Saturday, December 29, 2012

To Avoid All That Prevents...

We are coming to the end of one year and the start of another.  It's a time when many of us stop and look into our own selves, engaging in a bit of "spiritual checking up."  How am I doing in my efforts to live for God?  How is my prayer life?  How are things in my "cloistered heart?"

I had not given much thought to any such inventory this year.   And then I came face to face with the following sentences.  I am not overstating things when I say that these stopped me in my tracks.  If I could have one set of questions to help me discern God's Voice, and whether or not any particular inspirations are from Him (or from whomever else), I think this would be it...  

"Have I grown familiar with the Voice of Christ?  
Do I recognize it in the depths of my heart, 
urging me on to give Him all He asks of me? 

Is there any other voice with which I am more familiar, 
     any voice discordant with the Voice of Christ?

Is there a voice urging me to assert my rights?

Is there a voice crying out that I have been wronged, 
     treated unfairly, unjustly?

Is there a voice bidding me to seek praise and notice and appreciation?  

Is there a voice urging me to go along the road of least resistance, 
     discouraging me in my efforts to become spiritual?

And what is my Divine Master saying all this time? ...

He could not be heard amid all this confusion, 
     for His Voice is sweet and soft and low.

His gentle voice is heard only by the soul who listens
     and who, in consequence, 

     applies herself 
     to avoid all that prevents
her hearkening to that low, soft Voice."

(from "Listening to the Indwelling Presence," compiled by a Religious, Pellegrini, Australia, 1940, p. 60)

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor. 

Painting by James Abbot McNeill Whistler

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Roundup

Blog Awards

Thank you so much to Little Flower's Crown of Roses for the blog award!  I accept with much gratitude, and because I've already written about this award at my other blog, I hope it's okay that I link this back to that post (rather than writing it again here).  A click on this line will take readers to that information.

This also gives me a golden opportunity!  As I was listing blogs to pass the award on to before, I forgot several that would normally have been there.  In a couple of instances, the bloggers had taken a brief "break" (and apparently so did my memory!).   But my friends are writing again, and I am so thankful, for I'd missed their inspiration.  So now I joyfully pass this award to the following inspiring bloggers:

Daughter of the King   at
Little Jesus and Me   at 
The Beautiful Gate at 
Thoughts on Grace at

What a grand opportunity we have, as bloggers, to share the love of Christ... as far and wide as He wishes.  May we glorify Him greatly in the year(s) to come.

Click this line to leave comments in The Parlor. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Every Moment

                         Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment, 
                                                in the interior temple of your spirit.
                                                             St. Paul of the Cross

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Heart at His Feet

How beautiful is the poor little Babe!   
I beg you to take your repose close to Him,
  because He will not fail to love your heart just as it is,
  with all its lack of tenderness and of feeling.
 Do you not see how He receives the breath of the oxen
and the ass, which have no feeling at all?   
How will He not appreciate the operations of your poor heart,
which, even though it lacks tenderness, yet throws itself
 resolutely and firmly at His feet, pledging itself
to be always a faithful servant of His divine Heart.

                                                                                 St. Francis de Sales

Saturday, December 22, 2012

This Night

In this night of reconciliation, let none be angry or gloomy.  
In this night that stills everything, let nothing threaten or disturb.  
This night belongs to the sweet One; let nothing bitter or harsh be in it...
In this day of gladness, let us not spread sadness.
St. Ephraem the Syrian


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

If You Are Caught Up....

The river of time sweeps on,
but there,
like a tree planted in the water,
is our Lord Jesus Christ.
He became man, 
willing to plant Himself 
beside the river of time. 

If you feel yourself 
drifting down to the rapids, 
lay hold of the tree; 

If you are caught up
in the love of the world,
hold on to Christ. 

For you He entered into time, 
but He did not cease to be eternal.
                                 St. Augustine

Painting:  St. Antony of Padua Holding the Baby Jesus

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On to Spritual Love

"I think the chief reason why the unseen God willed
to appear in the flesh and mix with men
was that He might draw to Himself the love of those
who were not able to love except in a carnal manner.
And so: He could lead them on to spiritual love." 

St. Bernard of Clairveaux 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Great Expectation

Like a secret told by angels,
getting known upon the earth,
is the Mother's expectation
of Messiah's speedy birth. 

F. Faber, "Our Lady's Expectations"  

Painting:  Sassoferrato, Our Lady in a Garland of Roses

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Roundup 

Consider Joseph

"Consider St. Joseph.  He not only received a very great measure of all the virtues, a reflection of those practiced by the most holy virgin, his wife, but also had a divine treasure, the Infant Jesus, His Lord and Master, Who had been entrusted to Him...  he was His foster father and the spouse of His mother; yet he kept himself hidden, kept a low profile, so as to appear as an ordinary man."            St. Francis de Sales

Painting: Anton Raphael Mengs, The Dream of St. Joseph

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Christmas Oasis

The Cloistered Heart strives to provide a touch of "spiritual oasis" in the midst of the world.  Therefore, our posts from now until Christmas will be reminders of what this holy season is all about.  These will be brief quotes, prayers and reflections during this busy time.

For now, I hope it's not too late to join the Catholic Carnival bloggers at This, That and the Other Thing.  I am linking this line to the post Is There Room in My Inn.

Today is the third Sunday of Advent.  In monasteries throughout the world, there is now a hush of holy anticipation.

As those behind enclosure walls prepare their hearts to celebrate the world's most glorious birthday, so shall we......

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is There Room in My Inn?

Sometimes, at this time of year, a question drifts into my mind.  It's always the same. 

"Is there room in Your heart for Me?" 

I immediately think of innkeepers.  I think of a house in Bethlehem where travelers once lodged, where no room was found when the time came for Jesus to be born.

As a cloistered heart, I have said that my primary "apostolate" is that of making my heart a refuge for Jesus in the midst of a world which does not, on the whole, love and honor Him.  Christ is in my heart; this I know.  But sometimes I wonder.  What sort of "refuge" am I offering to Him?  Am I providing a place of welcome and adoration?  Or could it be that I've allowed my heart to become cluttered with so many other things that I have little room in my life for Christ Himself.

The inn in Bethlehem was not filled with "bad" people on the night Mary and Joseph arrived seeking shelter.  It had no room for the holy family only because others had gotten there first.

Does Jesus find little space in some of my days simply because the hours fill up with everything else first?

Do I get up in the morning and put off prayer until I get one thing accomplished, and then one more thing - and do I ever find that the day has sped by without my spending any time at all in communication with God?  I am deeply ashamed to admit that more often than I care to mention, this has been the case.

My heart seems, today, like a manger filled with clutter.  Sometimes it's as if there's no room in it for the most important Person in the universe.   Just imagine the "logic" of that.  And so I come today to Jesus, asking HIM to clear out all the distractions.   I ask our Blessed Mother, who so tenderly prepared a place for Jesus, to help prepare my heart to be a fitting refuge for my Lord.  May she re-arrange my priorities as one might arrange pieces of straw in a manger.

As my Christmas gift this year, I ask that the same be done for you.  I ask that all our hearts be prepared as places of loving refuge for the King and Messiah Whose birth we are about to celebrate.  The world did not welcome Him when He came to earth as an infant; it does not welcome Him still.  You and I have the opportunity of welcoming Him in a world that does not do so.

May our hearts prepare Him room.

This post is a slightly edited version of the one published here on December 21, 2011.

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This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Roundup 


Monday, December 10, 2012

The Advent Window, Illustrated Version

Having just written about the Advent window of opportunity, today I was awestruck to see this perfect example of its opening.  Special thanks to Barbara for sharing this amazing video. 

I envision the lead singers as external illustrations of what cloistered hearts can be, in various ways, in the midst of the world.

I ask you...

Can we be cloistered.... here?......

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Advent Window

The Advent I wrote of in my last post was a season of non-stop reminders.  I almost couldn't get away from them.  Switching on a radio, I would catch an old familiar carol, one I'd heard every Christmas since childhood.  This time, however, the words sounded... different.

Rounding a corner, I picked up the tinny sound of Santa's bell as he stood beside a fat black kettle.   Sales clerks wished me merry Christmas.  A nativity scene was, as always, featured on the Court House steps.

Recalling that special season over these last few days, I've realized something.  That is:  the touches of God I had that Advent didn't happen in spite of the commercialism of this time of year.  They happened right in the midst of it.  They happened, in some instances, because of it. 

The song that so moved me with its lyrics of "Jesus the Savior is born...."?  It was in an advertisement  for tires.  Pictures of Baby Jesus were glued to dime store displays, and on posters announcing concerts and events.  Songs were piped into stores to draw customers, and sometimes the same lyrics played over and over.  O come, let us adore Him.  Adore Him.  Adore Him.  (that Advent, I almost did).  

I've heard discussions lately about whether or not Christmas should be celebrated before the 25th.  There is so much commercialism, the argument goes - and yes, I agree that this is the case.  In the Church, Advent is a time for quiet, for prayer, for gentle shades of purple.  In the physical monastery, hearts wait in hushed anticipation.

Most of us live, however, out in the red and green neon of the world.  We're where bells jingle, songs jangle, nerves frazzle, patience frays.  But during all of the glittery hype (I've realized), there is a moment of blessing.  In the secular, godless, "we're-doing-fine-by-ourselves" world, there appears in this season a window of opportunity.  A slot, a crack in the Everyday, through which the call of God might be heard through carol or card.   

In recent years, we have seen that crack narrow.  The Court House steps of my childhood haven't seen a nativity display in years.  Store clerks wish me "happy holidays" at best.  But even now, somewhere between shoppers lined up for black Friday and the queues awaiting after-Christmas sales, there is still a window of opportunity.  A time when someone rushing through a store might catch the strains of an old familiar carol, one she's heard every Christmas since childhood.   Yet this time, the words sound.... different.  She remembers pictures of a babe in a manger, and suddenly her heart is stirred.

This is a season when we can acknowledge (like at no other time) the One Who was born for us. After all, few of our friends would toss out cards that happen to have nativity scenes on them.  Neighbors visiting our home won't be offended by the words of "Silent Night."  It's all just part of the season, part of the holidays, part of the fun.

The Church will begin Christmas music and celebrations on the 25th, but out here in the world, the Advent window is now open.

This is when scenes and songs normally found only in Church can spill out into the world.  And who knows?   Someone years from now might look back on a card I sent her this season, and recall that 2012 was her own special Advent. 

We just never know.

Monday, December 3, 2012

That Advent

In my recent post about "the call," I wrote this of my college (and college-age) years: "My attendance at Sunday Mass drifted from "regular" to "occasional," and I stopped praying altogether.  Yet God still had a way of popping into my mind at unexpected times.  At twenty one, I began to feel a renewed interest in faith and went back to attending Mass on a weekly basis..."

Not wanting to lengthen the brief sketch, I left out the part between "unexpected times" and "at twenty one."  This "left out part" was actually quite a pivotal time in my life; a span of weeks when major changes began developing.  These seemed subtle at the time.  A song heard on the radio, a bell rung by a Main Street Santa; Baby Jesus on a Christmas card....

It was the season of Advent.

I was in my "God doesn't bother me and I don't bother Him" phase.  There was, you see, so much to do.  Friends to hang out with, boys to date, parties to go to, skirts that had be found to match the sweaters that matched the stockings that went with the shoes. No time to think of what was happening outside my seemingly limitless snowglobe world.  Certainly no time to think about God.

But it seems, that Advent, that God was thinking of me.

It was a string of little things.  "O Come O Come Emmanuel," in Latin, caught on the radio... I hadn't expected that and it touched me.  There was another song as well, one I'd never before heard, that sang of "Jesus the Savior," and when I heard His Name, well ... something just.... happened.  Like a gentle thawing in my heart.  I couldn't explain it.  I wouldn't have admitted it.  I didn't understand it.

Trying to go about my normal life, I found Him popping in.  Like when I selected Christmas cards to send, and found my normal humorous picks unappealing.  Even Santas and elves left me cold.  I chose instead a painting of Baby Jesus on a bed of straw, holding a lamb, against a gray background.  It may have been the plainest, simplest greeting card ever made, and I absolutely loved it.  I even had a few tears as I signed my name to the cards.  I didn't understand that, either.

At the very beginning of this "season," God got my attention in a way that I found (if I let myself think about it) particularly unusual.  I wrote about this just over a year ago, in a post I called Before the First Bell.  A foreshadowing of the cloistered heart idea?  Certainly it seems, now, to be so. 

The fruit of that possible foreshadowing, and the Advent following right upon it, was excellent.  I once again went to Sunday Mass on a regular basis.  A few months later, I met the young Catholic man who would become my husband.  And all I can say now is:  I'm glad God had a way of popping into my mind.  I'm glad He chose to "bother me," even (especially) in unexpected times.

I am so thankful for that Advent.

Painting:  Anders Zorn, Vallkulla detail, US public domain

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

"The Babe
Who is about to be born
does not come on earth
to have an easy life
or to enjoy spiritual
and temporal comforts,
but to fight,
to mortify Himself, 
and to die."
                    St. Francis de Sales

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