Monday, March 31, 2014

The Window of Temptation

I am enclosed within the will of God.  It's a sweet thought, isn't it?  I have chosen to live within the boundaries of God's will as these have been built for me, to protect me.  God has given Scripture and Church teaching to show me these limitations...  to fence me in, so to speak.  If I remain within this enclosure, I am safe from spiritual harm.

But oh, the world outside God's will can look so appealing.  Those who live out there, free of constraints imposed by the 'shalts' and the 'shalt nots,' can look pretty happy.  They're choosing their paths without regard to God, living however they wish, indulging their every desire, engaging in behavior that the Bible and the Church clearly assure us is wrong and harmful.  They make sport of everything - even of us.  Go the way the world goes, they insist.  Don't be such a killjoy!  Why don't we get with the times?

Whether or not I'm drawn to join in the more obvious out-of-enclosure-frolics happening in the world around me, I definitely encounter temptations.  The world outside God's will can look awfully appealing.  And after all, I'm not sealed up in a cage  There's no lock on my enclosure wall.

Day by day, I have a choice.  Not just to enter 'the enclosure of God's will' once and for all, but the ongoing choice to remain within it.

I have, minute after minute, a decision to make.

Shall I stay within the will of God?

Or not. 

"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)

(this is a re-written post from our archives)  

Text not in quotes

Painting:  Escaping Criticism, Pere Borrel Del Caso

Saturday, March 29, 2014

If You Want to Leave in the Middle of Prayer...

                              'Take no notice of that feeling you get
                              of wanting to leave off in the middle of your prayer, 
                              but praise the Lord for the desire you have to pray.  
                              That, you may be sure, comes from your will 
                              which loves to be with God.  
                              It is just melancholy that oppresses you 
                              and gives you the feeling of constraint.
                             Try occasionally, 
                             when you feel yourself oppressed in that way, 
                             to go to some place where you can see the sky, 
                             and walk up and down a little... 
                             It is essential that the soul be led gently.' 

                                St. Teresa of Avila

                             Painting:  George Hitchcock, Calypso


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Shall I Trust?

            'If we allow our worthlessness and our infidelities to paralyze
            and set limits to our trust,
            we have failed to understand thoroughly
            the love and goodness of God,
            and we know not the life of self-abandonment.
            This life of self-abandonment is for all souls
            who are wistful for self-forgetfulness,
            who give themselves without reservation,
            or who, at least, desire to make this gift.
            It is for all souls whose happiness it is
            to substitute Jesus for their own ego;
            to disappear, to die,
            that they may live and grow in Him.'

                (from Fervorinos from the Lips of the Master, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1940, pp. 178-179)

               Painting:  Byam Shaw, The Caged Bird, 1907, cropped

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

To Give Clear Witness

'Enclosed nuns are called to give clear witness 
that man belongs entirely to God, 
and so to keep green among the human family 
the desire for a heavenly home.' 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Bell and an Open Vein

One facet of monastic life that looks greener on the other side of the fence (to me) is the call to prayer.  The bell rings, it's prayer time, and there's no putting it off.  No opening a newspaper, no checking the morning news, no doing 'just this one thing' before settling down to pray.

I don't know about you, but if I do just one thing before giving God a few minutes, all too often one thing turns into ten, and before I know it, 'things' have crowded out prayer altogether.  Again.

Of course, there are important reasons why some of us need to squeeze prayer into a 'To-Go-Box' from the minute we get out of bed.  Babies need feeding, we're late for work, kids need to be gotten off to school... but these are not the things that take up my personal time, not anymore.  Even when I have a busy day ahead, I can usually grab at least a few minutes to NOT turn on morning news and NOT check e-mail and to instead give that little chunk of time to God.  But do I?  

I will just say this:  it's a struggle.

Sometimes I long for the discipline of a bell.  I long for the accountability of those who will notice if I'm not in my choir stall.  Oh, I know my mind might wander if I were in fact standing there, breviary open before me and my mind still half asleep.  But at least I'd BE there.  I would be praising God, and giving Him a chance to whisper...  something... to my sleepy heart.

I often compare the first prayer of morning to a time when I received an i.v.  During preparation for the birth of my second child, I was given an i.v. of saline.  Asking why this was necessary, I was told that it was in case I needed medication administered quickly at any time during the birth.  The doctor wanted to have an open vein, ready to receive help on a moment's notice.

Years later, the memory of that came back to me as I pondered the grace of morning prayer.  If I pray, even briefly, early in the morning, I am in effect opening the vein.  Once I've begun conversation with God, prayers on-the-go are somehow easier throughout the day.  I believe inspirations from God are more easily 'heard' as well.

Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.  

"Live on in Me, as I do in you.  No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine can you bear fruit apart from Me.  I am the Vine, you are the branches.  He who lives in me, and I in him, will produce abundantly, for apart from Me you can do nothing."  (John 15:4-5) 

Text not in quotes


(this is a slightly edited re-post from our archives) 

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

During Our Working Day

"Some may think that a life of divine union is only for saints, that a life of intimacy in which the soul constantly turns to God, as to a loving and beloved guest, is not for the ordinary faithful.  This view is incorrect.

"Intimacy with God is not for the saints only, it is for all of us. God dwells in each soul which is in the state of grace and calls each of us to be united to Him in intimate friendship....

"'If anyone loves Me,' says Christ,  'he will keep My word, and My Father will love him and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him....'

"We are all called therefore to this life of intimacy, to this communing with the Most High.

"We commune thus with God by the acts of our mind and heart by bringing the majesty of God and His Goodness before our mind and by turning our heart to Him in gratitude and confidence, in offering ourselves to Him to be His without reserve, in uniting our will to His Divine Will.

"This we do especially during the time of prayer, but since God always dwells in us, we should turn ourselves to Him as frequently as possible during our working day."

(from "Listening to the Indwelling Presence," compiled by a Religious, Pellegrini, Australia, 1940, pp. 63-65

Painting:  Winslow Homer, Farmer with a Pitchfork

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Maintaining the Fire

'During the day
make frequent offerings of yourself to God...
by saying:  here I am Lord,
do with me what You please.
Tell me what You wish me to do for You,
and I will do it all.

Repeat, as often as you can, acts of love for God.

St. Teresa used to say that acts of love
are like wood maintaining the fire
of divine love kindled in our hearts..

If you fall into some sin,
humble yourself at once
and rise again with a more fervent act of love.

When something you do not want
happens to you, offer it to God immediately
by an act of conformity with His holy will...

Acquire the habit of always
repeating in adverse circumstances the words:
such is God's will and such also is mine.'

St.  Alphonsus de Liguori


Painting of St. Catherine: Giovanni Dall'Orto
Painting of laundress: Désiré François Laugée

Friday, March 14, 2014

Or Come by Some Forgotten Way

'Come with the dawn,
shine in on me,
and wake my soul
with welcome light;
Or let the twilight herald Thee,
and falling dusk, Thy shelter be
to shroud Thy coming
from my sight.

Or come by some forgotten way
untrodden long, and overgrown;
and of a sudden on a day
burst in; snap web and ivy spray
that claim the entrance for their own.

So many doors, and all divine,
and every latch is loose to Thee.
So many paths, and all are Thine
that bring Thee to this heart of mine,
and all are therefore dear to me.'

(from "Listening to the Indwelling Presence," compiled by a Religious, Pellegrini, Australia, 1940, p. 31)

Painting: Pieters In de tuin

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Primary Apostolate

'A cloistered heart
accepts God’s grace
to love Jesus Christ
in the midst of a world
that does not love Him;
to embrace His will
in a world which
does not embrace it.
Thus the cloistered heart
becomes a place of refuge
not only for us,
but for Christ Himself.
To create such a refuge
is a primary part of
the cloistered heart’s apostolate.'

(from book The Cloistered Heart, NS)

public domain photo

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

So, What do They DO all Day?

We have looked at some of the whys of monasticism, we've used analogies, we've considered ways in which the seed of monastic totality can grow in our lives.  We've even explored a couple of "monastic days" of our own.

As we do so, it is important to never lose sight of the real thing.  Life as lived by men or women who've left the world in order to more fully pray for it, men or women whose whole lives are spent in union with God. 

Today I came across something that captures, in a relatively brief nutshell, monastic life in the essence of its dailiness.  In spite of a few audio hiccups, when I found this video it was Love at First Sight.  From wake-up through Mass through meals through work through a joyful recreation through nightfall through the candlelit Salve Regina, I was delighted and intrigued.  I hope you are as well.

A hat tip to Connie Rossini for the lead toward this one.

Oh, and if you happen to know of Mystic Monk Coffee: why yes, these are those monks....


Monday, March 10, 2014

Knowing God's Will

                              'I beg you, through the mercy of God,
                              to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice 
                              holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship.  

                             '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

                                                   Painting:  St. Peter, Pompeo, Batoni, 1700s

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Friday, March 7, 2014

'My Superior'

'I remember reading that obedience to one's superior is more meritorious than all the self-imposed mortifications, fastings, and prayers.

'Then I realized my superior is really my vocation as a wife and mother.  Therefore, my duties and responsibilities of motherhood must come first.  And, done with the right intention - for the greater glory of God - all my actions are lifted up in prayer.'  (from our friend Rose) 

Painting:  Charles Courtney Curran, Breakfast for Three, in US public domain because of age
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Essence of the Cloistered Heart

I wrote the following in 1996:

I am thinking of what happens when a person walks through the world, carrying Jesus in her heart, in a continual, chosen atmosphere of prayer.

I know there are people like this all over the world, and what effects are made upon situations by the prayers they quietly offer?

Can it change a family or work environment if a person prays silently in the midst of it?  Of course we know it can, and I think we would say that it inevitably does.  It is a kind of heart monasticism carried into first one family and then another, into a mall, onto a bus.

It is the whole essence of the cloistered heart.

William Strang painting, in US public domain due to age

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

As if it Were Our Last

'Lent is the autumn
of the spiritual life,
during which we
gather fruit to keep us going
for the rest of the year.
Enrich yourselves
with these treasures,
which nobody can take from you and which cannot be destroyed.
I am accustomed to say
that we will not make Lent well unless we are determined
to make the most of it.
Let us, therefore, spend this Lent
as if it were our last,
and we will make it well.'

St. Francis de Sales

Painting:  Fra Juan Sánchez Cotán

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Never to be Profaned

'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 never 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...

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

Gladly I accept this great vocation, this high honour, this immeasurable dignity, to be Your temple, Your altar, Your house, Your home.

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, its powers of seeing and hearing and speaking, my impulses and instincts, and appetite 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 be employed in the service of Your enemy, the devil!  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: George Hitchcock, A Dream of Christmas