Friday, September 30, 2016

Getting Graphic

Not long after beginning to write here five years ago, I learned I could post pictures as well as text.  And that there were marvelous old paintings in public domain, freely available from sites like Wikimedia. For a longtime Art lover like me, this was a thrilling discovery.

As time went on, I also found that pairing paintings and photos with inspiring quotes was something I loved to do. I could then post something quite brief in between longer writings - something I found especially helpful after realizing that I, myself, enjoy reading blog posts that are not too lengthy. (I get to blame my own lack of concentration on 'age').

And then, around a year ago, I started trying to make graphics/memes.  Another fun thing for an Art lover!  Spending time with Scripture, writings of saints, beautiful paintings and striking photos... it has been a blessing I could never have dreamed of when I began blogging in 2011. 

So for today's look back, I'm simply providing a link to our 'graphics.' At the bottom of each page, more can be seen by clicking on the words 'older posts' at the bottom of the screen.

Have a good weekend, all!

Click this line for Graphics (memes) 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let's Celebrate!

Five years ago today, I put the first Cloistered Heart post here, in this little cloistered corner of the Internet. I had no idea what to expect. The basic ideas and analogies of the Cloistered Heart were already more than twenty years old by that time... could they be squeezed into blog posts? Come to think of it, what was a blog post anyway? I had virtually no idea.

What I did have was an inspiration "to set up a website," and that seemed to be from God. I had the help of a computer-educated son who knew enough about blogs to set me up with a template. I knew others who were striving to live in the world with "cloistered hearts," and who were willing to follow along with what I wrote and give input. And I had friends like Rose.

You might remember Rose.  She has shared some special insights with us. In fact, this morning I looked at five years' worth of blog statistics and - just as I suspected - the "most viewed post" on this site has remained the all time favorite of readers since shortly after it was posted. Seeing that, I decided to have a bit of fun.

Here is a link (and an 'award for the writer') for your all time favorite post!!!
How Are We Living Monasticism of the Heart?

And to everyone here: thank you for your kind comments, your friendship, your companionship, your prayers over these last five years. You really have no idea what a gift you are to me. I just ask God to let you know.

Oh, and by the way - captchas (those annoying things we have to decipher before we can comment on websites) are removed from here for the time being - so leaving a comment shouldn't be much trouble.

If you have a minute, stop and say hi!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Revisiting The Grille

The grille is a powerful symbol.  I would go so far as to say that, in the cloistered heart way of life I’m describing, it is the important symbol.  It is a place of separation and, just as importantly, it is a place of encounter.  It is only through the grille that some cloistered individuals (in a number of communities) connect with the world. 

And the truth is: every human being has been given, by God, a way to connect with the world.  A way to see situations correctly; a way to interact with others appropriately.

God invites each one of 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 grille. “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him…”  (Romans 8:28).   

“We do not fix our gaze on what is seen but on what is unseen…” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  In days to come, may God open us more fully to the grillwork of His will.

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'

For the past few days, we've been providing links for those who might like to have a look around the archives. Because the symbol of grillwork is central to the Cloistered Heart analogy, I encourage anyone wondering 'what that's all about' to click on the following explanations:

Text not in quotes © 2016 Nancy Shuman 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Inside These Walls

A potential nun does not march into the monastery announcing which boundaries she will or will not accept.

'This wall of the enclosure suits me, but I'm not comfortable with that one...'  No, she does not say it. 

Were she to express such thoughts, she would be told that her vocation is elsewhere. These are the boundaries of this monastery, she would be told. These are the walls within which we remain. 

Boundaries are important in a physical monastery. They are important in a spiritual one as well. In the analogy of the cloistered heart, I am invited to live within the boundaries of God's will as a nun would live inside her enclosure.  I don't have to map these out for myself; they are clearly defined for me in Scripture and in 2,000 years of authentic Church discernment.

Today, let's have a look around the enclosure. Click on any line below to open that topic....

An Enclosure Door For Me

Location, Location, Location
O, Blessed Enclosure

Our Refuge For Christ

Public domain photo of Clervaux, via Pixabay


Monday, September 26, 2016

Your Monastery

'You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is within - the Spirit you have received from God.'  (1 Corinthians 6:19)

'Monastic life,' wrote Louis Bouyer, 'is nothing else, no more and no less, than a Christian life whose Christianity has penetrated every part of it.' With this in mind, I'd like to take a deeper look into what it can mean to 'be' a monastery in the midst of the world. 

As before, click on any line below to open that post. 

And Our Monastery Is...

The Right Address

In Substance the Same

Let Me Be a House of God

Samuel van Hoogstraten painting, digitally altered

Sunday, September 25, 2016

New Here? Come, Have a Look Around!

In just a few days, this little site will "celebrate" five years on the Internet. Five years of posts on what it can mean to live for God, cloistered in heart, in the midst of our families and neighborhoods and workplaces; and it seems that in some ways, we are just beginning.....

Because that many pages of quotes and pictures and analogies can be overwhelming, and because we (thankfully) have new visitors on an ongoing basis, I've decided to spend this week re-visiting some of our rooms and corridors. 

So let's have a look around the cloister, shall we? Just click on highlighted, italicized words below to open any of these "doors."

The Basic Analogy of "The Cloistered Heart" can be found by clicking here. 

In a typical week, we feature a newly written post or two, a few quotes or graphics, and something chosen from our five years of archives. The intention is to keep things brief (for reasons spoken of here), and to offer a variety of things from day to day. 

One of my favorite types of posts to do is something I have called "The Path Between." The explanation of these is given here, and most of the ones posted so far can be found by clicking here. Most of these are brief quotes. As you may know, clicking on the words "older post" at the very bottom of a screen will open more posts.
Now to go sweep out a few more corridors! God willing, I'll see you back here tomorrow.... 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Blest Am I, Still

It is one of my favorite scenes in Scripture.

Thomas, who had not been present when Jesus appeared to the disciples just after His Resurrection, was skeptical. "'I will never believe it,' said he, 'without probing the nailprints in His hands, without putting my finger in the nailmarks and my hand into His side.' A week later, the disciples were once more in the room, and this time Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them. 'Peace be with you,' He said; then, to Thomas: 'take your finger and examine My hands. Put your hand into My side. Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!' Thomas said in response, 'my Lord and my God!'" (John 20:25-29)

What strikes me most about this is Jesus' tender mercy to Thomas. There are no reprimands. Our Lord doesn't say "oh you of little faith, why do you doubt? You've got to exercise faith, Thomas! You can do it! Just make up your mind!"

No. Jesus simply offers Thomas the precise help he needs. He invites the disciple to probe and examine His sacred wounds. What an act of mercy! "Yes, it is I." Come and see.

Thomas, as we know, cried out "my Lord and my God!" To which Jesus responded "You became a believer because you saw Me. Blest are they who have not seen and have believed."

Blest are you. Blest am I. We haven't had the privilege of probing Our Lord's wounds, yet we have believed. We've had other privileges. We have been given the gift of faith. Perhaps at times we've doubted God's love or even His reality, and maybe we've told Him this. I certainly did, years ago, when I said "God, I don’t believe in you, but if you’re real, and if you can hear me, I’m asking you to show me once and for all who or what you are." (the story of that can by found by clicking here). 

Years later, I still want to fall on my face in thanksgiving for Our Lord's response to my pleading. He gave me the precise help I needed, help that was tailor made for me, at that exact time.

I remember thinking, when I cried out to God that day, that maybe He would show up in the room so I could see Him.  He did not do that. He even let me go on doubting for a tiny bit longer, but He did not leave me alone.

He led me not to probe His physical wounds, but to probe His scriptures.

He drew me to examine and appreciate the truth of His Church.

He let me experience not His nailprints, but His presence.

Thanks to His great mercy, I believe. Blest am I.

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You  and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'

Text not in quotes © 2015-2016 Nancy Shuman 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Revisiting Prayer Tracks

Because I don't live in a monastery, I hear no bells calling me to drop everything and take time for prayer in the middle of the day.  I live out here where families need feeding, babies need diapering, and bosses want reports in by twelve o'clock sharp.

Those in monasteries can usually pray at the same times.  But 'out here,' everyone is going in a hundred different directions at once.

So what about me?  If I want a foundation of prayer to be the basis of my life, how do I stay on track?

In his book TheFulfillment of All Desire, Ralph Martin defines prayer as 'at root, simply paying attention to God.'  (p. 121).

Oh, I do love this.  

So:  I begin my day by paying attention to God.  Usually it's uttering a brief spontaneous sentence or two.

Ideally I can then take time, later, to sit down with Scripture and give Our Lord my undivided attention.  I am finding the Liturgy of the Hours to be a great help with this.  I also find that all too often I come to this practice tired, distracted, and having fought (or going in while still fighting) the temptation to 'put it off.'  I wish I didn't have to admit that!  But it's simply the truth, and you know what?  I've also learned that when I forge on past the distractions, when I carry on no matter how tired I may be, I wind up with a sense that God is pleased.  I also have some pleasant surprises at times - inspirations I could never have had otherwise.

Do I pray the entire Liturgy of the Hours every day?  No.  But if I try to pray at least one psalm from it, sometime during the day and with my full attention, usually I wind up praying longer ... and then the next time, longer still.

I also continue to cultivate the habit of making aspirations - the short prayers we can offer to God in our hearts, no matter where we are or what we're doing.  'Jesus, I trust in You.'  'Father, I adore You.'  'Lord, I give You my heart.'

Because I don't live in a physical monastery, I cannot expect to adhere to the regular by-the-bell prayer times of those who do.  God does not expect this.  He expects me to live the vocation He has given me.  In that vocation, however, He does ask that I 'pay attention to Him.'

With His help, I can get past the hurdles and do so.

With His help, I am able to stay on track.

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You  and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The World For Which I Was Born

I was recently reminded of something a friend wrote to me some years ago. 'Sitting in a monastery of nuns,' this woman said in a letter, 'I knew I didn't belong in their life and yet I didn't belong out in the world either. The closer you get to His Heart, the farther you get from everything else, which is really as it should be... I felt that the problem with being in the world is that so often you are distracted from loving Him, which is all I want to do. When you are in the monastery, everything reminds you of Him no matter what chore you are presently doing. But His will is mine, so wherever He wants me is what I really want too. What I fear is taking Him for granted and becoming lukewarm.'

My friend's fear is one I know well. Taking Him for granted. Becoming lukewarm. How I wish I could say these things have never happened to me, but I cannot. Lukewarmness can seem normal, even cozy, and I sometimes find myself settling down in it and feeling right at home. Being distracted from things of God doesn't seem like such a problem then, when the world around feels eternal and entrancing and like it must be the forever-world-for-which-I-was-born.

But the truth is: the world around is not The-Forever-World-For-Which-I-Was-Born. 'God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.' The Baltimore Catechism said it well.

'When you are in the monastery,' wrote my friend, 'everything reminds you of Him.' While monks or nuns enclosed inside walls are not yet in the Forever-World, they live twenty four hours a day inside a reflection of it. Their time is entirely spent on the pathway to Home. They wash dishes on that path. They do laundry on that path. They eat and sleep and garden and pray and laugh and sing on that path. They live in an entrance foyer to Heaven, and everything around reminds them of where they're headed and for Whom they were made.

As a laywoman in the world, I too am called to the pathway. But mine is not so clearly marked. I have no monastic schedules to keep me on the trail. I don't spend every moment of every day with a community of people all focusing in the same direction. If I listen to friends or co-workers or celebrities who don't know or accept why God made them, I can even lose sight of my own awareness of the truth.

Probably this is why some of us can feel more at home in a monastery than in the world.
Because really - we are.

(When I start to lose sight of my real pathway, I am helped by what several saints have had to say about this kind of thing.  A few of their exhortations can be found by clicking here.)

Painting: Jan van Helmont

Monday, September 12, 2016

My Secret Closet

'To enjoy interior peace, we must always reserve in our hearts amidst all affairs, as it were, a secret closet, where we are to keep retired within ourselves, and where no business of the world can ever enter.'

St. Antonino Peirozzi

Friday, September 9, 2016

This is the Joy of the Lord

"We are at Jesus' disposal. 
If He wants you to be sick in bed,
if He wants you to proclaim His work in the street, 
if He wants you to clean the toilets all day, 
that's all right, everything is all right. 
We must say 'I belong to You. You can do whatever You like.' 
And this is our strength, and this is the joy of the Lord."

St. Teresa of Calcutta

Painting: Frederic Ulrich,Washerwomen Seville

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Revisiting Aspirations

Aspirations are brief prayers that can be lifted to God inwardly, wherever we are and whatever we may be doing.  They’re an ancient monastic practice, but are particularly practical for those of us striving to keep our hearts fixed on God in the midst of a bustling world. 

"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 the monk 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) 

“The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always…  This prayer is possible ‘at all times’ because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation:  that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Jesus Christ.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2668) 

“All aspirations are better when they are brief…. As we draw in the fresh air and breathe forth that which is exhausted, so we draw God into the soul and breathe forth self into the arms of His mercy.  Blessed is the soul which does this, for then it lives in God and He in it.”  (St. Francis de Sales) 

With practice, I can learn to remain in active communication with God no matter where I happen to be. As I join throngs of shoppers in the mall, ride the subway, take care of laundry, drive through rush hour traffic - I can keep my heart attentive to God….. 

“My God and my all!”

“Jesus, I trust in You.”

“Lord, have mercy on us.”

"My God, I adore You."

“Jesus… Jesus…. Jesus…..”

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You  and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'

Painting: Mabel Frances Layng, The Omnibus

Monday, September 5, 2016

My Calcutta

'Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta.
Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely 
right there in your own homes, 
in your own families, 
in your workplaces and in your schools...
You can find Calcutta all over the world, 
if you have the eyes to see.' 

St. Teresa of Calcutta


Friday, September 2, 2016

This Road, Or That?

"Oft, as he jogs along the Winding Way,
occasion comes for every man to say
'this road - or that?' and as he chooses then,
so shall his journey end in Night or Day.

"We can easily understand that we would never be contented with a God or with a Religion fully within the scope of our limited comprehension. We may possess what appears to be vast knowledge and extensive learning, but we must not forget that we are finites governed by the Infinite...

"We need not preach; we need do nothing extraordinary. We need not be in the public eye; we need hold no important position. Each one is important in his own right, for we have a great work to do, if we are to be Warriors and fight heroically for Christ."

(from Listening to the Indwelling Presence, compiled by a Religious, Pellegrini, 1940, pp. 201-202)