BTP3 Heaven In Faith: Day 2 Prayer 1 by St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcasts

Episode 3 “Heaven in Faith”  Day 2 Prayer 1  – “The Kingdom of God is Within You”

This episode with Dr. Anthony Lillis and Kris McGregor delves into the writings of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, focusing on Retreat 2, Prayer 1 of her “Heaven in Faith” retreat. Dr. Lillis, an expert in Carmelite spirituality and theological contemplation, emphasizes the central theme that our hearts are meant to be a heaven where God resides, a reality made possible by grace and baptism. This retreat, initially penned for St. Elizabeth’s sister, invites believers to recognize and nurture God’s dwelling presence within, transforming it into the guiding force of their lives through faith renewal and the sacraments.

Catholic Devotional Prayers and Novenas - Mp3 Audio Downloads and Text 8St. Elizabeth’s writings illuminate the concept that the Kingdom of God is internal, a profound insight shared with St. John of the Cross, who believed that in the soul’s substance, where worldly and evil influences cannot reach, God imparts Himself, making every movement divine. This inner sanctuary, untouched by external forces, becomes the focal point for spiritual growth and intimacy with God, achievable through love, which binds the soul to its Creator. The more intense this love, the deeper the soul’s entry into God, culminating in a unity that transforms the individual into a reflection of the divine.

Dr. Lillis further explores the barriers modern individuals face in accessing this inner realm, notably the distractions and superficialities fueled by technology and material pursuits. He argues that neglecting the soul’s deeper needs can lead to spiritual emptiness or the pursuit of harmful or superficial remedies. Drawing parallels with the experiences of Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, he stresses the primacy of grace and the transformative power of prayer in attaining spiritual fulfillment. Christian contemplation, unlike other forms of mysticism, is characterized by its interpersonal nature, focusing on a relationship with Jesus Christ rather than seeking emotional or intellectual experiences.

This episode not only revisits the timeless wisdom of Carmelite saints but also addresses contemporary spiritual challenges, advocating for a deeper, love-filled pursuit of God within the soul’s sanctuary.

Day 3 First Prayer

5. “The kingdom of God is within you.” Awhile ago God invited us to “remain in Him,” to live spiritually in His glorious heritage, and now He reveals to us that we do not have to go out of ourselves to find Him: “The kingdom of God is within”! . . . St. John of the Cross says that “it is in the substance of the soul where neither the devil nor the world can reach” that God gives Himself to it; then “all its movements are divine, and although they are from God they also belong to the soul, because God works them in it and with it.”

6. The same saint also says that “God is the center of the soul. So when the soul with all” its “strength will know God perfectly, love and enjoy Him fully, then it will have reached the deepest center that can be attained in Him.” Before attaining this, the soul is already “in God who is its center,” “but it is not yet in its deepest center, for it can still go further. Since love is what unites us to God, the more intense this love is, the more deeply the soul enters into God and the more it is centered in Him. When it “possesses even one degree of love it is already in its center”; but when this love has attained its perfection, the soul will have penetrated into its deepest center. There it will be transformed to the point of becoming very like God.” To this soul living within can be addressed the words of Père Lacordaire to St. Mary Magdalene: “No longer ask for the Master among those on earth or in Heaven, for He is your soul and your soul is He.”

Elizabeth of the Trinity. The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity, vol. 1 (featuring a General Introduction and Major Spiritual Writings) (Elizabeth of the Trinity Complete Work) (pp. 95-96). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. Understanding the Presence of God Within: How do you perceive the idea that our hearts are meant to be a heaven where God dwells? Reflect on your personal experiences of recognizing God’s presence within you.
  2. The Role of Grace in Spiritual Growth: Dr. Lillis emphasizes the primacy of grace over personal effort in growing closer to God. How have you experienced the role of grace in your spiritual journey? Can you identify moments when grace, rather than your own efforts, led to spiritual growth or transformation?
  3. Barriers to Interiority: The modern world presents numerous distractions that can lead us away from exploring our interior life. What are some barriers you face in seeking interiority and a deeper relationship with God? How can you address these barriers in your daily life?
  4. The Impact of Love on Spiritual Depth: St. Elizabeth and St. John of the Cross highlight love as the force that unites us with God, deepening our entry into Him. Reflect on how love has been a pathway to encountering God more deeply within your soul. What practices help you to grow in love for God and others?
  5. Contemplative Prayer vs. New Age Mysticism: The episode makes a distinction between Christian contemplation, which is interpersonal and focused on Jesus, and other forms of mysticism that seek emotional or intellectual experiences. How does this distinction influence your understanding of prayer and spiritual life?
  6. The Call to Interior Prayer: Reflect on the statement that the kingdom of God is within you. How does this truth affect your approach to prayer and daily living? Do you find it challenging to turn inward to meet Jesus in prayer? Why or why not?
  7. Overcoming Spiritual Distractions: In an age of technology and constant activity, how can you cultivate silence and stillness to listen to God’s voice within? What practical steps can you take to minimize distractions in your prayer life?
  8. Encountering Jesus in the Depths of the Soul: Dr. Lillis discusses encountering Jesus even in the absence of emotional or intellectual consolations. Have you ever experienced a sense of God’s presence that transcended feelings or thoughts? How does this experience influence your faith and prayer life?
  9. The Journey to the Deepest Center: St. Elizabeth speaks of penetrating into the deepest center of the soul through perfect love. What do you think this journey entails for you personally? How can you more fully open your heart to God’s love?
  10. Faith and the Interior Life: Finally, consider the role of faith in accessing the realities of God’s love and presence within us, as mentioned by Dr. Lillis. How does faith guide you to seek and find Jesus in the depths of your soul, beyond what is felt or seen?

We would like to thank Miriam Gutierrez for providing “the voice” of St. Elizabeth for this series

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, S.T.D., has served the Church and assisted in the formation of clergy and seminarians since 1994. Before coming to St. Patrick’s, he served at seminaries and houses of formation in the Archdiocese of Denver and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The son of a California farmer, married with young adult children, holds a B.A. in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville with both the ecclesiastical licentiate and doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the Angelicum). An expert in the writings of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church, he co-founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and the High Calling Program for priestly vocations. He also founded the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, which hosts symposiums, retreats, and conferences. In addition to his publications, he blogs at .

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