Saturday, August 31, 2013

In the Inmost Being of the Soul

                             'The dwelling of God is very different in different souls:
                             in some He dwells alone, in others not;
                             in some He dwells contented, in others displeased;
                             in some as in His own home, giving His orders and ruling it;
                             in others as a stranger in a house not His own,
                             where He is not permitted to command or to do anything at all....
                             We must remember that the Word, the Son of God,
                             together with the Father and the Holy Ghost,
                             is hidden in essence and presence
                             in the inmost being of the soul.'

        (from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, The Peter Reilly Co, Philadelphia, 1952, pp. 47-48)

Anderson painting

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Whatever Our State in Life

"Whether married, religious, single, consecrated, or widowed," says today's post at The Feminine Gift, "we all have a primary vocation to holiness.  Nancy Shuman, of The Cloistered Heart book and blog, writes about how we can fulfill that vocation by making our lives a cloister - a total consecration - where 'God is loved and lived for and served.'  We feel greatly blessed that Nancy will be sharing this way of living for Christ with us once a month..."

I look forward to these monthly visits with the ladies at the Feminine Gift!  Please click here to join us for a quick "refresher" of the Cloistered Heart analogy.  It's a perfect way to begin our next monastic day:  2013 edition.  

Enclosed Within Your Heart....

'In Your Name, Jesus, and enclosed within Your Heart, I can do anything!'
St. Frances Cabrini

Painting: Harold Piffard, Joan of Arc

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

And Your Mighty Voice

'When I loved darkness, then I knew You not,
but wandered on from night to night.
But You led me out at last from that blindness.
You took me by my hand,
and You called me, then, to You.
And now I can thank You,
and Your mighty voice,
which has penetrated
to my inmost heart.'

St.  Augustine

Painting of St. Augustine, Caravaggio 
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Enlighten the Dark Corners

'O Holy Spirit, Love of God, infuse Your grace! 
Plentifully descend into my heart.
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling.
Dwell in that soul that longs to be Your temple. 
Water that barren soil, overrun with weeds and briars
and lost to fruitfulness for want of cultivating. 
Make it fruitful with Your gracious beams,
Your dew from heaven..
Come, Holy Spirit, in much mercy! 
Make me fit to receive You.' 

St. Augustine

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Benedito Calixto painting, cropped

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Monastic Day, 2013 Edition

It was this time last year when we began writing about the Monastic Day.  Ever since then, I've continued to receive helpful comments about that "series."

Now, in my part of the world, autumn is just around the corner.  There is a hint of freshness in the breeze.  Perhaps it's time to open monastery windows and have another look inside....

This "adventure" will probably begin around the first of September (possibly earlier).  Between now and then, I hope to post a few basic reminders of what it means to live cloistered in the midst of the world.  This way, anyone joining us anew will know what sort of "monastery" is being approached.  The cloistered heart is analogy, but it is more than that.  It uses the physical structures of monastic life to help us see what we can live in the very midst of the world, in our families and workplaces, exactly where we happen to be at any moment of time. 

As before, I trust God to provide the words, the images, the payer.  I ask that you join me in offering this NEXT "monastic day" to Him.

I look forward to what He has in store.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

An Oratory

"It is written of St. Vincent Ferrer:
'Whether in the streets or in the choir,
or his own cell,
or preaching,
or on a journey,
or whatever he did,
he was always tranquil,
because he had made an Oratory in his heart,
and there conversed
uninterruptedly with God,
without any outward thing disturbing him."

(from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious,
The Peter Reilly Co, Philadelphia, 1952, p. 90)

Painting:  James Tissot, Gentleman in a railway Carriage

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Friday, August 23, 2013

(and this is a cloistered heart)

'What a beautiful sight is that of a soul 
who goes about her ordinary duties with calm; 
who enters into the activities of life; 
who shares the joys and sorrows of others, 
while she holds her soul, as it were, in her hands, 
lifted up for the eyes of God to rest upon it!  
She gathers all her forces together.  
She centres all her attention upon God.  
She walks through life simply, but supernaturally. 
These are the souls that scatter
blessings upon the world.  
They are in constant touch with the Master.'

(from In Love With The Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, 
Pelligrini, Australia, 1934, pp. 190-191)

Painting: William Adolphe Bouguereau, 
Young Mother Gazing At Her Child, 1871

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

O Truth, Fatherland of Exiles

Let a person "treat transitory things as passing, as necessary for the moment; let him cling to eternal things with an enduring desire.  Give me such a man, I say, and I will boldly call him wise, because he recognizes things for what they really are... I ask in tears, how long shall we scent and not taste, seeing our Homeland far off, not possessing it but sighing for it.  O Truth, fatherland of exiles, end of their exile!  I see you, but imprisoned in flesh, I may not enter.... Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church and our Lord, God be blessed forever." - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Bernard, ora pro nobis

Painting: Wilhelm Bernatzik, Vision of St. Bernard

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Great Secret of Sanctity

'Sanctity consists essentially in union with God, 
and in the love with which we perform daily actions.  
The great secret of sanctity consists in loving much,
but this love presupposes an interior and daily warfare - 
a warfare against our unruly appetites and our self-will, 
a warfare waged by prayer which softens the heart, 
and by its sweetness, compensates for the bitterness
inseparable from mortification.'

(from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, The Peter Reilly Co, Philadelphia, 1952, p. 99)

William Paxton painting  

Friday, August 16, 2013

And Holy is His Name

Art:  Spinello Aretino Coronation of the Virgin
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Always There

"During the many occupations that fill the day, our minds must be fixed on God and our eyes always turned towards Him... for He is always within the depths of our souls, always, always, always there, listening to us and asking us to speak to Him sometimes.

"Is this quite true?  Yes, the Eternal God, my loving God, is within me.  He is the Divine Guest of my soul.  I must live my life with Him as much as my weakness, my misery, my meanness, my lukewarmness, my cowardice will allow.

"This will not deter me in other occupations nor separate me from others, it will take only a moment of time; only instead of being alone I will have a Companion in my work and in my duties.  Now and again, I will ... remain in recollection for a few seconds thinking, 'You are there my God, and I love You.'  Thus I will develop the habit... 

"It is written of Saint Vincent Ferrer:  'whether in the streets or the choir, or his own cell, or preaching, or on a journey, or whatever he did, he was always tranquil, because he had made an oratory in his heart, and there conversed uninterruptedly with God, without any outward thing disturbing him.'"

(from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, The Peter Reilly Co, Philadelphia, 1952, pp.  89-90)

Painting:  Anker Der Gemeindeschreiber

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Our Prie Dieu

I need help.  I need a lot of help.  Yes, I know that Our Lord makes His home within me - even within sinful, distracted me.  But oh, how easy it is to forget this as I go through my day to day life.

Wouldn't it be lovely to have a little "prayer closet" to duck into from time to time, something with reminders of Our Lord's presence?  A place where I could steal away from chaos and distractions and focus my mind on the reality of God?

As a child, I'd occasionally slip away from the playground during school recess and visit Our Lord in the Church next door.  I would often be alone, there, with God.  I'd just sit, in semi-dark, surrounded by windows that showed me the life of of Christ in stained glass. Years later I became an Art student, and learned (in a secular University) that churches have a language all their own.  They are not just pretty for pretty's sake.  The best of them teach with every column and icon and golden shimmer.  Set your eyes not on things of this world, they tell us; you were made for something higher.  Reach for it; reach and don't settle.  Pray and seek and spend your life for God.

In this busy, crazy world, I can't just rush off to a chapel any time I'd like.  And oh, I find it so hard to remember that Jesus is really, truly in the cloister of my heart.

If you, too, could use help remembering this truth, I invite you to come visit our new prayer spot.  We have long had a Parlor where we can meet with one another.  Now we have a "chapel" where we are welcome to spend time alone with God.  Our real chapel, of course, is where Jesus waits under the appearance of Bread in a nearby Tabernacle, and our real chapel is where He resides in our hearts.  But this can hopefully be a place where we can come apart for a few minutes now and then if we care to do so, where we can find a few helps to focus our attention on Our Lord.

Besides, I love finding chant videos, icons, and paintings of stained glass windows.  Now I shall have a place to share them!  I thought of making this a page here, but I really wanted a dark background (I've missed our dark background)... so it is another blog.  Not one where there will be much to read, ever, but where I hope to keep "hanging paintings" and posting music and helps for prayer.  I will put a link to it on the sidebar here, and for now I invite you to click this line to visit Prie Dieu.

And may I ask a favor?  Would you please offer a prayer of praise to God while you're there? 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Because He Has Made a Dandelion

'We are called to praise Him forever and ever
in this loved small space of the cloister....
We do not have to travel the world over 
to praise the wonders of His creation.  
We can grow exultant over one wildflower. 
We can find reason to praise Him 
every day of our life because 
He has made a dandelion.'  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

If Love is Great

'Whether we pass our life in prayer before the Altar of God; whether we gather around us souls eager for knowledge, or minister to the sick in hospitals and city slums; whether we are nailed to the Cross of Christ, or are spending our days in humble domestic duties, we cannot be hid..

'We have joined the great Army of relief that reaches to the uttermost parts of the world, unseen by the human eye, but making its way into the souls of men, enlightening, strengthening, encouraging, in proportion to the union existing between us and the Divine Guest of our souls...

'It matters not to Him what our occupation may be.  It matters not to Him whether our days are spent in cooking, washing, ironing, sweeping, teaching, nursing, suffering, provided we are ever within hearing of His voice.  For all is great if love is great."

(from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, The Peter Reilly Co, Philadelphia, 1952)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An Ideal Set Up

Of all my cloistered retreats, one was particularly fruitful - which could have been surprising given the circumstances.  The monastery was not in mountains or meadow, but situated right in the middle of a bustling city.  That was okay with me.  There was a lush cloister garden, and it was separated from the streets by high 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 minor background noise.  I would spend the day with God, in peace.  An 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 Midday 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 proc” THRUMP THUDTHUMPTHUD “…laim your praise…”

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

But more than that: I was astonished by beauty.  By the intense, amazing beauty I was witnessing all around.  One Sister said, just before I left, 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 nuns were there to praise God, and they would do it undaunted.

Probably the Sisters 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.  Why?  Because 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 He is worthy of praise.  Period.

(this is a slightly edited version of a post from this blog's archives)


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stay Sober and Alert


'Stay sober and alert.  
Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion 
looking for someone to devour.  
Resist him, solid in your faith, 
realizing that the brotherhood of believers 
is undergoing the same sufferings throughout the world. 
The God of all grace, 
Who called you to His everlasting glory in Christ, will Himself 
restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish those who have suffered a little while.  
Dominion be His throughout the ages!  Amen.'
1 Peter 5:8-11

Painting: Benedito Calixto Evangelho nas Selvas 1893
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Friday, August 2, 2013


"Choose this day whom you will serve."  
Joshua 24:15

Thursday, August 1, 2013

As Long As I Live

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth."  (Psalm 34:2)

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise; give thanks to Him, bless His Name."  (Psalm 100:4)

"He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies Me."  (Psalm 50:23)

"Praise the Lord for He is good; sing praise to our God, for He is gracious; it is fitting to praise Him.  (Psalm 147:1)

"I will praise You as long as I live."  (Psalm 63:5)

"The favors of the Lord I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim Your faithfulness."  (Psalm 89:2)

"Continually offer to Him a sacrifice of praise."  (Hebrews 13:15)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago "fell bound, into the midst of the white-hot furnace.  They walked about in the flames, singing and blessing the Lord.  In the fire, Abednago stood and prayed aloud:   'Blessed are You, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and glorious forever is Your Name.  For You are just in all You have done; all Your deeds are faultless, all Your ways right, and all Your judgements proper.'"  (Daniel 3:24-27)

 "Praised be the Lord, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies."  (Psalm 18:4)

"I heard the voices of every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea; everything in the universe cried aloud:  'to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise and honor, glory and might, forever and ever!'"  (Revelation 5:13)

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