"The monastery is the house of God... the monk is a witness to God... an athlete, a slave in the service of his divine Master, a soldier fighting for the heavenly King, a pilgrim journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem" (Daniel Rees, Consider Your Call, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, 1980, p. 100)
Taking another look at what it means to be a cloistered heart, I begin with the monastery. I always imagine a building tucked away in the woods, perhaps on a hill, just glimpsed (by me) through a little stand of trees....
The life inside is one of prayer and living within the will of God. People who enter there - and who remain - are dead serious. They aren't playing games. They are not settling for halfway commitments and compromised yeses. They don't dabble in prayer now and then, when they need something or when they feel a touch of consolation, shooting up a Hail Mary between their favorite TV shows and a trip to the mall. They pray throughout the day and in the night. They eat, sleep, dress, work, play, sing, read, serve, breathe for Christ.
But wait. What, if anything, does this have to do with me? My call is to live in the midst of the world.
If I'm serious about living for God, I think this has a lot to do with me. I believe monastic totality has a great deal to teach all of us as we serve Our Lord in our families, homes, parishes, neighborhoods, workplaces - day after day.
And so, again with the help of writers who have known monastic life from the inside, we begin to take another look....
"It is true that only a few of Christ's followers are called to be monks and nuns, but their way of life is no more and no less than an attempt to live out their Christianity in all its implications. All Christians are called to holiness.... There are many ways of following this call, but, insofar as we all hear and try to respond to it, we shall find that we have a good deal of experience in common." (Rees, p. xi)
"Every Christian must seek to follow Christ in obedience to the will of the Father, must pray, exercise faith and hope and love, make use of the sacraments, and live in the Spirit. Neither in the end nor in these primary means is the monk essentially different from any other Christian.... " (Rees, p. 4)
"'When you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.' These words of Our Lord mean that you must enter yourself and make a sanctuary there; the secret place is the human heart....at this level, where man knows how to be silent, there prayer is found. Here he is mysteriously visited." (Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Poustinia, Ave Maria Press, 1975, p. 74)
"I am a temple of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They come to me. The Lord said that He and His Father would come and make their dwelling with me.... Why should my heart be removed from God
My friends, prayer is like that.
I pray that we will each be "mysteriously visited" by our Lord, Jesus Christ.
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