Friday, November 27, 2015

The Loveliest Beauty of All

'To eyes which know how to find it, there is in the least luxuriant season of the year a beauty which is entirely sufficient. And to the perception of a nun, the quiet and solemnity of a convent contain all the loveliness she needs. Just as there is no season without its particular beauty, so there is no health of soul without beauty; and the beauty of holiness is the truest and loveliest of all.' (Lathrop, A Story of Courage, p.2; punctuation slightly edited)

Click this line for information about A Story of Courage.

Painting: Carl Friedrich Lessing, Klosterhof im Schnee

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

And Give Him Thanks

'In all created things discern the providence 
and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.'

St. Teresa of Avila

Painting of Thanksgiving: Norman Rockwell
Painting of monks: Konstantin Stoitzner

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Trained to Beds of Roses

'Our master, 'the world,' has trained us to beds of roses - if we can afford them, or get credit for them. He has taught us to follow luscious waltz tunes and broken rules; he has loaded us with wasted hours, with muscles relaxed, and with flesh tender with indulgence.' (A Story of Courage, p.4)

Entering cloistered life is refusing to be mastered any longer by the world. It is turning ourselves over to another Master. This act of turning is what has long drawn me. Can I, a woman whose vocation is in the world, truly make such a turn?

I've asked that question for years now. Have I found the answer? I can only say: I am finding.

I consider these things today and ask myself:

- Do I identify with being 'trained to beds of roses?' What does this mean to me?
- What enchanting, mesmerizing 'tunes' of the world am I following?
- Am I emulating those (perhaps in the media) who make it seem okay to break God's rules?
- How am I wasting time? What steps can I take to change this?
- How are my prayer-muscles? What can I do to tone up my prayer life? 

'God trains.... to laws that cannot be broken; to a system that holds back from sin... to hours devoted to the good of the many... and to a sight which can see, whenever the spirit hungers and thirsts for it, Christ upon the cross, dying to save mankind.' (A Story of Courage, p.4)

Click this line for information about the book A Story of Courage.

Painting: Jan van Beers, In The Hammock

A Story of Courage

This is a post to be linked back to, in order to provide information on the following book:

A Story of Courage: Annals of the Georgetown Convent of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by George Parsons Lathrop and Rose Hawthorne Lathrop.
Original publication date: 1894.

Nabu Public Domain Reprints states: 'You may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.'

Information on Rose Hawthorne Lathrop can be found by clicking here. 

Painting: Noel Halle, Francis de Sales Giving Visitation Rule to St. Jane 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Still Singing in the City

A generous friend 'just could not stand waiting' until Christmas to send me a particular gift. So before Advent has even begun, I have received a modern reprint of an 1894 book. It's a hefty paperback the size of a large textbook, and is a historical account of the second oldest convent for nuns in the United States. Which sounds rather dry, I know, but the opening chapter - to me - is anything but that. Perhaps because I've spent time in this semi-cloistered monastery, I was glued from the very first sentence. The introductory chapters share a visit the authors made to the monastery in the then-dashingly-modern 1890s. I found the descriptions so accurate and timeless that reading them was like visiting the buildings and grounds this very day.

The monastery, situated in the bustling Georgetown suburb of Washington DC, is one I have written of here before. Its location in a busy city strikes me as the perfect analogy of the life of a cloistered heart. You can find some of my own impressions at An Ideal Set Up and Singing in the City.

I am writing this post primarily so I can link back to it, because I'd like to use snippets from the book as jumping off points for further reflections on the inner cloister.

The book is A Story of Courage: Annals of the Georgetown Convent of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by George Parsons Lathrop and Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (yes, THAT Rose Hawthorne Lathrop - we can read about her by clicking here). Publication date: 1894. My edition is from Nabu Public Domain Reprints, which states: 'You may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.'

I know we are heading into a busy season, but like my generous book-giving friend, I just cannot stand waiting! So I hope to begin this next little journey into heart-cloister within a day or two....

'The time of year at which we first saw the convent was perhaps not unfitting for our first impressions; since the December leaflessness, the unornamented aspect of the ground and the stone walls, whose vines were mere shadows, typified the stern simplicity of the life....'

Photo: Cloister garden, Georgetown Visitation Monastery, Washington DC, by Nancy Shuman, 1992

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Call of Little You and Little Me

I am not going far back into the archives for today's 'Revisiting Wednesday' - only to this past January. I ran across this yesterday, just when I needed some encouragement...

I have been looking (here) into our calls to be heroes of the faith in our everyday lives. 

Little you and little me: heroes of the faith.


Throughout history, there have been those who actually could imagine such possibilities. St. Therese, the little flower who practiced a very little way, wrote "already God sees us in glory and takes joy in our eternal beatitude. How this thought helps my soul!"

This thought helps my soul too, as does the realization that Therese was not always a great saint. From most accounts, she was a willful little girl given to occasional tantrums.  But of course, that was in her youth. What about those of us who carried our willfulness and rebellion all the way into adulthood? Is there any hope for us?

There was hope for a man named Augustine, even as he was pleading "Lord, make me chaste - but not yet!" Anyone who heard him say these words would be unlikely to think "now, that is a saint." 

But there was hope. There is always hope.

''To him who still remains in this world, no repentance is too late. The approach to God's mercy is open." (St.Cyprian)

"In the moment of temptation think of the Love that awaits you in heaven: foster the virtue of hope." (St. Josemaria Escriva)

We are all called to be with God in heaven, for all eternity. We are invited to begin (or to begin anew), answering that call at this very moment.

We were created to be more than just nice people, more than folks who are fun to be around. We are called and graced by God to become true heroes of the faith.

Little you and little me.


Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.

Painting: Olga BoznaƄska, 1898, in US public domain due to age

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Revisiting 5 Smooth Stones

Armed with only his little bag of five smooth stones, young David went into battle against the powerful warrior Goliath. David took one of his stones, hurled it with a sling, and struck Goliath.  The stone hit the giant and Goliath fell on the ground. Thus was seen the truth of David's words declaring that 'it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord's...'

We may feel spiritually 'young,' we may feel powerless, we may feel anything but able to combat forces coming against ourselves, the world, and those we love. The truth, however, is that we have been given the weapon - the 'stone' - of prayer. Even a simple aspiration, prayed from the heart and in effect hurled against the giants, has much more power than we can imagine.

We each have our little pouch of stones. Simple aspirations, the Mass, prayer with Scripture, the Liturgy of the Hours, songs of praise, the rosary, adoration, chaplets, fasting and sacrifice; yes, each of us has our own little bag of stones...

I pray that God will gather together our prayers, blending their fragrance as incense before Him.  There are so many stones in our pouches, possibly more than we realize. 

I pray we will uncover and practice using our 'stones...'

This is a repost from our achives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'


Photo from Pixabay

Saturday, November 7, 2015

In Crowds or Cells

'We absorb more and more of His Spirit until - in the midst of crowds or secluded in our cells - we are alone with our Master and inseparable Guide.  Jesus Christ is very nigh to the soul that seeks and loves Him, and she speaks to Him in the inner cloister of her heart...  She is at home with God, and He with her. Jesus Christ is no far off Divinity, but very nigh, dwelling in her heart.'

 (from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, by a Religious, Peter Reilly Co., Philadelphia, 1931, pp. 14-15)

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Fragrance From That Censer

                    'The Heart, a censered fire whence fuming chants aspire,
                    Is fed with oozed gums of precious pain;
                    And unrest swings denser, denser, the fragrance from that censer
                    With the heart-strings for its quivering chain.'

(Francis Thompson, The Sere of the Leaf, quoted in Burnt Out Incense by M. Raymond OCSO, PJ Kenedy + Sons, 1949)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Revisiting Heroic Stones

Minute by minute heroics is a good way to cooperate with God in constructing the monastery of the heart. Each minute can provide a 'stone' of opportunity. Each can be lived well (perhaps even heroically) for God.

'Have you seen how that imposing building was built? One brick upon another. Thousands. But, one by one. And bags of cement, one by one. And blocks of stone, each of them insignificant compared with the massive whole. And beams of steel. And men working, the same hour, day after day.... Have you seen how that imposing building was built? ... By dint of little things!' (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way 823) 

I am being given thousands, millions, of minutes to live on this earth. Each is insignificant compared to the whole .. but each one, added to each other one, is absolutely necessary to make up my life. I have the minutes, I have the mortar of free will, and I have the Architect's plan of Scripture.

I have recognized one seemingly inconsequential way in which I haven't been following the plan all that well. Sometimes I grab a few perfectly good, newly minted minutes, and slap the mortar on them with a harrumph. I have not considered this activity significant at all, because my harrumphs have been directed at 'things.' At inanimate objects like misbehaving computers, spoons that leap out of my hand onto the floor, remotes that play hide-and-seek.

I am anything but heroic when these items play their tricks. Huffs and grumbles and loud sighs pop right out of me in search of the offending object. 'Take THAT harrumph, you rotten, jumping spoon!'

I don't do this when others are around. At least - not when they're in the same room. Or, well, not when anyone is actually paying attention. Or, well, that's how it started. It began as a casual harrumph here, an innocent snap there. So what if it became something of a habit? It isn't as if it's hurting anything. Except, of course, a few hyperactive spoons.

But the development of such behavior is far from heroic. It has pulled me away from 'heroism' toward a grumbling, critical habit of internal whining. If I let it, it can alter the way I look at life. It certainly is not seeing things "through the grille." Having realized this, I am asking for grace to overcome my misuse of minutes...  each one precious, each one a minute in which I have the chance to be heroic. Not just passably good enough, but heroic. I don't have to give in to big sins, and I don't have to indulge in moments of whining.

If I am tempted to grumble - why, look at the opportunity I'm being given! I can resist the temptation, and I can thank God in that very moment. Thank You, Lord, that I have a computer on which to write of Your goodness, and if that device is acting up right now, give me patience to deal with it and to turn this moment to good. Thank You, Lord, for plenty of food to eat. Thank You that I don't have to eat it with my hands.

And thank You for a nice, washable floor to catch all my leaping spoons.

Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Because Pumpkins

How can one use pumpkin? Let me count the ways.

In the last week, through no fault of my own, my house has been filled with the glorious aromas and tastes of

Pumpkin bread
Pumpkin pies
Pumpkin flavored coffee
Pumpkin seeds (roasted)
Pumpkin pancakes
Pumpkin ice cream
Pumpkin candy
Pumpkin items that I cannot possibly remember

I feel rather monastic about it all, especially when I recall a deluge of pumpkins with which the Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery were once blessed. They posted about it here, and their Great Monastery Pumpkin Adventure is as "adventurous" today as when they first shared this story. 

November is a great time for a 'field trip,' so shall we drop in for a visit?  

I'll bring the pumpkin pie. 

Graphic made from painting by Lapage

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Your Photo Here...

'What does it mean to be saints? Who is called to be a saint? Often it is thought that holiness is a goal reserved for a few chosen ones. St. Paul, however, speaks of God's great plan and affirms: '(God) chose us in him, before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before him.' And he speaks of all of us..... I would like to invite you to open yourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who transforms our life, to be, we also, pieces of the great mosaic of holiness that God is creating in history, so that the Face of Christ will shine in the fullness of its brilliance....'  (Pope Benedict XVI, 2011; click here to continue)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two Years Later, and Still I Need Help

In 2013 I wrote the following, which I share now for It's Worth Revisiting Revisiting Wednesday. I needed to be reminded of this today....

I have felt, at times, as if I were running from prayer. Not a pleasant thought at all.
However, one of you said something that opened a floodgate. Because of this, I see myself sitting in my ‘prayer chair,’ Bible or Breviary in hand, settling in to pray. In come the distractions... as they always do.

It seems that once my mind makes any attempt to 'quiet,' suddenly every stray thought that's been lingering around snaps up that golden opportunity to hop on in and demand its share of attention. I can count on it.

Ah ha, there it is. There is the very phrase I've needed to look at: 
'I can count on it.' 

I realize. I've begun to associate sitting in prayer with feeling beaten up, bedraggled, worn down, defeated, and ashamed of being 'lukewarm.’ 

It is not the Lord Himself I’ve been avoiding! It's that persistent, nagging, dragging war with distractions.

But what to do about this problem? Shall I fight it out, trudge on upward, scale that wall of distractions unaided?

I'm sure God is pleased by such efforts. However, I think He understands when we sometimes need a little help. A spiritual director once asked me (when I was having trouble praying) 'well... what CAN you do?'  Start with that one thing, I was told, and begin to build on that. 

Today I went back to that suggestion. I gave myself permission not to beat myself up, permission not to climb a ladderless wall with my bare, worn down hands. I took one thing I CAN do and asked God to help me build on that.

The one thing (today) was music.  I remembered that I haven't been using it in my prayer time lately.  It has often helped me 'shake the dust of the world' out of my soul before, so I tried to find a CD.  I couldn't, for I had moved them.

Then I got distracted by my laptop sitting next to me.. but instead of fighting that distraction, I actually picked UP the laptop and clicked on a few holy songs. Before long, I was absorbed in the music and singing along.

There were pictures also, as these were YouTubes, so suddenly two senses were engaged. One photo was of an incenser; I got distracted by thinking of how much I love incense. Remembering that I have a jar of it right next to my chair, I opened that and savored the aroma gently filling my prayer space.  Three senses engaged.

I picked up a rosary (four senses), began to pray it, but before doing so I told God what and whom I wanted to pray for. Soon I was thanking Him for one thing, and another... and, well.... what do you know!

I was talking with God, totally undistracted, unconcerned about anything other than Him and Him alone. It was as if the whole entire world had disappeared.  

Well. What do you know.

'Come, O God of my heart,' wrote St. Gertrude, 'gather together my scattered mental powers and fix them upon Yourself.'  

Thanks be to God.  He did.

Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.


Public domain photo; bottom version digitally altered

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wearing the Habit of Praise

The night before last, I had an unsettling dream. It happens to all of us, I suppose: the occasional strange dream that persists throughout the day. This one was not so much story as atmosphere; a kind of dense blue vapor, thick and smoky, like dark wisps of shadow masquerading as forms.

It put me in a 'mood.' I couldn't shake the dream off, couldn't exactly remember it, couldn't grasp its essence enough to logically think it away. I felt as if my mind had gone heavy and dense.

Then I came across the scripture speaking of  'the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.' (Isaiah 61:3) And there it was. The very 'piece of grillwork' I needed. A part of my habit. The garment of praise.

What a powerful image. Praise not just to 'do' now and then, but to be clothed in, day and night. Praise as a HABIT, something that could become so much a part of my life that I'd habitually praise God in happy times and sad.

Scripture is filled (filled!) with prayers of praise to God, as well as exhortations and examples. It provides the perfect pattern. A concordance can be an excellent guide to the most basic pieces. We discover, for instance, that we are called to praise God continually (Hebrews 13:15), with all that we are (Psalm 103:1), because He is worthy (Chronicles 16:25).

The garment of praise is, I think, the perfect habit. I would like to wear it well.

'You changed my mourning into dancing; You took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my soul might sing praise to You without ceasing. O Lord, my God, forever will I give You thanks.' (Psalm 30:12-13)