Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Scent of Contemplation

"Meditation is like a person who smells a pink, a rose, rosemary, thyme, jasmine and orange blossoms, one after the other separately.  But contemplation is like one who smells a perfume made from all these different flowers.  For he receives at once the full scent of all the flowers which the other inhales separately, and it is quite certain that this perfume, which comes from the blending of all these odours, is more sweet and precious than the perfumes of which it is composed, taken separately one by one.

"After having drawn a great number of different affections from the various considerations of which our meditations are composed, we then unite the virtue of all these affections, and this union of their powers brings forth a certain quintessence of affection, more active and powerful than all the others from which it proceeds.  While it is only one, it includes the virtues and properties of all the others, and is called contemplative affection."

St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God

Painting by Carl Spitzweg


Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Cry of Charity

Most people don't realize who they're quoting when they speak of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.  I was well into adulthood when I learned that this bit of wisdom had come from one of my favorite saints. 

"You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with ten barrels of vinegar." (St. Francis de Sales)  

I often think of this in connection with another quote from this Doctor of the Church.  

"It is an act of of charity to cry out against the wolf when he is among the sheep"  (St. Francis de Sales)   

These two thoughts may not appear to have much to do with one another.  But in my mind, they work together.  In fact, I often strive to "navigate between them," as one might drive between two lines painted on a highway to keep vehicles moving safely.  

As one of Our Lord's sheep, I am seeing wolves among us.  In saying this, I'm not thinking of people as much as I am of ideas and ungodly "values" that creep in, usually in sheeps' clothing. 

These generally enter in the name of freedom, tolerance, rights, pleasure, peace, fairness, justice for all.  Not wanting to be unkind, we can let them prowl freely among our families and nations and parishes without our uttering so much as a whisper of protest.  We don't want to rock boats, ruffle feathers, stir waters, or cause anyone to be uncomfortable.  We'd like to be charitable.  

It takes a lot to cry out against wolves.  But if we know the truth and do not speak it, are we acting in genuine charity toward the sheep? 

Francis de Sales would say no.  

However, there are a couple of ways of speaking.  We can lash out in anger, in sharp words that can sting and personally wound our "opponents"... in other words, we can dish out the vinegar.  Or we can speak in honeyed tones.  Not fake ones, but in words and actions spoken from a heart of love. 

How do we have such a heart when we feel anything, perhaps, but loving?  We pray.  We seek God.  We fast and sacrifice.  We ask for wisdom.  We dive into Scripture as if our very lives depended on it; because, really, they do.  

We trust that God will show us when and how to act, when and how to speak, when and how to offer truth.  Ears tend to turn off at the sound of vinegar.  The truth we're trying to communicate can pass by totally unheard if we allow frustration and anger to "vinegar-ize" what we say. 

We are seeing wolves among us.  I don't have to name them.  We find them in the media, in politics, in healthcare systems and schools and so many "areas of et cetera" that this page isn't long enough to list them.  They rob children of innocence, families of stability, societies of integrity, preborn babies of life, and individuals of eternity spent with God.  The cost of our silence could be staggering.   

But we cannot speak without honey.  

We cannot speak without love.

(this is an edited post that I originally wrote for The Breadbox Letters)

Painting:  Shepherdess Tending Sheep, Winslow Homer

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

He Knocks...

While looking into the "cloistered" heart of St. Ambrose, I came across a post from last year.  I remember how struck I was when I originally put these two paintings together, seeing how they "happened" to line up onscreen.   

As always, today I prayed to be led as to whether or not to present this again.  After all, many saw the post a year ago. 

But you know what?  I had the distinct thought that someone, somewhere, may "need" this now, this very day.  

I wonder if someone, somewhere, just might be hearing a knock.....

"Let your door stand open to receive Him, 
unlock your soul to Him, 
offer Him a welcome in your mind...

Throw wide the gate of your heart,
stand before the sun of the everlasting Light 
that shines on every man... 
He does not want to force His way in rudely,
or compel us to admit him against our will….

Our door is faith; if it is strong enough, 
the whole house is safe.
This is the door by which Christ enters….

It is the soul that has its door, its gates. 
Christ comes to this door and knocks;
He knocks at these gates.
Open to him;
He wants to enter,
to find His bride waiting and watching…"
                        - St. Ambrose


Friday, June 21, 2013

From the Heart of Brother Lawrence

"It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church." wrote Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection.  "We may make an oratory of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love."

That is a cloistered heart statement if ever I've heard one.  

Many of us are familiar with this humble Brother, and with his classic work The Practice of the Presence of God.  Therefore, I will allow the following quotes to serve as (re?) introductions to his gentle wisdom.  These words of Brother Lawrence challenge and encourage me as I strive to live for God in the midst of the world.  

"We must try to converse with God in little ways while we do our work... we should purely and simply reveal our hearts as the words come to us."

“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace... Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”

“Think often on God, by day, by night, in your business and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave him not alone.”

“I keep myself retired with Him in the centre of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing."

“A little lifting up of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, an interior act of adoration, even though made on the march and with sword in hand, are prayers which, short though they may be, are nevertheless very pleasing to God, and far from making a soldier lose his courage on the most dangerous occasions, bolster it."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Again I Begin

While praying recently for a fresh wind of prayer, I ran across the following.  I've edited it slightly, for I first scribbled this in a journal over twenty years ago.  Twenty years!  Before iPads, Kindles, Twitter, Pinterest, smart phones, dumb phones, texting, mobile apps.  Back then, people went to dinners disconnected, engaging in conversation with no concerns about a purse ringing just as salads arrived.   Yet even then, I was aware of how hard it was to tune in to the gentle presence of God.  

'We can hardly hear anything in this world of ceaseless distraction.  Our ancestors, even our recent ones, would be simply overwhelmed by the barrage of noises that surround us in this busy world, in this busy western world.  We are bombarded by entertainment, images, music, sounds, distractions we carry with us wherever we go. 

Perhaps we find our own thoughts too disturbing, so we drown them out with ceaseless chatter.  Maybe inactivity reminds us too clearly that we were created to fill our time with God, so we flee from the reminders by cramming our days full of mindless clutter

I know this because I am so this way, busily fluttering amid distractions that keep me blissfully unaware.

If only we could see it!  If only we could see the drama in which we're engaged!  If only we could peer, eyes unveiled, into the truth for just a minute.  I can't believe that such acute awareness would not utterly change our lives...'

Over twenty years later, I am still struggling to quiet down and 'listen.'  Funny.  I thought I'd be settled into a real routine by now.  Not so.

Perhaps because routine has never been easy for me?  Possibly.  Maybe because distractions are becoming daily more present and ever more convenient for all of us?  Surely.

And, if I'm honest, probably because some part of me would rather look at glitter than into scripture.  It's a tough thing to consider, an even tougher thing to admit.  But it is at least partially true.  After all, a bit of online glitz will not remind me that I need to take time to pray for situations on the world stage.  Or perhaps that I can even, if I give Him time and space, encounter the loving presence of God.

Encountering the Presence of God.  Imagine!  I can do this very thing in prayer, even in the silence of my heart.  I know how this works; I've done it for years:  I can sit down and pray, giving God time and space and attention.  I can take another look at Lectio Divina.

Why on earth am I waiting?  Maybe if I ask Him, and maybe if I sit long enough to hear His still, small Voice, Our Lord will answer this very question.

I pick up my Bible. I open it.

Again I begin.


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Sunday, June 16, 2013

From the Heart of St. Paul of the Cross

Considering a few "cloistered hearts" gone before us, I quickly think of St. Paul of the Cross. “The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus..." wrote this saint; "we must arouse the world from its slumber.” 

Through a great number of letters and sermons, Paul of the Cross indeed helped awaken the world.   Founder of the Passionists and a tireless worker for Christ, Paul walked from town to town, church to church, for over 40 years, preaching "the loving memory of the passion and death of Jesus Christ..." (from "In the Shadow of His Wings")

The saints were the ideal "cloistered hearts," although most would not have thought in such terms.  Looking at the following words by St. Paul of the Cross, however, I have a feeling he was one of those who did....    

"Build an oratory within yourself, and there have Jesus on the altar of your heart. Speak to Him often while you are doing your work." 

"Rest tranquilly in the loving Heart of our dear Savior; do not lose peace, even though the world turn upside down."

"Faith tells us that our heart is a Sanctuary, because it is the Temple of God, the dwelling-place of the Holy Trinity.  Let us often visit this Sanctuary, and see that the lamps are alight - that is to say, Faith, Hope and Charity - and frequently stir up our faith when we are studying, working, or eating, when we go to bed, and when we rise, and make aspirations to God.”

"Take the holy, gentle will of God as your spouse, wedded each moment by the ring of faith in which are set all the jewels of hope and love."

“Nourish yourself with God’s Holy Will.  Drink of this Chalice of Jesus.  Close your eyes and do not seek to know what it may contain.  It is enough to know that Jesus offers it.”

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

For more about St. Paul of the Cross, click on this link                                                       

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Friday, June 14, 2013

In the Inner Cloister of Her Heart

      "We absorb more and more of His Spirit until - in the midst of crowds or secluded in our cells - we are alone with our Master and inseparable Guide.  Jesus Christ is very nigh to the soul that seeks and loves Him, and she speaks to Him in the inner cloister of her heart.
      No one can measure how precious a thing this is, who has not experienced the strength and power, the joy and peace that is derived from it.  The soul talks familiarly with God in her own words and her own way.  She has no set form of speech, for none is needed.  She is at home with God, and He with her.  Jesus Christ is no far off Divinity, but very nigh, dwelling in her heart.  There is nothing she cannot tell Him about, whether it be joy or sorrow, success or failure.  It is all poured into His ears."   
                   (from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, by a Religious, Peter Reilly Co., Philadelphia, 1931, pp. 14-15)

Painting: Almeida Júnior  - Moça com Livro, US public domain 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

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

to learn more about St. Margaret Mary, click here

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Habit Speaks

Armand Gautier, Three Nuns in the Portal of a Church
What does a Religious habit say to me when I see someone wearing it?  

"I have found God to be worth the gift of my whole life," it tells me. "Nothing on earth is as important as He." 

I thought of this, of the witnessing power of the habit, today when I saw the video I'm sharing on this post. I share it with hope that you have a few minutes to prayerfully witness this clothing of someone making a total gift of self to God.  

As we know, each part of the monastic habit is deeply symbolic. 

Can I identify, in a spiritual way, with any of the habit pieces placed on Sister?  

I ask God to show me.  I ask Him to clothe me in His love and His grace.

Visit this Passionist Monastery at     

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Touch of Wind

I've been in need of a fresh spiritual breeze in my (admittedly dusty) cloister.  A look into the basics of what it means to live cloistered in heart has been just what I've needed to swoosh a few cobwebs away.   

I am now sharing the fruits of this fresh wind with you.  We have new stand-alone pages.  A click on any topic will open up a basic explanation, although not all follow the same exact "pattern."  Content will be added and changed in these pages as time goes on

The intention is to enable new readers to see quickly, as much in a nutshell as possible, what the basic cloistered heart idea is about. There are also a few "refreshers" for those of us who are not new to this spot.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

An Abyss of All Good

'In a word, this Divine Heart is an abyss of all good, 
into which the poor must plunge their necessities.  
It is an abyss of joy, into which we must cast all our sorrows.  
It is an abyss of humiliation for our pride,
an abyss of mercy for the miserable,
and an abyss of love into which we must cast all our troubles.' 

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

From the Heart of St. Faustina

Over the next few days, I'd like to look at several 'cloistered hearts' who have gone before us.  While these holy ones may never have thought of their hearts as 'cloistered,' indeed that was the reality.

I will be looking primarily at men and women determined by the Church to be saints, or at least ones recognized as on the steady path to sainthood.

After all, look at where their paths have led.

'I find pleasure, not in large buildings and magnificent structures,' said Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska, '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, Stockbridge, 1996.  Click this link for more information. 

Painting: Adolf Kaufmann, 1904, detail, in US public domain 
Photo of St. Faustina in public domain

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Each Thing a Priceless Treasure

"If, while I am sewing, I do each stitch as well as possible, because I am doing it for Him and with Him Who resides in my little soul... each thing that I do is is a priceless treasure....

"My share in the apostolate may be by prayer or by suffering, by letting my light shine, by being the salt of the earth, by making the fact that Jesus lives within me so patent that people cannot help glorifying my Father Who is in heaven....

"It is not only those who are called to active service who share with the divine Master this magnificent Apostolate.  All who cherish the Interior Life are, by that very fact, called to be Apostles, sent by God to do His work in some form or another.

"Eternal God!  It is Thy gracious pleasure to make my pour soul Thy home."

(from The Living Pyx of Jesus, by A Religious, Pellegrini, 1941, pp. 42-44)

R Berenguer painting in US public domain due to age

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Monday, June 3, 2013

In Crowds or Cells

"Divine Truth abides within us.  We absorb more and more of His Spirit until - in the midst of crowds or secluded in our cells - we are alone with our Master and inseparable Guide.

"Jesus Christ is very nigh to the soul that seeks and loves Him, and she speaks to Him in the inner cloister of her heart...   She is quite real and actual in all she says to him.

"She lives in His Will, her attention is fixed on Him; all through the hours of work, He is there....."

(from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, Peter Reilly Co., Philadelphia, 1952, pp. 14-16)

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Don't Mind Me. I'm Just Loistering.

Yes, you're at the right blog - if you clicked in looking for "The Cloistered Heart," that is.  Twelve hours ago, you may have left wondering.  For a short while, there was a background behind the blog title.  Our "C" got swallowed up in a saint's face on that, being hidden altogether and possibly causing anyone who'd never been here before to ask themselves "just what IS a Loistered Heart?"

I, meanwhile, was at Church - realizing this had happened right before it was time for me to leave my house but having no time to change it.

One does go on about one's life, at times leaving Loistered Blogs lingering.  At least I was where I could do something about it.  I prayed.

Now I'm off again.  In a short while, hopefully a chunk of the world's population will be joining, in one way or another, in worldwide Eucharistic Adoration.... all at the same time.  Those who cannot do so in a chapel or church can, of course, adore our Lord Jesus wherever we may be.

Meanwhile, back at this blog, anyone happening to check in throughout this day (and perhaps beyond...) is likely to see changes and then changes again.  Yes, I know a light background may be a bit jarring for those of us accustomed to a dark "oasis."  I will admit, however, to being "of an age" when what is easiest to see is what's most appreciated.

I can say this much:  a few more things will change in this little blog over the next day or two.  So stay tuned:  you wouldn't want to miss a fleeting tryout of abstract purple tulips stuck smack behind the Loister.

Many bloggers hide their blogs from public view while changing colors and fonts.  Not I.   So if you see something you dislike, hang on - it may not be there long.  If you see something you like - look quickly - it may not be there long.  You can let me know in "the parlor" if you have any suggestions along the way.

In the meantime, this is a significant day, a day of worldwide Eucharistic adoration.  I want to participate as fully as possible.

It's time again for me to leave the Loisters.  I will be praying with you before our Eucharistic Lord.