Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Revisiting the Path Between



I occasionally put two pictures on a post. One may be of a church or monastery, the other might have a scene of life 'out in the world.'

Between these pictures of church and world is usually a quote, something making the point that we can adore Our Lord where we are: in rush hour traffic, in a busy office, or while wiping a table as we bounce Baby on our hip. We are not meant to disconnect from God while we're going about our daily round of duties. We're meant to connect with God through focused prayer as much as we can, and to maintain that connection IN our daily round of duties.

An illustration of this was shared with me some years ago, by a Sister who had read my first magazine article on The Cloistered Heart. In a letter, Sister wrote:


'Parallel to your vocation as a truly committed Christian, one called to a cloistered heart: I am called to the physical enclosure in which vowed life, community life, and apostolic ministry are but heading in the same direction as you. I like to refer to our prayer life as a cave. We need to enter that cave daily, often, regularly, despite any discomfort or darkness....  We are in this cave to find God - His presence - filling our soul with strength, light, courage, conviction... Staying in union with Him!  Only then can we go out into the marketplace, our apostolate. As an RN, I have certainly realized how the professional life tends to pull me away from the cave into dis-equilibrium.

'It is the path in between where we meet our Lord so often. That path... cloistered heart. It's the path in between that must be worn out. This path in between is where I relate.'



The path in between, I now realize, is what I try to 'illustrate' when I place a picture of a quiet church next to a photo of a bustling city.

I like to see connections. I like to be struck by contrasts.

The truth is:  I live in the contrasts. Quiet/noise... contemplation/busyness... serenity/chaos...

The path in between is where I live.


Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb 


      



Monday, March 28, 2016

I Will Sing a Hymn of Praise



 'It is You, O divine risen Lord, Who come to me; You Who after having expiated sin by Your sufferings, have vanquished death by Your triumph...

'Come to me to destroy the works of the devil, and to destroy sin and my infidelities; come to me to detach me from all that is not You; come to make me a partaker of that superabundant perfect life which now overflows from Your sacred Humanity.

'I will then sing with You a hymn of praise to Your Father, Who has crowned You as our Head upon this day of honor and glory.'

C. Marmion

Painting: Thomas Cooper Gotch, Alleluia, 1896, in US public domain due to age

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Alleluia! He is Risen!


Painting Peter Paul Rubens, Christ Resurrected










To our e-mail subscribers: this post contains brief videos, which can be viewed by going to the blog itself.

thecloisteredheart.org







And All is Silent


Friday, March 25, 2016

GOOD FRIDAY







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

thecloisteredheart.org

Thursday, March 24, 2016

No Greater Love




Painting: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, The Last Supper, in US public domain due to age









Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Cost of Silver


My preference for realistic religious art (especially in churches) has been with me for decades. In 1993, I wrote the following … 

It is easy to accept shining, sterile depictions of Jesus’s passion.  It’s easy to prefer silvered crosses with a victorious Christ upon them, for these do not ask much of us.  ‘Take up your cross and follow Me’ can be distant words then, words from which we are insulated by a safe coating of bronze.

His body did not shine that day, so long ago.  He was nailed to a very real wood cross; He was bruised and sweating and blood-stained.  His knees were scraped, His face contorted with pain.  Smells were of blood and dust and just-hammered metal.  There was no upbeat music that day; there were no songbooks, no organs, no guitars.  There were just the moans of men dying and friends watching them die.  There were crowd-sounds, possibly a joke or two, the occasional slap of a whip striking the ground.  Soldiers held back mourners and yelled out commands and probably thought about what they would do after work.

Overhead, a few clouds gathered.  Rain came then, soaking onlookers and washing rivulets of blood into the ground.  Three men hung dying that day, on crosses not made of silver.  They were pierced through with nails not coated with gold.  Three men writhed in pain that day, they sweated and bled; two of them were heard praying, and all of them died.  

And how grateful we can be that the scene has been removed from us, safely tucked away in time, safely burnished, safely incensed.  How safe it is to hear the words ‘take up your cross and follow Me’ when looking at a cross made of silver, when meditating on a resurrected, stylized and sterile Jesus.  Yes, He was resurrected and yes He is crowned.  Yes, He lives today; He is not dead any longer.  Yes, it is appropriate to celebrate His rising, for risen is how He lives now among us. 

But no, it is not appropriate to totally forget the price He paid for our redemption.  No, it is not appropriate to ignore the love poured out on us at Calvary, nor to ignore at what cost we answer the call to ‘come, follow Me…'

It is easy to count the cost when that cost is only Mass on Sunday and no meat on Good Friday.  It’s easy to embrace crosses of silver.  It is easy to forget to repent, to forget the love of so great a Lover, to forget to reform my life and allow my own selfish will to be crucified today...



 Theology Is A Verb   
 




Text not in quotes
    

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Heir Cast Out


"...Finally he sent his son to them, thinking 'they will respect my son.' When they saw the son, the tenants said to one another, 'here is the king who will inherit everything. Let us kill him and then we shall have his inheritance!' With that they seized him, dragged him outside the vineyard, and killed him."

Matthew 21:37-39



Painting: William Cave Thomas, The Heir Cast Out of the Vineyard

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Our Souls Before Him




'Let us spread before His feet, not garments of soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves clothed in His grace, or rather, clothed completely in Him.  We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before Him.  Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the Conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of His victory.

'Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children's holy song:  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Blessed is the king of Israel.'
 
(St. Andrew of Crete, from Liturgy of the Hours for Palm Sunday, Catholic Book Publishing Co. NY, 1976, pp.419-420)



Painting: Zdzisław Jasiński, Palm Sunday, 1891 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Through the Shadows



'It is impossible to look upon the Divinity and not to love it. However, 
here below we do not see it, but only have a glimpse of it 
through the shadows of faith, seeing as in a mirror.'

St. Francis de Sales


Painting by Rodolfo Amoedo (digitally altered)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

To Face the World

Sometimes I want to hide away in a quiet corner, far from news reports, political distresses, moral confusion, celebrations of sin, and input from a world going mad. Sometimes I simply want to close the blinds on windows and grilles.

But Our Lord has not called me to live inside a physical enclosure. In our cloistered heart analogy, the "symbol" is grillwork... not brick walls. 

"The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the just man runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)

What is my strong tower? Not stonework. That would be much too fragile. Stones are subject to crumbling. The Name of the Lord is not.  
I am not called to flee from the world. I'm called to face it, day after day after day, but I do not have to do so unaided. I am called to relate to the world through the will of God. I can pray for the world, and deal with every situation and every person I encounter or even hear of, through the "grillwork" of the will of God.  I can run to Our Lord and I can remain in Him.  

As I cling to Jesus, He gives me all I need to face the world.

"We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his decree." (Romans 8:28)
 
'We are afflicted in every way possible, but we are not crushed; full of doubts, we never despair.  We are persecuted but never abandoned; we are struck down but never destroyed.' (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)


'You are my shelter; from distress you keep me.  With safety, You ring me around.' (Psalm 32:7)


'God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Thus we do not fear, though the earth be shaken and the mountains quake to the depths of the sea; though its waters rage and foam and mountains totter at its surging. The Lord of hosts is with us.  Our stronghold is the God of Jacob.' (Psalm 46:2-4)
Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb  
 


     

Photo via Pixabay

Friday, March 11, 2016

At Least 7 Times



'In the morning, Lord, You will hear my voice. In the morning I will pray to You, and I will watch for Your answer.' (Psalm 5:3)

'Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord! Look to the Lord in His strength; seek to serve Him constantly.' (1 Chronicles 16:9-11)

'Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord.' (prayer before meals)

'Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forevermore.' (aspiration)

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

'Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake. Watch over us as we sleep. That awake, we may keep watch with Christ; and asleep, rest in His peace."' (Office of Night Prayer)

'I will remember You upon my couch, and through the night watches I will meditate on You.' (Psalm 63:7)




Painting: Caspar David Friedrich


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Revisiting the Hallway


On monastic retreats, I've loved being in my tiny cell - alone with God yet aware of the silent presence of others. I am with God, others are with God, and we are all connected.  A long hallway links us together.

As one who wants to live for God in the cell of my heart, I am grateful for everyone who is doing likewise. I do not know each person in every other 'cell,' but I can stop and remind myself that they… that you… are there.

Ours is the hallway of the Church. Our hearts are each part of a multitude of 'cells,' part of the vast and ageless Communion of Saints. 

Our hallway is not limited by geographical location. It is wide and vast and stretches even beyond the ages, connecting us to all in the Communion of Saints in ways we can scarcely grasp.

How do I, in everyday life, enter the hallway?  Certainly I do so by my participation in the Sacraments. I may also be involved in the life of my parish, of my diocese.  Perhaps I'm part of a prayer group or Bible study. Maybe I share faith through the Internet. Perhaps I homeschool, or teach CCD, and hopefully I share God's love freely with my family and friends. Even if I can't get out and about (perhaps due to physical limitations), I can actively 'enter the hallway' by praying for others, maybe offering my trials and sufferings as prayer.

The truth is: there is a door into the hallway for every single one of us. 

I pray that we will find, and turn, the knob. 

'The children of the world are all separated one from another because their hearts are in different places; but the children of God, having their heart where their treasure is, and all having only one treasure which is the same God, are consequently always joined and united together.'  (St. Francis de Sales)

'If St. Paul exhorts us to pray for one another, and we gladly think it right to ask every poor man to pray for us, should we think it evil to ask the holy saints in heaven to do the same?'  (St. Thomas More) 

'Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.... Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.  Let them look up, and see no longer me, but only Jesus! ... Let me preach You without preaching, not by my words, but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for You.'  (John Henry Cardinal Newman)

'Do not think of the poor as only those with no money.  Look at each person's needs.  Perhaps you are well off in something when someone else is in need of just that.'  (St. Augustine)



Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb  
 


     




Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I Have Right Now

I've been reminded recently of an 'awakening' I had several years ago.

Feeling sad that I'd given too little time to God over the course of my life, too little time to prayer, too much time to trivialities, I experienced a different reaction than I'd had to such thoughts in the past.

Rather than my usual 'woe is me, I've wasted too much time, I'll never 'make up for it..,' I felt a gentle whisper of hope.  If I could put it into a sentence, it was as if I sensed the words: 'but you have right now.'

I have right now.  I cannot turn back the clock and re-live minutes of years ago, last week, or even yesterday morning. However, I have this moment, this place, right now.

I can pray at this very instant, even in the middle of writing this sentence. And I do so.

I can choose anew to live for Christ, in this moment. And I do so.

I have forgotten to pray more often than I'd like to admit during the course of my life. Sometimes I find prayer a struggle.  But in each moment, I am given a new opportunity.  A fresh chance to at least speak to God when I think of Him.  A moment in which I can connect with Him, offer a word of thanks or praise - a moment in which I can start anew.

'I tell you, now is the time of God's favor. Now is the day of salvation.' (2 Corinthians 6:2)

'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 it.'  (St. Francis de Sales)

I have Right Now.
_____________________________________________________________________

For personal reflection:

- When is my next opportunity to offer a short prayer? Am I taking advantage of it?

- What happens if I go through this day looking for 'right nows?'


This is an adaptation of a post from my other blog (The Breadbox Letters), shared here because the words 'you have right now' have given quite a boost to my prayer this week.

Painting: Désiré François Laugée, Le linge de la ferme

Friday, March 4, 2016

How Can Anyone Pray Continually?




'Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.' (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

'These brief ascents of the soul heavenward, these liftings of the mind and heart to God, briefly but frequently: this is what enables the monk… to live a life of prayer and intimate union with God.  As (he) goes about his daily duties, he… gives himself to this practice of terse but frequent prayer.' (Wilfrid Tunink OSB, Vision of Peace, pp. 277-278) 

Do I try to remember to pray aspirations (short, inner prayers) throughout the day?

What are my favorite aspirations? Perhaps some of the following are among them...

My God and my all!

Jesus, I trust in You. 

My God, I adore You.

Lord, enclose me in Your Heart.

Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

My God, I love You.

Into Your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.

From all sin, deliver us, O Lord.

O Jesus, with all my heart I cling to You.

My Jesus, mercy.

My Lord and my God.
 

Blessed be God!

All for You, Lord Jesus, all for You.



Painting at top: Winslow Homer, Winding Line 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When Light Encounters Darkness


We live in uncertain times. God is our refuge and safety (we remind ourselves), and if we dwell in Him and in His will we are in the safest place of all.

Yet our feelings may be questioning us on this matter.  Fear can easily disarm us.  We might find ourselves dealing with worry, depression, anxiety, confusion, distress. In the presence of unsettling circumstances, it can be tough to find what we've referred to as 'the view through the grille.'

"I am sometimes afraid to look at the world outside and even at the circumstances in my own life.... there is so much darkness to be found. But if I were to stand in a physical cloister filled with light, would I be afraid to look 'through the grille' for fear that darkness would flood through the grille and turn my light into dark? No, for when darkness and light encounter one another, light is always the winner! Darkness never floods into the light. Instead, light flows into darkness and changes at least a portion of it into light." (NS, 1996)

For personal reflection:

- What situations are uppermost in my mind just now?

-  Is anything worrying or troubling me?

-  Are there particular scriptures "through which I can view and respond to" these situations?







(for an explanation of what we mean by "the grille," click this line)  

(I personally find a concordance useful in looking up scriptures on various topics. Concordances are available for Catholic (in "exhaustive" and "concise" editions) and Protestant Bibles. 

Reconciled To You and Theology Is A Verb  
 


     



Tuesday, March 1, 2016