Sunday, March 31, 2024

And They 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 Blessed Easter!

Painting:  Eugene Burnand, John and Peter

*Repost from April 4, 2015 by Nancy Shuman.

Friday, January 12, 2024

The Cloistered Heart in a Noisy World


So Very Cloistered, Here

Of all my retreats in the (physical) cloister, one was particularly fruitful. This could have been surprising given the circumstances. The monastery was not in mountains or meadow, but situated in the middle of a bustling city. That was okay with me; there was a lush cloister garden separated from the streets by high brick walls. My plan was to sit with Bible and journal and gather together scattered threads of thoughts and prayers. The sounds of traffic around? No problem. I looked upon those as bits of background noise. I would spend the day with God, in peace. A nearly ideal set up for serenity.  
That is, until the band. 

From a campus nearby, there were sudden sounds of an outdoor concert. A LOUD outdoor concert. I sat in the garden surrounded by trees, holy statues, birds, and THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD. Perhaps it would have been less unsettling if I could have heard ALL of the music; as it was, I only heard the thuds. Thud thud thuds out of context, setting my nerves on end. Suddenly ordinary street sounds began to unsettle me. How long had there been planes flying overhead, one after another, and so close by?  The city seemed filled with sirens. Voices shouted, just outside the enclosure walls. Hmmpppf, thought I. However could I pray? 

And then it was time for the Office of Prayer. A bell rang, the Sisters gathered. As a retreatant, I joined them. We began the chant. One Sister quietly closed shutters to hush metallic thuds. That didn’t help, but the nuns sang on, undaunted. “O Lord, open my lips” THUDTHUDTHUD “and my mouth shall" THUDTHUDTHUD “proclaim your praise…”

I was suddenly struck by the incongruity of it all. Sirens, traffic, shouting, planes, THUD, chant.

But more than that; I was struck by beauty. By the intense, amazing, astonishing beauty of it ALL.

One Sister said, just before I left after retreat, that she was sorry I’d been there at such a noisy time. Oh no, I assured her; I had been there at the perfect time. I had seen the analogy of “the cloistered heart” in a whole new way, not in spite of the noises, but because of them. No matter what went on outside, the Sisters were there to praise God, and they would do it undaunted. Probably they didn’t “feel” very prayerful as they chanted praises they could barely hear, but they were singing to Another, and He could hear them.

Surely there are days when any one of them doesn’t “feel prayerful,” but she comes at the sound of the bell and she praises God, for He deserves it. He deserves praise and worship with the whole of one’s being. No matter the noises, no matter the weather, no matter the situations around any of us, God is worthy of praise. Period.
God is present, and no matter what goes on all around, He is worthy of praise. Period.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

What is the Grille of the Cloistered Heart?


The grille is a powerful symbol. I would go so far as to say that, in the cloistered heart way of life I’m describing, it is the important symbol. It is a place of separation and, just as importantly, it is a place of encounter. It is only through the grille that some cloistered individuals (in a number of communities) connect with the world.

Every human being has been given, by God, a way to connect with the world. A way to see situations correctly; a way to interact with others appropriately.

God invites each one of us to view and respond to every person and every circumstance through His will.

We do not have to guess what that will is. God has revealed it to us. Scripture and the authentic teachings of the Church make up the bars of our grille.

Am I facing a hardship? I can face it through the grille.“God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him…” (Romans 8:28).   

“We do not fix our gaze on what is seen but on what is unseen…” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  

Some Scriptures That Form "Bars of My Grille":

"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 12:0)

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no fruit, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights." (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

"We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his decree." (Romans 8:28)

"...we can even boast of our afflictions! We know that affliction makes for endurance, and endurance for tested virtue, and tested virtue for hope. And this hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

"I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)

"No test has been sent you that does not come to all men. Besides, God keeps his promise. He will not let you be tested beyond your strength.  Along with the test he will give you a way out of it so that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

"We have put our hope in him who will never cease to deliver us." (2 Corinthians 1:10)

**This is an excerpt from the page, "The Grille".