Monday, September 22, 2014

Prayer That Meets the Road

I can't seem to keep my mind off traffic. Which isn't surprising, I suppose, as many of us spend lots of time in the midst of it. It only follows that if we're 'cloistered' at all, we must be cloistered there.

Right there. Right where the rubber truly does meet the road, where drivers lose patience and horns blare and lines of cars come to standstills and roads get slippery and we must remain alert.  And where, all the while, no one around us suspects that our vehicle is a traveling chapel, a monastery on wheels.

Can we maintain a prayerful attitude throughout our day?  Can we, ourselves, be traveling 'monasteries' - places where God is loved and served in the very midst of the world?

I have a feeling that if we can manage this in our rolling sanctuaries, we have a pretty good start.

'It is written of St. Vincent Ferrer: Whether in the streets or in the choir, or his own cell, or preaching,
or on a journey, or whatever he did, he was always tranquil, because he had made an Oratory in his heart, and there conversed uninterruptedly with God, without any outward thing disturbing him." (from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, The Peter Reilly Co, Philadelphia, 1952, p. 90)

'We are, each of us, a Living Cathedral. Each is his own chapel. And provided we are in a state of grace, God lives and dwells within us… we must live and act as if we were dwelling in a church in the presence of the Tabernacle.” (The Living Pyx of Jesus, Pellegrini & Co., Australia,  1941)

Painting: Camille Pissarro, The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, 1897

Friday, September 19, 2014

Where is My Sanctuary?

'Faith tells us that our heart is a Sanctuary, because it is the Temple of God, the dwelling-place of the Holy Trinity.  Let us often visit this Sanctuary, and see that the lamps are alight - that is to say, Faith, Hope and Charity...' (St. Paul of the Cross)  

'To be with God it is not necessary to be always in church.  We may make a chapel of our heart, whereto to escape from time to time to talk with Him quietly, humbly and lovingly.... Begin then; perhaps He is waiting for a single generous resolution.'  (Brother Lawrence) 

'No other traffic will He allow to be carried on within the temple of your soul but the traffic for eternal wealth... ' (from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, Peter Reilly Co., 1952, pp. 81-82) 

 'A cloistered heart accepts God’s grace to love Jesus Christ in the midst of a world that does not love Him; to embrace His will in a world which does not embrace it. Thus the cloistered heart becomes a place of refuge not only for us, but for Christ Himself. To create such a refuge is a primary part of the cloistered heart’s apostolate. (from book The Cloistered Heart, Nancy Shuman)

'"When you use the analogy of the grille of God’s will and imagine yourself protected by it," wrote our friend Jane some time ago, "you really do see things in a new light. I think a perfect example of this was when I placed myself there on my 40 minute drives back and forth to work, battling very unpleasant traffic."  Jane's car became a monastery on wheels.  It was as if grillwork had been stretched across her windshield. Through the noise and the bustle and the rush and the traffic, her gaze was set firmly on God....' (from Cloistered Heart blog archives, April 2012)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Bumper to Bumper Retreat

I was pretty thrilled to run into a truly practical link today. I thought of how often we've talked, here, of carrying the atmosphere of a retreat into our daily lives. "When you use the analogy of the grille of God’s will and imagine yourself protected by it," wrote our friend Jane some time ago, "you really do see things in a new light. I think a perfect example of this was when I placed myself there on my 40 minute drives back and forth to work, battling very unpleasant traffic."

We've quoted Catherine de Hueck Doherty, who reminded readers of Poustinia that God "can say to someone driving that car bumper to bumper, ‘I will lead you into solitude and there I will speak to your heart.'"

Now I've found something that tells us not only that we can spend time with God even when we're bumper to bumper. It tells us how.

"Many of us uncloistered folk yearn for the silence and spiritual depth which seem to elude our hyper-active world," writes Brandon Vogt; "riches we think are only attainable within a priory......"

Click this link to discover Vogt's Six Ways to Turn Your Commute Into a Daily Retreat 

Photo on this post by L. Maran

Monday, September 15, 2014

Me? Or Jesus?

Such a simple thought. Such a simple question. Such a tough choice sometimes.

Moment by moment throughout each day, I find myself at a crossroads. It's always the same one, when you come right down to it. The crossroads is not in every choice before me... I'm pretty sure I can pick which blouse to wear or what to have for dinner without having to face it.  But in matters like how to spend a certain block of time or what to say about a person or how to treat someone, I often come face to face with it. Although I seldom recognize the question for what it is.

Will I pick me - or Jesus?

Very basic. Do I give time to Our Lord in prayer, or yield to a temptation to check blog stats first? (which almost always proves to be sidetracking).  Shall I offer comfort to someone who's hurting, or tell myself I'm tired and in need of a bit of pampering. Do I tell a story that builds up my own ego, or direct attention to the gifts of another. Are the majority of my thoughts directed to God and His will and His people, or to me and me and me?

Will I pick me - or Jesus?

I prepare to publish this post. I've found three public domain images to use, and I pasted parts of them together into one image and the results don't live up to my expectations. I am a little embarrassed by it, to tell the truth. Yet actually, I think this smooshed together scene conveys the basic idea pretty well. So - do I never let you know of this 'semi-fail' and replace the image with something else?  Or do I go ahead and offer the result to God and let Him use it as He wishes?

Is this post even making sense?  I'm beginning to wonder.  But could it help someone; could it give glory to God, just the way it is?  I suspect it's only my own pride that makes me reluctant to click 'publish.'

The question rises before me. In all kinds of circumstances, large and tiny, the question (if I let myself hear it) is there.

Will I pick me - or Jesus?

In more situations than I'd realized, in ways I hadn't imagined, I keep having the chance to choose.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Monastic Adventure in Sequence

We all know that blogs 'read backwards.' This is handy when we want to catch up on the latest news from someone. It's a bit tougher to work with if we're trying follow a particular thread of thought. In that case, we probably prefer to read posts in the order in which they were written.

This summer, we've looked into various monastic topics. As you may recall, we tried a basic 'format' for each subject.  The sequence went something like this: 

1.  Physically Cloistered  
2.  Spiritually Cloistered 
3.  Scripture and/or Saints Speak
4.  How We are Living This

Something like this does not become 'dated.' Therefore, I've linked these topics in chronological order, just as I did for the 'monastic days' we recently re-visited. We can click on any topic below, then read from post to post (approximately two to five posts on each topic).

I invite anyone who cares to do so to click on any subject that might be of interest.  At the bottom of that post, there will be another link, and on and on. 

Monasticism, Physical and Spiritual

The Monastery


Inside the Walls

The View Through The Grille

The Chapel

The Choir Stall

A Brief Retreat

The Garden               

In the Habit

Total Commitment

In The Cell

Prayer: Staying on Track

The Lighter Side (recreation)

Our Refuge 

Pictures on this post in public domain

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

No Other Foundation

               'Jesus, our Savior, true God and true Man, must be the ultimate end of all our devotions.
               Otherwise they would be false and misleading.
               He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of everything...
               He is the only Teacher from whom we must learn,
               the only Lord on whom we should depend,
               the only Head to whom we should be united,
               and the only Model we should imitate.
               He's the only Physician who can heal us;
               the only Shepherd who can feed us;
               the only Way that can lead us;
               the only Truth we can believe;
               the only Life that can animate us.
               He alone is everything to us, and He alone can satisfy all our desires.
               We are given no other name under heaven by which we can be saved.
               God has laid no other foundation than Jesus for our salvation, perfection and glory.
               Every edifice that is not built on that firm Rock
               is built upon shifting sands and will certainly fall.' 

                    St. Louis de Montfort

                    Painting by Heinrich Hofmann

Monday, September 8, 2014

Right Before My Eyes

Studying Art history in college, I wondered why we spent a good chunk of the semester concentrating on Catholic church architecture. This was especially puzzling because I was in a State University, and the teacher was outspoken about her own atheism.

In time, I understood. Churches are built to "speak." They are meant (or they were once upon a time) to proclaim the Word of God to all who enter their spaces. They are intended to offer, along with the printed or spoken words uttered within them, a special language of their own. Even the youngest and least educated among us should be able to in some way "get" this language, for in large part it is visual. It communicates to us the Truth that we have entered a sacred space, where we're invited to participate in the life of the world to come. Stained glass windows block distractions from the world outside. Statues help us realize the fact that we live, day to day, surrounded by saints and angels.  Paintings remind us of truth we cannot perceive with eyes of flesh.

Heaven knows, we need reminders. In this distracting, hurried, confusing world, we need reminders.

I think of these reminders as "visual lectio."

Not being in a geographical situation where I "see" this visual lectio often anymore, I miss it.  But I like knowing that someday, somewhere, I might just walk into a church building and look up at a magnificent window and - lo and behold! - find a subject for meditation.  Right before my very eyes.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What is Lectio Divina?

Painting:  Friedrich Adolf Hornemann Lesender, Mönch, in US public domain due to age  {{PD-1923}

Just what IS Lectio Divina?  Is it something I can practice in my ordinary daily life?

The answer to the second question is "yes." The answer to the first can be found in this series of archived posts, now arranged in chronological order. These were originally compiled as our third and last "monastic day." I find it helpful to re-visit them, and for that reason am glad they're now linked together so I can easily get to them in sequence. 

To begin the sequence, click on the following link, which will lead to another post within this blog.  At the end of that post, click on the link provided.... and on and on.

I pray that we will each encounter, more deeply, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To begin "A Day of Lectio," click this line

Painting: František Dvořák, in US public domain due to age {{PD-1923}}

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Our Second Monastic Day: in Sequence

Because it is handy to have our "first monastic day" sequenced, I've done this with the second one we used.   

We've gone through several such "days" in the past. So while anyone who cares to do so is browsing through the first two, I will continue working behind the scenes to put the others in sequential order as well.

To begin our "next" monastic day, click on the link just below.  At the end of that post, there will be another link.... and on and on as each post appears.

As before, we will look at how we can live as cloistered hearts in the midst of our everyday lives.

To begin our 
second monastic day, click this line

Photo on this post by Connie Wells

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Our Monastic Day: in Sequence

Several years ago, we offered a series of posts that I called 'Our Monastic Day.'  It was our own little cloistered-in-the-midst-of-the-world-horarium, looking into how we can offer our own days to God morning through night. 

Reading another blog recently, I discovered a story that I was able to read in actual chronological order. The blogger simply gave a link to one post, and then linked from there to the next part of the story, and on and on.  No jumping back and forth, no reading in backwards-sequence (as blogs do)... just beginning and then continuing on if one wanted to do so. I loved it. I would like to try it.

I'd like to go back over our monastic day (a kind of cloistered-heart-refresher), and why re-invent the cloister wheel?

So I invite anyone who cares to go through a day in-the-cloister-in-the-world, little by little, to begin at the link below.  At the bottom of that link, there will be another link, and on and on.  When we get to Compline and the singing of the Salve Regina, we'll know that 'day' is done.

And for those who weren't around for our 'Parlor' comments-blog, I apologize for any confusion.  Comments are now open right here, but we've left the Parlor open in case anyone ever wants to go back and see what was discussed there.

Let's try this, shall we?   

To begin reading "Our Monastic Day," click this line

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Keep That Altar in Your Hearts

I have an old book, a paperback whose crispy yellowed pages are held together by rubber bands. As far as I can tell, the title is now out of print. I found the story (a true one) riveting when I read it some years ago, so I typed out fragments of it.  I ran across one of these pages today, and immediately wanted to share something from it here.

The story is of a Sister Cecilia, who helped other Christians flee persecution in the second world war. 
Sister's convent had been torn apart, and these words were spoken by the priest during the last Mass in the chapel... 

'Don't lose faith in God... 
build your own altar in your heart,
an altar which no human hands can tear down as they have torn these paintings down, 
which nobody can destroy as this altar has been destroyed.  
Keep that altar in your hearts.'   
(from The Deliverance of Sister Cecilia as told to William Brinkley, Signet/New American Library, 1954)

This link tells more about the title.  And, thanks to a kind commenter, this link might help anyone interested in doing so to find a copy of the book.

In the meantime, I hope to carry that last sentence with me. No matter where we are, ever; or what happens around us, ever: 

We can keep that altar in our hearts. 

Photo on this post by Connie Wells

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Divine Office: Together We Pray

I used to have very little appreciation for the Liturgy of the Hours. I considered it ‘too structured,’ ‘too formal,’ and a mere recitation of words other people had written. It could be spoken while the speaker’s mind wandered anywhere and everywhere (I decided)… so wouldn’t such a practice just lead to dry, lifeless prayer?

I could not have been more wrong.  

The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the ‘Divine Office,’ is an official group of prayers used by priests and Religious. It is a primary part of the daily schedules of monks and nuns.  

The Divine Office is the same for people throughout the Church, throughout the world. On the very same day, Father O’Neill in Dublin and a group of monks in Sydney and a monastery of nuns in Toledo are praying the exact same words.

And I can pray with them, if I wish.

As I wrote here a few weeks ago, the Liturgy of the Hours helps my prayer stay on track. In it, scripture is right before me; thus I have 'grillwork' for my day.  I am praying with the whole Church, right along with Father O'Neill and the monks in Sydney and the Toledo nuns. And, if I'm tempted to bypass prayer, I get help to carry me past my (laziness, in my case).

Do I, personally, pray the entirety of the Liturgy of the Hours?  No.  But My goal is to work toward that. I'm making a commitment to at least pray part of it every day.  I hope to pray more and more of it, to 'baby step' my way into staying solidly on its tracks throughout the day.

In my haphazard life (and my very nature is 'haphazard'), I definitely need some of that structure I once dreaded.  Otherwise, I wind up wasting entire days.

I find that those 'words others have written' often turn out to be cries and groanings from my very heart.

Does my mind wander while I pray in this way?  My mind wanders no matter how I pray.  The Divine Office helps call the drifting mind back.

Does the Liturgy of the Hours lead me to the dry, lifeless prayer I feared?  No.  Sometimes I feel dry and lifeless, yes, but again:  that would happen no matter how I pray.  The printed words help me stay focused.

In some key ways, the Liturgy of the hours is a lens that helps me zoom right in on the presence and reality of God.

Where can we find the Liturgy of the Hours? 

A WONDERFUL resource is Divine  I cannot recommend this highly enough.  It is free, it has all of the hours available for reading or for listening to, and it's a marvelous tool for those of us who have trouble finding our way through the books themselves.  It's all right there for us.  The one and four volume breviaries are available for purchase at this site as well.

And for an excellent explanation of this kind of prayer, check out Daria Sockey's blog Coffee and Canticles for 'About the Liturgy of the Hours. '  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

It is Faith

'No one
is a martyr 
for a conclusion; 
No one 
is a martyr 
for an opinion; 
It is faith 
that makes martyrs.' 

Blessed John Henry Newman 

Painting: Gustave Dore

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Itty Bitty Martyrs, Teeny Tiny Saints

I was raised, in Catholic school, on stories of martyrs. Those gilded, shimmering beings who (I just knew) had floated through their lives on a plane above the rest of us, smiling at their hangmen and singing for joy in prison cells.

It did not occur to me that the wounds of such heroes might actually hurt. Nor that anyone called to such glory would not feel instantly glorious. Oh no. I was sure these shining ones were granted special dispensations from pain.

I even brought them, sometimes, into my young world of pretend.  Crossing arms across my chest, gazing wistfully at the sky with head tilted back, I glided across my front yard confident that I looked exactly like the painting on a holy card. 'Goodbye world... so long, family.... farewell, neighbors playing cowboys....  I bequeath to you the cars in my sandbox and my swing hung on a tree and even my black cocker spaniel.  As for me, I'm off to dance amid the flames.....'   

Fast forward many years. As a grownup in today's world, I recognize the truth that martyrdom hurts.  That prison cells are far from comfortable.  That people in flames don't feel so much like dancing. 

I also recognize something else.  I have finally gotten the message that sainthood isn't only for some.  It is for every single one of us. And martyrdom?  Well, that's not a word we're tossing around lightly these days.

I have been thinking a lot, again, of the littlest martyrdoms.  The ones we face day after day.  I know I just posted about this last time, but it is staying on my mind.  It sticks with me like a persistent call to prayer, like the insistent clang of a monastery bell.

'Offer that pain for this intention'
'When you're insulted for Me, choose to count it joy'
'Pray for My Church'
'Accept this cross as prayer for those who are suffering'
'Die to your own will in this matter'
'Intercede for an end to abortion'
'Pray for Godliness in the world'
'Do not participate in this evil'
'Don't react to that person in anger'
'No one is standing up for Me.  Will you?'
'The world is in trouble.'

My little deaths to self are, when compared to true martyrdom, oh so tiny. My steps toward sainthood are wobbly and small.

But I am failing God if I don't take those steps.  I'm failing Him when I don't cooperate with His call.

You and I?  We may feel that in God's plans we are teeny.

But we have the call to be heroes.  We have the call to be saints.

Painting at top of post:  Scherrer, St. Joan departure, in US public domain due to age
Joan the Woman movie poster in public domain

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz

For more on our Refuge in Trials, click this line


Monday, August 18, 2014

I Shall be Telling This with a Gulp

I type the following with a gulp.

'Come, my sweetest Jesus, that I may now be inseparably united to Thee in time and eternity:  welcome ropes, hurdles, gibbets, knives, and butchery; welcome for the love of Jesus, my Savior.' (St. Henry Morse)

I was okay until the ropes.

I can pray the first line of that prayer with all my heart.  I'm able to sing it, rejoice in it, even make it into an aspiration to repeat throughout the day.

But I gulp when I read about the ropes, and the knives, and the butchery.  But then, I'm not in the position of St. Henry, who apparently said these words while facing martyrdom in 1645.

I've been thinking about the sorts of things I'm willing (and not willing) to face if I am going to truly follow Christ.  Things I sometimes encounter in the midst of my ordinary, regular, day-to-day life.

Knives (I've realized) do not have to be physical to hurt us.  Anyone who has ever been sliced by words knows the truth of this.  The butchery of gossip?  Of being mocked or belittled?  Of being verbally attacked for standing up for the Gospel?  It can be brutal.  To remain true to Jesus when we know we'll be cut down for loving and obeying Him - well, that takes grace. 

Thankfully, He provides all the grace we need, just when we need it.  All we must do is accept, and trust, and hand ourselves over to Him (not to 'them,' but to Him) when we are presented with opportunities to do so.

I am convinced that we can reach out for His grace and stand strong for Jesus Christ.  Even in the midst of our gulps. 

'When the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say.  You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.'  (Matthew 10:19-20)

Painting:  Stefano Novo, The Gossips, in US public domain due to age {{PD-1923}}


For more about our Refuge in Trials, click this line