Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Gift, Unwrapped

Looking through the grille, I see that "God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28).

Looking at my circumstances last night, I get a tiny glimpse at one of the "hows." 

By the grace of God, I came to prayer - at the computer screen.  I decided that seeing stations of the Cross in pictures would help me focus on Christ instead of on my own little "miseries," so I went to Prie Dieu and clicked on the stations. 

And there it was.  A picture of Our Lord looking right "at me," and on His shoulder was the Cross.

Hurting in my own left shoulder, across the upper back where Jesus would have felt the weight, I thought in a whole new way of His walk to Calvary.  I'd meditated on various aspects of the Passion during my life, but never on the actual carrying of the Cross.  Last night's realization of that kind of pain was, I believe, pure gift.

I saw Him fall, I imagined His acute agony, and suddenly my little ache was nothing.  Compared to His Cross, my discomfort was less than a splinter.  A tiny thorn I could offer Him in thanksgiving and intercession. 

I said I'd let you know how things went, and this was the essence of it.  I received a gift of love from God.  A gift I wouldn't have unwrapped had I chosen not to spend that time in prayer.

God makes ALL things work together for the GOOD of those who love Him.

That is the truth of it.  That is the view through the grille. 

Lorenzo Lotto painting

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Saturday, September 28, 2013


The battle continues.  The struggle intensifies.  My battle for a living, disciplined, vital life of prayer goes on, and today there has been a new skirmish. 

I suppose I could envision it as an arrow stuck in my back, right below my neck, for that is where I injured myself today while (of all things) talking on the phone.  It's what I get for trying to multi-task, attempting to use both hands while holding the phone with my shoulder.  Got a call in the midst of doing something... we all know how this goes.... and before long I felt one of those cramps that feels like the muscles are crying "skreeeeeezzzzzitsjsh!!"  Uh oh.  A chink in my armor?

I can still pray, of course; nothing should be able to stop that.   Nothing SHOULD be able to stop that.  But oh, what a struggle.  I'd really like to sit in front of a mindless "happy" movie and hold really still and be, well:  pampered.

There is nothing wrong with decent happy movies, certainly.  Nothing wrong with caring for oneself when injured - in fact, that's good stewardship.  But guess what?  I can sit really still and apply heat and pray at the same time.  The happy movie can come later.

Could it be (the thought occurs to me) that Our Lord Himself would like to "pamper" me?  To draw me close in prayer and soothe me spiritually?  Perhaps even to soothe the screeching muscle as well - who knows...

So I shall go to Him.  Stiff in neck and sore in back and listless in spirit, I go.  If I don't, THAT is when the chink in my armor widens, lets in REAL arrows, wounds my life of prayer.

Stay tuned.  I'll let you know how things go.

Painting: Nicolaes Maes, Christ Blessing the Children (detail) 

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Friday, September 27, 2013


So.  She sleeps in armor now (I can hear you saying after my last post). 

If I don't, I definitely should.  We all should.  We really must sleep, awaken, work, play, eat, rest, go through all of life in the armor of God.  After all, this life is a battleground, and if we don't believe that, we haven't read enough Scripture or Church teaching or lives of the saints.

I have spent most of today on the battlefield.  I've been battling intensely for my life of prayer.  Paying close attention to this, I've realized it's kind of a revolving door.  I must remain armored in prayer, and the only way to do that is to pray, which strengthens the armor and helps me ward off attacks on my prayer.

And the door swings backward as well.  I give up some prayer-ground, off falls a bit of my armor, I am less likely to pray, I get more easily sidetracked... and 'clank.'  Another piece hits the ground.

Going through a day without prayer is going into battle without weapons.  It is facing the enemy unarmored, unprotected, vulnerable.  It only follows, then, that a main tactic of the enemy is to convince us that we don't need to pray. ('pssst: it doesn't change anything, God knows the world's needs already, you're too busy right now, you need to relax and surf the web, yada yada yada ..').

I spent a lot of time today just paying attention.  If I got sidetracked while in prayer, I noted what distracted me.  My distractions at this time of life are largely of my own making.  I no longer have the responsibilities of a young mommy.  Funny.  I used to imagine that at this stage, I would be floating seamlessly through St. Teresa's "Interior Castle."  It hasn't exactly worked out that way.  Once the arrows of busy-ness lessened, ones of laziness whooshed right in to take their place.

I managed to pray Morning Prayer (by God's grace) as soon as the day began.  It was tough - I mean really tough - not to check e-mail beforehand.  The struggle helped me identify a compulsion:  I can feel a "need" to check e-mail first thing, not intending to answer any of it right then, but still - it takes my mind into all sorts of directions.  Hopefully I will be aware of that lurking compulsion tomorrow... this time in advance.   

I could go through the whole day, but I will spare you.  It was a time of checking armor, a day of noticing what distracted me, and when, and why.  And thanks be to God, it was a day of prayer. 

Prayer is the weapon, the armor, the lifeline, the prize.  It is worth every battle.  May we never give up the fight.

The Armored Pajamas

It happened just as I was preparing to tumble into bed.  Making yet another resolution to begin a more disciplined, ordered prayer life starting right away - like, in the morning - I was hit with a cold shot of Reality. 

I will never begin a disciplined prayer life if I set my sights on doing it "in the morning." 

If I could put words to what I felt, they would be:  "so, what's wrong with right now?"  Why wait?  Whatever am I waiting FOR?   Rather than rattling off a few hit-or-miss night prayers and then waking several hours later to a vague memory of "that resolution I made last night," I can settle in and talk with God for a few minutes right now.  After all, as Right Nows go, this is a perfectly good one.  I'm the only one in the house still up, the rooms around are quiet, and the most important bedtime ritual I can perform is to climb into my armor. 

That habit I was constructing last week:  I think it's about time I start truly wearing it.  But I won't ever do so (I know this about myself) if I keep planning the "clothing ceremony" for tomorrow.  

I hope to share here - between regular prayer times -  how the routine is going.

For now, however, I am going to climb into my armored PJs and give my night to Our Lord. 

"You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires, and hold your ground.   Stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and zeal to propagate the gospel of peace as your footgear.  In all circumstances, hold  faith up before you as your shield, it will help you extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, the word of God."  (Ephesians 6:13-17)

Painting: George William Joy, Joan of arc
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Master of Our Will

'We must never lose sight of the fact that God reigns in us only in proportion that He is the Master of our will.  This requires great generosity on our part.' 

'We must still the heaving of all that could raise a tempest in our heart - disappointments, separations, uncongenial surroundings, seeming injustice, painful remarks, want of consideration, loneliness and a thousand other things... We go through the excruciating pain of what looks to be loss, but in reality we are gaining superabundantly.'

(from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, The Peter Reilly Co, Philadelphia, 1952, pp. 104-105)

Painting:  Laurens vieille normande

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So Exactly Fitting

'We try to make penances of our own choosing, devotional exercises of our own choosing,
employments and virtues of our own choosing. At the same time we forget, we neglect,
and we refuse to look at and to accept the penances which God lays upon us day by day.
Perhaps we murmur,
we complain of the sacrifices He sends us,
in changes of weather,
in the perverseness of men,
or in corporal infirmities or spiritual trials.
Why are we so taken up with self, and so little careful to cooperate with Him?
What a number of touches, impulses, and good inspirations we misunderstand,
put on one side, and make no effort to follow!
What God sends us is so exactly fitting for our soul's needs,
and answers so precisely to our wants!'

From In Love With The Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1934, p. 96.  A reprint of this book is now available for purchase online.  For information contact:


Painting: Jules Breton, Girl Guarding the Cows  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

On a Day Like This

This has been One of Those Days.  Physically, I've been "under the weather" (nothing serious, just uncomfortable and wearying).  I have an unnerving case of spiritual lethargy.  I am tired.  Emotionally, I'm on the blah side.  Mentally, I feel DULL. 

I wonder what St. Therese of Lisieux would have done with such a day.  Her physical pains far exceeded my own, yet she somehow managed to pray through them.  My prayer today is scattered and distracted.  It seems I can barely mutter (mentally) a "dear Lord" before I'm falling asleep.

And what about St. Margaret Mary?  She actually wanted suffering.  In moments of spiritual consolation, I have (almost) understood that desire.

On a day like this, however, I long for comfort, relief, and possibly a dose of chocolate to see me through.

Ah.  But it's not what will see me through that matters.  If I want to be a cloistered heart, what matters is what I am seeing through.

In other words, am I looking "through the grille" at pain, lethargy, dullness, and the blahs?

I grab onto my grillwork (pick up my Bible) to see what I find. 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for in your weakness My power reaches perfection."  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Now, that is a striking piece of grillwork.  In my weakness, His power reaches perfection!  Not when I'm at my strongest, but precisely when I am weak!  Therefore, His power has quite a good chance of reaching perfection in me right now, on a day like this.  

So what do I do?  I have seen "through the grille."  Now how do I respond through it?

"Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

In moments of weakness, this command could feel challenging.  Interesting, however, that I find myself encouraged by it.  Strengthened.  Empowered.  Ready to go through the rest of this day making aspirations (or at least intentions of aspirations, in case I actually need sleep) of thankful prayer.  Why?  Because this is God's will for me in Christ Jesus.  That is enough for me:  it is God's will. 

Interesting, too, that as I began this post (having no idea where it would be going), I didn't feel like writing or thinking.  But now, "two pieces of grillwork later," I'm already better.  I am making a decision, here and now, to do exactly what Scripture says.  

I am able to make a decision to thank God in the midst of my lethargy and my dullness.  

It is a decision that can only be made, with such freedom, on a day like this.  

Painting:  Elizabeth Forbes, The Leaf 


Friday, September 20, 2013


                        'There are not as many souls who go astray,
                        as there are souls who go through life
                        half in love with God.
                        There are not as many crosses and trials
                        trampled down and cast back into the face of God,
                        as there are inspirations of grace unheeded,
                        and invitations to intimacy with God

(from In Love With The Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1934, p. 52)

Painting: Otto Karl Kirberg, 1918 

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Time to Be Clothed

I have been busy, over the last few days, talking about sewing and measuring and habits.  I've written about prayers, patterns, practices, materials, holiness, hemlines and grace...

Today I wondered:  is it time to write more about habits, or time to move on?  It was a kind of prayer.  And I think it was immediately answered. 

If I could put a word to it, the response would be: "neither."  It is time to take up the garment and simply put it on.  To continue cooperating with God's design for holiness, and to practice living each moment IN the habit of virtue and prayer. 

“You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.” (Ephesians 4:24). 

"Do you see how little it takes to become a saint?  All that is necessary is acquiring the habit of wanting to do the will of God at all times.” (St. Vincent de Paul)

“Clothe me, O eternal Truth, clothe me with Yourself."  (St. Catherine of Siena)

“I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.” (Isaiah 61:10) 

"You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires, and hold your ground.   Stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and zeal to propagate the gospel of peace as your footgear.  In all circumstances, hold  faith up before you as your shield, it will help you extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, the word of God."  (Ephesians 6:13-17)

Painting:  Nicolas de Largillier, Frances Woollascott, an Augustinian Nun, Google Art Project

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Praying Inside the Lines

My mind is still very much on patterns.  I continue to ponder what might have happened if, during my attempts at sewing, I had simply followed the directions.  Not only would I have worn skirts that didn't occasionally split at the seams, I might also now be the custodian of future family heirlooms.  Decorative pillows, quilts whose pieces I once took time to measure, various embroidered items that would not have fallen victim to my haste.  

Does it seem I'm being too tough on myself?  No.  I realize it was "just sewing."  After all, it's not as if it had eternal implications.

Ah, but all of this is making me think even more about "habits."  Habits of holiness, yes.... and (today in particular) habits of prayer.  

In recent years, I'm appreciating the discipline of faithful prayer times.  Ordered ones, regular ones, times of at least "saying hello."  It would be rude to get up in the morning and not greet the persons in one's household, yet how often have I begun the day without so much as a nod in God's direction?  He is with me, He's going to stay with me throughout the day, and I can't be bothered to acknowledge His Presence??  Rude.  

Perhaps my own lack of discipline is one reason I appreciate the routines of monastic life.  I like the fact that one is reminded to pray at regular intervals.  To me, the segments of such prayer are like pieces of a pattern.  Together, they form the habit of a monastic day.  

I am far from developing such patterns within my own life.  But I have to say that I'm trying.  I want to cooperate with God so that I may be clothed in a habit of prayer.  In my cloistered heart, I am not doing away with the habit.  Nor will I settle for a modified one.  I want nothing less than the full habit of God's call to holiness, nothing less than the full habit of prayer.   

Thinking of this today, I envisioned intervals of prayer as pattern pieces.  Morning prayer, for instance, has a certain outline; but within that, there can be variations.  

What is the outline?  Well, for one thing, it is prayer that's done first thing in the morning.  It consists of a greeting, and generally an offering of the day to God.  But it can be long or short, made up of a memorized prayer or spontaneous, it can be offered silently or aloud.  Its basic outline is in some ways the same from person to person - yet the shape changes according to the needs of each one's family and daily life. 

Prayer according to this outline is unique to every individual.  Just as the same sleeve pattern can be cut from gray wool or pink silk or paisley-printed corduroy, each one of us will bring our individual praises, offerings or concerns into the outline of our own morning prayer.  The important thing is that we bring it.  And that we then add other times of prayer TO it, making up a complete day, forming in ourselves a habit of prayer.  After all, a garment is not much of one if it's only made of a sleeve.  

Am I asking too much of myself?  Not at all.  This time it's about more than sewing.  It's about staying in ongoing communication with God.  Such a habit is absolutely necessary.  It has eternal implications.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Sort of Saints ?

I used to sew, or at least to make attempts at it.  Some of my projects didn't turn out too badly... until you looked at them closely.  The thing was:  I had no patience.  So I cut corners.  Darts in dresses were "sort of" marked, patterns were "sort of" followed, the edges of pillows were "sort of" measured.

Things often looked okay at first glance, but I produced more than a few examples of poor craftsmanship.  Uneven hemlines, puckered zippers, a dress that was discovered (while I was wearing it at Mass) to have a panel of printed scenes sewn in upside down.  There were even a few seams that suddenly split open. Not so bad on a pillow; problematic when they're holding together one's skirt.

I am not a talented seamstress, but neither am I a total loss at such endeavors.  When I've made the effort and followed patterns, I have actually produced serviceable items.

If I lived in a physical monastery and was assigned the task of habit-making, I would be a challenge.  There, however, I'd have to learn to follow the instructions... no corner cutting, no choosing my own way of doing things.  After all, we wouldn't want Sister Mary Jane's wimple falling off in the middle of Mass.

We have talked here about the "habits" of a cloistered heart.  Habits of holiness, acquired over time with repetition, habits of prayer and choices for God's will.  As persons called to sainthood (and yes, we definitely are), we are each given as much talent (grace) as we need to become truly holy.  But we cannot do this without following God's patterns, the templates He has clearly marked out for us in Scripture and the teachings of the Church.

"Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with:   heartfelt mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another, forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.  Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect."  (Colossians 3:12-14) 

Our Lord has not left us "patternless."  He gives us clear guidelines, ones that will wrap us in virtue and prepare us for sainthood.   

But we cannot get there by being "sort of" prayerful, "sort of" humble, "sort of" saints.


Amédée Guérard Bibelstunde painting; in US public domain due to age

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Hope for the Habit

Today the habit of a cloistered heart seems right in front of me, within my grasp, as if invitingly placed on a hanger.  Like in those wedding photos that show THE dress hanging on a door just before the bride dons it. 

The habit of a cloistered heart, as we've said, is a habit of seeking God's will.  It is a habit of prayer, of virtue, of choosing Our Lord above all.  It is a habit of holy actions acquired over time, through repetition.

I've gotten awfully comfortable with not-so-holy habits acquired over time.  Not remembering to pray, complaining when something aggravates me, fretting and worrying and stressing out (big time).  Exchanging these for the habits of a disciplined, serene, ordered life is a lofty dream indeed, for the likes of me.

Yet today I realized something.  Over the last two years, I have acquired habits totally foreign to me before 2011.  Almost exactly two years ago (one week from today will mark my second blogiversary), I wrote my first blog post.

Before that time, I didn't even do e-mail - not on a regular basis.  I'd never seen a blog.  I had no acquaintance with the Internet.  Didn't have a clue how to Google.  Having decided that I was mechanically inept and computer challenged, I wanted nothing at all to do with any of "that." 

And now?  Going online has become a habit.  I'm as comfortable sitting here "in a blog post" as I am wearing comfy, familiar, stretched out shoes.  I can more easily change template colors than straighten a cabinet (and yes, that's the literal truth). 

The point of this?  Today, with this sudden realization, I am acutely aware of the fact that habits can change.  I am now in the habit of doing things I once considered myself unable to manage or understand.  Write a blog post and edit it and put in pictures and videos (that I'd know how to find) and set up templates and pop in links and do all that "technical" jazz?  NOT POSSIBLE.  Yet it has all happened; new habits have been formed, until they've actually become old ones.  It has to be God. 

Have a disciplined prayer life and be holy in the face of adversity and respond to evil with good?  NOT POSSIBLE.  Yet it is starting to happen.  New habits are forming, old ones are being outgrown.  Habits can change. 

Today I have hope.  I have hope for the habit.  It has to be God.

“Clothe me, O eternal Truth, clothe me with yourself, that I may run my mortal course with true obedience and the light of holy faith…” (St. Catherine of Siena)

 Painting:  Nuns choir by Ramon Casas, Cercle del Liceu, Barcelona, 1901-1902



Are You Dreaming Too?

After writing about the third door, I had a dream.  I wish I could remember it now, for I awoke challenged and inspired and ready to share my current day-to-day heart-cloistering with the world.... with the world!   With the whole wide world!

But it was 3:00 in the morning, and I was sleepy.  I'd remember later; it was the middle of the night.  The whole wide world could wait.

You know how that goes.  When I woke up several hours later, the dream was nearly forgotten.  My day was immediately jammed with activity, as was the one following, as were the evenings, and now here I sit.  Trying to coax threads of a once-vivid dream from its lair of wisps and shadows. 

I do remember this much.  I dreamed of a house in rural Maine, an old farmhouse by the sea.  Walls and floors were made of wood, weathered and gray, and a man was there smiling at me. This is a person who exists in real life, outside of the dream-world.  He asked me a few questions.  These boiled down to "do you write about the cloistered heart?" (and/or) "do you live the cloistered heart?" I saw his smiling face clearly as he awaited my answers.

I was filled with joy.  I answered "yes!" to both questions, and just before I woke up, I began to dance.....

It was not until I started writing this post tonight that I remembered.  My husband and I visited this man's place in Maine some years ago, on our way to see friends in their house by the sea.  These (the latter) were building the house I'd written of in chapter one of The Cloistered Heart book. 

Lo and behold.  I think my dream was a reminder that - surprise!  God's dream continues.  He is the Cloisterer of hearts, and He's still very much at work.  I wonder if He is, in fact, "opening this conversation" by telling us that we're on the verge of a fresh, new Chapter One. 

"God has a dream," I wrote in 1996 "He dreams that we may have eyes to see solitude in the bustle of a city, and grillwork before every circumstance of our lives.  He dreams of cells where He can take refuge.  He dreams of the joy that He alone can bring..."

Whole wide world, are you out there?  And are you dreaming too?


Painting:  Jan Victors, Jong meisje aan het venster

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Third Door

Today I am astonished, all over again, at how precisely God answers prayer. 

I have recently felt drawn in three different directions for this blog.  I've considered two of those, made half hearted attempts toward them, and come up dry and uninspired and weary.  Hmm, thought I.  Is this just a type of "writer's block?"  Probably.  Just pick one of the two and go with it.

Oh, but wait.  I mentioned three directions, didn't I?

Yes, but I wasn't really considering that third one.  The first two were systemized, neat, tidy, and even had a few how-tos.  "Door number three" was more random, open-ended, and would probably be like journaling.  Maybe even (cough) at times "confessional."  The thing is:  I simply do not know.  With choice number three, I have no sense of direction other than to just start writing.  Just live each day as the cloistered heart I strive to be and let you in on what and how I'm doing.  That's all.  Should be simple, right?

It hasn't felt that way.  It has felt .... scary.

So I prayed about it.  I "handed God" not just two possibilities, and not simply three.  I asked Him to let me know whatever He wants, for each of us, here, right now.

As I finished that quick prayer, my eyes fell on a copy of the Cloistered Heart book.  Sometimes it helps me to go back to basics, so I opened it.  Immediately I saw this:   

"The cloistered heart is not a system.  It is not a series of 'how-tos' - how to become a cloistered heart.  The cloistered heart is a witness.  'They' do not need to be handed the vision of the cloistered heart, neatly packaged and ready for quick sale....  I cannot write the how-tos of cloister.  I must simply become a cloistered heart in all its implications,  many of which I do not yet know, and I must record the journey."  (Cloistered Heart, p. 30, 2008 edition)

Hmmm.  And again I say, hmmm.

What will be written here in days just ahead?  I have absolutely no idea.  But I must say:  I no longer feel afraid of "door number three."  And I will be praying through every single post.

I hope you'll stick around for this adventure.  I am still making the trek toward cloister of the heart.  I'm still trying to grow in prayer and love and living in God's will.

And I'm still recording the journey.

Painting: Sir William Orpen, The Window Seat 

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Where the Pearl is Formed

     'You must open the interior eyes of your soul on the light, on this heaven within you, a vast horizon stretching far beyond the realm of human activity, an unexplored country to the majority of human beings.
     The ordinary observer sees in the ocean only the realm of storms and never guesses that a few feet below the surface its waters are always limpid, and in a scintillating clarity is found vegetation and living creatures of wondrous diversity, marvelous in beauty and structure, mysterious depths where the pearl is formed.
     Such is the depth of the soul where God dwells and shows Himself to us.  And when the soul has seen God, what more can it want?  If it possesses Him, why and for whom can it ever be moved to abandon Him?
     So at any price, preserve yourself in that calm through which the soul sees the eternal Sun.'

St. Vincent Ferrer
Painting:  Henry Scott Tuke, Looking Out to Sea

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Unearthing Treasure

Someone I know compares the Church's storehouse of spiritual treasures to an attic filled with family heirlooms, ones discovered anew as each generation comes and goes.  Our Church is blessed with devotions, traditions, revelations, stories, truths, and precious gems of faith.  Some of these are emphasized at particular times, while others slide into the background only to resurface a few decades later.  Thus we may find it helpful to “climb up into the attic” from time to time to see if perhaps there might be some treasures we're overlooking.

There are a few people who try to caution us about the attic.  There's nothing but old stuff up there, we're sometimes warned.  Just bundles of old junk not relevant to the world today.  "We don't really have books about saints," I was once told by someone running a Church library.  "Mostly we have modern self-help books and some fiction." I came away feeling like someone whose spiritual ancestors had been forgotten; maybe even erased from the family tree.

One of my favorite books was sent to me by a friend in another country.  She'd rescued it when people hosting a retreat were throwing it into the trash.  It's just an old volume, very "out of date," she was told.  Funny.  I quote this (out of print) book here from time to time, and am often told how much help it has been.  In fact, because of a recent request, I have gone back and labelled blog posts quoting this writer - so now we can more easily find them.  The author, who wrote simply under the name "A Religious," actually wrote a number of small volumes on prayer and spiritual growth.  Thanks to the generosity of yet another kind friend, I'm currently able to borrow some of these titles, one at a time.

If you've ever searched for copies of The Living Pyx of Jesus, or any other writings by this particular author, you know they're rare - and in the neighborhood of $300 per volume (last time we checked) when they can be found.

And someone was throwing one into the trash.

If you'd like to sample some treasures from the heart of "A Religious," you can now do so by clicking on author A Religious in our "labels."  Or just click this line to get there.  

Also:  I have used other short quotes from this writer on The Breadbox Letters, and I've now labelled those as well.  They can be found by clicking this line.   

This post (which is an adaptation of an earlier one on "the attic") is also being published on The Breadbox Letters today. 

We are unearthing treasure!  It's good to have at least the shadow of a map.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

An Enclosure Door for Me

Sometimes I feel world-weary.  Tired of putting up, not just with my own failings, but with the shameless acceptance of sin that's dancing proudly all around.  I don't have to look far to find it.  In fact, I don't have to "find" it at all.  It leers from newcasts and taunts from TV screens and celebrates its own rebellion, unashamed.

It seems that evil is marching right out of the shadows, where once it lay hidden.  It boldly kills, lies, cheats, distorts, perverts, abuses, and mocks the holiness of God. 

And, having written that last paragraph, I know why I'm feeling weary.  Evil is mocking God.

It's trying to convince us that God isn't there, He doesn't care, and we can do whatever we want with our bodies and babies and friends and enemies and world.  The world is ours, evil tells us; we are thoroughly in control.

If enough people do/say/believe/practice/ignore a behavior (we're "told"), it must be fine.  Again and again, the love and truth and mercy of God are shunned and rejected.  Can you imagine loving someone so much that you would take a beating for them?  Be nailed to a Cross and die for them?  And then can you imagine having your loved one laugh in your face, spit on you, mock you, say they hate you?  It happens to Jesus every day. 

Wouldn't it be nice, I sometimes think, to walk through an enclosure door and leave the wicked world behind. To go where people live for the Lord Who died for them; where they accept His love and forgiveness, where they recognize sin for what it is, where they return love for Love.

I know it's not that simple; of course it's not.  But it does represent an ideal.  And for those of us not called to such a life, it can (I think) have something to say.

I cannot walk away from the world, nor should I.  I can't flee from the mockery and rebellion.  To walk away from the world would be walking away from my vocation, for "in the world" is where my call lies.  While I can limit a great deal of the garbage that tries to find an entrance into my mind, I can't eliminate all of it.  And that is why I appreciate the analogy of the cloistered heart, and the visual imagery of the grille, and the door through which I am invited to walk.

The doorway for a cloistered heart is the door of total surrender to God. 

As I've written before, sometimes I imagine myself standing before a physical door.  I consider.  I vacillate.   I want a print-out of all that will be asked of me before I give God and His will an unqualified “yes.”  I’m second-guessing, halting, looking back.  Then I stick one foot forward… 

“Jesus, I give You my whole heart and my whole will.  They once rebelled against You, but now I dedicate them completely to you…Receive me, and make me faithful until death.”  (St. Alphonsus Liguori).   

Yes, I am world-weary.  But there's a cloister I can live in; there is grillwork I can look through.  

There is an enclosure door for me.  

William Paxton painting, public domain


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Always the Grille

I have been contemplating this photo.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that it's not in a monastery, but in a castle.  Still, I find it perfect; and the grillwork looks exactly like monastery grilles I've seen and known and loved.  So it works.

I had been anticipating starting a new "monastic day" here as September gets underway.  I think, however, that God is changing my mind.  There is much to think and pray about on the world stage at present.  I don't have to get into specifics (which is good, for that sort of writing is well beyond my abilities), and anyway - we all know the world is filled with unrest.  It always has been.  It's just that every now and then something comes along to, frankly, pull us out of our denial of that fact.  Something calls us to our knees.

Personally, I feel a nudge to be ready to pray and sacrifice and be "on call" to write what God places before me at any given time.  So I'm going with that, and we'll just see where it leads us here in this cloistered space.  And no (to answer your possible question), I do not feel a sense of doom and gloom.  Quite the contrary!  I am permeated with the peace and hope and joy and love of God.

I look at the picture on this post and have no idea what's on the other side of that grille.  It reminds me that I must see situations in the world around me, for as a cloistered heart I'm behind grillwork - not walled in windowless brick.  But always - there is the grille.

As we may recall, the grille in Cloistered Heart terminology represents the will of God.  As some monasteries have grillwork through which those in the cloister interact with the world outside, we can have spiritual “grillwork.”  We can practice seeing and responding to every person and every situation through the will of God.  We know His will through Scripture and the teachings of the Church - these make up the "bars" of our "grille."  

Always there is the grille.  Always there is the will of God around me, enclosing me. 

I am enclosed in love.

Special thanks to Anita Guariglia for her grille photo

Other selected posts about the "grille":   
 Finding the Grille View
To Face the Dark
Positively, Grillwork

Monday, September 2, 2013

The One Sure Cloister

                            'The one sure cloister is the cloister of the heart,
                            where Jesus and the soul live their love-life together, 
                            untroubled and undisturbed by all the riot and tumult of the world.
                            With every movement of memory, mind, and imagination stilled, 
                            every desire quelled, there in the silent cloister of the heart,
                            the soul is flooded with the calm tranquil peace of perfect love...' 
                            'The outward cloister matters little; the inward cloister matters much.'

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