Saturday, April 19, 2014

He Saw, and He Believed

'Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb.  They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first.  He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter, following him, also came up, went into the tomb, saw the linen cloths lying on the ground and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in.  He saw and he believed.'  (John 20:3-8)

Have a holy Easter.   

Painting:  St Peter and St John Run to the Sepulchre, James Tissot

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It is Time to Defend Your King

'O Christians, it is time to defend your King
and to accompany Him in such great solitude.'

St. Teresa of Avila

Painting:  James Tissot, My Soul is Sorrowful Unto Death

Sunday, April 13, 2014

During this Holy Week

Lord Jesus Christ,
during this Holy Week, 
keep my heart and mind
set firmly on You.

Friday, April 11, 2014

It is Time

'Rise now, 
O handmaid of the Lord, 
and go in the procession 
of the daughters of Zion 
to see your true king.... 
Accompany the Lord 
of heaven and earth, 
sitting on the back of the colt, 
follow Him with 
olive branches and palms, 
with works of piety 
and triumphant virtues.'

St. Bonaventure 

Painting:   William Adolphe Bouguereau, The Palm Leaf

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014


'What is 'ecclesiastical legislation' regarding papal enclosure?  It is precisely the arms of the Church cherishing her contemplatives.  And thus, if an enclosed nun is encouraged to rebel at 'strictures,' she will let her smiling silence itself best explain that she is not incarcerated but cherished.  For her, 'legislation' pertains to the realization that the arms of the Church are around her.  And she rejoices, as any normal woman rejoices, to be held in loving arms.  She has penetrated beneath the level of 'legislation' as restrictive or prohibitive to the understanding of how love, of its nature, seeks to safeguard the beloved.  Thus her understanding of ecclesiastical legislation on her cloistered life is expressed in the cry of the psalmist:  'how I love Your law, O Lord!' (Psalm 119).' (Mother Mary Francis PCC, 'The King's Rooms,' copyright Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  This booklet may be ordered by clicking this link)   

The will of God is the safest, most secure place in which a person can dwell.  In order to live within this place of refuge, however, we must accept Our Lord's invitation to embrace its boundaries.  The primary perimeters of God's will are not hard to find.  They are revealed in Scripture and outlined clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.   

Because God loves us, He has set these boundaries in place for our security, and He has generously revealed them to us.  
We are cherished.

Painting:  William Adolphe Bouguereau, The Proposal, 1872

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Stop Reading This Post

Anyone who has visited this site a few times probably knows the importance we place on 'the grille.'  The grille represents for us the will of God, through which we are called to view and respond to every person and every circumstance of life. 

With this in mind, I invite you to stop reading this post, and to head with me to the one linked just below.  It is another view of physical grillwork, and it's a wonderful prayer.

So what are we still doing here?  Let's click this line to go have a look at  The Gaze Beyond the Lattice Work. 

If we appreciate grillwork, I think there's no doubt that we will appreciate this.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Cloister Revisited

Because we continue to welcome new visitors here (welcome! welcome!), it seems good to have an occasional re-cap of the basics of Cloistered Heart analogy.  Besides, I need a refresher now and then.   You too?

The Cloistered Heart we speak of is basically an analogy in which our lives can be seen as 'monasteries.'   After all, what is a monastery if not a place where God is loved and lived for and served? 

We can 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.  For us, however, the break is not so clean.  The world is persistent in its tugs on the heart trying to live as God wills.  This is where the idea of having a 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.  This is not a 'will' we make up for ourselves, but one whose boundaries have already been set in place for us.  Its primary perimeters are not hard to find.  They are revealed in Scripture and clearly outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Because God loves us, He has set these boundaries in place for our security, and He has generously revealed them to us.  

In the analogy of the Cloistered Heart, God's will forms 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 various subjects. 

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) 

'You are the temple of the living God.' (2 Corinthians 6:16)


Thursday, April 3, 2014

In Their Monotony

               'The most commonplace actions, the most ordinary events of daily life -
               such as taking food, attending to our business or work,
               fulfilling our social duties,
               taking rest or recreation;
               all those actions that occur every day and literally weave,
               in their monotony and successive routine,
               the thread of our entire life,
               can be transformed by grace and love
               into actions very pleasing to God and rich in merit.'

               Abbot Marmion

                    Painting:  Edmund Tarbell, Girl Mending, 1910

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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Window of Temptation

I am enclosed within the will of God.  It's a sweet thought, isn't it?  I have chosen to live within the boundaries of God's will as these have been built for me, to protect me.  God has given Scripture and Church teaching to show me these limitations...  to fence me in, so to speak.  If I remain within this enclosure, I am safe from spiritual harm.

But oh, the world outside God's will can look so appealing.  Those who live out there, free of constraints imposed by the 'shalts' and the 'shalt nots,' can look pretty happy.  They're choosing their paths without regard to God, living however they wish, indulging their every desire, engaging in behavior that the Bible and the Church clearly assure us is wrong and harmful.  They make sport of everything - even of us.  Go the way the world goes, they insist.  Don't be such a killjoy!  Why don't we get with the times?

Whether or not I'm drawn to join in the more obvious out-of-enclosure-frolics happening in the world around me, I definitely encounter temptations.  The world outside God's will can look awfully appealing.  And after all, I'm not sealed up in a cage  There's no lock on my enclosure wall.

Day by day, I have a choice.  Not just to enter 'the enclosure of God's will' once and for all, but the ongoing choice to remain within it.

I have, minute after minute, a decision to make.

Shall I stay within the will of God?

Or not. 

"Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect."  (Romans 12:2)

(this is a re-written post from our archives)  

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Text not in quotes

Painting:  Escaping Criticism, Pere Borrel Del Caso

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

If You Want to Leave in the Middle of Prayer...

                              'Take no notice of that feeling you get
                              of wanting to leave off in the middle of your prayer, 
                              but praise the Lord for the desire you have to pray.  
                              That, you may be sure, comes from your will 
                              which loves to be with God.  
                              It is just melancholy that oppresses you 
                              and gives you the feeling of constraint.
                             Try occasionally, 
                             when you feel yourself oppressed in that way, 
                             to go to some place where you can see the sky, 
                             and walk up and down a little... 
                             It is essential that the soul be led gently.' 

                                St. Teresa of Avila

                             Painting:  George Hitchcock, Calypso

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Shall I Trust?

            'If we allow our worthlessness and our infidelities to paralyze
            and set limits to our trust,
            we have failed to understand thoroughly
            the love and goodness of God,
            and we know not the life of self-abandonment.
            This life of self-abandonment is for all souls
            who are wistful for self-forgetfulness,
            who give themselves without reservation,
            or who, at least, desire to make this gift.
            It is for all souls whose happiness it is
            to substitute Jesus for their own ego;
            to disappear, to die,
            that they may live and grow in Him.'

                (from Fervorinos from the Lips of the Master, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1940, pp. 178-179)

               Painting:  Byam Shaw, The Caged Bird, 1907, cropped

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

To Give Clear Witness

'Enclosed nuns are called to give clear witness 
that man belongs entirely to God, 
and so to keep green among the human family 
the desire for a heavenly home.' 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Bell and an Open Vein

One facet of monastic life that looks greener on the other side of the fence (to me) is the call to prayer.  The bell rings, it's prayer time, and there's no putting it off.  No opening a newspaper, no checking the morning news, no doing 'just this one thing' before settling down to pray.

I don't know about you, but if I do just one thing before giving God a few minutes, all too often one thing turns into ten, and before I know it, 'things' have crowded out prayer altogether.  Again.

Of course, there are important reasons why some of us need to squeeze prayer into a 'To-Go-Box' from the minute we get out of bed.  Babies need feeding, we're late for work, kids need to be gotten off to school... but these are not the things that take up my personal time, not anymore.  Even when I have a busy day ahead, I can usually grab at least a few minutes to NOT turn on morning news and NOT check e-mail and to instead give that little chunk of time to God.  But do I?  

I will just say this:  it's a struggle.

Sometimes I long for the discipline of a bell.  I long for the accountability of those who will notice if I'm not in my choir stall.  Oh, I know my mind might wander if I were in fact standing there, breviary open before me and my mind still half asleep.  But at least I'd BE there.  I would be praising God, and giving Him a chance to whisper...  something... to my sleepy heart.

I often compare the first prayer of morning to a time when I received an i.v.  During preparation for the birth of my second child, I was given an i.v. of saline.  Asking why this was necessary, I was told that it was in case I needed medication administered quickly at any time during the birth.  The doctor wanted to have an open vein, ready to receive help on a moment's notice.

Years later, the memory of that came back to me as I pondered the grace of morning prayer.  If I pray, even briefly, early in the morning, I am in effect opening the vein.  Once I've begun conversation with God, prayers on-the-go are somehow easier throughout the day.  I believe inspirations from God are more easily 'heard' as well.

Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.  

"Live on in Me, as I do in you.  No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine can you bear fruit apart from Me.  I am the Vine, you are the branches.  He who lives in me, and I in him, will produce abundantly, for apart from Me you can do nothing."  (John 15:4-5) 

Text not in quotes


(this is a slightly edited re-post from our archives) 

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

During Our Working Day

"Some may think that a life of divine union is only for saints, that a life of intimacy in which the soul constantly turns to God, as to a loving and beloved guest, is not for the ordinary faithful.  This view is incorrect.

"Intimacy with God is not for the saints only, it is for all of us. God dwells in each soul which is in the state of grace and calls each of us to be united to Him in intimate friendship....

"'If anyone loves Me,' says Christ,  'he will keep My word, and My Father will love him and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him....'

"We are all called therefore to this life of intimacy, to this communing with the Most High.

"We commune thus with God by the acts of our mind and heart by bringing the majesty of God and His Goodness before our mind and by turning our heart to Him in gratitude and confidence, in offering ourselves to Him to be His without reserve, in uniting our will to His Divine Will.

"This we do especially during the time of prayer, but since God always dwells in us, we should turn ourselves to Him as frequently as possible during our working day."

(from "Listening to the Indwelling Presence," compiled by a Religious, Pellegrini, Australia, 1940, pp. 63-65

Painting:  Winslow Homer, Farmer with a Pitchfork

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