Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Revisiting Patterns

I have sometimes wondered what might have happened if, during my long-ago attempts at sewing, I had simply followed the directions. (I was notoriously lazy about doing so). Not only would I have worn skirts that didn't occasionally split at the seams, I might also now be the custodian of future family heirlooms. My home could be filled with quilts whose pieces I once took time to measure, and with various embroidered items that would not have fallen victim to my haste. 

Does it seem I'm being too tough on myself? No. I realize it was 'just sewing.'  After all, it's not as if it had eternal implications.

Ah, but all of this is making me think again about 'habits.'  Habits of holiness, yes; and habits of prayer. 

In recent years, I have been appreciating the discipline of faithful prayer times. Ordered ones, regular ones, times of at least 'saying hello.'  It would be rude to get up in the morning and not greet the persons in one's household, yet how often have I begun the day without so much as a nod in God's direction?  He is with me, He's going to stay with me throughout the day, and I can't be bothered to acknowledge His Presence??  Rude.  

Perhaps my own lack of discipline is one reason I appreciate the routines of monastic life. I like the fact that one is reminded to pray, there, at regular intervals. To me, the segments of such prayer are like pieces of a pattern. Together, they form the habit of a monastic day.

I am far from developing such patterns within my own life. But I'm trying. I want to cooperate with God so that I may be clothed in a habit of prayer. In my cloistered heart, I am not doing away with the habit. Nor will I settle for a modified one. I want nothing less than the full habit of God's call to holiness, nothing less than the full habit of prayer. 

I have envisioned intervals of prayer as pattern pieces. Morning prayer, for instance, has a certain outline; but within that, there can be variations. 

What is the outline? Well, for one thing, it is prayer that's done first thing in the morning. It consists of a greeting, and generally an offering of the day to God. But it can be long or short, made up of a memorized prayer or spontaneous, it can be offered silently or aloud. Its basic outline is in some ways the same from person to person - yet the shape changes according to the needs of each one's family and daily life.  

Prayer according to this outline is unique to every individual. Just as the same sleeve pattern can be cut from gray wool or pink silk or paisley-printed corduroy, each one of us will bring our individual praises, offerings or concerns into the outline of our own morning prayer. The important thing is that we bring it. And that we then add other times of prayer TO it, making up a complete day, forming in ourselves a habit of prayer. After all, a garment is no such thing if it's only made of a sleeve. 

Am I asking too much of myself? Not at all. This time it's about more than sewing. It's about staying in ongoing communication with God.

Such a habit is absolutely necessary.  It has eternal implications. 

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

Painting at top by Harriet Backer

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Our Garden

'Let my beloved come into His garden,' says the spouse of the Canticles...   Now, the Divine Spouse comes into His garden when He comes into a devout soul, for since His delight is to be with the children of men, where can He repose better than in the soul that He has made in His own image and likeness?  In this garden He Himself plants the loving delight that we have in His goodness, and on which we feed our souls.'  (St. Francis de Sales)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Our Habit

The habit of a cloistered heart is a habit of seeking God's will. It is a habit of prayer, of virtue, of choosing Our Lord above all. It is a habit of holy actions acquired over time, through repetition. 

'Clothe me, O eternal Truth, clothe me with yourself, that I may run my mortal course with true obedience and the light of holy faith…' (St. Catherine of Siena)

'Not only in body but in heart as well, no ornament becomes like humility, modesty and devotion.' (St. Francis de Sales)

Painting of nun: Marianne Stokes
Painting of laywoman: Joseph DeCamp


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Our Grille

'The Grille of a Cloistered Heart is the will of God.  As some monasteries have grillwork through which those in the cloister interact with the world outside, we can have spiritual 'grillwork.'  We can practice seeing and responding to every person and every situation through God's will as revealed to us in Scripture and the teachings of the Church.' 



Friday, August 28, 2015

Our Monastery

'The Monastery of a cloistered heart is the person's own life. A monastery is a place consecrated to God, a place of prayer, a place where God is loved and served. Our lives can be all of these things.  Just as any building can become a monastery by being dedicated to God, so our lives can become 'monasteries' by such dedication.'    

'Even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity.  'If a man loves Me,' says the Lord, 'he will keep My word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.' (John 14:23)'  (Catechism of the Catholic Church #260)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our Place of Enclosure

'The Enclosure of a Cloistered Heart is within the will of God.  As a cloistered nun or monk lives within a specific area known as the cloister, we can make a specific choice to live within the will of God.  We can actively embrace the boundaries of God’s will as these are revealed in Scripture and Church teaching.'

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Revisiting The Cove

'What heavier burden is there than that which makes the soul descend from its sublime dignity down to the underworld, where all holiness is held in contempt? Then, my brother, flee all this agitation and misery, and go from the storm of this world to the cove where there is tranquil and certain rest.' (St. Bruno) 

Storms of the world swirl around me. In this time, as in Bruno's, all holiness is held in contempt (I notice that the word used by Bruno is 'all,' not 'some' holiness). Faith is mocked and dismissed, Jesus is discounted, sin is normalized, the sanctity of life is compromised, perversion is used to sell books and music and TV and movies. We know how it goes. 

I grow so weary at times. I want to take Bruno's advice and go to a cove. But of course I can't do that, not in a physical way. As I ponder these words, however, I see anew the gift of heart-cloister, the gift of living in the haven of God's will. I see, in the swirling storm surge, a path before me. 

Jesus beckons toward a safe refuge. 

Even in the midst of agitation and misery, I can flee. Surrounded by shadows, I can place my heart in the bright, blazing Light of Jesus.  

In the Cove of His Heart, there is tranquil and certain rest.

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

Painting at top: William McGregor Paxton
Painting at bottom:  Jean-Bernard Restout, St. Bruno Praying in the Desert

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Begin Everything

'Everything begins with prayer, spending a little time on our knees.'
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Photos from Pixabay

Sunday, August 23, 2015

If, If, If - All These Ifs!

'Let us bend all our energies to serve God in the way He wishes. This remark is made so that we may avoid the mistake of him who wastes his time in idle daydreaming. Such a one says 'if I were to become a hermit, I would become a saint,' or 'if I were to enter a monastery, I would practice penance,' or 'if I were to go away from here, leaving friends and companions, I would devote long hours to prayer.' If, If, If - all these Ifs! These idle fancies are often temptations of the devil, because they are not in accord with God's will. Hence we should dismiss them summarily and rouse ourselves to serve God only in that way which He has marked out for us. Doing His holy will, we shall certainly become holy in those surroundings in which He has placed us.' (St. Alphonsus Liguori)

Top Painting: Juan Rizi
Bottom Panting: Joseph Clark

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What A Beautiful Abode!

'From this valley of tears, turn your gaze continually to God, ever awaiting the moment when you will be united to Him in heaven. Often contemplate heaven, and fervently exclaim: What a beautiful abode is above! It is destined for us!'

St. Paul of the Cross

Paintings by El Greco

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Two Cities

'Two cities have been formed by two loves,' wrote St. Augustine. 'The earthly by love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to contempt of self.' 

If any particular thing inspired the idea of the cloistered heart, it may well have been St. Augustine's The City of God. I had forgotten how much influence this classic's key concepts had on me - until I began looking (recently) into the significance of the ever modern, ever changing, ever self-exalting City of Man. We do not have to search for the meaning of life, insists the City of Man, for we make meanings of our own. Life and death are in our hands. Our births and genders and lifespans are under our control. People buy, sell, market, advertise, build, play, entice, euthanize, lie, mock, cavort, satirize in that city. That city stands as an icon to the transient glory of Man.

'Though there are many nations all over the earth... there are no more than two kinds of human society, which we may justly call two cities.... One consisting of those who live according to man, the other of those who live according to God. ...To the City of Man belong the enemies of God... inflamed with hatred against the City of God.' (St. Augustine)

If we want to live for God, we won't find life easy in the City of Man. Yet we are in the midst of it. We have grown up in it. We're influenced by that city whether we want to be or not.

Thankfully, there's another alternative. There is an everlasting City of which God is the Center. He is its Author and Savior and Life.  God is the Chooser of times in This City. He is allowed to be, here, the Absolute Truth that He in fact IS. If we are living for God, our everlasting citizenship is Here.   

'As you well know, we have our citizenship in heaven.' (Philippians 3:20)

'The first city is that of the just, the second is that of the wicked. Although they are now, during the course of time, intermingled, they shall be divided at the last judgement... The earthly city, which shall not be everlasting... has its good in this world, and rejoices in it with such joy as such things can afford...  it desires earthly peace for the sake of enjoying earthly goods.' (St. Augustine)

Reading these words years ago, I began to think of the Church as an embassy. To step into a church building is to step into a space set aside, a space representing the City of God in the midst of the city of man. I live surrounded by the earthly city, but the City of God is where my allegiance lies.

'This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth... avails itself of the peace of earth, and so far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life.' (St. Augustine)

I can live within the city of man (I realized years ago) as a monastery might exist in the middle of a city. In it but not of it. A citizen of God's Kingdom in the midst of the city of man. 

'Here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come.' (Hebrews 13:14) 


The City of God by St. Augustine is readily available online and in bookstores, and can be found by clicking here.

Text not in quotes

Photos on this post from Pixabay

Monday, August 17, 2015

Who Know Their Creed So Well

     'I want a laity... who know their religion, who enter into it, 
     who know just where they stand, 
     who know what they hold and what they do not, 
     who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it,
     who know so much of history that they can defend it. 
     I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity. 
     I wish (them) to enlarge (their) knowledge, to cultivate reason, 
     to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, 
     to learn to view things as they are,
     to understand how faith and reason stand to each other,
     and what are the bases and principles of Catholicism.' 

     Blessed John Henry Newman

      Painting: Peter Paul Rubens, The Four Evangelists

Resources to form us as holy laity:

Bible Online

Official Catholic Catechism Online