Friday, August 25, 2017

So what IS a Cloistered Heart?

We try to put a "what is this?" post here from time to time, a brief look at the basic cloistered heart "analogy" for anyone wondering what this blog is about.

It's time to do this again! The following is from our archives:

The "Cloistered Heart" is basically an analogy in which our lives can be seen as "monasteries," places where God is loved and lived for and served.  

Our call is to be in the world but not of the world.   This is not a new or different idea; rather, it is an emphasizing, a kind of "underlining," of every Christian's call.  The uniqueness of this emphasis is in its monastic imagery. 

The word "cloister" speaks of total consecration.  Those who enter a traditional physical cloister make a tangible break from the world.  Compromise does not fit well in a cloister, nor does lukewarmness, nor does complacency.  The cloistered life is absolute. 

Christians living in the midst of the world are also called to live for God.  But for us, the break is not so clean. The world is persistent in its tugs on the heart trying to live for God.  We need support in our struggles to surrender our lives to God and to resist the world's allurements.  This is where the imagery of the cloistered heart can be of help. "If the cloister is in a man's heart, it is immaterial whether the building is actually there.  The cloister in a man's heart means only this:  God and the soul."  (from Warriors of God by Walter Nigg, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1959, p. 13)

Our cloister is not made of bricks and stones, but of God's holy will in which we can choose to live.  The will of God can form for us a "cloister grille," through which we may view and respond to all people and all circumstances around us.

"The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, 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.  The heart is the place of decision..“  (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2563) 

"Thank God, there still remains one sanctuary, the sacredness of which no earthly power may violate… it is the sanctuary of the human heart.  It needs no fixed place for its confines, no stated time for the opening of its gates, no particular hour of silence for its prayer.  A thought, a word, a moment of reflection, and by faith and by love, the soul is within the blessed refuge, and the gates are closed on the confusion of life with all its noise and tumult.  It is secure against the bitterness and the pain of persecution, or hardship or trial, or hurt of body, or wound of earthly pride, or failure of worldly ambition, for there she is inviolable, sacred, impregnable in the fortress of her own spirit.  ‘Entering into solitude,’ we sometimes call the seeking of this sanctuary.  But it is not entering into a lonely solitude.  It is hearkening to the alluring accents and appeal of a Voice that will never, in time, be stilled, but will ever sound gently in the hearing of them that love: ‘come apart with Me and rest awhile!” (from The Living Pyx of Jesus, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini and Co, Australia, 1941, p.101) 
Most beautiful of creatures, who desires so ardently to know the dwelling place of your Beloved in order to seek Him and be united with Him, you are yourself the refuge where He takes shelter, the dwelling place in which He hides Himself.  Your Beloved, your Treasure, your one Hope is so close to you as to live within you." (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle)

You are the temple of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

"We may well tremble to think what sanctuaries we are, when the Blessed Sacrament is within us."  (Frederick William Faber)  

Text not in quotes © 2013 Nancy Shuman.  All Rights Reserved.  Unauthorized use of this material without permission from blog owner is prohibited.   

E- mail: thecloisteredheart [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, August 18, 2017

And In the Wind

There is change in the air as a storm approaches.  The wind picks up, clouds gather, there may be a distant clap of thunder.  As lightning flashes around us, we race for shelter.

Monastery grounds and walls are as subject to storms as those of any other building.  They get slapped with rain, pelted with sleet.  Inhabitants of the cloister might find themselves standing at a window looking out, maybe with a touch of concern.  What are those chunks of hail doing to the roof?  Are the windows secure against the wind?  

The monastery of my life is vulnerable, too.  I face storms, at times, of great magnitude.  Sickness, sudden disaster, an unnerving news report.  It helps me then to remember that I’m in the strongest cloister possible – the cloister of God’s loving embrace.  Everything that touches me must first come through His hands, through His “permissive will.”  I can do as St. Francis de Sales advised, and say amid my contradictions: “this is the very road to heaven.  I see the door, and I am certain the storms cannot prevent us from getting there.”

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

Happy is the soul established in God ... The winds of the storm are powerless to shake her.” (St. Jane de Chantal)

"When you hear about wars and threats of war, do not yield to panic.  Such things are bound to happen, but this is not the end.  Nation will rise against nation, one kingdom against another.  There will be earthquakes in various places and there will be famine.  This is but the onset of labor.  Be constantly on your guard.... because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone.  Nonetheless, the man who holds out till the end is the one who will come through safe."  (Mark 13:5-13)

"O Jesus, I am locking myself in Your most merciful heart as in a fortress, impregnable against the missiles of my enemies.” (St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary, #1535)

The cloistered heart is a place of refuge, no matter where I happen to be. A portable fortress, a place inviolate, where I can remain with Jesus in the midst of storms, traffic jams, persecutions, illnesses, fires, floods. It is an appealing idea. It is 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.

My heart, as long as He is in it, is safe.

(The above is a combined repost from our archives)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Long Speeches Not Needed

I write this on August 12, feast of St. Jane de Chantal. For more about this saint and co-foundress of the Visitation Order, click this link to the beautiful website of the Tyringham Visittion nuns. 

And hope the Sisters will not mind my sharing the following prayer. It is well worth spending time with today.

Prayer of Abandonment 
O sovereign goodness of the sovereign Providence of my God!
I abandon myself forever to Thy arms.
Whether gentle or severe,
lead me henceforth whither Thou wilt;
I will not regard the way through which Thou wilt have me pass,
but keep my eyes fixed upon Thee,
my God, who guidest me.
My soul finds no rest without the arms
and the bosom of this heavenly Providence,
my true Mother, my strength and my rampart.

Therefore I resolve with Thy Divine assistance,
0 my Saviour,
to follow Thy desires and Thy ordinances,
without regarding or examining why Thou dost this rather than that;
but I will blindly follow Thee
according to Thy Divine will,
without seeking my own inclinations.

Hence I am determined to leave all to Thee,
taking no part therein save by keeping myself in peace in Thy arms,
desiring nothing except as Thou incitest me to desire,
to will, to wish.
I offer Thee this desire, 0 my God,
beseeching Thee to bless it;
I undertake all it includes,
relying on Thy goodness,
liberality, and mercy,
with entire confidence in Thee,
distrust of myself,
and knowledge of my infinite misery and infirmity. Amen!'

St. Jane de Chantal

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Revisiting Vocation

A religious habit is a sign of an inward consecration. Without this consecration, I can wear every sort of wimple and every length of veil, and still I am not a nun.

God called me to a different vocation, and He has given me grace to respond to that one.  Is there anything I can learn, however, from looking at the call to religious life?   How does that particular call come, and how does a person respond?

The following stories are ones I have found inspiring.  I hope they will touch you as well.

"The love of God is the strongest driving force on earth. Thousands upon hundreds of thousands have given up their lives simply because they loved Him so much that breath and heartbeat slipped into the inconsequential by comparison.  Hundreds upon thousands of young girls have walked into cloisters and never walked out of them because their youth and liberty were the very least to give the One they loved so much."  (Mother Mary Francis PCC, A Right to be Merry. Click here for more about this book)

Links to personal stories by individuals who have answered a call to cloistered life:

A Rose Transplanted
Totally Yours, Jesus   
Prom Queen to Cloistered Nun

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.'  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

For a Strong Grille

My spiritual "grillwork" is in need of strengthening. The world around is not embracing the truth of God as revealed in Scripture, and we who want to discern and live God's will are facing increasing challenges. Our grillwork needs to be as sturdy as possible.

What strengthens my grillwork? Reading, praying, living scripture. Picking up a Bible and savoring it as the love letter it truly is. Going beyond reading scripture into making a conscious effort to live it. Studying the Word so that I can see and respond to life through it.

'The holy scriptures are our letters from Home.' St Augustine

If we need strengthening of our own "grillwork," the following links may offer some help:

Catholic Way Bible Study

Catholic Spiritual Direction - Bible Helps

Scott Hahn Tools for Bible Study

Lectio and Keyholes

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What's in My Jambalaya?

I'm continuing to struggle with physical illness. I don't like to write about that here because I don't want to become that person you avoid lest you get constant updates on symptoms. However, if I focus through the grille, there should be little attention given to illness. Besides, God is teaching me marvelous things, and it doesn't seem fair to keep them entirely to myself. Nope, not fair at all.

So I shall talk about jambalaya.

I was recently told of a time when a hurricane ravaged an already impoverished area, and volunteers came to the devastated residents and made jambalaya for them. Every day they did this, putting aside their own wants and needs in order to help people who needed nourishing meals.

Not too many days had gone by before residents started grumbling.

Couldn't the volunteers provide anything besides jambalaya?  Tomatoes, onions, seafood, sausage, chicken, celery - same old, same old, day after day....wasn't there anything else?

The volunteers heard them, and they responded. They stopped cooking jambalaya. They stopped cooking anything. It seems that maybe a thank you would have been appreciated.

Since hearing this story several days ago, I've been considering my own spiritual "jambalaya." In the midst of physical challenges, God is providing nourishment of the very best kinds. Friends come to visit, people pray for me, gifts arrive in the mail. Bible passages show up just when I need them and they leap right off the page.  Am I paying attention? Have I noticed what small or large nuggets of grace are in my stew today?
One bit of holy nourishment I'm grateful for is writings of saints. On my physical down-days, I'm finding it (temporarily?) difficult to write and sometimes difficult to pray. So into my spiritual jambalaya, I mix in words of others who have been able to articulate what I cannot.

I thank God for voices who spoke like this...

 "O my God, let me remember with gratitude and confess to Thee Thy mercies toward me." St Augustine

"The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank Him for what He is sending us every day in His goodness." St Gianna Beretta Molla

"Thank God ahead of time." Venerable Solanus Casey

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Common Temptation

'We should never postpone a good work, no matter how small it may be, with the thought of later doing something greater. It is a very common temptation of the enemy to be always placing before us the perfection of things to come, and bringing us to make little of the present.'  St. Ignatius of Loyola

Painting at top: St.Joan of Arc

Painting of mother and child: Henri Lebasque

Painting of woman carrying hay: Camille Pissarro

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bells, Bells, Bells...

Morning in the monastery:  it starts with a bell.  

Come to think of it, most activities in the monastery start with a bell.  Time to rise:  the bell rings.  Time to pray, eat, study, work, have recreation: the bell rings.

Anyone who has spent time in a monastery knows the bell as at least a background.  

Monastics look upon it as the voice of God.

In the dark silence of our monastery morning, the bell calls.  It may not be all that welcome.  It shatters our darkness and our dreams.  If we don't live in a physical monastery, our bell might be a baby's cry.  Or the insistent bleep of an alarm clock.  And oh, our slumber has been so comfortable.  Go away, we think as we slap at the snooze button; give me just a few more minutes.  Let me have time with this dream.....

But the monastery is not a place for idle dreaming.  There is discipline in monastic life.  I, for one, am drawn to that idea - even while I run from it.  Being by nature an undisciplined person, I long to have schedules imposed upon me.  And I balk whenever they are.  I don't want to be awakened by a bell; I want to indulge myself in dreams.

Monastics, whether nuns or monks, pop out of bed when the bell rings.  Putting aside dreams and throwing off  covers, they think of God immediately.  A sign of the cross, a mental aspiration, a word or two of praise for this new day - these are (ideally) the first things in their minds and hearts.  It helps me to realize that they probably didn't react like this in their first days of monastic life.  It took time and PRACTICE for this to happen, and after many years it may still be a struggle

I don't usually think of God the second I awaken.  I'm sorry to say that I don't automatically think to pray.  So I help myself out a little.  I use reminders.  I put holy pictures where I can see them, and in fact I move them around (because if I have something in the same spot for too long, I stop "seeing it").  I have even resorted to writing the word "PRAY!" on paper and sticking it to my door or mirror.

Now I'm at least at the point where I generally remember to utter a word of praise to God, and / or to make the Sign of the Cross before climbing out of bed (or as I do so).  It is often at that time when I make some kind of "morning offering," committing the day to God.  Sometimes, for me, this is a formal, verbal prayer.  At times it is more spontaneous.  But at least it's a commitment, a beginning.

My own "monastic day" has begun. 

"To You I pray, O Lord; at dawn You hear my voice.."  (Psalm 5:4)

"O Lord my God, teach my heart this day where and how to see You, where and how to find You."  (St. Anselm)

What helps you turn to God as you awaken?  


To continue reading "Our Monastic Day," click this line...

This is a slightly edited post from our archives. It is being linked to Reconciled To You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.' 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Artistry

Painting: Gunnar Bach Pedersen, 'Admission of Holy Clare to the monastery in 1212'

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Flame, When Constantly Fed

'A flame increases when it is constantly fed.  

'So prayer, made often, with the mind dwelling ever more deeply in God, arouses divine love in the heart.  

'And the heart, set on fire, will warm all the inner man, will enlighten and teach him..
making him like a flaming seraph, always standing before God within his spirit, 
always looking at Him within His mind, 
and drawing from this vision the sweetness of spiritual joy.'

St. Dmitri 

Painting: Mönch, 1830s

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Revisiting Joy

God's will is always for my good. While I realize that enclosure in God's will is 'confining,' I must also recognize that it is for my ultimate good.

I cannot lose sight of this truth. God's will is not for my destruction. Yes, He wills that sin be destroyed in me, that evil be destroyed - but this is because sin harms me.  God's will shall bring me joy. This does not mean it will bring me pleasure at every moment, but ultimately it will lead me into the fullness of joy.  

No illness, financial collapse, or political circumstance can take Jesus from me. Nothing can remove Him, for He is in my heart. I possess the very satisfaction that all are seeking and that no one can really find without finding Him.

In cloistering my heart, I must remember that cloistered life is meant to be a life of joy as total as one can find on earth.  

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


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Strong Weakness

Emergency services were called to my home a few weeks ago, simply to get me up and out of a reclining chair. Since my latest physical challenges at Eastertime, my muscles have weakened and I'm relying on various aids to help me get around.

Not that I "get around" all that much. I now spend a lot of time in the new electric lift-chair that we bought to replace "the recliner-from-which-I-could-not-stand-up."

I recently talked with a friend about this, remarking that I sometimes feel frustrated at not being able to do anything. My friend swiftly reminded me that oh, I can do many things. I am blogging and writing more than ever, and I'm praying, and I'm gathering bits of saintly inspiration to share here, in this little corner of cyberspace. 

"You're touching people across the earth" said my friend, "and you're doing it from a lift chair!"

Indeed that is something to ponder. Especially in those moments when I feel as if I'm not contributing much to God's work, I find it helpful to recall what I can do ... even from what appears to be a position of helplessness. I sit back in the lift chair, my little computer on a lap desk stretched from arm to arm across it, and I type out words written centuries ago by a saint. Meanwhile, a woman half a world away needs some encouragement. I do not know this, but God does; He knows and loves this lady, and He can inspire me to pick something especially for her as I sit back in my lift chair and pray about what to share.

My new chair is a welcome gift and tool.  The muscle weakness that makes me need it, however, does not feel at all like a gift. I'd be more likely to label that a thorn in the flesh. 

"I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me" wrote St. Paul of his own thorn. "But He said to me, 'My grace is enough for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

I don't like to call attention to my weaknesses. I prefer to deny them, pretend they aren't there, ignore them altogether. St. Paul, however, reacted differently. He boasted about his weakness, so that the power of God might reside in him. He was content with trials for the sake of Christ. He accepted and embraced the Lord's truth that God's power is made perfect in weakness. 

Maybe it's time to shout from the housetops that when we are weak, God's power can reach perfection. Maybe I should proclaim the truth that God can keep us content in spite of muscle weakness, serene in physical discomfort, and able to evangelize from a lift chair. 

His grace is more than enough.

"I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched then in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: 'Whoever is a little one let him come to me.' The elevator which must raise me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus, and for this I have no need to grow up, but rather I have to remain little and become this more and more," And so she abandoned herself to Jesus and her life became a continual acceptance of the will of the Lord." (St Therese of Lisieux's Life at Carmel, Society of the Little Flower)

Painting at top: Louis Comfort Tiffany, Louise Tiffany Reading

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Radiance

'Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Light. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may be only a radiance of Yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul with whom I come in contact may feel Your Presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only You, dear Jesus.'

(from The Living Pyx of Jesus by A Religious, Pelligrini 1941, p. 421)

Painting: John Henry Frederick Bacon, Suscipe me Domine (detail)

Friday, July 7, 2017

In Search of Holiness?

Great holiness consists in carrying out the little duties of each moment

St Josemaria Escriva

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Revisiting My Call

God calls some people to give themselves fully to Him in Religious life. As for me, I've been called to the married vocation, to the blessings of children and grandchildren, and to serving in the midst of the world.

So as far as a making a total gift of myself to God, does this mean I'm off the hook?

Oh, I should certainly hope not.  A total gift of self of God is one 'hook' I want to be on; it's a source of unspeakable blessings, it is a 'brass ring' on the ride of life.  I would hate to miss out on it.  And God, in His goodness, would hate for me to miss out on it too. With great love, He calls you - and He calls me.

Those who embrace Religious life have felt tugs so strong they just couldn't ignore them. Have we not felt God's tugs as well?

Are we not called to a life of total (not just partial, but absolutely total) commitment to Him? I provide the following as a tiny bit of evidence of our own calls to live fully for God, right in the midst of the world...... 

"I beg you, through the mercy of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship.  'Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.' " Romans 12:2

"I have loved you with an everlasting love... I am constant in My affection for you."  (Jeremiah 31:3)
"I am the Good Shepherd.  I know My sheep and My sheep know Me, in the same way that the Father knows Me and I know the Father; for these sheep I will give my life."  (John 10:14-15)

"The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men.  It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age as we await our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ."  (Titus 2:11-13)

"Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth.  After all, you have died! Your life is hidden now with Christ in God.  When Christ our life appears, you shall appear with Him in glory.  Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth:  fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and that lust which is called idolatry....  What you have done is put aside your old self with its past deeds and put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator."   (Colossians 3:2-10)

"You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Men do not light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket.  They set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your Heavenly Father."  (Matthew 5:14-16)

“Do not lay up for yourselves an earthly treasure.  Moths and rust corrode; thieves break in and steal. Make it your practice instead to store up heavenly treasure, which neither moths nor rust corrode nor thieves break in and steal.  Remember, wherever your treasure is, there your heart is also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

"Out of love, place yourselves at one another's service."  (Galatians 5:13)

"May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ!  Through it, the world has been crucified to me and I to the world."  (Galatians 6:14)

"I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk; I will counsel you, keeping My eye on you."  (Psalm 32:8)

For more about commitment to God, click this line

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

Sunday, July 2, 2017

My Faithful Superiors

A friend shared the following from Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel. It's 'very cloistered heart,' said she. 

I could not agree more.

'We, the ordinary people of the streets, know very well that as long as our own will is alive, we will not be able to love Christ definitively. We know that only obedience can root us into His death. We would envy our religious brothers and sisters if we too could not die to ourselves a little more each day. 

'However, for us the tiny circumstances of life are faithful 'superiors.' They do not leave us alone for a moment, and the yeses we have to say to them follow continuously, one after the other. When we surrender to them without resistance we find ourselves wonderfully liberated from ourselves. We float in Providence like a cork on the ocean waters. 

'From the moment we wake up these circumstances take hold of us. It is the telephone that rings; it is the key that won't work, the bus that doesn't arrive or arrives full, or doesn't wait for us. It is the person sitting next to us who takes up the whole seat, or the vibration of the loose window pane that drives us crazy. It's the daily routine, one chore that leads to another, some job we wouldn't have chosen... It's the people we meet and the conversations they choose to start...

'Life becomes a film in slow motion. It does not make our head spin. It does not take our breath away. Little by little, thread by thread, it eats away at the old man's frame, which cannot be mended and must be made new from the ground up.' 

Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel

Painting: Henri Lebasque

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What I Didn't Miss

One day, I scheduled a good sized block of minutes for uninterrupted concentration on God. I actually try to do this regularly, but on this day in particular I was ready and waiting. I had even dug through my bookshelves for an unused journal (I have several waiting in the wings) in order to make notes of What I Did Not Miss.

I sat with a list of suggestions on how to pray with Scripture and opened my Bible to a reading from the Gospel of Luke. I read a few lines slowly, and waited. I read the lines again, and waited. I asked Jesus what He wanted to reveal to me, and I waited. 'Keep on doing this until the words begin to live,' the anonymous Religious had suggested. So I did.

The words I read were good words, holy words, straight-from-the-written-Word-of-God-words, and I received them with gratitude. I thanked God for the words, and for His written word, and for gifts I was aware of and gifts I didn't know I was receiving.

But did the words live? From my perspective, that did not seem to be the case.

However, from the perspective of the way things really ARE, the words were alive indeed - and I knew that. 'For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.' (Matthew 4:12)

Did I feel any different because of the words I had read, or because of the prayers I prayed as a result of reading them? No, I cannot say that I did. Is the word of God living and active even when I do not feel it?  Yes, absolutely.

I didn't feel different because of this particular time of prayer, but the truth is: I had encountered God. I'd met and spoken with God. How could such a reality leave me unaffected?

God's word is alive, and that is an objective fact. Not everyone accepts it as fact, but that doesn't make it any less true. God has said it. 'The Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body.... In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet His children, and talks with them.' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 103-104)

I am happy to report that in many of my prayer times through the years, I've felt words of Scripture stirring and leaping in my heart and mind. I've had some sense of the Father coming to meet me, His child. But it's interesting. That is not the experience I've felt drawn to report on here.

I would rather share my intense gratitude for the gifts of that quieter day, when I knew in a deeper way that God's word IS living and active. I'm thankful for the gift of realizing that God has gifts for me, whether or not I see or hear or feel them.

How glad I am that, on that quieter day, I took time to be with God.

There were gifts, solid gifts. I would hate to have missed them.


Painting: Nicolae Vermont, 1919

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

An Abyss of Love

'This divine heart is an abyss filled with all blessings, and into it the poor should submerge all their needs. It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows. It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need.'  St. Margaret Mary

'Since there is in the Sacred Heart a symbol and sensible image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love one another, therefore it is fit and proper that we should consecrate ourselves to His most Sacred Heart - an act which is nothing else than an offering and a binding of oneself to Jesus Christ, seeing that whatever honor, veneration and love is given to this divine Heart is really and truly given to Christ Himself.' Pope Leo XIII

'O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life, Your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love. You are my refuge and my sanctuary. O my adorable and Loving Savior, consume my heart with the burning fire with which Yours is aflame. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love. Let my heart be united with Yours. Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things. May Your will be the rule of all my desires and actions.'   St. Gertrude the Great

'Every time I hear anyone speak of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or of the Blessed Sacrament, I feel an indescribable joy. It is as if a wave of precious memories, sweet affections and joyful hopes swept over my poor person, making me tremble with happiness and filling my soul with tenderness. These are loving appeals from Jesus Who wants me wholeheartedly there, at the source of all goodness, His Sacred Heart throbbing mysteriously behind the Eucharistic veils. I love to repeat today 'Sweet Heart of Jesus, make me love You more and more.''  Pope St. John XXIII

'Do not let the past disturb you, just leave everything in the Sacred Heart and begin again with joy.' St. Teresa of Calcutta

Monday, June 19, 2017

Of Jesus Concealed

'In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host. Be assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful. It is a source of comfort and light, particularly to those who are suffering.'

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Painting: Henri Alphonse Louis Laurent-Desrousseaux

Sunday, June 18, 2017

There Are Certain Things

'There are certain things which lose their fragrance in the open air, 
certain thoughts so intimate that they cannot be translated into earthly 
language without losing at once their deep and heavenly meaning. 
How lovely it was, that first kiss of Jesus in my heart - 
it was truly a kiss of love. I knew that I was loved 
and said 'I love You, and I give myself to You forever.' 

St Therese of Lisieux

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Breath of Home

My goal is to go through the world carrying Jesus in my heart.  To remain cloaked in an atmosphere of prayer wherever I may be, whatever I happen to be doing.

Not unlike an astronaut, I carry the oxygen of my Homeland with me, breathing it in and out with every silent prayer.

And I wonder: can it change a family, a workplace, a city, if a person is praying in the midst of it?
Of course it can; of course it inevitably does.  Such is an apostolate of a cloistered heart, carried to a family, into rush hour traffic, onto a bus.

It is “living Jesus” no matter where one happens to be. 

"Always remember… to retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others. This mental solitude cannot be violated by the many people who surround you since they are not standing around your heart but only around your body. Your heart remains alone in the presence of God.” (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life).

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.'   

Monday, June 12, 2017

A New Life of Friendship

'A change comes in the soul when it begins to really recognize Who it is that dwells in her. A new life of affection begins a new life of intimate friendship.

Intimate friends are characterized by mutual benevolence: each one makes the interest of the other the subject of his thoughts and of his plans...

In such manner should we live in the intimacy of our Divine Guest. We should turn to him frequently, to speak of ourselves, our sorrows, our joys. We should, in all simplicity, as between friends, tell Him of our anxieties, our needs, our plans, our projects.

But we should speak to Him also of His own interests and especially of the salvation of souls, which is God's great desire. We should beg His grace, the grace of the Faith, for those outside the Church, and the grace of Hope and Charity for those inside the Church. By so doing, we are making the interests of our Divine Guest our own.

Some may think that such a life of Union with God is only for saints, that a life of intimacy in which the soul constantly turns to God, as to a loving and beloved guest, is not for the ordinary faithful. This view is incorrect.

Intimacy with God is not for the saints only, it is for all of us.

God dwells in each soul which is in the state of grace and calls each of us to be united to Him in intimate friendship.'

(from 'Listening to the Indwelling Presence' by a Religious, Pelligrini, 1940, pp. 62-63)

Painting: Gaspar de Crayer, The Vision of St Theresa of Avila

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Choosing the Grille

I've just rediscovered the following, written several years ago by a friend who also seeks to see and respond to life "through the grillwork of the will of God".....

"Some sections of my grille seem to be growing stronger.  These sections are those that deal with world issues, politics, even criticisms and crises in the Church.  It used to be that such issues as these reached through my grille and almost strangled me.  I do not ignore these situations but now I seem to be better able to turn them over to God.  If there is an action to take, I take that action with prayer.  Otherwise, I pray for Gods mercy and then I surrender it to God's will... 

"The area of my grille that seems weakest is the section dealing with the world closest to me, that is, my family.  There is always someone or some situation reaching through my grille.  My grille is worn thin.  Some bars are splintered.  My grille often seems to be stretched and misshapen so that I no longer recognize those little crosses that are supposed to be holding my grille together.  It feels like hands, arms and legs are reaching through the grille tangling with each other while trying to entrap me... 

"The point is: it is easier for me to surrender to God the earth-shaking issues of the world than it is for me to surrender the simple, everyday issues of my family life..."

I say to my friend, and to anyone reading this: oh, how I identify. Especially in recent weeks, as I've been dealing with a bit of physical illness, I find myself scrambling to focus on God's truth about circumstances in which I find myself.  Am I in discomfort today? My initial reaction (my family can tell you) is to panic and fret. It then takes prayer and a concentrated effort for me to settle down and even begin to look for "the grille." I am happy to report, however, that years of practice have paid off, that memorized bits of Scripture do come to mind when needed, and that I can make the choice to react to situations as God asks me to.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no fruit, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights." (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

"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)
"I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

Painting at top: Henri Lebasque, 1937

Friday, June 9, 2017

Grounded on the Word of God

I heard someone speak recently about the importance of Scripture, and I decided that now might be a good time to check on my "grillwork.'

In our analogy, a "cloistered heart" is a person who wants to live totally for God with no ifs, no ands, no buts. Our life is our monastery. Our cloister, or "enclosure," is the will of God in which we choose to dwell.

Our "grille" is also the will of God, through which we seek to view and respond to all of life. Just as some who live in physical enclosures interact with the world outside through panels of grillwork, we can view and respond to each situation and every person through the "grillwork of the will of God"  as revealed in Scripture and Church teaching.

It is all very basic. It's all very simple. It is an analogy which has been developing for more than thirty years now, and I strive to live it. Yet how quickly my eyes can drift away from looking at everything through Scripture. It takes just one roll of the spiritual eyeballs, and my focus has changed.

Someone once told me of reading Scripture to a man who was in panic as he faced a dangerous surgical procedure. The man's countenance was seen to change as he was presented with the word of God. He was given grillwork!

I must have my grillwork. How do I make sure I have it, and that it's set firmly in place before my spiritual eyes?

I find and strengthen my grillwork by prayerfully reading Scripture. "Speaking of the importance of the word of God as nourishment for the spiritual life, Vatican C II says: 'Prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together, for we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine sayings. The reading serves as a beginning, a point of departure for the interior dialogue: the written word then becomes a living word with which God Himself lights up the depths of the recollected soul, making it understand its meaning and its  practical application for daily life. Thus, the soul advances from reading to the attitude of Mary of Bethany, who, seated at the Lord's feet, listened to His teaching. This is the precious listening which Jesus calls the 'one thing needful... the good portion..,' meaning that an hour spent listening to the words of eternal life is worth more than a thousand worldly accomplishments. Then spontaneously, the listening opens into prayer, which is the response of the soul to the Lord's word and light: adherence, acceptance, renunciation, and an impulse of love for God, renewed fervor in serving Him, resolution to do good, and thanksgiving. Sacred Scripture, particularly the Gospel, texts of the missal and breviary offer most beautiful and useful themes for meditation precisely because they are the word of God and the word of the Church.'" (Divine Intimacy Vol II by Father Gabriel OCD, Ignatius Press 1987, p. 147)

I pray that God will provide His grillwork for all of us, that we may see and respond to every situation and every person through His will. I pray that we each shall know, love, embrace, hunger for, live His holy word.  

"The Christian faith is grounded on the Word of God. This is what places it in the sovereign degree of certainty, as having the warrant of that eternal and infallible Truth. Faith which rests on anything else is not Christian." (St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, TAN, 1989, p 83)