Friday, January 15, 2016

The Absolute Center

'The chapel looked narrow, high, sacred, mellow with mingled colors, and lovely in its vague richness and calm. An ancient picture, browned by time, represents Martha and Mary in a composition of much dignity, and hangs directly over the altar... (A Story of Courage, p. 36) 

The first place a person is likely to visit in a monastery is the chapel, for in the chapel is found the center of monasticism.

This is because Jesus is the Absolute Center of cloistered life. To miss this truth is to miss the point of monasticism, and it's to miss the whole point of having a 'cloistered heart.' 

How can a man or woman leave home, possessions, career, entertainment - and so many things the world considers important - in order to take up residence behind enclosure walls?  For what reason would a person even consider such a thing?  

The Reason is a Person.  Without this Person, cloistered life would be pointless and empty and fruitless and vague.  
If we know and remember nothing else about monasteries or various aspects of consecrated life, we must remember this:   

Jesus is the Reason for it all.  

"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, not for some thing but for some One:  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)
'The Christian life is nothing else but Christ; the monastic life is nothing else but Christ. The requirements for the Christian and for the monk are in substance the same… whether it is union with Him in the world or in the cloister, it is union that is the soul’s purpose. Nothing else matters but this.” (Dom Hubert Van Zeller, THE YOKE OF DIVINE LOVE, Templegate, Springfield IL, 1957, p. 182) 
"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)

(This post is primarily a combination of wrtings from our archives)


  1. I'm enjoying this series so much, Nancy. I've found that this search for the person of Jesus is important for my prayer life. During times when I thirst to know Him better and to be close to Him, prayer is effortless. When I'm distracted or trying to get my prayers done, then it can be a slog - sometimes, just at the start but, sometimes, all the way through my prayer times. I've been using a habit-forming app to keep me motivated when I'm tempted to give up and it's been helpful. Ticking the boxes seems to lack the spirit of real love but it's been a good starting point when I'm wearing out the threads of connection with Jesus. I think these difficulties make me more aware of being in a land of exile and, also, as a convert, how much thinner the veil between us and heaven, is in the Catholic Church.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Nancy xx

    1. Vicky, your comment deserves a post of its own... there is SO much richness in it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Ticking the boxes - yes, that's what I feel I am doing so often, and I agree that it's a good starting point when we're slogging along. I was especially struck by what you said about being in a land of exile... how easy that is to lose sight of! (at least, it is for me). And what you said about the thinner veil - oh, that's wonderful!


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