Sunday, August 12, 2018

Our Patroness


The concept of the cloistered heart can be said to have several "patrons," but one saint in particular serves as a primary role model.  Why?  Perhaps the following will help, at least a little, to answer that question....

St. Jane de Chantal was Francis de Sales' co-founder of the Visitation of Holy Mary.  Before becoming a nun, however, Jane was a young widow consulting St. Francis for spiritual direction.  At that time, she was a busy laywoman with four children to raise.  

Recognizing the desires of her heart, Francis de Sales directed Jane "in her growing intimacy and conformity to the signified will of God.  He even confirmed her in the practice of imaging her own spiritual world with monastic imagery.  For example, she took the Virgin Mary as the Abbess of the cloister of her own heart."  
(Wendy Wright, Joseph Power OSFS and Peronne Marie Thibert VHM, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, Letters of Spiritual Direction, Paulist, 1988, p. 41) 

"The spirit of God does not depend on retirement.  Rather it is a spirit that strengthens and perfects all occupations." - St. Jane de Chantal

"Ah, what a happiness to live thus in the world without sharing in its miserable affections and aims!"  - St. Jane de Chantal

"You must adhere to this practice of looking at God within you and it will absorb all others."  - St. Jane de Chantal

"Our Lord, in no place of Scripture, says... give Me thy head, thine arms, thy life, but only:  My child, give Me thy heart.  Whoso has a person's heart, has the entire person.  The heart is the seat of love.  When I shall have thy heart, I shall set My love upon it.  I will make My love dwell therein and then all the rest will follow as a consequence."  - St. Jane de Chantal


This is a repost from the archives of 5/24/13.


Friday, June 8, 2018

The Cloistered Heart of St. Margaret Mary

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque's was a heart filled with fire.  Jesus chose to reveal to this Visitation nun a Heart ablaze - His own Sacred Heart.  I think it's accurate to say that the saint encountered the Fire of Jesus' love and reflected it back to Him.  Love met love, Heart met heart, Fire met fire.  But the story did not end there.

Jesus entrusted to Margaret Mary a mission:  to spread the message of His fiery love.

"My Divine Heart," Christ said in an apparition to this humble nun in 1673, "is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you in particular, that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning charity any longer. They must burst out through you."

St. Margaret Mary later wrote: "Jesus asked for my heart, which I begged Him to take, and He placed it in His adorable One, in which He showed it to me as a tiny speck consumed in this burning furnace. Then, taking it out as a burning flame shaped like a heart, He replaced it in the place from which He had taken it."  

St. Margaret Mary said many things that strike at the very core of my "cloistered" heart.  I have room here for a few examples....

"Our Lord frequently told me that I should keep a secluded place for Him in my heart, where He would teach me to love Him."  

"I beg the Sacred Heart of Jesus to deign to consume ours in the flames of His holy love, so that they may live and breathe only to love, honor and glorify Him." 

"Jesus Christ is the true friend of our hearts, and they are made for Him alone.  They cannot find rest, joy, or satisfaction except in Him."

"He wants your heart without reserve."

Jesus wants my heart without reserve.  He desires my love in return for His.  

How will I respond?

Detail of painting by Georges de la Tours, cropped and digitally altered.  In public domain.


This is a repost from the archives of 6/13/13.  

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Revisiting Visitations

The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth is one of my favorite feasts.  On so many levels, it speaks to my life as a cloistered heart.
Mary visited Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56) because she had BEEN Visited by God.  She didn't go to Elizabeth alone - she went with the Presence of Christ inside her.  As one living "cloistered for Jesus" in the midst of the world, I carry Christ inside me as well.  Not in the same unique way, certainly.  But according to Scripture and Church teaching, I indeed carry Him within. 

Mary went on a simple visit to Elizabeth.  It was an occasion that I'm sure went unnoticed by many.  A woman went to visit her kinswoman; something that happened all the time.  No one would have cried out: "look, there goes Mary on mission!" or "how about that!  This visit will be written of in the Bible!"  From the merely human perspective, it was simply a time of normal interaction between two women, two relatives.  

And so it is with us.  You and I have opportunities every single day to visit people with the presence of Christ.  In the everyday activities of life, we visit family members, neighbors, store clerks, callers on the phone. 

I find it extremely helpful when I make a conscious effort to visit these persons with the love of Our Lord.  That is - with an awareness of Christ within me.  I have found that it makes quite a difference in my attitude when I think of things this way.

I ask myself: What might happen if I make a conscious effort to go through today "on visitation?"  

What if I first visit the Lord in prayer, and then specifically visit every person I encounter with the love of Christ?  This does not mean I have to say or do anything that will draw attention.  It can mean that I pray a silent aspiration for the mailman, smile at a harried store clerk, relate to family members with patience.  I might write a note to a friend, send an e-mail of encouragement, call a lonely relative.  

My visitations can be simple and unnoticed.  But as I carry the love of Christ to those around me, it just might be that Heaven will rejoice.


This is a repost from the archives of 5/31/17.  
 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pentecost

'Veni Creator Spiritus!
Breathe on me, life giving Spirit of God,
come as a Wind.
I am dead, quicken Thou me.
I am listless, inoperative, lukewarm, indolent,
revive Thou me.
Sweep from my soul all its torpor,
all its indifference, all its decay.

'Veni Creator Spiritus!
Come as a Fire.
I need the fire that destroyeth all things rank and gross.
Many such elements are in my soul.
I need the fire that purifyeth imperfect motive, inconsistent life.
I need the fire that infuseth new warmth and glow.

'Veni Creator Spiritus!
Come as a Speech.
O, give me utterance that I may tell
the wonderful works of God.
Give me boldness that none may make me afraid.
Give me the grace of witness-bearing,
that my lips may testify gladly
to Christ, my King.
Give me demonstration of spirit,
wide horizons, great prospect, immortality.
Yea, give me a Feast of Pentecost in my soul.
Veni Creator Spiritus!'

     (from Fervorinos from the Lips of the Master, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1940, p. 184) 

Drafted by NS 3/27/14

Sunday, May 6, 2018

What IS a Cloistered Heart?

We ask ourselves the question now and then, in different ways. 

Is 'The Cloistered Heart' an analogy? (yes).  Is it a way of life? (yes).  Is The Cloistered Heart an article, a book, a blog?  Is it Catholic?  Is it people who pray for the Church and the world and one another?  

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.  

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)


Drafted by NS 8/3/17

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cloistered Heart Easter Blessings! Christ has Risen, Alleluia!

During her final illness and prior to her death, on August 30, 2017, Nancy expressed her ongoing desire that the blog continue after her death.  It has taken a while to get things organized so as to be ready to honor Nancy's wishes and begin to send out posts from The Cloistered Heart blog for those who were faithful followers and those who will discover it anew.  

During Nancy's illness, she drafted posts to be published at a later time.  The blog will draw from these unpublished drafts, as well as from the archives.  May you be richly blessed by the return of The Cloistered Heart blog.  May God be honored and praised in the "cloister of our hearts!"  Alleluia!  

NS/CHC    [Nancy Shuman / Cloistered Heart Community]

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