Saturday, May 28, 2016

Monasticism, Applied

Last month, I did a post (here) to hopefully help newcomers find their way around this site. I think it's time once again to do a bit of exploring.

The following is a brief series, from our archives, on "applying the monastery" to our lives in the midst of the world. One post leads to another in chronological order (there is a click-on link at the bottom of each post). 

Click the following line to begin....

Our Monastic Day 


 Photo: Mount St.Michel, public domain via Pixabay

Thursday, May 26, 2016

At Least Your Hair

 'So long as God's Providence does not send you these great and heavy afflictions,
so long as He does not ask your eyes, at least give Him your hair.
Take patiently the petty annoyances,
the trifling discomforts,
the unimportant losses which come upon all of us daily;
for by means of these little matters, lovingly and freely accepted,
you will give him your whole heart, and win His.
I mean the acts of daily forbearance; 
the headache, or toothache, or heavy cold;
the tiresome peculiarities of husband or wife,
the broken glass, the loss of a ring, a handkerchief, a glove;
the sneer of a neighbor,
the effort of going to bed early in order to rise early for prayer or Communion,
the little shyness some people feel in openly performing religious duties;
and be sure that all of these sufferings, small as they are, if accepted lovingly, are most pleasing to God's goodness,
which has promised a whole ocean of happiness to His children in return for one cup of cold water. And, moreover, inasmuch as these occasions are forever rising, they give us a fertile field for gathering in spiritual riches, if only we will use them rightly.'

St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life

Painting: Guy Orlando Rose, Warm Afternoon, 1910

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Revisiting My Abandoned Lights

Journeying ever more deeply into the will of God, I find doors and rooms and hallways I had not expected. One of these is what I'll call the room of abandoned lights.

What I think of as "my abandoned lights" are various ideas I embraced over the years, attitudes I once considered enlightening and empowering. In time, those lights proved to be no light at all.

Some of these un-lights were initially dazzling. They appealed to my broadmindedness, that modern version of "sanctity" that basks in its politically corrected glow. There was no pesky death-to-self in the world of my abandoned lights. The Cross was not part of the scene. 'There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death.' (Proverbs 14:12)

By the grace of God, I cast my unlights aside when I met the One Who is Light Himself.   In time, I even began to feel that a large part of the task of a "cloistered heart" is to Carry the Fire into darkness, as well as into areas of "artificial light." 

"We can make the mistake of trying to make hard truths so palatable," writes Dan Burke at Catholic Spiritual Direction, "that we end up presenting half-truths or even worse, untruths (implied or actual).... Yes, we can and must say 'come as you are'; but we must also proclaim that the God of Love who meets us where we are, loves us too much to leave us there.  He calls us to union with Him, where we will find the Truth that sets us free to know and live an abundant life in Him."

For a look at some of the un-light we can be tempted to follow, check out this excellent link:

How the Carmelites Rescued Me From the New Age, by Anabelle Hazard  

"God is light; in Him there is no darkness." (1 John 1:5)

"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." (Psalm 119:130)

Because Sometimes We Need to Get Back to Basics

Monday, May 23, 2016

Often in His Company

"Learn from Jesus by often being in His Company."
St. John Baptiste de La Salle

Thursday, May 19, 2016

My Life on the Fence

A cloistered nun told me, some years ago, that my life for God in the midst of the world was more difficult than hers. At the time, I didn't think that was possible. I did not have to rise every morning at 5:30, show up in chapel when a bell rang, and spend most of each day in silence.

In the twenty-five years since Sister said this to me, I've gained a better idea of what she meant. I believe she was saying that the framework of my life was one in which it was difficult not merely to live, but to live for God. Which is, after all, the point of life... to live for God.

The life of a nun would be impossible for me, because I don't have grace for it. Sometimes, however, I long for the framework of such a life. I long for physical structure to securely fence me in and keep me from getting sidetracked by things that are unimportant, frivolous or even sinful.

In the midst of a society that finds the very thought of living "for God" repressive, fanatical, and politically incorrect, I find myself not securely fenced in, but camped out and living on the fence. I don't intend to embrace the world's standards, but in my attempts to blend in with the rest of society, sometimes I just might find myself compromising.

The fence is where I settle in to watch a PG-13 movie while trying to close my ears to the language and my eyes to "those scenes." It's where I enter a party determined not to gossip, but wind up laughing along with those who do. It is where I know I'm to stand up for Christ, for life, for morality, for biblical truth - yet I pull back for fear of what others might think. In a monastery, questionable movies would not be seen, and speaking ill of others would be frowned upon. Distressing news items wouldn't be matters for debate, but for prayer. God would be the center, there, of everyone's life.

I realize that religious life is not utopian; I do know this. But I would love to live within a structure where prayer times are scheduled, outward distractions are minimal, and God is never forgotten. The world is crazier than ever at this point in time (yes, I realize that's an understatement), and sometimes I would love to just hide away from the insanity. But my call is not to do that. My call is to live for God, love others for God, and pray for God's loving will to reign over all.

My call is to step off the fence and live fully, not just partly, for God.

"Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach." (Mother Angelica)

"Great saints have often been made out of great sinners, but not one was ever made out of a wimp." (Peter Kreeft) 

"You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all." (St. Therese of Lisieux)

"Do not be satisfied with mediocrity." (Pope St. John Paul II)

"You want to do something for the Lord.. do it. Whatever you feel needs to be done, even though you're shaking in your boots, you're scared to death... take the first step forward. The grace comes with that one step and you get the grace as you step." (Mother Angelica)

"Why don't you give yourself to God once and for all... really.... NOW!" (St. Josemaria Escriva)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

In Whose Hearts are the Roads to Zion

"They are happy,
who dwell in Your house,
forever singing Your praise.
They are happy,
whose strength is in You,
in whose hearts
are the roads to Zion." 
(Psalm 84)

I enjoyed yesterday's
'field trip' so much that I'd like to have another. This time we'll visit via a link, beginning by clicking here and here and here.

These last two 'field trips' have, for me, underlined some contrasts between the physically cloistered world and the world outside. This outside world is a wild, mad one, and going madder by the minute. Anyone else noticing that?  Living in the midst of it, striving to live for God in the midst of it, is challenging.

Next time here, I hope to share some of the challenges I personally face. 

I have a feeling that what comes next may be a very personal post....

Monday, May 16, 2016

You're Invited on a Field Trip....

Thanks to a recent posting from Dan Burke, I've just found a delightful little video of a Community of Carmelite nuns in New Zealand. I was particularly struck by the atheist-to-nun journey of the Prioress, and I loved having glimpses of the routine, the monastery, the habit, the grilles.

Care to join me for a look inside the walls?

To our e-mail subscribers: this post features a video, which can be viewed by coming to the blog itself.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


The painting on this post is extra large.  When viewed on the web version of the blog, it breaks across boundaries, crosses neat edges of the sidebar, and has this site bursting at the seams.

At first, I was going to make the image smaller.  Then I realized:  this is a picture of Pentecost, and a painting bursting through the boundaries may actually have something to show us. 

The Holy Spirit of God burst into our world on Pentecost.  Not with a gentle whisper - not this time.  He came suddenly, with noise like a strong, driving wind. Tongues as of fire appeared and came to rest on each person.  As we are told in Acts 2, 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 from our archives. Text not in quotes

(Pentecost painting by Jean Restout)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Still Carrying the Flame

We who fully embrace God's truth may at times feel like someone standing with a candle in an artificially lighted room. We have found, in Scripture and Holy Mother Church, the authentic fire of God's love.  Holding in our hearts this genuine, precious Light of truth, often we find ourselves in the presence of something that appears to be light, but that is no more fire than a light bulb is fire.  

We have all experienced "artificial light."  We live surrounded by it.  The world is drowning in it.  It is the "light" that says we're doing just fine without God.  It's the "light" that, if it credits God for even existing, shoves Him to the periphery and makes its own way without Him.  It reminds us, in one way after another, that humanity now considers itself "enlightened."  We have harnessed electricity, walked on the moon, decided when life is valuable enough (to us) to be born and when it's useless enough (to us) to end.  It's quite convenient and tidy, this artificial light.   It reveals the ingenuity of mankind, and it's more appealing than a messy candle that burns to a nub as it carries the flame.  It is Today's light, self-sufficient, broad-minded, politically correct - and certainly more sophisticated than the humble flame once carried by John, Peter, Paul, Benedict, Francis, Therese.  

I suppose we would feel quite foolish if we were to stand around in electrically lighted rooms holding candles.  We would know people were talking about us behind their hands, probably snickering, perhaps feeling sorry for someone so silly as to stand with an old fashioned candle in a lighted room. 

But what if there were a storm, a lightning strike, a downed power line?  What if the room suddenly fell into darkness?  It's at such times when people dash about in search of candles.

Storms come to everyone, at some time or other.  The artificial light reaches only so far.  Regardless of how bathed in self-sufficiency a person may be, eventually there is sickness, there are crises, there are times when darkness falls and the man-made lights we've relied upon all of our lives flicker out. It is often during times of storm when people go in search of Real Light.  It is then that they look for those who carry it.

As ones who live for God in the midst of the world, we are surrounded by light that is no light, or at best is temporary "this-world-light."  We might feel different from our neighbors if we're seen to be carrying the Real Thing.  We may be known as ones who don't hold the popular opinion, ones who live as if God actually exists, ones who go so far as to live as Jesus said to live.

If so, we can know we are not alone.  We can remember that God is with us, that the saints dealt with the very same thing, and that there are "carriers of the fire" all around the world, in this very age of the Church.

We can also know that God has us where He wants us, in our neighborhoods and workplaces and families.  All around, there are people who are (whether they realize it or not) looking for living, breathing examples of the Real Thing.

If storms come to their lives, such persons may be relieved to find us there, still standing firm, still caring, still giving example.

Still carrying the Flame. 

"Your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father."  (Matthew 5:16)


Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb 

Monday, May 9, 2016

You are Mad, You Are Not Like Us

"Men will surrender to the spirit of the age. They will say that if they had lived in our day, faith would be simple and easy. But in their day, they will say, things are complex; the Church must be brought up to date and made meaningful to the day's problems.

"When the Church and the world are one, then those days are at hand because our Divine Master placed a barrier between His things and the things of the world.

"A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'you are mad, you are not like us.'"

St. Anthony of the Desert

Painting: The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Gospel in Everyday Life

'True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; 
rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life,
 in the family, at school and at work, 
and in social and political involvement.' 

Pope St. John Paul II

Painting: Magnus Enckell, Kansakoulu; in US public domain due to age

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Everywhere and Always Present

'Day by day, going about my duties, I am reminded that He is here -
as I pass along city street, or country road. 
Walking or driving, or being driven,
as I stand in house or railway station...
Wherever I am He is also, 
everywhere and always present, ever and always the same.' 

(The Living Pyx of Jesus, Pelligrini, 1941, p. 150)

Painting: George William Joy, Bayswater Omnibus 1895

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Revisiting The Spirit of This Life

We who are genuinely interested in monastic life will almost certainly be interested in visiting this link ("A Day with the Directory"). It provides such a good look at the day to day life inside a monastery that I intend to print out a copy for my own reference.

Can I live this kind of life in the midst of the world?  No.  Not in its externals.  Nor should I try to.  To make such an attempt would only frustrate me and inhibit my growth in holiness within the call I have been given by God.   

Can I live the spirit of this life?  I think so.  In its 'internals.'

I can, for instance, intend all my actions for God, ask His grace, offer them to Him and accept in advance all the good and pain that will come.  'My God, grant me the grace to perform this action with you and through love of you. I offer you in advance all the good that I may do and accept all the pain and trouble that I may meet therein as coming from Your Fatherly hand.'  

Like those inside physical cloisters, I can begin every action by embracing Jesus. Through Him, in Him, for Him, with Him.

I hope you will be as inspired as I am by this (click to view)....

A Day With the Directory


Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Monday, May 2, 2016

Here and There

'Let us take refuge from this world. You can do this in spirit, even if you are kept here in the body. You can at the same time be here and present to the Lord. Your soul must hold fast to Him, You must follow after Him in your thoughts, you must tread His ways by faith, not in outward show.' (St. Ambrose)