I knew, when the idea of the cloistered heart first came to me in the 1980s, that monasteries of nuns or monks have special places not open to outsiders. I realized that these areas were called cloisters. It was enough information to get me started. “The whole idea of a cloistered heart,” I wrote in 1988, “is that the part of me referred to as the ‘heart’ – meaning my spirit, who I really AM – should be detached from the world in its attachment to the Creator of the world."
A place of refuge, no matter where I
happened to be. A portable fortress, a place inviolate - where I could remain with Jesus in a
doctor's office, a traffic jam, a restaurant, a mall. It was an
appealing idea. It was also (this being most important) theologically
sound. "The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live...
the heart is the place 'to which I withdraw.' The heart is our hidden
center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit
of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. (Catechism of the
Catholic Church #2563)
The cloistered heart is the heart of
David dancing before the ark; of Mesach, Shadrach and Abednego in the
fiery furnace; of Paul in prison, Daniel in the lions’ den, John on
Patmos, Peter in chains. The world is not safe from evil – even the
body isn’t safe from harm – but within the cloistered heart there is
refuge. The Lord is with me, He is within my cloister. My heart, as
long as He is in it, is safe.
"Remember… to retire
occasionally into the solitude of your heart while you are outwardly
engaged in business with others. This mental solitude cannot be
prevented by the multitude of those who surround you. As they are not
about your heart, but only about your body, your heart remains alone in
the presence of God.” (St. Francis de Sales).
(This is a gently edited repost from our 2011 archives, primarily taken from the Cloistered Heart book)