Sunday, October 19, 2014

Eight Steps to a Cloistered Heart

A person stepping into the physical enclosure must move forward. She does not become cloistered simply by standing outside the door looking in. She does not wait for someone to pick her up and carry her.

She walks to the enclosure door and steps inside.

If I am to be cloistered in heart, I must step as well. Not just once, but many times. I must step toward the cloister, then over the threshold, then ever more deeply into the cloister of God's will. I am to do this in every circumstance of my life.

Each step is a step away from self-will and toward the will  of God.

Perhaps I can look at some of the steps I have seen so far. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that what I'm sharing here is an adaptation of the 'steps' outlined in the book The Cloistered Heart (yes, there is a book; it can be found by clicking this line). The 'steps' were originally written in my journal, and at that time there were thirteen of them. Because I like to keep blog posts as short as possible, and because what I've 'seen so far' extends (now) twenty-two years beyond that first seeing, I am condensing and adapting this content.

Let's look at what eight 'condensed' steps might look like today; now that they've seen a bit more wear.....

1. Attraction.  My attraction is to God. I am drawn to God as a Person, to the one true God Who has revealed Himself to us in Scripture and in 2,000 years of authentic Church teaching. I am drawn to the Person of Jesus Christ. I want to know Him, love Him, serve Him. I want to live for Him, entirely.

2. Recognition.  I recognize the truth that I'm a sinner, that I fail. I recognize the fact that I cannot take one step toward God without His help. I recognize my need for His grace every day of my life.

3. Realization. I realize that living entirely for God, and thinking of myself as 'cloistered' in Him, is more than simply picturing myself enclosed with Jesus. It is making a specific decision to live within God's will. It is in this step that I realize that heart cloister carries a real price. Cloistered life is a life of real surrender, real death to self, allowing oneself to be made into a total yes to God. Am I willing to accept God's grace that I may pay such a price?

4. Admission. I admit that I do not, by nature, love the will of God. I do not, by nature, want to be 'enclosed' in it. I admit that I really want to be in control of my own life, that I may even feel I'm entitled to such control, that I am frightened to say yes to God unless I know in advance what He will ask of me. I may feel powerfully drawn to give God an unconditional yes, yet part of me keeps holding back.

5. Asking.  Having admitted that I do not, by nature, want to live 'enclosed' in the will of God, I ask for grace to say yes anyway. 

6. Choosing.  By an act of my will and and with the grace of God, I choose to surrender totally to Him and to live enclosed in His will. With this choice, I am 'stepping into the enclosure.'

7. Living.  I live for Jesus in the midst of the world. I learn what it means to view every circumstance through the 'grillwork' of God's will. I do not do this in my own power, but with the grace of God. This step is a kind of 'natural novitiate,' in which I learn to live more and more for God. I cannot do this without spending time, each day, with Jesus in prayer.

8. Shining.  Because my life is being lived in God's love, I find myself 'carrying the fire' of His love and truth into the lives I touch. I spread love by my actions, my words, my continued choices to live in God's will. These choices will be seen by others, and at times they may not be popular. But I have made my decision, and through the grace of God I want nothing other than to stick with it. I now wear the habit of a cloistered heart. 

'Fear not and do not stand in awe of what this people fears. Venerate the Lord, that is, Christ, in your hearts. Should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours, be ever ready to reply, but speak gently and respectfully.' (1 Peter 3:14-16)


Paintings: Caspar David Friedrich (woman on stairs)
               Kovács, Stairs at Subiaco.1844

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup


  1. Nancy, this is so wonderful! I felt like I was reading my own 'testimony'. Each step offers much to pray over and contemplate on...I think I shall use it for lectio study this week. I also love how the lady in the image is calmly and intentionally ascending into the light with each step....just perfect! xx

  2. p.s. Guess what the first word of the verification code was when I posted my comment just now? "Seek" (!) What else could I think of but how on entering a community, one is asked by the Abbess of a monastery, "What do you seek?" xox

    1. Trish, I'm so glad you let me know about the verification word! That's pretty amazing, at least I think so. And thanks for your comments; I am pondering "steps" myself. :)

  3. Incredible, Nancy - I was nodding my head "yes, yes" at every word you wrote here. Amazing post.

  4. How come Trish gets the verification code "seek" and all I get is the date Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue? Lol :)

    1. Thank you so much, Mary!

      Umm. Maybe you got that becaaauuuuuze. Umm. If he hadn't, and this land was not discovered when it was, you and I wouldn't be here to carry on this 'conversation' because our ancestors would not have made their trips when they did from wherevers from which they came.

      Reaching? Who - me?!

    2. Columbus is a good one! Little study or know about how he was planning to use the gold he found to win back the holy grounds over taken by the Muslims. What an honorable quest!

    3. If I ever knew this, Patty, I had forgotten it!

  5. Beautiful! Trying to figure out how I can adapt this more in my chaotic home school vocation...


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