Monday, June 30, 2014

O Garden Dweller

'Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one, and come!  For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth.  The time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one, and come!'

'My Lover belongs to me and I to Him; He browses among the lilies.  Until the day breathes cool and the shadows lengthen, roam, my Lover, like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of Bether.' 

'You are an enclosed garden, My sister, My bride, an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed...'

'Arise, north wind!  Come, south wind!  Blow upon my garden, that its perfumes may spread abroad...'

'I have come to My garden, My Sister, My bride; I gather My myrrh and My spices...'

'My Lover has come down to His garden, to the beds of spice, to browse in the garden and to gather lilies.  My Lover belongs to me and I to Him; He browses among the lilies..'

'O garden-dweller, My friends are listening for your voice, let Me hear it!'

(Excerpts from dialogues between Lover and Beloved in Song of Songs)

Painting:  Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Bride from Song of Songs

To look at dryness in the garden, click this line


My Garden is His

"''Let my beloved come into His garden,' 
says the spouse of the Canticles...   
Now, the Divine Spouse 
comes into His garden 
when He comes into a devout soul, 
for since His delight is to be with 
the children of men, 
where can He repose better
than in the soul 
that He has made 
in His own image and likeness?  
In this garden He Himself 
plants the loving delight 
that we have in His goodness, 
and on which we feed our souls."  

St. Francis de Sales, from Treatise on the Love of God

Painting:  Mary Hiester Reid, in US public domain due to age

To continue visiting the garden, click this line

Sunday, June 29, 2014

In My Garden, A Cross of Roses

'Plant Jesus Christ
within your heart,
and all the crosses
of this world
will seem to you roses.'

St. Francis de Sales

To continue visiting the garden, click this line

Saturday, June 28, 2014

In My Inner Garden

While those in monasteries care for their summer plantings, I find myself asking:  what is the condition of my 'inner garden?'  

Has there been a blossoming of prayer?  

Is fruit being grown in the dark soil of suffering?  

Do I find weeds of worldliness and distraction?  

Am I feeling parched by aridity and drought?

Over the next few days, we'll stroll around the inner gardens.  I wonder what I'll find in the garden of my soul...... 

'The beginner must think of himself as setting out to make a garden in which the Lord is to take His delight, yet in soil most unfruitful and full of weeds.  His Majesty uproots the weeds and will set good plants in their stead.  We have now, by God’s help like good gardeners, to make these plants grow.  We must water them carefully, so that they may not perish, but may produce flowers which shall send forth great fragrance to give refreshment to this Lord of ours, so that he may often come into the garden to take his pleasure and his delight among these virtues.' (St. Teresa of Avila)

"O garden-dweller!  My friends are listening for your voice, let Me hear it!"  (Song of Songs 8:1)

photo on this post in public domain 

To continue visiting the garden, click this line 


Friday, June 27, 2014

In the Monastery Garden

The cloister garden is a place of refreshment.  Whether the monastery is snuggled amid rolling hills or surrounded by a bustling city, its garden is a peaceful oasis - a place where nuns or monks cherish and nurture the handiwork of God. 

In summer, cloister gardens are in full bloom.  Droughts alternate with downpours, weeds are continually battled, pests must be put to flight lest they harm delicate blossoms.  The pastels of spring have deepened, now, into darker shades.  It's a time of heat and heady fragrance, busy bees and fireflies and cicadas, crackles of thunder and balmy nights.

'Have good courage to cultivate this vineyard, contributing your little effort to the spiritual good of the souls that the Lord has reserved for Himself lest they bend their knees before Baal.. in the midst of a people that has unclean lips.  Do not be surprised if the fruits do not yet appear, because if you do the work of God patiently, your labor will not be in vain.'  (St. Francis de Sales)

Shall we visit a cloister garden?

A Monastery Garden Tour (with the Passionist Nuns)   

None Should Mow the Grass There   

Note to our e-mail subscribers:  this post contains a video.  To view that, click over to the blog.  

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Photo at top of post by N Shuman 

For a look into our own inner gardens, click this line 

Thursday, June 26, 2014


'Come to Me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.'  

Matthew 11:28

(This video only takes 35 seconds to view.   I hope you like it as much as I do)

Photo at top of post by Connie Wells

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sing in the Secret Recesses

"O My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let Me see you,
let Me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely...."

Song of Songs 2:14

(Disclaimer: ads on any videos I post are never chosen nor endorsed by me. You can usually click out of the ones across the bottom of the screen by clicking on the little "x" on the upper right inside the ad box)

public domain photo

To continue this 'retreat,' click this line

Monday, June 23, 2014

Out of the Turmoil of Life

"We know but too well that we deteriorate by our friction with the world.  Our clothes get worse for the wear, and so do our souls.  The trees and flowers lose their bloom in the midst of large cities, and become sickly and easily die; so the spirit becomes tainted with the atmosphere around it - often indeed, it falls into serious disorder with complications.  What hubbub, what warfare, what tumult it has to live in!  Who shall stand unscathed, loyal to faith and generous self-sacrificing love in the midst of it?  Men of business, in the forge and working-house of thought, get away to the pure air of the country to recoup their powers.  Must we not do likewise - get out of the turmoil of life, and enjoy the spiritual atmosphere of the retreat, to restore and renew our spiritual life and vigour?" (from Fervorinos from the Lips of the Master, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1940, pp. 240-241)

While we shall stick to the 'adventure' we began over a month ago, this week we're doing things a little differently.  Taking a cloistered break, perhaps.  Not moving away from the monastery....  oh, indeed not.... but instead (hopefully) sinking more deeply into it.  I will be looking out, this week, for things to help us do just that. 

In my part of the world, we're in the thick of summer.  Summer heat, summer gatherings, summer noise.  Picnics, reunions, sports, weddings, children's activities.... while these may be enjoyable, they can produce a hubbub and tumult in which we come face to face with the challenge to "stand unscathed, loyal to faith and self-sacrificing love."

Even those inside monasteries go on retreat - right where they are.  They go into seclusion (normally once a year) for their own spiritual refreshment.  

I found three minutes of refreshment by watching the following video.  But I didn't merely watch it.  I "settled into it" and let it simply wash over me.  Then I did so again.  

Got three minutes?  That's all this takes........

(Disclaimer: ads on any videos I post are never chosen nor endorsed by me. You can usually click out of the ones across the bottom of the screen by clicking on the little "x" on the upper right inside the ad box)

To continue this brief 'retreat,' click this line

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Just Show Up

I have been wondering what it must be like for a nun, committed to regular prayer in her choir stall, on those days when she just doesn't want to show up.

Surely there are such days.  Being made of the same flesh as every other human being, certainly nuns and monks face times when they feel low, under the weather, distracted, or just not in the mood to pray right now.  Like the rest of us, they can sometimes feel dry; disconnected.  

"It's encouraging that even this imperfect, distracted, dutiful prayer is valuable to the Lord and allows Him to work in our lives,"  writes Ralph Martin.  "As St. Teresa of Avila puts it:  'after I had made this effort, I found myself left with greater quiet and delight than sometimes when I had the desire to pray.'  Teresa witnesses to the fact that even if we are not fully attentive in our prayer, little by little, even imperfect prayer will change us.  Simply 'showing up'  for prayer time evidences our desire to be with the Lord.  Even though sometimes it seems that we are more there physically than spiritually, our desire allows Him to draw us closer.  Even if our prayer doesn't seem to be bearing fruit on the level of our conscious intellect, it may very well bear fruit on the level of strengthening our will."  (Ralph Martin, The Fulfillment of All Desire, Emmaus Road Publishing, Steubenville, 2006, p. 284)

"Even if our prayer doesn't seem to be bearing fruit on the level of our conscious intellect, it may very well bear fruit on the level of strengthening our will." 

Our friend Jane's will was surely strengthened by the following experience, which she wrote of in a 1997 letter:  "I was feeling very discouraged with myself for not feeling a greater love for Jesus.  Theoretically I knew the 'feeling' is a gift from Him and not an indication of our actual love.  But still I was concerned that I just didn't love Him enough. Then I came across something St. Gertrude had written about experiencing the same fear.  She complained to Him that her heart was just a 'block of ice.'  That struck me especially as how I felt exactly -  a frozen block of ice.  In my case, just a little chip.  I couldn't get that idea out of my mind.  It gradually became clear to me that this world is really a dry, burning desert in which Jesus searches unendingly for souls.  I implored Him, since I was just a block of ice, to pick me up and press me to His lips.  When the fire of His love melted me, to please drink the water formed by it... in that way, I would be able to refresh Him and quench His thirst.  That thought filled me with such joy, I went around all day rejoicing that I was indeed a block of ice, for as long as I am totally at His disposal, I can refresh Him.  Now when I recognize that He is keeping consolations from me, I just smile to myself - knowing that as long as I trust Him patiently, my piece of ice will bring Him greater joy by my submission to His will.'  (Jane)

"Little by little, even imperfect prayer will change us."   

Thanks be to God, this is true.  As long as we just show up.   

Painting of nun: Paul E. Harney
Painting of women in church:  Wilhelm Leibl, 1882   

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

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Portable Choir Stall

'We are convinced, in fact, 
that God is always everywhere.  
We work while singing, 
we sail while reciting hymns; 
we accomplish
all other occupations of life while praying.'

St. Clement of Alexandria 

Painting:  John Singer Sargent, On his Holidays, in US public domain due to age

To look more into our choir stalls, click this line 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Interior Choir Stall

'Pray perseveringly, be attentive to prayer, and pray in a spirit of thanksgiving.' (Colossians 4:2)

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise; give thanks to Him, bless His Name."  (Psalm 100:4)

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

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth."  (Psalm 34:2)

"I will praise You as long as I live."  (Psalm 63:5)

"Continually offer to Him a sacrifice of praise."  (Hebrews 13:15)

"Let my soul live to praise You."  (Psalm 119:175) 

“Every day will I bless You, and I will praise Your Name forever and ever." (Psalm 146:2)

"Present your needs to God in very form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.  Then God's own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4: 6-7)

Painting:  John White Alexander, Juliette 1897

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

To look at our portable choir stalls, click this line 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A View From My Choir Stall

From the monastery tower, a bell rings.  There is a familiar swish of habits, the sliding of soft soles across floors, a quiet rustle of Breviaries opening and pages being turned.  Sisters move to their places without hesitation.  No one wonders where to go today, for once choir stalls have been assigned, they are easily remembered.  A nun prays in the same one numerous times a day, seven days a week.

Looking over photos of choir stalls the last few days, I've been struck by how different they are from one to another.  Some are carved and ornate.  Some are simple and bare.  And a few look decidedly uncomfortable! 

Choir stalls have normally been built to fit the purpose, the spaces, and even the times in which they were designed.  Yet one thing remains the same, always.  These are places made for praying.  These are locations where a soul comes to meet with God.

I've been thinking that, in some ways, the externals of our individual lives resemble choir stalls.  Having been made for communication with God, we do that communicating within the surroundings in which we find ourselves at any given time.  Much about these surroundings is assigned to us (our families, our health). 

Our surroundings change as years go by.  Just as those in a monastery have different stalls assigned to them from time to time (in some monasteries this change occurs yearly), we find the circumstances in which we live shifting.  In some seasons of our lives, we are robust, active, healthy.  In others, we may be decidedly uncomfortable.  Some days we come to prayer cradled in spiritual consolation.  On others, our prayer feels stark and dusty and dry.

Fortunately, lives of prayer are entirely portable.  When our "choir stall assignments" shift, our prayer can be molded to fit into the changing circumstances.  We can pray in the silence of a Church, and we can pray while we're diapering a newborn.  We can be prayerful single persons, wives, dads, grandparents.

Our surroundings correspond to the life-demands and even to the times in which we find ourselves.  Yet one thing remains the same, always.

We were created for communion with God. Just like choir stalls, we have been made for praying.

Whatever our circumstances at any given time, we can be seated in a place of prayer.   

Some of our other reflections on The Choir Stall (click on lines to view):

A Portable Choir Stall

It's a Start

What Gifts did I Miss Today? 

A Litany of Attentions

Opportunity Rings

To look into our interior choir stalls, click this line

The Choir Stall. Where Are You?

"I will sing and chant praise…" (Psalm 57:8)

Those who live the monastic life spend hours every day in their "choir stalls."  These are the chairs awaiting them in chapel.  
Morning, midday, afternoon, evening, just before bedtime… here the monks or nuns return throughout the day to pray the monastic hours.  During such times they chant praise, participate in Mass, pray with Scripture.  They pray communally in their choir stalls, and they pray individually.  

Life in the monastery is, in effect, life in a choir stall.  Prayer, after all, is the central activity of every monastic day.  

Monks or nuns go faithfully to their choir stalls when they sense Our Lord's presence and when their spiritual lives feel barren and dry.  They come when they have headaches, when they're fatigued, when they'd much rather be strolling out in the garden, and when they've had to interrupt work to keep this appointment with God.  

Choir stalls come in various shapes and styles.  We will look at a few of these differences in our next post, and at what our own interior choir stalls might look like during different seasons of our lives.   

In the meantime, I think of how often I'm found missing from my "choir stall."  My interior one is absolutely portable; I don't even have to leave my chair or stop cooking dinner to keep appointments with God.  

I wonder.  Does God ever look at my empty "choir stall" ... at the prayer opportunities He is presenting, or at my moments of unanswered inspiration.... and ask me:

"but where are you.....?" 

A link to help us answer His call to prayer: The Divine Office.  Pray with the whole Church.

To look at OUR choir stalls, click this line 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Can I be a Sanctuary Light?

For years, I have tried to embrace a little hidden 'apostolate' of being a sanctuary light in the midst of the world.  To me, this is a natural extension of life as a cloistered heart.  I can go through my days gently pointing to Jesus, for He is present always and ever deserving of love.  

This is generally a quiet 'activity.'  After all, a sanctuary light does not draw attention to itself.  It simply stands for and alongside Christ, and in His presence it glows. 

If we go into a Catholic Church, we recognize Our Lord's Eucharistic presence when we see the candle lit.  It is a signal to us, a sign that He is truly there.  There are no arrows pointing, no signs flashing.  But we know.  Some, of course, have never been told that a lighted sanctuary lamp means the Blessed Sacrament is present.  Yet, even those who do not know the reason for the candle often grow quiet and reflective in its gentle glow.

Some years ago, friends and I were discussing ways in which we could call attention to the fact that Jesus is present. We can do this in our churches, because sometimes even there His presence is overlooked.  Our very movements call attention to Him when we genuflect, silence our voices, show reverence, kneel.

As we then go forth into the world, we are privileged to do so with Jesus in our hearts.  We carry Christ within and we meet Him in others  Oh, how easy it is to forget this truth.  And if we forget it, others do as well.

What is the job of a sanctuary lamp?  To never leave Our Lord's side.  To be steadfast and faithful, standing for Jesus through good times and bad.  To follow Matthew 5, allowing our good acts to draw others to praise God. To remain aware of Him no matter where we are, no matter what we're doing. 

To stand in Christ's presence and let the whole world see us glow. 

"You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Men do not light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket.  They set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father."  (Matthew 5:14-16)

Photo above in public domain, from Wikimedia

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Most Beautiful Home

'You know, my loving Jesus, 
I do want my soul to be spotlessly pure and undefiled, 
so that it will be for You a most beautiful Home, 
a Home from which no one will ever dislodge You.
Your own living tabernacle, where You will ever dwell
and where I shall live consciously and lovingly with You, 
and always have a word with You before I speak, act, or make a decision.  
I want You to be so happy, so much at home in my soul, 
that You will take complete possession of it and live Your life in me.'
 (from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, 1936, p.143)

'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)

Painting:  CL Jessen, The Blue Living Room

To look more into the heart chapel, click this line


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Unceasing Adoration

“O Prisoner of Love, 
I lock up my poor heart in this tabernacle, 
that it may adore You without cease night and day.  
I know of no obstacle in this adoration, 
and even though I be physically distant, 
my heart is always with You.  
Nothing can put a stop to my love for You. 
 No obstacles exist for me.  
O my Jesus, I will console You for all the ingratitude, 
the blasphemies, the coldness, 
the hatred of the wicked, the sacrileges.” 

St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary, #80

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Heart Chapel

"We are, each of us, a Living Cathedral.  Each is his own chapel.  And provided we are in a state of grace, God lives and dwells within us… (so) we must live and act as if we were dwelling in a church in the presence of the Tabernacle.” (The Living Pyx of Jesus, Pellegrini & Co., Australia,  1941) 

I have written earlier about a time when I was alone in a chapel during a thunderstorm.  This remains vivid in my memory because of the comfort I felt.  Except for flashes of lightning coming through a stained glass window, only the glow of a sanctuary light provided illumination.  Yet I knew I was totally secure.  In the midst of the storm, I was in the Presence of Christ and I was safe.

In the midst of personal storms, where do I find security?  When adversity strikes, when fear bares its fangs, where do I go for safety?   In the chapel, a sanctuary light told me: “Christ is here.”  Golden Tabernacle - glowing light - “Christ is here.”  I saw no visions, felt nothing out of the ordinary.  But my faith assured me: “Christ is here.”

In my everyday life in the midst of the world, Christ is here.  My faith assures me:  Christ is here.  I can offer inward praise in the supermarket, adoration on a subway, intercession while folding laundry, aspirations at the mall.  He is with me, and He hears it all. 

"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) 

'You know, my loving Jesus, I do want my soul to be spotlessly pure and undefiled, so that it will be for You a most beautiful Home, a Home from which no one will ever dislodge You - Your own living tabernacle, where You will ever dwell, and where I shall live consciously and lovingly with You, and always have a word with You before I speak, act, or make a decision.  I want You to be so happy, so much at home in my soul, that You will take complete possession of it and live Your life in me.' (from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, 1936, p.143)

'To be with God it is not necessary to be always in church.  We may make a chapel of our heart, whereto to escape from time to time to talk with Him quietly, humbly and lovingly.... Begin then; perhaps He is waiting for a single generous resolution.'  (Brother Lawrence)

Photo at top:  All Saints Sisters of the Poor, Cantonsville MD.  Connie Wells

Painting:  Francis Luis Mora, Morning News 

To spend more time in the heart chapel, click this line

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Monastery Chapel

What is the absolute center of a monastery?  

The chapel.  The Tabernacle.  The Blessed Sacrament.

Why?  Because Jesus Christ is the absolute Center of monastic life.  It is as simple and profound as that. 
Without Him, there really is no point to either spiritual or physical monasticism.

Mass itself is the center of the monastic day.  Other prayers prepare for, revolve around, highlight and underscore the Mass.  This is because "the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life...  In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith."  (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324 and 1327

Before the great Wonder of the Eucharist, of Jesus with us in Flesh and Blood, I am speechless.  So I look to ones more eloquent than I as I pass along these words: 

"Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone?  He burns with the desire to come into your heart."  (St. Therese of Lisieux)

"Since Christ Himself has said 'this is My Body' - who shall dare to doubt that It is His Body?"  (St. Cyril of Jerusalem) 

"We must continually remind ourselves that the greatest need in the world today is to centre our lives more and more in the oblational aspect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; for today, when the whole world is galloping away from the very shadow of the Cross, we must embrace it and cling to it ever more firmly, in union with Jesus Christ...." (from The Living Pyx of Jesus by 'A Religious,' Pelligrini, 1941, p. 443) 

"As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ."  (St. Cyril of Alexandria) 

"Although you feel tepid, approach with confidence; for the greater your infirmity, the more you stand in need of a Physician."  (St. Bonaventure)

Photo at top:  All Saints Sisters of the Poor, Cantonsville MD.  Photo Connie Wells

To read about the chapel in our hearts, click this line

Sunday, June 8, 2014


The painting on this post is one I have used for the last two Pentecosts.  I love posting it in large size.  

I love the truth it underlines as it breaks through the margin, spills into the background, and causes this blog to burst at the seams.  I can think of nothing more appropriate for today's feast.

The Holy Spirit of God BURST into our world on Pentecost.  Not in a gentle whisper, we're told in Acts 2, but with noise like a strong, driving wind. 

Tongues as of fire appeared and came to rest on each person.  All were filled with the Holy Spirit, expressing themselves in foreign tongues and making bold proclamation.  There was so much noise that it drew quite a crowd.  The onlookers were 'confused,' 'amazed,' 'astonished," "dumbfounded.'  Peter, who had once denied Jesus out of fear, stood up and proclaimed boldly what the Spirit was doing.

The events of that day certainly did not fit into neat, tidy categories.  Suddenly, the world the apostles had known was bursting at the seams. 

The shaken onlookers had never seen anything like this.  "What are we to do?" they asked.  Peter, now emboldened, had an answer.  "You must reform and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that your sins may be forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It was to you and your children that the promise was made, and to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls."  (Acts 2:37-39) 

"To all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls." 

This promise is for us!  We are far from that day (as we measure time), but we have been called.  We are promised the forgiveness of sins.  We are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We are, in effect, promised a breakthrough.  If we let Him, the Holy Spirit of God can tear down anything and everything that walls us off from receiving the absolute fullness of His grace.

"Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of Your faithful!  Enkindle in them the fire of your divine love!  Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth!"   

This is a repost taken from last year's Pentecost.  Text not in quotes    

  Pentecost painting by Jean Restout

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Cloistered Driver

"When you use the analogy of the grille of God’s will and imagine yourself protected by it, you really do see things in a new light. I think a perfect example of this was when I placed myself there on my 40 minute drives back and forth to work, battling very unpleasant traffic. Suddenly it didn’t matter if everyone seemed to try to push me out of the way. I was alone with God and nothing else was of any concern." (our friend Jane)

God “can say to someone driving that car bumper to bumper, ‘I will lead you into solitude and there I will speak to your heart. (Hosea 2:14).’” (Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Poustinia, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame IN, 1975, p. 22) 

"Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, Who inspires and perfects our faith."  (Hebrews 12:2)

Public domain photo

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


Friday, June 6, 2014

When We Feel the Grillwork Crumbling

Your response to a recent sharing from our friend Rose has been remarkable.  Only a month after being posted, what she shared about living as a 'cloistered heart' in a large, busy family has become our most viewed post of all time.  It is a well deserved position.  Rose has a lot of wisdom from which we can benefit.

Rose wrote the following in a letter some years ago.  It gives me hope, and reminds me that I don't have to just sit in a muddle of misery when I start to lose sight of my own view through the grille.  

'For several weeks I have felt the world reaching through my grille.  It seemed as though family, home and school were like tentacles groping and grabbing at me.  They tugged at me bit by bit through the open squares of my grille.  Only my soul still clung to the cloister in my heart.  

Yesterday my heart could no longer stand the outside forces.  My grillwork crumbled.  My mind and heart and soul crashed through to the world... I was discouraged.  I wanted to break down in tears.  Everything inside of me hurt.

This morning is a new day.  I have turned my sorrow over to God. My soul longs to return to the cloister of my heart.  I am ready to begin to reconstruct the grille.  I must first put my feelings and opinions, my hurts and emotions aside.  I must bury them all in the Heart of Jesus and let the fire of His love consume them...

It would be easier to return to the cloister in my heart if I could just hide away for a short time to pull myself back together spiritually.  But keeping the cloister in our hearts in the midst of the world and its confusions is what we strive for, so I guess I need to heal my cloister and rebuild my grille in the midst of all that confusion.  

Yesterday and today I have made my start.'   

- from Rose

Painting:  Die Gartenlaube, 1885, in US public domain due to age

For more about the cloistered heart grille, click this line

Thursday, June 5, 2014

We Find the View Through the Grille

It takes practice to find the "view through the grille." We often simply forget to look at situations through it, because such envisioning is far from automatic.

As we know, we think of the grille being the will of God as this is revealed to us through Scripture and the teachings of the Church.  We strive to look at and respond to all circumstances through the will of God and thus through God Himself; and we can place the focus either on the circumstance or on the 'grille' of God's will.

In today's first photo, the focus is upon what is outside the grille - the "circumstance."  This is the way a Christian may often look at things in life.  We might have the will of God IN the picture, but when our focus is totally on the situation, then how God asks us to respond to that situation may be fuzzy and unclear.

We can so easily place our focus on temptations, illnesses, memories, circumstances; and when our focus is on these things, God and His truth and His will become fuzzy.

In the second picture, the grille is the focus.  We still see the situations, but our eyes do not dwell there.  We see circumstances and we deal with them, but we do so with our focus on the will of God.  As we go through the world, God remains dominant in our heart and thoughts and decisions. This is what we aim for; this is the ideal "view through the grille."

Distracting, troubling, difficult situations will be encountered by each of us.  Our goal is to become so focused upon God's word, God's will - in short, on God Himself - that He is the focal point of everything.  He is our focus. 

It takes time and practice to view life through the grille.  I practiced such "viewing" just recently.

I awoke that day feeling vaguely depressed.  I was achy, my (aging) joints were complaining, and I'd gone to sleep reading a book that for some reason was pulling me down.  Not a bad book by any means... but just not one that appeals much to me (I won't be finishing it).

Then I remembered words of scripture:  "put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3).

Ah HA!  I decided to sing hymns of praise.  I decided to utter a few (inner) spontaneous prayers.  

And yes, it genuinely "worked."  Even if I'd continued to feel low as the day went along, however, I could still keep choosing to praise God.  I don't have to "feel good" in order to praise Him.  He is good and holy and worthy of praise, and how I may or may not feel does nothing at all to change that reality.

In days to come, I'd like to explore more examples of finding the view through the grille.  If you would like to share a few of your own, I invite you to do so in the comments (yes, they're open here again).

Maybe it's time we practice, together, finding the view through the grille.....


Photos on this post N. Shuman 

For more about the cloistered heart grille, click this line

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Saints Show us the View Through the Grille

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."  (St. Jerome)

"How can we go on saying we are one with Him if we are not willing to make our will fit in with His?"  (St. Francis de Sales)

"Every moment comes to us pregnant with a command from God, only to pass on and plunge into eternity, there to remain forever what we have made of it."  (St. Francis de Sales)

"Close your ears to the whisperings of hell and bravely oppose its onslaughts."  (St. Clare)

"Always remain quiet and calm in the shelter of God's will, under the mighty protection of the most High." (St. Paul of the Cross)

"Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."  (St. John Paul II)

"A heart full of love loves the commandments."  (St. Francis de Sales)

Painting: Georges de la Tour, St. Jerome

For more about the cloistered heart grille, click this line


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How to Practice the View Through the Grille

I just found a four-minute video and thought "ah-ha!"  This is it.  This is it!

I invite you to take a few minutes and click this line to view the video.  

What Father speaks of is simple, straightforward, do-able by anyone.... and is a perfect how-to (although he calls it no such thing, of course) for practicing the "view through the grille."    

"All Scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching - for reproof, correction, and training in holiness, so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work."  (2 Timothy 3:16-17) 

"The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as it venerates the Body of the Lord, since from the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of Christ it unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the Bread of Life."  (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation) 

"Sacred Scripture is the speech of God, and it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."  (Catechism of the Catholic Church #81)

Photo on this post N. Shuman  

For more about the cloistered heart grille, click this line

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Bars of Our Grille

In the "analogy" that is the Cloistered Heart, the grille is key.  As we said in our last post, a monastery grille is a place of separation and a place of encounter.  It is only through the grille that some cloistered individuals connect with the world.

Thankfully, God has not left those who live outside physical monasteries without a means to connect with the world as well.  He has generously provided for each of us a way to see situations correctly, a way to interact with others appropriately. God invites us to view and respond to every person and every circumstance through His will.

We do not have to guess what that will is.  God has revealed it to us.  Scripture and the authentic teachings of the Church make up the bars of our grille.

Am I facing a hardship?  I can face it through the grillwork of His will. “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him…”  (Romans 8:28).   

I think often of how it must be for a cloistered nun meeting visitors in the foyer.  Sister stands at the grille, looking out at whoever is there before her.  The foyer is a public part of the monastery, accessible to almost anyone.

In the cloistered heart analogy, I see the "foyer" as my mind.  I invite thoughts there by what I see and hear, but I have little control over things that come uninvited.  All sorts of things beg for admittance; they’re like salesmen invading a monastery foyer.  They can be quite insistent, especially if they’ve had success in selling to me before.  Oh, and so many of them have! 

Through the grille, they display catalogs of their wares.  “Have you worried about this today?” the thoughts ask. “Look at this new line of fears - tailor made just for YOU!” 

I have gone so far as to make little paper "grilles" for myself (sometimes from photos of grillwork), and I've written verses of scripture on the bars to remind me that I am to look at this or that situation through these words.  Every circumstance, every person, every concern, every temptation - everything is to be viewed, and responded to, through the "grillwork" of God's will.  

"God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  I ask God to impress this truth upon me.

“But consider the pain you’ve been feeling!!” the thoughts insist.  
"I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).

“…But look at you!  You are weak and helpless!”   
"In Him Who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything.” (Philippians 4:13).

And on it goes.  Finding the view is not easy.  I try every day; I fail every day.  But with every “success,” it seems the grillwork grows stronger before me.  It is how God invites me to meet the world.

The idea of the grille reminds me that I'm not called to flee from circumstances, nor to hide myself behind walls.  Life with its joys and challenges IS going to come to me, ringing for my attention. 

Part of living within the will of God is meeting life daily, face-to-face. 

I thank God that He has given Scripture and Church teaching to form the "bars of our grille." 

Photos on this post are copyright N. Shuman