Friday, August 25, 2017

So what IS a Cloistered Heart?

We try to put a "what is this?" post here from time to time, a brief look at the basic cloistered heart "analogy" for anyone wondering what this blog is about.

It's time to do this again! The following is from our archives:

The "Cloistered Heart" is basically 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.


"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)  




Text not in quotes © 2013 Nancy Shuman.  All Rights Reserved.  Unauthorized use of this material without permission from blog owner is prohibited.  thecloisteredheart.org   

E- mail: thecloisteredheart [at] gmail [dot] com.


Friday, August 18, 2017

And In the Wind


There is change in the air as a storm approaches.  The wind picks up, clouds gather, there may be a distant clap of thunder.  As lightning flashes around us, we race for shelter.

Monastery grounds and walls are as subject to storms as those of any other building.  They get slapped with rain, pelted with sleet.  Inhabitants of the cloister might find themselves standing at a window looking out, maybe with a touch of concern.  What are those chunks of hail doing to the roof?  Are the windows secure against the wind?  

The monastery of my life is vulnerable, too.  I face storms, at times, of great magnitude.  Sickness, sudden disaster, an unnerving news report.  It helps me then to remember that I’m in the strongest cloister possible – the cloister of God’s loving embrace.  Everything that touches me must first come through His hands, through His “permissive will.”  I can do as St. Francis de Sales advised, and say amid my contradictions: “this is the very road to heaven.  I see the door, and I am certain the storms cannot prevent us from getting there.”

"The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the just man runs to it and is safe.”  (Proverbs 18:10)

Happy is the soul established in God ... The winds of the storm are powerless to shake her.” (St. Jane de Chantal)

"When you hear about wars and threats of war, do not yield to panic.  Such things are bound to happen, but this is not the end.  Nation will rise against nation, one kingdom against another.  There will be earthquakes in various places and there will be famine.  This is but the onset of labor.  Be constantly on your guard.... because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone.  Nonetheless, the man who holds out till the end is the one who will come through safe."  (Mark 13:5-13)

"O Jesus, I am locking myself in Your most merciful heart as in a fortress, impregnable against the missiles of my enemies.” (St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary, #1535)

The cloistered heart is a place of refuge, no matter where I happen to be. A portable fortress, a place inviolate, where I can remain with Jesus in the midst of storms, traffic jams, persecutions, illnesses, fires, floods. It is an appealing idea. It is also (this being most important) theologically sound. "The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live... 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. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2563)

The cloistered heart is the heart of David dancing before the ark; of Mesach, Shadrach and Abednego in the fiery furnace; of Paul in prison, Daniel in the lions’ den, John on Patmos, Peter in chains.  The world is not safe from evil – even the body isn’t safe from harm – but within the cloistered heart there is refuge.


My heart, as long as He is in it, is safe.




(The above is a combined repost from our archives)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Long Speeches Not Needed


I write this on August 12, feast of St. Jane de Chantal. For more about this saint and co-foundress of the Visitation Order, click this link to the beautiful website of the Tyringham Visittion nuns. 

And hope the Sisters will not mind my sharing the following prayer. It is well worth spending time with today.

Prayer of Abandonment 
O sovereign goodness of the sovereign Providence of my God!
I abandon myself forever to Thy arms.
Whether gentle or severe,
lead me henceforth whither Thou wilt;
I will not regard the way through which Thou wilt have me pass,
but keep my eyes fixed upon Thee,
my God, who guidest me.
My soul finds no rest without the arms
and the bosom of this heavenly Providence,
my true Mother, my strength and my rampart.

Therefore I resolve with Thy Divine assistance,
0 my Saviour,
to follow Thy desires and Thy ordinances,
without regarding or examining why Thou dost this rather than that;
but I will blindly follow Thee
according to Thy Divine will,
without seeking my own inclinations.

Hence I am determined to leave all to Thee,
taking no part therein save by keeping myself in peace in Thy arms,
desiring nothing except as Thou incitest me to desire,
to will, to wish.
I offer Thee this desire, 0 my God,
beseeching Thee to bless it;
I undertake all it includes,
relying on Thy goodness,
liberality, and mercy,
with entire confidence in Thee,
distrust of myself,
and knowledge of my infinite misery and infirmity. Amen!'


St. Jane de Chantal




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Revisiting Vocation

A religious habit is a sign of an inward consecration. Without this consecration, I can wear every sort of wimple and every length of veil, and still I am not a nun.

God called me to a different vocation, and He has given me grace to respond to that one.  Is there anything I can learn, however, from looking at the call to religious life?   How does that particular call come, and how does a person respond?

The following stories are ones I have found inspiring.  I hope they will touch you as well.

"The love of God is the strongest driving force on earth. Thousands upon hundreds of thousands have given up their lives simply because they loved Him so much that breath and heartbeat slipped into the inconsequential by comparison.  Hundreds upon thousands of young girls have walked into cloisters and never walked out of them because their youth and liberty were the very least to give the One they loved so much."  (Mother Mary Francis PCC, A Right to be Merry. Click here for more about this book)


Links to personal stories by individuals who have answered a call to cloistered life:


A Rose Transplanted
Totally Yours, Jesus   
Prom Queen to Cloistered Nun



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





Sunday, August 6, 2017

For a Strong Grille



My spiritual "grillwork" is in need of strengthening. The world around is not embracing the truth of God as revealed in Scripture, and we who want to discern and live God's will are facing increasing challenges. Our grillwork needs to be as sturdy as possible.

What strengthens my grillwork? Reading, praying, living scripture. Picking up a Bible and savoring it as the love letter it truly is. Going beyond reading scripture into making a conscious effort to live it. Studying the Word so that I can see and respond to life through it.

'The holy scriptures are our letters from Home.' St Augustine

If we need strengthening of our own "grillwork," the following links may offer some help:

Catholic Way Bible Study

Catholic Spiritual Direction - Bible Helps

Scott Hahn Tools for Bible Study

Lectio and Keyholes







Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What's in My Jambalaya?

I'm continuing to struggle with physical illness. I don't like to write about that here because I don't want to become that person you avoid lest you get constant updates on symptoms. However, if I focus through the grille, there should be little attention given to illness. Besides, God is teaching me marvelous things, and it doesn't seem fair to keep them entirely to myself. Nope, not fair at all.

So I shall talk about jambalaya.

I was recently told of a time when a hurricane ravaged an already impoverished area, and volunteers came to the devastated residents and made jambalaya for them. Every day they did this, putting aside their own wants and needs in order to help people who needed nourishing meals.

Not too many days had gone by before residents started grumbling.

Couldn't the volunteers provide anything besides jambalaya?  Tomatoes, onions, seafood, sausage, chicken, celery - same old, same old, day after day....wasn't there anything else?

The volunteers heard them, and they responded. They stopped cooking jambalaya. They stopped cooking anything. It seems that maybe a thank you would have been appreciated.

Since hearing this story several days ago, I've been considering my own spiritual "jambalaya." In the midst of physical challenges, God is providing nourishment of the very best kinds. Friends come to visit, people pray for me, gifts arrive in the mail. Bible passages show up just when I need them and they leap right off the page.  Am I paying attention? Have I noticed what small or large nuggets of grace are in my stew today?
 
One bit of holy nourishment I'm grateful for is writings of saints. On my physical down-days, I'm finding it (temporarily?) difficult to write and sometimes difficult to pray. So into my spiritual jambalaya, I mix in words of others who have been able to articulate what I cannot.

I thank God for voices who spoke like this...

 "O my God, let me remember with gratitude and confess to Thee Thy mercies toward me." St Augustine

"The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank Him for what He is sending us every day in His goodness." St Gianna Beretta Molla

"Thank God ahead of time." Venerable Solanus Casey

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Common Temptation


'We should never postpone a good work, no matter how small it may be, with the thought of later doing something greater. It is a very common temptation of the enemy to be always placing before us the perfection of things to come, and bringing us to make little of the present.'  St. Ignatius of Loyola




Painting at top: St.Joan of Arc

Painting of mother and child: Henri Lebasque

Painting of woman carrying hay: Camille Pissarro

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bells, Bells, Bells...

Morning in the monastery:  it starts with a bell.  

Come to think of it, most activities in the monastery start with a bell.  Time to rise:  the bell rings.  Time to pray, eat, study, work, have recreation: the bell rings.

Anyone who has spent time in a monastery knows the bell as at least a background.  


Monastics look upon it as the voice of God.

In the dark silence of our monastery morning, the bell calls.  It may not be all that welcome.  It shatters our darkness and our dreams.  If we don't live in a physical monastery, our bell might be a baby's cry.  Or the insistent bleep of an alarm clock.  And oh, our slumber has been so comfortable.  Go away, we think as we slap at the snooze button; give me just a few more minutes.  Let me have time with this dream.....

But the monastery is not a place for idle dreaming.  There is discipline in monastic life.  I, for one, am drawn to that idea - even while I run from it.  Being by nature an undisciplined person, I long to have schedules imposed upon me.  And I balk whenever they are.  I don't want to be awakened by a bell; I want to indulge myself in dreams.


Monastics, whether nuns or monks, pop out of bed when the bell rings.  Putting aside dreams and throwing off  covers, they think of God immediately.  A sign of the cross, a mental aspiration, a word or two of praise for this new day - these are (ideally) the first things in their minds and hearts.  It helps me to realize that they probably didn't react like this in their first days of monastic life.  It took time and PRACTICE for this to happen, and after many years it may still be a struggle

I don't usually think of God the second I awaken.  I'm sorry to say that I don't automatically think to pray.  So I help myself out a little.  I use reminders.  I put holy pictures where I can see them, and in fact I move them around (because if I have something in the same spot for too long, I stop "seeing it").  I have even resorted to writing the word "PRAY!" on paper and sticking it to my door or mirror.

Now I'm at least at the point where I generally remember to utter a word of praise to God, and / or to make the Sign of the Cross before climbing out of bed (or as I do so).  It is often at that time when I make some kind of "morning offering," committing the day to God.  Sometimes, for me, this is a formal, verbal prayer.  At times it is more spontaneous.  But at least it's a commitment, a beginning.


My own "monastic day" has begun. 

"To You I pray, O Lord; at dawn You hear my voice.."  (Psalm 5:4)

"O Lord my God, teach my heart this day where and how to see You, where and how to find You."  (St. Anselm)

What helps you turn to God as you awaken?  


  


To continue reading "Our Monastic Day," click this line...


This is a slightly edited post from our archives. It is being linked to Reconciled To You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.' 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Artistry


Painting: Gunnar Bach Pedersen, 'Admission of Holy Clare to the monastery in 1212'

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Flame, When Constantly Fed


'A flame increases when it is constantly fed.  

'So prayer, made often, with the mind dwelling ever more deeply in God, arouses divine love in the heart.  

'And the heart, set on fire, will warm all the inner man, will enlighten and teach him..
making him like a flaming seraph, always standing before God within his spirit, 
always looking at Him within His mind, 
and drawing from this vision the sweetness of spiritual joy.'

St. Dmitri 

Painting: Mönch, 1830s