Saturday, May 31, 2014

Getting to Know the Grille

The photo on this post is of a typical parlor grille.  Visitors sit on the "public" side of the grillwork, cloistered nuns sit on the other (inside the enclosure), and they are able to spend time together.   

The grille is a powerful symbol.  I would go so far as to say that, in the cloistered heart way of life we describe here, it is the important symbol.  It is a place of separation and, just as importantly, it is a place of encounter. 

It is only through the grille that many cloistered individuals connect with the world.  For the purposes of our analogy (which we will discuss next time), this "only-ness" is extremely important.  

In order to catch the implications of the analogy, we need some idea of what grilles in actual monasteries are like - how they function and how they look.  

Which is like this....

Click on the following links for a look at: 

A Grille at Regina Laudis

A Grille of Carmel

"The Gaze Behind the Lattice Work"

Picture at top:  Poor Clare Monastery, Barhamsville, VA.  Photo by Connie Wells

Feast of the Visitation

Painting:  Ubaldo Gandolfi, Visitación, 1767

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Long Climb to Yes

Desiring to live within the boundaries of God's will, I am reminded of the following letter.  

This was written to a cloistered nun around twenty years ago (this is not a current situation, and I apologize to anyone who thought it was!).  

At that time, Sister and I were both facing medical tests.....

Sometimes I wonder how a person so bent upon the Will of God that she accepts it as her 'enclosure' can so struggle against it over and over!  Every new situation seems to bring me to a deeper crossroads at which I find two parts of me struggling.  I am at this spot again of late; perhaps I'm always there.

This time it involves some upcoming medical examinations that I dread with every fiber of my flesh.  I grow quite weary of being poked, prodded, sliced, diced, scanned, stuck, frowned over, charted.  It's like my mind and body are absolutely quaking, going 'white with fear,' while my heart is at peace and knows that I want nothing other than the will of God, no matter what that should ever entail.  This is incredibly hard to describe, but somehow I think you will know what I mean.

I felt such a resonance with your words:  'I feel so ashamed that my feelings seem to have gotten the better of me.  Yet deep in my heart I do accept, embrace, and love God's will for me.'  Yes, that's it exactly.  You have put words to what I cannot, and I don't feel so confused anymore about this constant struggle, nor so alone.

Sometimes I feel I am embracing God's Good Will with nothing more than raw decision, a decision often made amidst my own terrified screams.

I wonder if it might be when we feel our flesh quaking that our 'yes' to God can reach the heights...

Painting: Carl Gustav Carus

To return to the 'Monastic Adventure in Sequence' post, click here

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Saint Speaks of our Boundaries

"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." 

St. Paul of the Cross 

Painting:  George Hitchcock,  in US public domain due to age 

For a further look inside our 'walls,' click here

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just Shadows

“As the wall remains the same however many shadows pass across it, and as the looking glass remains the same however many changes of expression it reflects, so the soul that is held fast in God remains uninfluenced by the waving shapes and images that come and go.” (Dom Hubert Van Zeller, The Yoke of Divine Love, Templegate, Springfield IL, 1957, p. 226)

Sin casts shadows.  Living in the world as I do, I can't help but see them.  Shadows of sin wave daily across my enclosure walls.  I walk into a room with a TV and I might hear them.  I step into a store and they are there. 

Wanting to live enclosed in the will of God, I choose the boundaries of that will in circumstance after circumstance.  Yet unless I run away from everything in the world - unless I run away from my very own self, and my selfishness, and my memories - the shadows of sin remain. 

"Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth," Scripture tells me, and I want to do exactly that. "Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth:  fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and that lust which is called idolatry.  These are the sins which provoke God's wrath.  Your own conduct was once of this sort, when these sins were your very life.  You must put that aside now:  all the anger and quick temper, the malice, the insults, the foul language.  Stop lying to one another.  What you have done is put aside your old self with its past deeds and put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator."   (Colossians 3:2-10)

'Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.'  Romans 12:2

"The way we can be sure of our knowledge of Him is to keep His commandments.... The way we can be sure we are in union with Him is for the man who claims to abide in Him to conduct himself just as He did."  (1 John 2:5-6) 

Today I make the choice to live within the boundaries of God's will.  In this time, in this place, I make the choice.

And the shadows?  They will be there.  They will tempt and remind and whisper; they'll try to frighten and condemn.  But when it comes right down to it, they do not bring anything into the enclosure.  They are only reflections of things outside.

Shadows are just shadows, after all.    

Public domain photo 

Text not in quotes

Monday, May 26, 2014

Walls Within

When a potential postulant enters a monastery, she is shown the boundaries within which she's to live.  These have already been defined; she does not have to bring her own bricks and mortar and build them herself.  

As a Catholic Christian, I also have boundaries.  I do not have to map them out; they are clearly provided for me in Scripture and in 2,000 years of authentic Church discernment.

I know I've been repeating myself on this point.  Probably I'm beginning to sound like a cloistered parrot, mimicking my own words over and over.  But this is something the culture around does not tell us.  We won't switch on television and hear it; in fact, often we'll be shown its very opposite.  

In order to recognize the walls of God's truth and thus be able to live within their protection, we must be able to see them.  This seeing is not always easy, especially when the "walls" are viewed against a backdrop of cultural norms.  

There is goodness outside the walls as well as within, and we can participate in the goodness.  Still, we must learn to discern where the walls within are rising up to warn us: "this is good, but not that."  

God's intention is not to wall us off from people.  His intention is to protect us (and them) from temporal and eternal harm.

Life inside the walls of a monastery is counter-cultural.  If we live inside the boundaries of God's revealed will, our lives are often counter-cultural as well.  

"Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you."  (Matthew 5:44) 

"Blest shall you be when men hate you, when they ostracize you and insult you and proscribe your name as evil because of the Son of Man.  On the day they do so, rejoice and exult, for your reward shall be great in heaven." (Luke 6:22-23)

"Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart."  (Matthew 5:28)

"We demolish sophistries and every proud pretension that raises itself against the knowledge of God; we likewise bring every thought into captivity to make it obedient to Christ."  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

"Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkeness and worldly cares."  (Luke 21:34)

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  (Romans 12:20) 

"Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."  (James 1:2)

"Rejoice in the Lord always!  I say it again.  Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)  

Photos on this post Nancy Shuman

Test not in quotes

To look further inside our 'walls,' click here 


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Apart from the World, Inside Boundaries

A potential nun does not march into the monastery announcing which boundaries she will or will not accept.

"This wall of the enclosure suits me, but I'm not comfortable with that one..."  No, she does not say it.  

Or if she does, she is told that her vocation is elsewhere.  These are the boundaries of this monastery, she is told; these are the walls beyond which those called to serve God here do not go.  

The boundaries are important to those in a physical monastery.  They are important to those in a "spiritual" one as well, which we will discuss next time.  

For now, let's take another swift glance at the physical enclosure.  

"If Christ's love is the enclosure wall... He encloses you; He IS the enclosure.  So it is the most spacious place in all the world." 

"And whereas some think that we are immured behind walls, we know the walls as simply a beautiful expression of our immersion in Christ our Lord."

Above quotes from Mother Mary Francis PCC, from the booklet "Walls Around the World"

(Advertisements on any videos shared are NOT chosen nor endorsed by me) 

A beautiful link:
A Divine Enclosure Set Round Our Hearts 

Photo at top of post:  Visitation Monastery Mobile, Alabama; public domain photo, digitally enhanced

For a look at our own boundaries, click this line


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jesus, Come into Our Enclosure

'Come!  I am so bold as to invite You, Lord Jesus, to enter my heart.  I have prepared a place of refuge for You.  Come!

Come!  I ask that You shine Your light into all areas of my heart refuge; not just into the most easily accessible ones, but most especially into the hidden crannies and dimly lit areas.  Come!

Come!  Are there any areas that need cleaning, dusting, or polishing?  Are there areas in a state of disrepair?  Are there areas where trash or garbage have accumulated and need to be removed?  Come!

Come!  Lord Jesus, please show me what needs to be done to keep my heart a fit and pleasing refuge for You.  I want my heart to be as perfect a place for You to stay as I can prepare.  Knowing that I can never reach total perfection, I humbly ask that You accept my great desire for this perfection.  Come!

Come!  It is my desire to have a perfect heart refuge for You, and from that comes my boldness to ask You to enter and stay with me.  It causes me much sadness to know that I will always fall short.  Yet You stoop to Your child because of Your great mercy, to accept what my love can give.  Come!

Come!  With tears of joy and thanksgiving, I thank and praise You for coming to one so afflicted and poor as I.

Come, Lord Jesus!  Come enter my heart refuge!'

Written by Rosemary O.
May she rest eternally in the Heart of Christ.

Painting:  Winslow Homer, Girl in the Orchard

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Church Speaks of Our Enclosure

"In the formation of conscience,
the Word of God 
is the light for our path; 
we must assimilate it 
in faith and prayer 
and put it into practice." 

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1785

Painting:  El Greco, A Boy Blowing on an Ember to Light a Candle

To look more into our enclosure, click this line

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Scripture Speaks of Our Enclosure

"He who obeys the commandments he has from Me is the man who loves Me; and he who loves me will be loved by My Father.  I too will love him, and reveal Myself to him…. Anyone who loves Me will be true to My word, and My Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.” (John 14:21 & 23)

"If you live according to My teaching, you are truly My disciples:  then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  (John 8:31-32) 

“The love of God consists in this: that we keep His commandments - and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

To look more into our enclosure, click this line

Monday, May 19, 2014


Our own in-the-midst-of-the-world-cloister, we said last time, is genuine "enclosure," one that goes beyond all of our loftiest mental images.  As a cloistered nun or monk lives within a specific area known as the cloister, we can make a specific choice to live in the safest spiritual place on earth.  

We can accept God's grace to live within the loving embrace of His will.  

How is this different from the invitation God issues to everyone?  It is not different at all.  We are each given a generous invitation to live within God's will, and we are each free to respond.  The cloistered heart analogy is simply one way of envisioning it.

God placed the first human beings on this earth and gave instructions on how to live (Genesis 2:16-17).  It was pretty simple, really, and absolutely do-able.  God said, in essence: here is all you will ever need.  A splendid bounty.  You don't even have to work for it.  All I ask is that you trust Me, trust that I know what's best for you, and just do not eat of that one single solitary tree. 

All these millenia later, we still face the same basic choice.  Because of that first move out of the will of God, we were not born into Eden - but thanks to Our Savior, we do have an eternal world of glory awaiting us. And we also have an opportunity to live, even on earth, in the best location possible.  A place from which we can look with anticipation toward our eternal Home.  A place in which we can be assured that God is ordering our circumstances (even when we see them as painful or murky) toward nothing but good.

It is all so basic.  We are issued an invitation.  Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died to provide all the grace we need to accept it. 

How will we respond?


Suggested links from our archives:

Location, Location, Location 

Just Having a Look

(portions of this post were taken from our archives) 

Photos from public domain 

To look more into our enclosure, click this line


Sunday, May 18, 2014

O Blessed Enclosure!

In every monastery, of nuns or of monks, there is an area normally reserved for residents of the monastic community.  This is “the cloister” or “enclosure.”  Some communities observe what is called full (or papal) enclosure.  This means that those residing therein live within their specified enclosure for life.  That’s right:  they go in, and under normal circumstances they do not come out (there are exceptions, of course, like for medical care).  This doesn’t mean they never see the sun again; often enclosures are rather vast places, always including some outdoor areas and occasionally encompassing meadows or streams.  The cloistered person also still sees family and friends, meeting with them in parlors and meeting rooms.

It can be awfully strange, for those of us not called by God to it, to consider a life of full enclosure.  It can seem so terribly..... confining.  

However, to those with a vocation to the cloistered life, it appears to be anything but.  

"Enclosure baffles so many persons.  Even those who love and admire the contemplative life think that the importance of enclosure is exaggerated.  That is why it must be understood, from the beginning.  Love of God alone motivates a girl to remain in the cloister..."

"O most blessed enclosure!  O precious and safe cloister!"

"The liberating gift of enclosure leads those who receive it over that threshold which opens upon a life of profound union with God."

"By your solemn vow of enclosure you stand as a stumbling block against all false freedoms."

"Enclosure rings out that God is enough; and that where He is, there is infinite space.  And where He is not, all the space of the world is constraining and restraining and withering and wizening.  In your own life, love must not flicker out for a moment.  By day and by night it must proclaim "Jesus is here.'  The church bell must keep ringing out from your life: 'Blessings on all men!  God is enough! God is enough!  And everything else is not enough...."

The above quotes are from the booklet "Walls Around the World" by Mother Mary Francis PCC.  It is available for $2.50 from Poor Clares of Roswell NM, and you can get to "books" on their website by clicking on this line.   

Next time, we will look at the enclosure in which we are invited to live.  While not being physical, it is genuine "enclosure," one that goes beyond all of our loftiest mental images.

Painting:  John Singer Sargent

Test not in quotes

For a look at our own enclosure, click this line 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Symptoms of the Happy Affliction

I never expected to be writing another blog post today.  Yet after having trouble (again) with comments on here, I received a message from a friend.   

'I am curious as to how your other readers do this in their own lives as well,' she said.

Very simple.  Just one line.  And I began thinking....

I have letter excerpts from readers, dating back to 1993.   Obviously not blog readers, but people who wrote on paper they folded and put in envelopes and dropped in mailboxes.

Imagine doing such a thing!  They were letting me know they identified with the idea of the Cloistered Heart that I had just written of in an article. 

In the late 1990s, I obtained permission from some of these people to use a few of their writings in a little booklet, now long out of print.  Since those particular permissions still stand, I think it might be of help to us, and certainly to me (who's always in need of a 'refresher') to share some of these over the next few weeks.

I'm so looking forward to doing this that I just couldn't wait to come back and tell you about it!  We'll be keeping our same recent 'format' in days to come, and I will be using old and new writings of others (and myself) for the 'application' portion... where and as those fit.  For the most part, I will not include writers' names.  

Meanwhile, I hope you will leave comments sharing your own thoughts.

And now I will offer you excerpts from two of the earliest letters I received from article readers.  From waaaay back in 1993......

'Lay contemplatives must be the hidden gems of the Church these days.  It is time for them to stand up and make the hidden presence of their lives and prayers known...'  

'I am still in the baby stage when it comes to loving God's will.  Discernment of that will seems to me an incessant challenge, requiring utter humility.  But if I were to try to put the situation into words I would want to say that I am, in my better moments and by His grace, in love with my Creator and Redeemer, and that my loving His will is the inevitable corollary of that.  It is a symptom of the Happy Affliction!  It's in this sense that I respond to your touching image of the Cloistered Heart...'  

Stay tuned!  There is definitely more to come.....

Painting:  Marcus Stone, in US public domain due to age 

To return to the 'Monastic Adventure in Sequence' post, click here

Thursday, May 15, 2014

You are the Refuge

'You are 
the refuge 
where He takes shelter, 
the dwelling place 
in which He hides Himself.  
Your Beloved, 
your Treasure, 
your one Hope 
is so close to you 
as to live within you.'

St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle

Painting:  Thomas Dewing, Portrait de femme, in US public domain due to age

To continue our spiritual monastery, click here

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Scripture Speaks of Your Monastery

'You must know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is within - 
the Spirit you have received 
from God.'  

1 Corinthians 6:19

To continue our spiritual monastery, click here

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let Me Be a House of God

Any building can become a monastery if it is consecrated to God as such.

The following is, I think, a perfect prayer for those of us who want to go through the world as 'walking monasteries,' living for the glory of God.

'Dear Lord,
The indwelling in me of the Holy Spirit
implies that like the Church, the Altar, the Tabernacle,
I am consecrated to be the temple,
the house, the home of God Himself.

My body is set apart,
dedicated to God's use as something holy,
never to be profaned by worldliness,
by selfishness, or by sin.

My body is the Spirit's chosen dwelling place,
a privileged altar.
It must then not be looked upon
as a market place for the transaction of business,
or a school for study, or a playground for amusement.
It is none of these.  Indeed, it is not really my property at all, but Your very own...

I must never dare to bring the God dwelling within me
into contact with things which He abhors.

O God, hidden within me,
forgotten and neglected on so many days, during so many years,
I ask You to forgive my carelessness, my irreverence, my infidelity....

Joyfully I consecrate to You my body,
with all its members and all its senses,
my hands and feet, my eyes and ears and tongue,
my powers of seeing and hearing and speaking,
my impulses and instincts and appetites and desires.

I make them over to You by deed of gift;
to be absolutely and forever Yours,
to be employed always in Your service,
never to be used against Your will.

O God, take this body of mine,
consecrate it,
let it never be defiled by sin.
Let it never become the abode of evil,
nor be used against the best interests of any of Your children.'

(from "Listening to the Indwelling Presence," compiled by a Religious, Pellegrini, Australia, 1940, pp. 24-26)

Painting:  Thomas  Jones Barker. Margaritte in the Cathedral 

To continue our spiritual monastery, click here

Monday, May 12, 2014

A House of God

"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)

When we think of the word "monastery," we might imagine a cluster of buildings hidden away in the woods, or high on a hill, or even in a city.   The truth is:  a monastery can be anywhere.  

A monastery's difference from any other building is not in its exterior.  It has walls made of brick or wood or stone; it is covered by a roof and fitted with windows; it is as subject to storms and the effects of aging as any other structure.  

The difference is one of purpose.  As we have said here many times, a monastery is a place consecrated to God, a place of prayer, a place where God is loved and lived for and served.  

For today's post, why don't we take a little field trip?  It will only take a minute. Click this line and come along.....

What Does it Take to Make a Monastery? 

To see about our own spiritual monastery in the world, click here

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How are we Living Monasticism of the Heart?

"I had this idea that prayer, holiness, and the spiritual life were for the religious vocation and hidden behind high, thick brick walls.  I longed to find a crack in that wall so I could have just a tiny taste of the spiritual life I once knew.  Then the Holy Spirit brought the Cloistered Heart to me.  The Cloistered Heart allowed me to squeeze through a tiny crack in that big brick wall.  I long for the fullness of all of God's promises for those who love Him to the heights.  And if that sounds presumptive, then so be it, because I know that it is meant for us all.  Not just the Religious or the saints, but for all......"(from a letter by our friend Rose)

"Some people might think it contradictory to speak of 'contemplative' in the same sentence as 'mother of a very large family.'  But it is the contemplative spirit that has helped me survive the chaos that is natural when raising a number of children.... The cloister in my heart is a place of refuge.  It is a place where I can retreat from the world no matter where I am; in the middle of a crowded mall, or in a busy grocery store, or in my own kitchen." (Rose)

Painting:  Gustav Wentzel Frokost, in US public domain due to age        

Friday, May 9, 2014

St. Paul of the Cross's Monastic Heart


'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.'

St. Paul of the Cross

                                                            Painting:  Evert Toert Pieters Näheri,in US public domain due to age                   

To continue the topic of spiritual monasticism, click here


Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Church Speaks: The Dwelling Place

"The heart is 
the dwelling place 
where I am, 
where I live; 
according to 
the Semitic or 
Biblical expression, 
the heart is the place
'to which I withdraw.'  
The heart is 
our hidden center, 
beyond the grasp 
of our reason 
and of others; 
the Spirit of God 
can fathom 
the human heart 
and know it fully.  
The heart is 
the place
of decision.." 

of the Catholic Church # 2563 

Georges de la Tour painting


To continue the topic of spiritual monasticism, click this line

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Scripture Speaks: Who is Within Us

"Here I stand, knocking at the door.  If anyone hears Me calling and opens the door, I will enter his house and have supper with Him, and He with Me."  (Revelation 4:20)

"You are the temple of the living God." (2 Corinthians 6:16)

"Anyone who loves Me will be true to My word, and My Father will love him; We will come to him, and make Our dwelling place with him."  (John 14:22; Jesus speaking)

"I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, any more than I am of the world."  (John 17:15-16; Jesus speaking)

"the Spirit of God dwells in you."  (Romans 8:9)

To continue the topic of spiritual monasticism, click this line

This post is part of our "New Cloistered Adventure."  For an explanation of what that means, click this line.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Spiritual Monasticism

The word "cloister" speaks of total consecration.  Those who enter a traditional physical cloister make a tangible break from the world.  Compromise does not fit well in a cloister, nor does lukewarmness, nor does complacency.  The cloistered life is absolute.   

Christians living in the midst of the world are also called to live for God.  But for us, the break is not so clean. The world is persistent in its tugs on the heart trying to live for God.  This is where the imagery of the cloistered heart can sometimes be of help.

"If the cloister is in a man's heart, it is immaterial whether the building is actually there.  The cloister in a man's heart means only this:  God and the soul."  (from Warriors of God by Walter Nigg, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1959, p. 13)

"Most people cannot leave the world in a bodily sense, but every follower of Christ who is serious
about genuine growth must leave the spirit of the world."  (Thomas Dubay SM, Fire Within, Ignatius Press, 1989, p. 81)

 "Thank God, there still remains one sanctuary, the sacredness of which no earthly power may violate… it is the sanctuary of the human heart.  It needs no fixed place for its confines, no stated time for the opening of its gates, no particular hour of silence for its prayer.  A thought, a word, a moment of reflection, and by faith and by love, the soul is within the blessed refuge, and the gates are closed on the confusion of life with all its noise and tumult.  It is secure against the bitterness and the pain of persecution, or hardship or trial, or hurt of body, or wound of earthly pride, or failure of worldly ambition, for there she is inviolable, sacred, impregnable in the fortress of her own spirit. 'Entering into solitude,’ we sometimes call the seeking of this sanctuary.  But it is not entering into a lonely solitude.  It is hearkening to the alluring accents and appeal of a Voice that will never, in time, be stilled, but will ever sound gently in the hearing of them that love: ‘come apart with Me and rest awhile!” (from The Living Pyx of Jesus, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini and Co, Australia, 1941, p.101)  

I shared the following video only a few months ago, but I am re-posting it because
(1) I think it fits
(2) for me it reveals the absolutely unwordable essence of The Cloistered Heart.

I would go so far as to say that this video captures the Cloistered Heart exactly as I first knew it, as I have always felt it in the depths of my spirit.

A writing teacher once said:  "poetry shows; it does not tell."

This video, according to those guidelines, is poetry of the Cloistered Heart.

Come and see.


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Call to Monasticism

Cloistered nuns and monks do not settle for halfway commitments and compromised yeses.  They eat, sleep, dress, work, play, sing, read, serve, breathe for God.  "The Christian life is nothing else but Christ," writes Dom Hubert Van Zeller.  "The monastic life is nothing else but Christ.  The requirements for the Christian and for the monk are in substance the same; the difference lies only in the particular kind of stress that is given to them.  The Church exists so that souls should lead the life of Christ; the monastery exists for the same purpose.  Whether it is union with Him in the world or in the cloister, it is union that is the soul's purpose." (Dom Hubert Van Zeller, the Yoke of Divine Love, Templegate, 1957, p. 182)  

"Monastic life is nothing else, no more and no less, than a Christian life whose Christianity has penetrated every part of it.  ((Louis Bouyer of the Oratory, The Meaning of the Monastic Life, PJ Kenedy and Sons, NY 1950, p. 13)

"The monk is precisely the Christian who has recognized in Christ 'the way, the truth, the life' and who intends to act logically over this discovery, a discovery of such a nature that it should not leave any of those who have made it tepid or indifferent."  (Bouyer p. 68)  

"The monk, like the seer of the Apocalypse, has seen a door opened in heaven... from now on, everything resolves itself into passing through that door, into plunging into the vision which it opens on to the invisible."  (Bouyer, p. 68)

"If he is a true monk, what he is seeking cannot be some THING.  It is some ONE."  (Bouyer, p. 7)

Monks, wrote Etienne Gilson, are those who "by preaching and by example, maintain the full spirit of the Gospel in a world unable to bear it."  (quoted in Cistercian Contemplatives, Monks of the Strict Observance, 1947, p. 5)

"The earliest monasticism was directed to the tendency in the church to compromise with the world, to water down the strong wine of the Gospels to suit the vulgar taste...  Monasticism, in its development, was unmistakably on the defensive against a worldly church"  (Walter Nigg, Warriors of God, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1959, pp. 80-81)

"The fundamental question: ' does he really seek God.'  Let us state the fact without beating about the bush:  a monastic institute which ceased to put this question to its postulants, or which inserted some different question in its place, would cease ipso facto to have any right to the name monastic.  The search, the true search, in which the whole of one's being is engaged, is not for some thing but for some One:  it is the search for God.  That is the beginning and end of monasticism.  If it is to be truly God which we seek, we have to seek him as a Person."  (The Meaning of the Monastic Life, Lois Bouyer of the Oratory, PJ Kenedy and Sons, NY, 1950,p. 8) 

Next time:  we will look at how the call to physical monasticism might resonate in our own hearts, and how we may be able to respond to it in the midst of our families and workplaces. 

Does anything in the above tug at my heart, even though I am not called to monastic life?

To read about Spiritual Monasticism, click this line

Painting of monk by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn

A New Cloistered Adventure

God always comes through.  Today I asked Him to help me know what to post here in the near future, and immediately....


It was as if a 'format' dropped into my head. 

Which is not to say there had been no background 'mulling' beforehand.  I'd been thinking about how important it is to go over various facets of 'heart cloister' for those who are just discovering the concepts.  

I was also considering how I, who have tried to live this for nearly thirty years, need constant reminders.  After all, in the midst of the world there is much to distract us from God.  And I didn't really need to say that, did I?  We all know it.  We know it very well.

Every day or two, I hope to post something on a particular monastic topic, covering (in sequence) one of the following 'numbers.'  Topics like the monastery, enclosure, the grille, the habit, prayer life... each will have several posts, in succession, about 'it.'  Ideally I will post every day, at least for awhile.  I will also be re-posting some things from the archives. I expect it all to be a blend of older and newer reflections.

I'll also be linking back to this post frequently, so new visitors can see the following list and hopefully figure out what we're doing.  

May God lead this endeavor, for the glory of His Holy Name. 

Basic Sequence of Posts on Each Topic: 

1.  Physically Cloistered  (pictures, quotes, brief explanations, possibly videos)

2.  Spiritually Cloistered (how the 'topic' can apply to our own lives in the world)
3.  Scripture and/or the Church and/or Saints Speak
4.  How We are Living This Now (can include various things... possibly quotes from books, or personal reflections that some of us have written)

There may be more than one post on each "number," particularly on numbers 3 and 4.  

Painting:  Stefan Lochner, Triptych with the Virgin and Child in an Enclosed Garden

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz

Sunday, May 4, 2014

On a Throne of Tremendous Value

                   'Within us there is a palace of immense magnificence.  
                   The entire edifice is built of gold and precious stones.... 
                   Truly there is no building of such great beauty as a pure soul, 
                   filled with virtues, and the greater these virtues, the brighter these stones sparkle... 
                   In this palace the great King lodges, Who has been pleased to become your Guest, 
                   and.. He sits there on a throne of tremendous value: 
                   your heart.' 
                         St. Teresa of Avila

Friday, May 2, 2014

All These Growing Things

'All these growing things remind us to love their Creator.  In them God speaks.'

Teresa Margaret Redi

Painting:  Edmund Blair Leighton, The Roses' Day; in US public domain due to age

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