'My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners... It is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy.' Jesus to St. Faustina
In the mid 1980s, a new way of looking at my personal call from God began to
form. At first it was a wispy, vaporous, vague idea - no more than a
phrase, really, that sent thoughts of incense scented hermitages
fluttering through my mind. I told no one about it, because I thought
the very phrase sounded like the title of a romantic novel. I said this
once to the nun who'd had the "little dream"
about me years before (by the 1980s we'd become good friends). Sister
looked at me solemnly and said "that's not off the mark." God's call to
us, and our response, she explained, is the greatest romance the world
has ever known.
While it took me several years to speak of the "romantic phrase" to
anyone, I did refer to it in personal writings for my eyes alone. "Most people do not title their journals," I wrote on February 26, 1985, "yet
I want to name the record of my life from this moment forward. May the
Lord grant that I might live up to the name - therefore titling my
life, as this book, 'The Cloistered Heart.'"
I thank God for that "romantic phrase," which grew into a monastic
analogy complete with grillwork and enclosureand boundariesand all the
facets with which we've now become familiar. It is a phrase that grew
from a longing, and the longing grew from aclash of "cultures." Now, decades after that first vague idea, I'm more thankful than I could ever express.
I am forever grateful to be part of the greatest romance the world has ever known.
'The richest quarry of
prayer-material is obviously revelation itself; nothing can teach us more about
the presence of God than the inspiration of God…
'The arrested progress of
certain souls may well be accounted for by their lack of interest in the scriptures…
or perhaps such souls have studied, but studied in the wrong way.If we study academically we can hardly hope
to profit spiritually….
'Study, even of divine things, must be kept in its
place; it is a means, not an end.'
Hubert Van Zeller, The Yoke of Divine
Love, Templegate, Springfield IL, 1957, p. 139
You and I have the same basic, fundamental, always-and-forever root vocation. We are called to be saints.
To be with God in Heaven is sainthood, and we are called to nothing less. The world
will not put the designation 'Saint' before our names, but that's of no
importance. God will know. God knows now. He sees every little step we take,
every hidden hint of progress toward holiness. 'By holiness we mean the
absence of whatever sullies, dims and degrades a rational nature; all that is
most opposite to sin and guilt.' (Blessed John Henry Newman).
Did I accept God's grace today to conquer some temptation, perhaps in a tiny,
hidden moment? Did I stop myself from lashing out at someone in anger?
Have I accepted what came my way without grumbling? Did I go graciously to a
crying baby, or a spouse who wanted attention, or a neighbor in need?
If I haven't made any recent steps upward, I can be sure there are plenty of
opportunities ahead. I don't have to look up the staircase and around the bends
of it; there will be grace for those steps when I'm there.
In the meantime, I
have this next little step in front of me. And now this next.....
'Little by little we must acquire that dominion over ourselves which cost
the saints many decades of years.' (St. Francis de Sales)
What hope this quote from St. Francis gives me!
'Little by little.'
Step by step.
'...which cost the saints many decades of years.'
Through the profound grace of God, there is much
'Examine the daily Rule of Life of the Religious Orders. In every one of them you will find a special time set side for Mental Prayer. Why is that? Because they must lead a Supernatural Life, to go against the dictates of their own lower nature. It is an arduous undertaking, and weak men and women could not continue on bravely at the bitter work of self conquest without some very strong motive. The daily thinking supplies the motive.
'In her Convent Chapel, the nun thinks, in the early morning, of all that our Divine Lord has done, and is doing, and will do for her. The thought awakens love in her heart, and that leads her to brave resolve to love and to suffer for Him. That resolve carries her through the trials of the day. She feels the pain, but through all the suffering, there is running a deep supernatural joy that she has a chance of bearing something for Him.
'Very ordinary, second-rate motives may bring people along the road to salvation, but for one aiming at close union with her Divine Spouse, a first-class motive of love is needed. That motive will not be in our hearts unless we strive to know Our Lord intimately by constant meditation.
'As we listen silently to Him Whose Will we desire to follow in detail, we, like the dear disciples, shall become enraptured with the beauty of His words, our cold hearts will be warmed with His Love, and like them, too, we shall begin to imitate His ways and reflect His divine goodness.'
(The Living Pyx of Jesus, Pelligrini, 1941, pp. 416-417)
'If we do not venture to approach men who are in power, except with humility and reverence, when we wish to ask a favor, how must we beseech the Lord God of all things with all humility and purity of devotion? And let us be assured that it is not in many words, but in the purity of heart and tears of compunction that we are heard.'
St. Benedict, founder of western monasticism. Feast day July 11.
'My Father and I will come and make Our home with him. Let your door stand open to receive Him, unlock your door to Him, offer Him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace.
'Throw wide the gate of your heart, stand before the sun of the everlasting light that shines on every man. This true light shines on all, but if anyone closes his window he will deprive himself of eternal light. If you shut the door of your mind, you shut out Christ. Though he can enter, He does not want to force His way in rudely, or compel us to admit Him against our will....
'Our soul has a door; it has gates. Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, eternal gates, and the King of glory will enter. If you open the gates of your faith, the King of glory will enter your house in the triumphal procession in honor of His passion.
'Holiness too has its gates. We read in Scripture what the Lord Jesus said through His prophet: Open for Me the gates of holiness. It is the soul that has its door, its gates. Christ comes to this door and knocks; He knocks at these gates. Open to Him; He wants to enter, to find His bride waiting and watching.' St. Ambrose, from an exposition of Psalm 118; from Office of Readings
Photo: public domain via Wikimedia Painting: John William Waterhouse; original image reversed
While praying recently for a fresh wind of prayer, I ran
across the following. I've edited it slightly, for I first scribbled this
in a journal over twenty years ago. Over twenty years! Before iPads,
Kindles, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, smart phones, texting, mobile
apps. Back then, people went to dinners disconnected, engaging in
conversation with no concerns about a purse ringing just as salads
arrived. Yet even then, I was aware of how hard it was to tune in
to the gentle presence of God.
'We can hardly hear anything in this world of ceaseless distraction.
Our ancestors, even our recent ones, would be simply overwhelmed by the barrage
of noises that surround us in this busy world, in this busy western
world. We are bombarded by entertainment, images, music, sounds,
distractions we carry with us wherever we go.
Perhaps we find our own thoughts too disturbing, so we drown them out with
ceaseless chatter. Maybe inactivity reminds us too clearly that we were
created to fill our time with God, so we flee from the reminders by cramming
our days full of mindless clutter. I know this because I am so this way, busily fluttering amid distractions that
keep me blissfully unaware.
If only we could see it! If only we could see the drama in which we're
engaged! If only we could peer, eyes unveiled, into the truth for just a
minute. I can't believe that such acute awareness would not utterly
change our lives...'
Over twenty years later, I am still struggling to quiet down and
'listen.' Funny. I thought I'd be settled into a real routine by
now. Not so.
Perhaps because routine has never been easy for me? Possibly. Maybe
because distractions are becoming daily more present and ever more convenient
for me and for all of us? Surely.
And, if I'm honest, probably because some part of me would rather look at
glitter than into scripture. It's a tough thing to consider, an even
tougher thing to admit. But it is at least partially true. After
all, a bit of online glitz will not remind me that I need to take time to pray
for situations on the world stage. Or perhaps that I can even, if I give
Him time and space, encounter the loving presence of God.
Encountering the Presence of God. Imagine! I can do this very thing
in prayer, even in the silence of my heart. I know how this works; I've
done it for years: I can sit down and pray, giving God time and space and
attention. I can take
another look at Lectio Divina.
Why on earth am I waiting? Am I afraid of something? Perhaps I'm more dependent than I realize on entertainment, on noise and commotion and bling. Could it be?
Maybe if I ask Him, and maybe if I sit long
enough to hear His still, small Voice, Our Lord will answer this very question.