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Interior Castle Questions

September 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Carmelite Spirituality, Dan Burke, Reader Feedback

Interior Castle Questions


Interior Castle Questions — Your Interior Castle questions, please!
Interior Castle Questions

Interior Castle Questions

Dear Friends,

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles are looking for questions on St. Teresa's Interior Castle! Any come to mind?

Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him



For those unfamiliar with Saint Teresa of Avila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus, she was a reformer of the Carmelite Order in the 1500s.  The Interior Castle, which is also known as The Mansions, is a spiritual classic on authentic meditation. It details the spiritual life and the life of prayer as a journey from the outer mansions to the inner, most intimate mansion, with each mansion representing a different stage in the journey from the beginning, or outer mansions, until one has experienced union with God.  She wrote this book after she had experienced both the spiritual betrothal and the spiritual marriage. St. Teresa of Avila also holds the title of Doctor of the Church.


Art for this post on Interior Castle Questions: Teresa of Avila, Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Feature Image Art: Modified detail of Patio interior del castillo de Manzanares el Real (Madrid) (Interior Patio of Manzaneres el Real Castle Madrid), photographed by Eleagnus~commonswiki, 9-February-2005, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • B

    I see there are many versions of the book, which one do you recommend? I’d like an e-version, ideally. Thank you! Thank you! -Bernadette

    • Becky Ward

      Hi Bernadette,
      I would recommend the version by the Carmelites, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.. Here’s a link to a new printing that includes a study guide. Dan recommended this on the site before. The Carmelites have the best understanding of the intent and spirituality of both St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross….as wells as others, so we get the best idea of their thought through the translations of their own order.
      I have read other versions and learned much….but translation does make a difference.
      Just my thoughts……

      • LizEst

        ; )

    • LizEst

      I second Becky’s recommendation on Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. It comes in a Kindle e-version as well:

    • The absolute best version (like that authoritative assertion) is the Interior Castle Study Edition published by the Institute for Carmelite Studies. In my opinion, the first read for anyone through IC should be this version.

      • Becky Ward

        Whew! That’s the one we’ve linked to. 🙂

  • Teresa

    I am currently reading the Interior Castle: The Classic Text With a Spiritual Commentary by Dennis Billy C.Ss.R. This edition was recommended by my spiritual director. The commentary consists of an explanation of each chapter and questions at the end of each chapter. It is very good.

    • Thank you! I’ll look that up.

  • Teresa

    Sister Carmen, I do have a question about the difference between Infused Contemplation and the Prayer of Quiet. Based on what I have read they sound like very similar experiences. How can you tell which one you have experienced? Normally I wouldn’t try to determine where I am in the spiritual life but in the study edition I am reading one of the questions concerns which stage of prayer you think you are at. Thank you

  • Janice

    My husband taught at a Catholic Law school and I was able to take classes for free. Contemplative Prayer was the class I choose and this book was the first reading assignment. We were not Catholic at the time. When I finished reading about the seventh mansion, I asked Jesus, to take me there. A large butterfly came to rest beside me on the bench as He said yes. Only by grace and years of work was this prayer answered. He calls everyone to spiritual union, even 23 three year old married non-Catholic women!

    • Becky Ward

      Isn’t He cool??

      • amsmax

        That’s beautiful.

  • Ralyge

    Yes, I have two related questions.
    1. Why do many Catholics disregard and/or dislike the mansions or stages? (a) In some Catholics who might be more beginners or the highly practical sort, they dislike the stages, it is scary and discouraging. (b) In the more educated and possibly advanced Catholic (many of whom are spiritual directors or religious), they seem to disregard the stages saying that this classification is not helpful or even an accurate portrayal of the development of the spiritual person because each person in unique and God works within the uniqueness of the person and his or her situation.
    2. As a director, how do you help some one in 1a and communicate and understand those in 1b?

    • Peg

      1. I’m not sure I agree.
      2. At first glance, I’d think that you’d need to find out where the person is based on gtbernardo’s comments (above), and then figure out which interior room their spirituality corresponds with best. If I’m understanding the comments properly I think it’s like individual homes; we all have one, but even though they’re all made up of roofs, walls, door, and windows ….our rooms reflect ourselves (sometimes), or at the very least no two are exactly the same.
      Does that make sense to you? I know what I’m trying to say, but I don’t think I expressed it very well.

      • The rooms represent transitional states – no one’s personal spirituality corresponds to a particular room. The rooms correspond to states or phases of interior development as we ascend to God. The rooms are like floors of a multi-story building…
        Sent from my iPad

        • Peg

          I agree with you, but based on your comment I didn’t express myself well because I meant the same thing that you’ve just expressed more clearly.
          Thanks. 🙂

          • Ah yes – humans are hard to communicate with aren’t we?

          • LizEst

            That’s the understatement of the year! 😉
            Best to you, Dan, on the program today.

    • LizEst

      Ralyge – not sure what you mean when you say “many Catholics.” I suspect some may not like the mansions or stages, or don’t find them helpful or accurate, because they don’t see themselves progressing…or their directors don’t see them progressing.

      What is the solution? Work on holiness, humility, self-denial, etc. A director should know how to direct people toward holiness of life. Likewise, he or she should know if the directee is led in an apophatic way (via negativa) or a cataphatic way (via positiva). If a director is not alert to the differences, the director him or herself may cause a delay in progress. If someone doesn’t advance after a long time, then they may be doing or not doing something that is blocking their progress. And, if a directee isn’t honest about their life, then making progress is difficult. If a directee has a secret sin (such as someone who is contracepting,
      someone who steals small things from work, someone who puts stumbling blocks in front of others, someone who is vain), that/those secret sin(s) needs to be removed. Usually, God doesn’t favor someone with higher gifts until that person gets their life in order, according to God’s ways…and not their own! It is hard to grow in holiness when one has an attachment to sin, any sin. And, there is a great deal of that today! St. Therese of Lisieux used to delight in discovering another sin in herself, another area in her life that presented an obstacle to God. This allowed her to work on removing this hindrance, with God’s grace, and thus be drawn ever closer to the Lord.

      If, however, a directee exhibits holiness of life, is attentive to prayer, etc, and doesn’t appear to advance, they may be going through the dark night of the soul or God may be leading them by the via negativa. So, all of this needs to be looked at, individually and as a whole. That mansions or stages can be very helpful in knowing where one is so that one can know what do work on. If one has a lot of work to do, it’s understandable to be frustrated. But, it’s also helpful to have this road map for the journey. Santa Teresa de Avila is a Doctor of the Church. She knows what she is talking about in “The Interior Castle.” Hope that helps.

  • Missy

    The meaning of the transverberation. It seems to be mentioned in the lives of several other saints, so is it a more common experience than say the transforming union of the 7th mansion?

  • gtbernardo

    I am not a spiritual director, not a mentor, not a leader, just plain Catholic Christian trying to follow the Master. i admire the levels of maturity written out by bloggers. All I can say from the little I know is that every spirituality, every saint is given a unique charism. Our Lord, Master, brings us into ‘His school’ each of us in our own, unique classroom. We find similarities, compare notes, copy one another, develop our own, nonetheless, the classroom is just us ‘alone’ with the Master. As St Paul wrote “there are different gifts…”. Although there is hierarchy of gifts, none of them can be criticized. The catch is, the more spiritual we become, the lesser we see ourselves. Just my 2cents. God bless! 🙂

    • Peg


  • Mary Joyce

    When I’m praying the rosary , I go into contemplative prayer and I worry about not finishing the rosary.

  • How do we know if we are supposed to meditate or sit quietly in God’s presence during prayer?

    • CFS

      Yes, I’d like to know about that too. Sitting quietly in God’s presence seems like not doing enough, being lazy.

  • manny

    The level of spirituality described in The Interior Castle seems very difficult to achieve especially in these modern times. Even the Church leaders never exhort the faithful from the pulpit to pursue such realms of holiness, as they seem to be content in giving mundane and oft-repeated preaching that does not convict, challenge or admonish. If St. Teresa of Avila is a doctor of the Church, and same with her contemporary saint, St. John of the Cross, why aren’t their writings on the paths to holiness taught and preached more to the faithful who is fast-becoming too secular and liberal with the times?

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