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Stuck in my spiritual growth. How do I get unstuck? Pt I of II

Dear Sister Carmen, I feel like I am stuck somewhere in mansion one or two. Is this normal? Where do most people get stuck in the journey through the mansions and is there any common way you can suggest that we get unstuck? Maybe I am just impatient. I feel like I should be growing but I am not.

Teresa posits conformity to God’s will as the first principle of spiritual growth In her Way of Perfection: Chapter 16. She reminds us of the necessity of “keeping our eyes fixed on You; if we were to look at nothing else but the way, we would soon arrive.” Teresa herself had sufficient experience in her own life of a lack of focus due to the many preoccupations which diverted her eyes from the Lord, thus drawing her out of herself and out of her interior center back into the world around her. Because of this struggle she gave up prayer for many years. So too our attention can be drawn away from the Lord and dissipated in many directions so that we are no longer in our own center.

The Lord continued to call Teresa from His Presence in the Center of the Castle of her soul; this entry back into the castle was prayer – that intimate voice – leading her through the gate into the Mystery of divine intimacy. It is only when we assume a posture of loving attentiveness where the Lord’s voice becomes the First Voice that the rest of the pieces of our life fall into place. As children we often delighted in looking through a kaleidoscope to view broken pieces of colored glass falling into new patterns of color. The possibilities seemed endless. The more conformed our lives are to Our Lord’s the more the broken pieces of our lives catch the reflection of Christ thus producing a kaleidoscope of endless arrangements of stunning beauty.

There is a “getting stuck” when we are not serious about our prayer life or intimate relationship with the Lord and thus make little or no effort to climb out of our comfort zone and therefore move forward. This may even result in our slipping backward. But what we term “getting stuck” may also be due to our impatience to move into the next rooms before we are ready. When a butterfly has rested after coming out of the chrysalis, it will pump blood into its wings in order to get them working and flapping – so that it can fly. This time is crucial to the flying phase. If in our impatience we were to “help” the butterfly open its wings, the butterfly’s wings would become useless and the butterfly would die.

These first three mansions are the soil where we grow in the virtues and in order to do that we must, as mentioned above, become more and more conformed to God’s will. It takes our fidelity and determination, with the help of God’s grace, to continue to draw spiritual nourishment from the present set of circumstances in which we find ourselves. Jesus is present in the midst of the joys and sorrows, confusion, trials, successes, failed plans and messiness of our daily lives. This is where we work out our salvation and sanctification. The temptation is to become distracted through either past situations, present preoccupations, or imagined future ones. This pulls us away from the Present Moment in which we find all the graces needed for our interior growth. We know that growth is necessarily often slow. Teresa tells us that most of us will probably spend a long time in the first three mansions. In this sense she takes the first three mansions as a group for this is where we ourselves are most active in our own growth process. This is where we learn humility, advance in the virtues and grow in generosity. Jesus is the Beloved – how much are we willing to give? Can we ever measure our gift against His?

Anything worth doing or worth having requires arduous preparation. We can only receive what we are prepared to receive. God is patient and takes us where we are. He gives accordingly the growth we are ready to embrace. Just as Teresa abandoned prayer for many years before she was willing to detach herself from what was hindering her growth and open herself in abandonment to the Lord, so too we need to take a good look at our “attachments”. God can give much growth in a short time according to the person’s readiness to receive.

In our next post we will provide you with a brief examination of conscience that will help you understand where you might be stuck and a little more about what you can do about it.


PS: To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters visit our web site: and for more information please contact the sisters at, or 626-289-1353 Ext. 246, 920 East Alhambra Road, Alhambra, California 91801.


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  • judeen

    things that help me are… 1 going to confession regularly.. even now I see my spiritual gifts hindered if I need to go…
     2 . I needed to ask Jesus in my heart and life , which i always did , but did not say it…
     3. doing something to help others find Jesus mercy
     4′ I picked things up over the years… and had people pray over me , which so helped me alot in life… we need to pray for people
     5. read books on saints , but also joined a prayer group or bible study.. people who were serious in loving God
        6.. now adoration, mass , prayer from the heart . not just saying it but meaning it..

  • Cara

    Sister, I read The Interior Castle and it seems like a lot of hoops to jump through just to talk to God. I pray, go to Mass and Confession and obey the Commandments, but I don’t imagine I’ll reach any higher state before I die, which is okay with me. Does talking to God really have to be that complicated?

    • Becky Ward

      Hi Cara,

      No, talking to God doesn’t have to be complicated, but because developing a relationship with Him is so very important, the devil gets involved, and that makes things more difficult.

      My heart breaks when I read this part of your comment: “but I don’t imagine I’ll reach any higher state before I die, which is okay with me.”

      If you only knew how very much God loves you….and desires a close, intimate relationship with you, you would feel differently…….and it matters! This is not really something that can be explained in a comment box, but the effort and desire we expend toward learning to know and love God in this life is a big deal!! It makes a difference in how we will spend eternity. The fact that you are visiting this site and reaching out is a very good indicator that somewhere deep inside ……. you want that relationship too. Maybe you need some additional guidance. Do you have a spiritual director?  

    • Mary@42

      Cara, do not despair of rising higher Spiritually than where you feel you are now.  Please read my comments above.  I live a very simple, uncomplicated life, following my Prayer, Sacramental and Devotional Plan of Life which God has mapped out for me…..God does not ask us to do the impossible. He knows us better than we know ourselves.  The very desire you have to be closer to Him is a Gift from Him.  A call to you, and He is waiting patiently for you to respond in your own way… your own pace… two people’s Spiritual lives are the same…..each one of us in unique and God has created us and loves us just the way we are……His is a Divine, Unconditional, Unfathomable, Unrelenting Love as only God can love…..we are safe in His Hands as long as we trust in Him….He knows your limitations…..He is God, remember….So long as you are striving to live your Christian life, honestly and to the best of  your abilities, attending the Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion frequently along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, performing some Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy commensurate with  your State of Life, be sure the Holy Spirit is guiding you and protecting you from the Evil One who – to me – is the author of this defeatist statement Becky is sad about: 

      “I don’t imagine I’ll reach any higher state before I die, which is okay with me”

      The devil is trying to make you despair and give up.  Do not listen to him. Stop beating yourself up……God is pleased with who you are and what you are striving to be and His Graces are working in you and you shall grow at the pace He Himself has mapped out for you.  I love the call of Jesus which He gives us in the Divine Mercy Devotion. “Jesus I Trust in You”.  That is all He asks of us and He will accomplish the rest in us.  Be blessed.

      • LizEst

         There is a saying in Spanish that’s like a mini-exorcism, “Si fuerte venis, mas fuerte es mi Dios. La Santisima Trinidad me libre de vos.”

        It means, “If you [the devil] come on strong, my God is stronger. Holy Trinity save me from you!”

    • Henry

      No, you can reach the highest state by just reaching out to others…being a mystic is not easy like Theresa of Avila…she devoted every second of her life…we do not 
      live that way…we can only do simple prayers and actions..
      that is the difference with us common folks…we only spend a few moments each day..with all our other daily life assignments ….so when you do pray or share…just give what Jesus taught us…you will then find your way. Henry

      • Hey Henry – good to have you here. One note – St. Theresa’s life was nothing close to easy. It is a common myth believed by those outside of religious life that religious somehow have an easier path to deep prayer. As well, there are plenty of mystics outside of the cloister and plenty of those who have very busy lives but still have profound prayer lives. You will usually find them up and praying when others are sleeping…

  • Mary@42

    This is sure heavy stuff for this old grandmother…..but staying in touch with Jesus through the Eucharistic Apostolate of the Divine Mercy gives her strength and determination to continue “puffing and huffing” on this steep and slipperly Spiritual Hill….she falls so often but she won’t give up….He promised to run to her each time she howls and calls on Him to lift her up…..and He does just that……our daily Holy Moments together during the Intercessory 3.00 O’Clock Holy Hour, another Hour of just sitting quietly before Him followed by the Holy Mass are Holy prayerful and interactive encounters which are ever new every day, especially the Holy Communion… day is like the previous one…..weekly Confessions give Him another Divine Moment to wash her clean by His Blood and Water gushing from His pierced Divine Heart……predictably, the memory  is beginning to be unreliable…. so weekly Confession is a Grace-giving “Date” not to be missed……is she is progressing and growing Spiritually????….that she has left in His Merciful Hands

  • jacq

    Thank you for this article. Lord Jesus knows my recent struggles and has led me to this beautiful article. I’m not sure if I’m feeling stuck or sliding or moving closer to Jesus.  I’ve a constant yearning to be in the presence of our Lord, that I know for sure. Every morning I just need to seek Jesus in Adoration for about an hour before I go to work and in the evenings, I’ll try to meet my Lord in the Eucharist. And yes, I go out of sorts when I delay going to confessions. Somehow, I feel myself going in circles. Am I moving to a higher level spiritually, I don’t know. All I know is Jesus is with me. I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and I hear Him and the Holy Spirit prompts me when I’m out of line.

    • LisaMH

      Years ago at an Opus Dei Women’s Day of Reflection Fr. Kelly, well trained in spiritual direction, told us something I find deeply consoling: If you are striving to grow closer to Christ then you are making progress.

      Only God can see what progress and how much. Only God knows how far, how fast, and where He wants us to go. The evil one wants us to fret about these things. It seems that you are finding peace – God be praised….

    • judeen

       sounds like your preparing to do something for God…

  • Mzbecker

    Thank you for this questions and much needed answer.

  • Rowenalitorja

    The first mansion is the invitation to know God, entrance needed to enter the second mansion.  A road to salvation and devoutness of prayer tested to third mansion, after multiple battle and through perseverance the soul is tested to give up what we value most, fear to make progress.  See the obstacle why you stuck in your spiritual journey, poor health, depression, fatigue and etc…We should learn the profound knowledge of God’s mercy and confidence in God.  To persevere in prayer and struggle involved  is to go forward.  Whoever humble himself and detached will receive the favor from the Lord.  The love of God does not consists in consolation but in serving with justice and fortitude of soul and in humility.  Spiritual nourishment and determination will help us to grow in our spirituality.  

  • LizEst

    Thank you for this excellent post Sister Carmen. I look forward to the exam that you mention.

  • LisaMH

    Every post is a true God send. Thank you. I look forward to the examination of conscience.

  • Jcdean1010

    I too look forward to the examen.  I’ve gotten lazy about prayer and I know it, and I blame it on not seeming to ever receive answers to prayer.  My head knows the usual things to be said about this, but my heart just won’t be stirred.  It’s like He’s not that real anymore, so why keep trying?  

    • shauna78

      Hi Jcdean – I was just reading your post and felt that I needed to reply – the walk as Judeen said is never straight forward and even a simple “Hello Lord” is a prayer and it doesn’t matter what you say in a prayer, as you will be most likely speaking from your heart – the fact that you are communicating with God directly is a prayer! But you need to have faith to believe that God can and will answer your prayers..” he hears your words before you even prayed” and he has already answered them but sometimes in a way that we don’t expect – God never refuses a faithful child. If your prayers are not being answered because they are soulish prayers or they are not God’s will for that person and remember he can never go against anyone’s freewill. 

      Jesus died but didn’t leaving us orphans, he left us the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us – call upon the Holy Spirit or your guardian angel when you feel that you’re struggling to pray as the enemy doesn’t want you getting close to our Lord & Saviour in any way! Will pray for you xxx 

      • judeen

        shauna78 , scripture talks about prayer and being heard in several places,,, being right with God – God turns His head toward them and hears all there prayer , those who dont repent or repent and do not try to change He turns His head away and does not hear their prayer.. also n.t. it says that some do not ask , or ask wrongly..
           everyone hears God at times in and through things.. directly.. me? well not like the saints who saw Him … standing in front of them… different.. my faith is like a roller coaster.. I guess.. I have deep faith.. than no faith, deep love.. then ask where did it go? but I try to stay pure,(confession) and go to mass, daily.. try… saying rosary and chaplet or time just infrom of the tabernacle or reading bible is so important.. yet I am not regular. I fail, misserably.. yet I always wake with prayer. and pray to eat. I do need alot of prayer , thanks..
          but we can change people by prayer.. melt their hearts thought the Holy Spirit. gift of tears.. share our pain and life.. truth.. we can make a difference even if they dont want to.. fasting, prayer , kindness love.. through God and beleif ..

    • judeen

       you got to keep trying.. the spiritual walk is hard.. the devil trys to lie to you steal your faith… maybe you need to get involved.. whats your life like.. I do prison ministry.. freinds help in birth right , hand out food clothes find appartments.. and pray.. so on… maybe you need to put your gifts into action….

    • Be encouraged Jcdean…”the more i say no to myself, the more i say yes to the Holy Spirit”…God answers prayer…ask rightly and then get out of the way and let God act.

  • judeen

    the desert of the soul, dark night of the soul , dark night of the senses.. we all go through some of these but do not know what it is… the stealing away feelings to pray ,, beleif , love of God.. feeling empty… this is desert of the soul… it is a time of purification.. to see if your ready for the next step in your spiritual life.. 1 can stop it at any time … but if you do ,youll have to go through it again…. so hang in there.. at the end you receive a gift… strenght , understanding or other spiritual gifts…. each time it seems to get a little harder but the gifts become better…. have a person pray a our father with you , to make sure it is not a attack.. then it will end right away… or go to confession… there is so much about our faith we do not understand… and the power of it.

  • judeen

     we go 3 rooms up,, come down 1 room go 2 rooms up come down 2 …. the spiritual walk is not straight forward.. 1 does not stay in the same spot…. a person gets attacked when grows closer to God . the devil does not like it… He will try to get you through your weakest points… to get you to sin or give up…. he will cause problems.. make you stub your toes so youll swear… or things like this… until you start living with Jesus all the time.. offering these tests for souls… He will stop right away and look for something else…. so be stronge ,be wise,, yet gentle as doves….. for the fight is won by wisedom in God and the gentleness of peace..

  • Henry

    If we realize that we all crucified Christ with our sins, neglects, insults, failings, then we can begin to untangle ourselves from our 
    own misdeeds and thoughts to begin again on the path to redemption and salvation….learn to help others…helps ourselves…even by just 
    a kind word or smile. Give to receive. Hope that helps you. Henry

  • judeen

    henery and others of the lay community… your missing so much by thinking you can do nothing.. I know people who are lay people who see angles.., demons , take on others suffering.. have the stigmata.. ,visions. hold baby Jesus.. bring back lost people back to God and change their lives.. save babies from abortions.. and mothers alone , with no food or place to stay… teach kids about the Holy Spirit and how to pray and love God… you do not have to be a nun or preist!!! it is so fun to help others love God… you can do it right at work!!

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