations of prayer, but the conditions for growth in prayer require solitude, fortitude, obedience, and especially generosity.

Too human prudence, a delicate issue for our egos, is a roadblock from transitioning to deeper prayer and deeper intimacy with God. So many of the gospel parables and gospel teachings take us way beyond the limits of just mere human prudence. So many of the gospel teachings talk about God’s lavish generosity.

It wouldn’t have been prudent for the prodigal father to receive his son back, put a robe on his back, put a ring on his finger, place sandals on his feet, have a celebration, and kill the fatted calf. Human prudence would say, ‘That’s a little bit too much!’ But this parable expresses the folly of God’s love. God’s love can be ridiculously generous and overwhelmingly good in lavishing of itself. That is supernatural’; that is agape.

We cannot get to agape love with too human prudence, I’m sorry! And I’m repeating that to myself more than to anybody else here. Here, spiritual reading and meditation is so important. As Sister Ruth Burrows says, ‘Study Jesus Christ in the Gospel and follow Him in His sacred humanity.’ That’s an echo of Saint Teresa. Sister Ruth Burrows says, ‘Do all you possibly can to get to know Him.’

In the Purgative Way, the first three mansions, the work of the mind is indispensable. Because God is not manifesting Himself in any direct way, we need to do the work to get to know Him in a practical way – learn our faith. People only really start to make effort, and actually learn our faith as adults firsthand and take the initiative to actually read something Catholic rather than just wasting our time with just novelties or trivialities, in the Second Mansion. Once people get to the Second Mansion, they actually start to read things that can be of benefit to their spiritual life.

Sister Ruth Burrows says, ‘Eat His words, take them right down into your heart, live them; take a story from the Gospels – read it, recall it, and then believe that you are the person in it with Jesus who questions and invites you to respond.’

The work of the imagination needs to be incorporated in the first three mansions.

Meditation through the effort of the mind is really important for beginners, as Saint John of the Cross would say.

The subtle subjects for meditation are many, but Saint Teresa insists that we meditate on the love shown by God and giving us a son. Go deep into that, try to understand that on a deeper level – on the love of Jesus Himself, on His life, His mysteries, especially His Passion and death.

Traditionally, in the first three mansions, it was suggested that a person meditate on sin and its consequences, on death, on mortality, the fact that we will be judged by God and everything will come into the light, and that there will be only winners or losers, heaven or hell. That very basic framework of reality was often suggested to be the focus of meditation in the first three mansions, in the Purgative Way.

Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene says, “Meditation’s only aim is to enlighten the mind and enflame the heart, to move the will toward more virtuous living. In more contemplative prayer, meditation’s aim is to dispose the mind to contemplation, so as to nourish love – the quiet rest of the simple gaze of love fixed on Christ, or all three persons of the Trinity.”

In other words, we’re not thinking just to gain information, or to know more facts about the saints, and to explore our curiosity about a teaching. We’re only simply looking for something to enlighten our mind in faith, hope, and love in our relationship with God, in order to enflame our hearts, which will hopefully lead to a more virtuous living.

This disposition through the Prayer of Simplicity means telling God peacefully, with frequent pauses, in a thousand different ways, in your own words – that you love Him and that you desire to love Him more and more; that you want to prove your love for Him. It’s that coloqui. St. Teresa talks about the nectar of mental prayer, the heart-to-heart communication.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Elias, OCD: Easter – 3rd Mansion: fortitude & prayer of simplicity

The kind of prayer that is common in the Third Mansion is active Recollection, a simplified form of mental prayer; the prayer is becoming less the work of the mind and more the work of the heart – ‘not thinking much but loving much’ as Saint Teresa says.

In this active Recollection, this simplified mental prayer is what is referred to as the Prayer of Simplicity. You may be staying with a particular scripture in a particular disposition of soul and lingering with that longer than normal, and bringing that before the Lord.

The gift that’s prominent from the Holy Spirit – remember the gifts went from Fear of the Lord, to Reverence and now it’s Fortitude. And also, as it relates to St. John Cross’ doctrine, the Active Night of the Senses happens in the Third Mansion and partially in the Second Mansion.

Saint John of the Cross explains four nights: the Active and Passive Night of the Senses, which is what we can say as the surface level of the soul, the spiritual life that is more bound to the senses – how everything comes to our soul through the senses. The other two nights are the Active and Passive Night of the Spirit. The spirit is a deeper, more purer part of ourselves and our inner interior life.

The Active is what we do, and the Passive is what God does.

In the Purgative Way, the soul turns away from the spirit of the world, as St. John the Cross refers to ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.’ It develops knowledge of self, as St. Teresa emphasizes, the soul develops knowledge of self as imagio Dei – the image of God.

‘In this purgative way, one is easily subject to ones feelings, one’s emotions and mood swings.’ Father Garrigou-Lagrange refers to it as ‘dependence upon fluctuations of sensibility. Such subjective states are greater strongholds.’ The subjective state of what I feel and what I am personally experiencing most immediately becomes a stronger influence on my liberty and capacity to be happy, than the truth of what God does in its purity. Spiritually speaking, our interpretations are very subjective, and for that reason, a real deep sense of discernment is pretty rare as a dominant gift in this stage.

Here is an exhortation from St. Ignatius, ‘In times of desolation remember consolation. In times of consolation, prepare yourself for adversity.’ This idea is actually found in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, especially in the Book of Sirach.

We must be aware of certain truths like the bookmark of Saint Teresa teaches us, to know that God’s love does not change. ‘His grace is always present, though sensible consolation may be absent.’ So even if I can’t feel God is with me, it doesn’t mean that He isn’t.

‘In this purgative way, a soul is still subject to varying negative cycles, like discouragement.’ I would simplify discouragement as believing more in one’s own weakness than in God’s love for us; putting to focus more on my own weakness than in God’s love for me in my weakness. At times, some may even get to the point of despairing of God’s mercy because of the knowledge of our sins during times of desolation. Ascetic exercise here is essential and what we mean by this are that one, works of mercy – spiritual and corporal works of mercy; penance, which means fasting, vigils and prayer.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Elias, OCD: Easter – third mansion: too human prudence

Rubens, Feast at the House of Simon the Pharisee (wiki commons)

The soul in the Third Mansion has not yet experienced the supernatural force of love; this is still a natural spirituality – it’s growing, its mature, it has foundations, but a person hasn’t entered yet into the more the supernatural, infused gifts of God’s grace.

As a result, because the supernatural force of love has not yet been experienced, as a Christian, the person’s love and response to God’s spirit is governed by an often too human prudence; this too human prudence limits the soul’s growth to what can be understood or measured by natural reason or common sense alone. This fault is a huge one for everybody, and priests are definitely no exception.

In the Third Mansion, especially, the biggest struggle is Pharisaism, becoming very Pharisaical, doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. It becomes more about you than it becomes about God. And when the ego gets involved in selfish ambition and jealousy, the drama in prayer groups, conflicts in parishes, all the chaos that happens in the parish staff, and all the difficulties like a soap opera can erupt.

Christians are human beings just like nonbelievers and anybody else. A big part of the Pharisaism in the Third Mansion can be one’s tendency to be attached to one’s own agenda, and not even know it. The person carries an ambition and an agenda that comes from one’s own will, but is done in the name of God.

As a result of this stronghold of egoism – the personal agenda, my will, and my way of seeing things, and my way of understanding the Doctrine of the Faith, and the tradition of the Faith – a person can become very legalistic. A person can become very legalistic and ultraconservative in a way that can limit growth, just like the Pharisees.

Prudence is one of the cardinal virtues; after humility, it is the most important virtue that bridges Humility and Love; Humility and Love are the most important virtues. Humility is the root, Love is the fruit, and the stem is Prudence – a proper understanding of how to apply the truth of God to respond to the will of God; a proper understanding of how to respond to God’s grace. That’s Prudence and it’s very, very important.

When Prudence becomes too earthbound, too human, too much natural reason left to itself, and not enlightened by supernatural faith and what God reveals about Himself and the radical, paradoxical nature of the Gospel, there begins to be a confusion of the Gospel.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD


Father Robert Elias, OCD: Easter – third mansion: mature friendship/hidden faults

The Third Mansion, the third stage, is what’s called mature friendship. Now our spiritual life is well-regulated. It’s well-ordered; we’ve been around the block spiritually a bit, we know where the pitfalls are and understand what it means to stay on track. We’ve picked up and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

Spiritual foundations have been laid. There is the practice of discipline, what the classical tradition calls mortification and penance, the desire to learn and grow in the things of God, especially prayer and meditation, and we also have an active life of charity. One is involved in some kind of service, some kind and giving of ourselves. It doesn’t necessarily have to be formally at the parish as a Catechist, Lector, or Eucharistic Minister. There’s some kind of gift of giving of myself on a regular basis.

The person acknowledges prayer now not simply as one of petition when in need, or for one’s own consolation, but prayer becomes a daily necessity for the battle of life. There is a renewed vigor, initiative, and longing of the soul. In other words, by this time, attendance at Sunday Mass is no longer enough. Daily mass becomes almost a necessity. We desire to attend prayer groups, retreats, days of recollection, and we consecrate our lives to God in a renewed way.

All of this becomes very important, and we not only want to turn to the heart of God in a renewed way, but to belong, be united and bound to the heart of God. For this reason, in this stage of the Third Mansion, people start to seek to belong to groups like the (Secular) Order of Discalced Carmelites, the Third Order, confraternities, and that kind of thing; religious vocations and holy marriages come from this third stage.

Some of these thoughts are collected, not verbatim, but collected from Father William Wagner, as part of the website, Opus Angelerum. Part of this mature friendship is a well-regulated spiritual life, which means a good moral life. One is consciously, carefully avoiding the sin, not only mortal sin of course, but including venial sin. One is actively, conscientiously putting one’s best foot forward. We become very aware of venial sin, and it becomes very important for us to it.

That was the positive. On the other side of the proverbial coin, now the other side, the predominant faults of people in the Third Mansion are hidden in the sight of others. People don’t see the faint faults of people in the Third Mansion.  People are not necessarily committing sin by deliberate actions or living a double life.

Edward Munch, Jealousy & Gossip (Wiki commons)

The predominant faults are mostly in the thought life of the person, in the thought life. What does that look like? – criticizing others, being very harsh in our judgment of other people, easily scandalized by other people’s thoughts when they’re not as holy as you would expect or want them to be, becoming easily scrupulous, often times of spiritual things, complaining.

One of many favorites from St. John of the Cross is spiritual gluttony. Spiritual gluttony can be understood in different ways. For instance, ‘I no longer have an addiction to shopping for fashion, but I have an addiction to shopping for rosaries and Catholic books and movies; it’s never enough. I always have to have the next best picture of our Blessed Mother and then my house is full of statues because I just can never have enough. Spiritual gluttony is about always wanting to collect and have these sense consolations.

Also in this stage could be gossip. Gossip is a tricky thing because it’s such a slippery slope. For example, I could start off saying something very pious like ‘Oh, let’s pray for this person and let me tell you why we need to pray for this person.’ And you go way more into detail than you need to, and without intending to, because of that going back and forth, you can easily spiral away into gossip more than it is concern for the soul.

One of the practical boundaries in checking ourselves and making sure we don’t slip into that, is the question ‘Would I say this in his presence? Would I say this if he were right behind me? Would I say this if this was being recorded and he or she would hear it?’ That is always a good test in regards to watching what we say.

Another fault in the Third Mansion is jealousy of other people’s spiritual gifts, subtly seeking’s ambition, wanting to be the Formation Director, wanting to be on the Council, wanting these positions of authority or prestige. It’ not that those positions are bad but as Saint John of the Cross would say, it’s the desire for them, when we want them – that’s not a good sign.

One of the remedies to get us out of these kinds of mental knots is to remember that it’s not all about you. We can easily get stuck in ourselves.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Elias, OCD: Divine Mercy – God’s love loves us unto folly

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son (wiki commons)

In the Third Mansion, one can become so accustomed to the things of God that one can lose one’s original fervor for things like sacrifice and penance and fervent prayer. As a result, we can have all the external trimmings but lack the fire, and just go through the motions; this is always a danger for anybody.

As a result, we can have positions of authority like priests and bishops and this too natural, too human prudence can get in the way of God’s will. It can get in the way of the Gospel because we can explain the Gospel away when it’s bound too much by a natural perspective of what is “prudent.”

What really brings about progress is the supernatural infusion of God’s love. Saint Therese often says, ‘God’s love, loves us to folly.’ In other words, God’s love can appear to be crazy; it’s so out-of-the-box, and it goes beyond human expectation, goes beyond the norm, goes beyond what’s conventional, neat and tidy; it goes way out to the periphery. God’s love, loves us unto to folly in ways that are startling, in ways that are shocking, and if you look at the cross – in ways that are scandalous.

God’s love knows no bounds. God’s is crazy about you. When Mother Angelica was going through the important transition and breakthrough, before EWTN came to birth, God told her in her heart of hearts, ‘Unless you’re willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous.’ That nails it.

Most people are not willing to do or believe the ridiculous. ‘Thanks, but no thanks, pick somebody else, Lord. I’m going to stick to my novena and my normal routines. Pick somebody else for that one, sorry.’

Wisdom is to know when it is God asking us to do the ridiculous and not simply ourselves, or a temptation of the enemy disguised as something good. It takes wisdom to know when God is asking us to launch out into the deep, and we’re not being deceived. It takes wisdom and discernment.

Most people stay in the Third Mansion and part of the reason is because of this too human prudence.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Elias, OCD: Jesus, our Divine Mercy

Photo credit: Lorelei Low, ocds

Let us Pray. In the of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Oh God in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion and exhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us, so that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to your holy will, which is love and mercy itself.

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore and do not hope, and do not love you. My God I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you. My God I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.

Jesus I love you, Jesus I love you, Jesus I love you. May the Lord bless us and draw us to everlasting life. Amen.


The Savior of the whole world. You hear that expression everywhere, on billboards, and sometimes, communicating it could seem like an advertisement, as if you’re trying to sell Christianity.

Sometimes these terms can cheapen the meaning of faith. Most of our postmodern secular culture, which has adopted a mentality of secular humanism, doesn’t buy Christianity. They’re very dissatisfied by organized religion. And that’s how I was. I was so dissatisfied by Christianity, and by what I saw at church on Sundays, which didn’t inspire me, and I wasn’t edified by what I saw the of televangelists on television.

For that reason, I was thirsty for spirituality. So I looked to other places, and I studied Far Eastern mysticism, and New Age spiritualities and philosophies. But after this experience, Jesus’ love gradually drew me back to Himself. On Divine Mercy Sunday, I had this wonderful gift of experiencing God’s mercy in a powerful way that had a great impact on me.

The result of it was, I found myself before the Blessed Sacrament. And I knew, that I knew, that I knew – without a shadow of a doubt, in the depth of my being – that Jesus is Lord, and the one Savior of the world.

There was no “if’s, and’s, or but’s” about it. It was crystal clear. Jesus is the Savior of the world. That basic truth that we often see cheapened on bill-boards, became so alive and so real, that it was utterly undeniable.  When I had surrounded myself with all these other options and different religious figures, my mind unconsciously watered that truth down.

But the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world, was an unction of a conviction that was just grafted in me, branded in me on that one Divine Mercy Sunday.

Father Sophrony says, “Grace enlarges man to an unforeseen degree, to the dimensions of Divine boundlessness.” That’s Spirit-laced language.  To the degree of divine boundlessness. My Goodness!

Saint John Climacus is a desert father of the Greek Orthodox tradition, who lived around the sixth century. He was the abbot at St. Catherine’s monastery in Sinai and in the 500s, and he wrote the classic work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  He synthesized desert spirituality, gathered all the wisdom and tradition of the Desert Fathers together, and put it all into one source, one classic work.

Saint John Climacus says: “Who then, is that faithful and wise Christian, who has kept his fervor unquenched, and up to his Exodus, has not ceased adding fire to fire, fervor to fervor, longing to longing, zeal to zeal?”

We are never finished. As long as there will be more of God to give, there will always be more to receive. Jesus said, “It is finished,” but it’s never going to be finished in us. In other words, yes we only have one life to live— ‘you only live once,’ as many young people say— we only have one life to live, in terms of growing in grace, but we have all eternity, to grow in glory.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa expresses the truth of the beauty of God in his book Glory to Glory. The beauty of God, is incomparable; human language cannot fully express, cannot fully capture, nor can the human mind fully grasp it. Therefore St. Paul says, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard.” And what the mind can’t even conceive, God has prepared for those who love Him. St. Paul also says in Ephesians 3:20, “God who is in us can do immeasurably more than we could possibly hope or imagine.”

To Christ Jesus, be glory in the Church, forever and ever, Amen.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Elias, OCD: Easter – the second mansion: mortification & piety

Mortification is to die to this false self by deliberate actions and choices that kills the false self, and subjects the body to the spirit, but that can be misinterpreted; mortification subjects the ego to the Gospel and so there are certain voluntary choices and mortifications that a person adopts in order to cling to a definitive decision, and say to all those temptations and spiritual enemies, ‘No, no, no. I am not going backwards. You will not have me back. It’s over. The divorce has been signed, sealed, and delivered!’

Part of this asceticism is disciplining, laboring, ordering, and cultivating virtues in our lower faculties. When the scholastic writers of the Classic tradition talk about lower faculties, it seems that they are talking about the psyche – the immediate inclinations of the emotions and the immediate surface reactions of the will and the desires – the soul as distinct from the spirit, as Saint Paul refers to.

In this process, we need to accept the growing pains of what it means to die to our false selves. If we don’t accept the growing pains, we’ll never experience the new creation. We’ll never experience a new birth on a deeper level. The growing pains are inevitable in what it means to be in Christ. Jesus says, ‘If you want to be my disciple, pick up your cross and follow me.’ That means that there are going to be growing pains; it’s unavoidable.

The action of God here are sensible consolations, which are based on what can be perceived by the senses and what comes to the soul through the senses On the surface level of the soul, a person experiences for the first time, this real sense of God’s presence. The person experiences God’s presence in what seems to be a palpable way.

On the other side is a new type of trial that one goes through. This vigorous and at times painful effort is to be sustained by spiritual reading, which is really important in the Second Mansion. As the Rule of St. Albert of the Carmelite family says, ‘Holy meditation will save you.’

You’ve all probably had that experience where you are going through to this valley of obscurity, not knowing exactly whether you are up or down, or what was going on, or you weren’t able to pray. Then all a sudden, almost as if it fell into your lap, but somehow you opened up to some particular passage and it just totally encouraged you. It was just what the doctor ordered; it spoke straight to your heart and only God knew how perfect of a match and a fit this was.

‘These were just the words that I needed to hear and it was a proof that when I thought that I was walking by myself, it was all in vain, and God did not know my name, He forgot all about me – now this is showing very clearly God knows me thoroughly and He’s right here beside me because these words speak so strongly to exactly what I needed to hear. There’s no way that person knew or there’s no way that I just stumbled across this; it’s perfectly prescribed by the Divine Physician to bring courage to my soul.’

Spiritual reading, holy meditation will save you.

In the Second Mansion it is also important to get some spiritual direction, by someone – he doesn’t necessarily have to be a priest – just somebody that you trust who you know has been on the road longer than you, and has a some decent sense of discernment, someone who doesn’t think in worldly terms to make sense of your experience, but in Godly terms based on what they themselves have experienced and have been through.

He doesn’t have to be a priest – just someone who has been walking with the Lord. Spiritual friendships are important to keep us on track, and to keep us going.

In the First Mansion, the Gift of the Spirit was the Fear of the Lord. In the Second Mansion the primary Gift of the Spirit that’s growing in us is Piety – reverence, a personal love for the things of God.

We’ve gone from the first stage, the state of basic friendship, just trying to avoid hell, we have a fear of the Lord, and we do good so that we can get a reward. The second stage is an active life of friendship, and a personal relationship with God is developed. We have reverence and love for the things of God. Easter will bring about our discussion of the Third Mansion.