Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Cloistered Heart: An Introduction


   What is a "cloistered heart?"  

   It is an analogy in which our lives can be seen as "monasteries," places where God is loved and lived for and served.  

   Our call is to be in the world but not of the world.   This is not a new or different idea; rather, it is an emphasizing, a kind of "underlining," of every Christian's call.  The uniqueness of this emphasis is in its monastic imagery. 
   The word "cloister" speaks of total consecration.  Those who enter a traditional physical cloister make a tangible break from the world.  Compromise does not fit well in a cloister, nor does lukewarmness, nor does complacency.  The cloistered life is absolute. 

   Christians living in the midst of the world are also called to live for God.  But for us, the break is not so clean. The world is persistent in its tugs on the heart trying to live for God.  We need support in our struggles to surrender our lives to God and to resist the world's allurements.  This is where the imagery of the cloistered heart can be of help.

  "If the cloister is in a man's heart, it is immaterial whether the building is actually there.  The cloister in a man's heart means only this:  God and the soul."  (from Warriors of God by Walter Nigg, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1959, p. 13)

   Our cloister is not made of bricks and stones, but of God's holy will in which we can choose to live.  The will of God can form for us a "cloister grille," through which we may view and respond to all people and all circumstances around us. 

   There is much more to this basic analogy, and you are invited to have a look at it.  Click individual titles - along the top of this screen - for more information about each subject. Thank you for joining in this adventure, for the glory of Jesus Christ, our Lord!

"The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place ‘to which I withdraw.’  The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully.  The heart is the place of decision." (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2563) 

"Thank God, there still remains one sanctuary, the sacredness of which no earthly power may violate… it is the sanctuary of the human heart.  
"It needs no fixed place for its confines, no stated time for the opening of its gates, no particular hour of silence for its prayer.  A thought, a word, a moment of reflection, and by faith and by love, the soul is within the blessed refuge, and the gates are closed on the confusion of life with all its noise and tumult.  It is secure against the bitterness and the pain of persecution, or hardship or trial, or hurt of body, or wound of earthly pride, or failure of worldly ambition, for there she is inviolable, sacred, impregnable in the fortress of her own spirit.  ‘Entering into solitude,’ we sometimes call the seeking of this sanctuary.  But it is not entering into a lonely solitude.  It is hearkening to the alluring accents and appeal of a Voice that will never, in time, be stilled, but will ever sound gently in the hearing of them that love: ‘Come apart with Me and rest awhile!” (from The Living Pyx of Jesus, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini and Co, Australia, 1941, p.101) 

“Most beautiful of creatures, who desires so ardently to know the dwelling place of your Beloved in order to seek Him and be united with Him, you are yourself the refuge where He takes shelter, the dwelling place in which He hides Himself.  Your Beloved, your Treasure, your one Hope is so close to you as to live within you." (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle)  
“You are the temple of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 6:16) 
"We may well tremble to think what sanctuaries we are, when the Blessed Sacrament is within us."  (Frederick William Faber)    


*This is a repost from the archives of (November 23, 2014).

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lost in His Heart

'I feel entirely lost in this divine Heart. It is as though I were in a fathomless abyss, in which He discloses to me treasures of love and of grace for those who consecrate and sacrifice themselves to give and procure for Him all the honor, love and glory in their power.'

St. Margaret Mary

public domain photo

This is a repost from the archives of 6/12/15.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Name of Our Redemption

'How happy we will be if, 
at the hour of our death, 
as well as during the whole 
of our lives, we pronounce 
the Sacred Name of our 
Savior with due respect. 
It will be like a password 
with which we freely enter 
into heaven, for it is the 
name of our redemption.'

St. Francis de Sales


Painting: Baciccio, 'The Triumph of the Name of Jesus'

This is a repost from the archives of 8/7/16.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Our Patroness

The concept of the cloistered heart can be said to have several "patrons," but one saint in particular serves as a primary role model.  Why?  Perhaps the following will help, at least a little, to answer that question....

St. Jane de Chantal was Francis de Sales' co-founder of the Visitation of Holy Mary.  Before becoming a nun, however, Jane was a young widow consulting St. Francis for spiritual direction.  At that time, she was a busy laywoman with four children to raise.  

Recognizing the desires of her heart, Francis de Sales directed Jane "in her growing intimacy and conformity to the signified will of God.  He even confirmed her in the practice of imaging her own spiritual world with monastic imagery.  For example, she took the Virgin Mary as the Abbess of the cloister of her own heart."  
(Wendy Wright, Joseph Power OSFS and Peronne Marie Thibert VHM, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, Letters of Spiritual Direction, Paulist, 1988, p. 41) 

"The spirit of God does not depend on retirement.  Rather it is a spirit that strengthens and perfects all occupations." - St. Jane de Chantal

"Ah, what a happiness to live thus in the world without sharing in its miserable affections and aims!"  - St. Jane de Chantal

"You must adhere to this practice of looking at God within you and it will absorb all others."  - St. Jane de Chantal

"Our Lord, in no place of Scripture, says... give Me thy head, thine arms, thy life, but only:  My child, give Me thy heart.  Whoso has a person's heart, has the entire person.  The heart is the seat of love.  When I shall have thy heart, I shall set My love upon it.  I will make My love dwell therein and then all the rest will follow as a consequence."  - St. Jane de Chantal

This is a repost from the archives of 5/24/13.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Cloistered Heart of St. Margaret Mary

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque's was a heart filled with fire.  Jesus chose to reveal to this Visitation nun a Heart ablaze - His own Sacred Heart.  I think it's accurate to say that the saint encountered the Fire of Jesus' love and reflected it back to Him.  Love met love, Heart met heart, Fire met fire.  But the story did not end there.

Jesus entrusted to Margaret Mary a mission:  to spread the message of His fiery love.

"My Divine Heart," Christ said in an apparition to this humble nun in 1673, "is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you in particular, that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning charity any longer. They must burst out through you."

St. Margaret Mary later wrote: "Jesus asked for my heart, which I begged Him to take, and He placed it in His adorable One, in which He showed it to me as a tiny speck consumed in this burning furnace. Then, taking it out as a burning flame shaped like a heart, He replaced it in the place from which He had taken it."  

St. Margaret Mary said many things that strike at the very core of my "cloistered" heart.  I have room here for a few examples....

"Our Lord frequently told me that I should keep a secluded place for Him in my heart, where He would teach me to love Him."  

"I beg the Sacred Heart of Jesus to deign to consume ours in the flames of His holy love, so that they may live and breathe only to love, honor and glorify Him." 

"Jesus Christ is the true friend of our hearts, and they are made for Him alone.  They cannot find rest, joy, or satisfaction except in Him."

"He wants your heart without reserve."

Jesus wants my heart without reserve.  He desires my love in return for His.  

How will I respond?

Detail of painting by Georges de la Tours, cropped and digitally altered.  In public domain.

This is a repost from the archives of 6/13/13.