'As soon as worldly people see that you wish to follow a devout life, they aim a thousand darts of mockery and even detraction at you. The most malicious of them will slander your conversion as hypocrisy, bigotry, and trickery. They will say that the world has turned against you and being rebuffed by it you have turned to God. Your friends will raise a host of objections which they consider very prudent and charitable. They will tell you that you will become depressed, lose your reputation in the world, be unbearable, and grow old before your time, and that your affairs at home will suffer and you must live in the world like one in the world. They will say that you can save your soul without going to such extremes, and a thousand similar trivialities.'
I have tried all day
to write this post, and I'm kind of stuck.
Could that be (I wonder) because I, myself, am kind of stuck? We've often said
that a person entering physically cloistered life is either in or out. She does
not stick her head in and leave her arms and legs dangling outside the
enclosure door, perhaps to be brought in at a later date. I find it a helpful
image, for I can so easily bring part of my life into the will of God while
leaving some of me outside. I might find myself clutching this little worry,
that tiny vice, that long held attachment...
Could it be that I've set up camp right on the edge of the doorway? Am I parked
on the threshold of living for God - not totally out, but not totally in?
I'm helped by remembering that, in deciding to live "in
God's will," I am not simply stepping away from something. I'm not just
saying farewell to complacency and sin and compromise so I can become "a
better person." No.
I am moving toward something. Or I should say, toward SomeONE. It
is for Him that I step through the door into surrender to His will. And all the
steps after - all of those stairs and turns and inner doorways that frighten me
now with whispers of "but what if this happens," and "what if
you lose that" - I will not have to take those steps alone. I will not be
by myself as I live within His will.
As I tell God that I want to say a deeper yes to Him, something happens. Christ
is the Bridegroom of the soul - and what traditionally happens when the bride
arrives at the threshold?
All I have to do is let Him carry me over it in His arms.
"My Jesus, please accept the offering and the sacrifice that I
make to You this day, as I once more sincerely offer to You my entire will.
Tell me what You want me to do. Your holy grace will help me to do it."
(St. Alphonsus Liguori)
Painting: Vilhelm Hammershoi; bottom copy digitally altered using a painting
by James Tissot
'From things visible, I no longer desire anything; I want to find Jesus. Fire and cross, wild beasts, broken bones, lacerated members, a body wholly crushed, and satan's every torment, let them all overwhelm me, if only I reach Christ.' (St Ignatius of Antioch, while being led to martyrdom)
Painting: Neapolitan School of Painting, Ignatius of Antiochie, 1600s
Someone once wondered why my earliest writings on The Cloistered Heart did not mention saints who'd had ideas somewhat similar to my own. Actually, I'd had no clue that anyone else ever thought such things... at least things with specifically 'cloistered' imagery. Imagine my surprise, then, when I first read this from Elizabeth of the Trinity:
'May the God Who is all love be your unchanging dwelling place, your cell, and your cloister in the midst of the world.' Oh my goodness. She also had these things to say: 'May nothing distract me from You, neither noise nor
diversions. Oh my Master, I would so love to live with You in silence.
But what I love above all is to do Your will, and since You want me
still to remain in the world, I submit with all my heart for love of
You. I offer You the cell of my heart; may it be Your little Bethany.
Come rest there.' (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity) 'I
confide to you a secret which has made my life on earth an anticipated
Heaven: the belief that a Being Whose name is Love is dwelling within us
at every moment of the day and night, and that He asks us to live in
his company.' (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity) 'Make my soul... Your cherished dwelling place, Your home of rest. Let me never leave You there alone, but keep me there all absorbed in You, in living faith, adoring You.' (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity) 'What a joyous mystery is Your presence within me, in that intimate sanctuary of my soul where I can always find You, even when I do not feel Your presence. Of what importance is feeling? Perhaps You are all the closer when I feel You less.' (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity) 'It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth,
because my heaven is You, my God, and You are in my soul. You in me, and
I in You - may this be my motto.'(St. Elizabeth of the Trinity) 'I think that in heaven my mission will be to draw
souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God
by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great
silence within.' (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity)
Elizabeth of the Trinity,on this day of your canonization, please pray
for us. May we each be given grace to love and adore the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit. May we provide a refuge of love for God always, in the
Bethanys of our hearts.
'There is a self-forgetfulness which is so complete that it really seems as though the soul no longer existed, because it is such that she has neither knowledge nor remembrance that there is either heaven or life or honor for her, so entirely is she employed in seeking the honor of God. It appears that the words which His Majesty addressed to her have produced their effect - namely, that she must take care of His business and He will take care of hers. And thus, happen what may, she does not mind in the least, but lives in so strange a state of forgetfulness that, as I say, she seems no longer to exist, and has no desire to exist - no, absolutely none save when she realizes that she can do something to advance the glory and honor of God, for which she would gladly lay down her life.'
St. Teresa of Avila
Painting:Jose Alcazar Tejedor, Santa Teresa de Jesús, 1884
"If we don't spend time with God in prayer, then we go empty-handed
into the marketplace."
Hearing these words from a friend, I was reminded of times when I've dashed out without taking time to be with
God. Times when I've decided I was "too busy" to spend even a
few minutes with Scripture, too busy to let God feed me with His Word.
Too often I have rushed, malnourished and empty, into the marketplace - bringing nothing
to share with others but my own flawed, weak human nature.
If I spend time with God, however, I'm giving the fruit of His
Spirit an opportunity to grow. I am allowing God to strengthen me,
causing my life to overflow with goodness that will eventually nourish not just
me, but also those around.
It takes time for fruit to grow. It
takes patience to sit through those dark silent moments of prayer when it seems
nothing is happening.
"The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patient endurance,
kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity." (Galatians
6:22) We don't have to look far to see that these very things are in
scarce supply in our workplaces and schools and governments and towns.
There is a fruit shortage right before us, right here today.
And it's severe.
I can do something about it, about the shortage, but I can't do it alone.
I cannot manufacture fruit. I can only come to God in prayer, reading His
Word and letting it become living and active in me (Hebrews 4:12), causing the
fruit to grow.
Then I can go nourished to the marketplace, carrying Light into the shadows,
sharing what God has planted in the secret of my prayer.
I would like to share with you a video I just came across. It's a look inside a Carmelite monastery... in 1959! Even though it was a bit hard for me (with my 'older ears') to hear, I found it a delight. How about you? Click here to see.
'Afraid of being left behind in contemporary thought, (we) assent too readily to the
conclusions of a humanist and materialist society...
'The movement of the world
slides over our preference for spiritual things, and we wake up to find that we
have accepted earthly things at the world's valuation. It is only the
wisdom of the Spirit that can show up the more hidden errors contained in the
world's propaganda, and to possess our share of this wisdom, we have to
pray. Prayer alone assures both the light to see and the strength to
Dom Hubert Van Zeller, the Yoke of Divine Love,
Templegate, 1957, p. 36
Several years ago, we looked briefly at a few saints who had a lot to say to 'cloistered hearts.' While these holy ones may never have thought
of their hearts as 'cloistered,' indeed that was the reality.
One of these was St. Faustina Kowalska, whose feast we celebrate today.
'I find pleasure, not in large buildings and magnificent
structures,' said Jesus to St. Faustina, 'but in a pure and humble
heart.' (Diary #532)
'In the dwelling of my heart is that wilderness to which no creature has
access. There, You alone are King.' (St. Faustina, Diary #725)
'My heart is a permanent dwelling place for Jesus. No one but Jesus
has access to it.' (St. Faustina, Diary #193)
'Nothing terrifies me, even if the whole world should
turn against me. All adversaries touch only the surface, but they have no
entry to the depths, because God, who strengthens me, who fills me, dwells
there.' (St. Faustina, Diary #480)
'Nothing disturbs my union with
the Lord, neither conversation with others nor any duties; even if I am to go
about settling very important matters, this does not disturb me. My
spirit is with God, and my interior being is filled with God, so I do not look
for Him outside myself. He, the Lord, penetrates my soul just as a ray
from the sun penetrates clear glass. When I was enclosed in my mother's
womb, I was not so closely united with her as I am with my God. There, it
was an unawareness; but here it is the fullness of reality and the
consciousness of union.' (St. Faustina, Diary #883)
'My daughter, I want to repose in your heart, because many souls have thrown Me
out of their hearts today.' (Jesus to St. Faustina, #866 )
All quotes above are from Diary: Divine Mercy
in My Soul by St. Faustina Kowalska, Marians of the Immaculate Conception,
Not long after beginning to write here five years ago, I learned I could post pictures as well as text. And that there were marvelous old paintings in public domain, freely available from sites like Wikimedia. For a longtime Art lover like me, this was a thrilling discovery. As time went on, I also found that pairing paintings and photos with inspiring quotes was something I loved to do. I could then post something quite brief in between longer writings - something I found especially helpful after realizing that I, myself, enjoy reading blog posts that are not too lengthy. (I get to blame my own lack of concentration on 'age').
And then, around a year ago, I started trying to make graphics/memes. Another fun thing for an Art lover! Spending time with Scripture, writings of saints, beautiful paintings and striking photos... it has been a blessing I could never have dreamed of when I began blogging in 2011. So for today's look back, I'm simply providing a link to our 'graphics.' At the bottom of each page, more can be seen by clicking on the words 'older posts' at the bottom of the screen. Have a good weekend, all! Click this line for Graphics (memes)