St. Teresa of Avila lived from 1515-1582. She was a Carmelite nun, a mystic, and was named a Doctor of the Church in 1970.One of her most famous works is The Interior Castle which describes a soul becoming more and more intimately connected with God by going through seven mansions. It is a guidebook to a contemplative life. Unlike the other Carmelite and fellow Doctor of the Church St. Therese of Lisieux who lived in the late 1800s and focused on a “Little Way”, St. Teresa’s spirituality can be a challenge to understand. The Interior Castle: A Boy’s Journey into the Riches of Prayer by Judith Bouilloc and Éric Puybaret (translated by Janet Chevrier) is an attempt to make St. Teresa’s teachings about prayer and a contemplative life accessible to children (as well as to adults who share the book with them).
The book opens with Juan, a ten-year-old boy who prays often, looking out of his window on a summer morning. He sees a beautiful castle that seems to be floating in the distance. He goes out to see if he can make his way there. He ends up in a garden outside the castle but can’t make his way in until St. Teresa of Avila offers to serve as his guide. The castle is the interior castle. She informs him that “this castle has many rooms, some above, some below, others to the side. In the center, in the middle of all the others, is the place where God dwells.”
St. Teresa and Juan are able to get into the castle through a small, narrow gate. They then go to the dragon’s lair, where Juan must conquer his interior faults. The speck and the log are featured in the third room. There Juan becomes aware of our inclination to point out others flaws rather than to work on getting rid of our own. The fourth room contains a consolation offered by God, a place of rest. The fifth room is full of butterflies, a symbol for the soul’s transformation as it gets closer to God. St. Teresa is unable to lead Juan into the sixth and seventh rooms, but she tells Juan about them. Jesus is the guide in the sixth room, and the seventh room is where souls achieve union with God.
The illustrations are simple and soothing, adding to the peaceful atmosphere of the book. The Interior Castle: A Boy’s Journey into the Riches of Prayer can introduce children to St. Teresa of Avila as well as help them gain a better understanding of the role of prayer in their lives.
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