Editor’s note: We are grateful to Theresa Lynn and The Diamond Castle Project for becoming a sponsor of CatholicMom.com and urge you to learn more about Theresa’s work at her website. –Barb
We celebrate Saint Teresa of Avila on her feast day, October 15. She is most known for being a Doctor of the Church and for her mystical experiences through union with God, as graciously expressed in the sculpture by Bernini depicting her ecstasy experienced from this union. For the “average” Catholic living in the world we may find it hard to relate to her life and the deep way in which she experienced the presence of God. But, today, her works, The Way of Perfection and Interior Castle, provide some symbols that can help us learn why St. Teresa wanted to share her experiences with the world.
Over 450 years ago she wrote the Interior Castle. In it she used the image of a diamond castle or “pure crystal” to illustrate the beauty and splendor of the human soul. We can find this symbol still relevant for teaching the spiritual life of the soul and especially to children, through the images of castles and kings.
What child born in the U.S. hasn’t played “dress-up” in the image of a princess, or drawn a “sword” to protect the princess from the dragons? Even Barbie has a “diamond castle.” But, St. Teresa of Avila spoke of it first! At Disneyland, the castle is brought to the level of play. The place “where dreams come true.” A land of fascination with what can be imagined through a life with “magic” when transported into the realm of make-believe.
Saint Teresa calls these times “building castles in the air.” Our “castle in the air” is the greatness that we aspire to through building kingdoms and pretending to be something we are not and attributing greatness to something that isn’t even real. Kingdoms and castles fall, so she implores us to move to what is real and lasting, what is eternal and of the highest good for our souls. So the castle image of her medieval time is made new for the Kingdom of God.
Everyone agrees that the things that last the longest are the best things. That is why we add minerals to our roses. We want beautiful things to last as long as possible, and that is why diamonds which are supposed to “last forever” is the metaphor for true love. We want our spousal love to last forever, at least while we are alive. But, we know these things of the earth, as beautiful as they are, and as thankful as we are to God for gifting them to us, we know they do not last forever.
So, St. Teresa points us to what does last forever – the soul. A lot happens in the soul; it is difficult to express, so Saint Teresa expresses the grandness of the soul as a castle built of diamond or crystal, and within it is His Majesty, the King of Glory dwelling, beckoning us to knock on the door of the castle and to have union with Him in the center of the castle.
St. Teresa writes in her great spiritual work, Interior Castle, that the “knock” on the door of the castle are your prayers. Just as in scripture when Christ promises that if you knock, He will open (Luke 11:9), St. Teresa says this is the means to entering the castle. It is not just for asking for favors, for prayers to be answered. For St. Teresa it is the first means by which we can cross over from building castles in the air to participating in His love through the eternal kingdom of God that lasts forever.
For St. Teresa, the Our Father prayer is a strong prayer which should be prayed frequently throughout the day. Even every hour is not too much, she writes in Interior Castle. In fact, it is the Our Father prayer that pronounces, “…on earth as it is in Heaven.” That the glories of the heavenly kingdom can be found here on earth and that most appropriate place where they can be lived out and experienced in our lives is in our souls. Because, St. Teresa says, “the soul is the most beautiful place for the King of Glory to dwell.” Just as Mary’s womb, free from sin, was the most appropriate place for God Incarnate, our souls, which are eternal, are the most appropriate place for Christ to bestow the eternal gifts of grace and virtue he wants to give all of His children.
They are gifts that encourage us to desire to have union with Christ, the King of Glory, now, while we are alive on earth. Not to wait until we die. We can have union now. Through prayer, the sacraments and God’s grace we journey to the center of the castle and in Interior Castle Saint Teresa expresses that we will find “delightful things” when we enter into the many rooms of the castles while we pray.
She says the rooms in the castle are not in any order. They are “up above, and down below, and on the sides.” One small child expressed to me in a Diamond Castle Workshop, “not like a hotel.” Out of the mouth of babes comes the most succinct description of the interior of the castle. For, how we journey through the different rooms of the castle and what we experience in each, to get to the center when His Majesty dwells, is not the same for everyone.
In keeping with Catholic tradition, St. Teresa is of like mind with all the saints on the main room in which to dwell to have an authentic spiritual life with His Majesty the King of Glory. In Interior Castle, it is the “room of self-knowledge.” This room is the room where we experience humility. When we become aware that God is “robed in majesty” Psalm 93:1 and subsequently realize our “littleness,” that we are His child, and can yell out, “Abba, Father!” The Our Father prayer accomplishes this cry, shows us what the Kingdom of God should look like and provides a prayerful means to union with His Majesty.
Today, St. Teresa’s metaphor of the diamond castle can be an excellent teaching opportunity to counteract the culture’s emphasis on “make-believe.” It is the anti-thesis to Disney and Barbie. Through grace, I invite you to discover this metaphor for yourself and your children.
Copyright 2016 Theresa Lynn
About the author: Theresa Lynn, the Marketing and Advertising Director for Crux Catholic Media, Inc., is not a mom, but loves teaching children about their diamond castles. A class on “Spirituality” during her tenure as a student at the Institute for Pastoral Theology, formerly with Ave Maria University, got her on the path to study the Interior Castle and realize how the metaphor for the soul could be used in teaching today’s children about the spiritual life. She offers blended learning resources of the book, The Diamond Castle, and a gaming app through her website, TheDiamondCastleProject.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.