Sunday, January 29, 2017

Give Us Wisdom...

O gracious and Holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive You, diligence to seek You, 
patience to wait for You, eyes to behold You, 
a heart to meditate upon You, and a life to proclaim You.
St. Benedict
    Painting: 15th century painters, St. Benedict

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tiny Teasing Crosses

'Teach me silence, dearest Jesus,
when in sorrow and in pain,
For to hide in Thee my suffering
makes me love Thy cross again.

Teach me patience, dearest Jesus, 
when all day my heart is tried
by those tiny teasing crosses,
welcome friends - that crush my pride.'

(from 'Listening to the Indwelling Presence' by a Religious, Pelligrini, 1940, p. 122)

Painting: Frank W Benson, The Open Window, 1917

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Revisiting the Grille

The grille is a powerful symbol.  In the cloistered heart way of life we describe here, 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 connect with the world.

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.

One exercise that I've found helpful over the years is to write scriptures on pictures of grillwork, or sometimes on pieces of plain cardboard on which I've drawn a simple 'grid' of squares. I have gone so far as to cut out the holes on some of these.  It's a simple little 'craft,' but it does help drive the point home for me. I am not so good at remembering to see and respond to people and circumstances 'through the grille,' so I benefit from a stream of tangible reminders.

The important thing, of course, is to become familiar with my 'grillwork.' I have a number of Bibles in my home - do I read them? 

Do I spend time in prayer with Scripture?

Do I allow the Word of God to form my mind and heart, so I can interact with the world as I am called to do?

As I have been writing this, I've been constantly reminded of a television commercial (I think for insurance) in which someone asks about the contents of our wallets. The contents of our minds are obviously of much more importance.  '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 12:0). It is a vital bar of our grille.

The grillwork of God's Word to us is perfect, made-for-us-insurance when we face the world around us.

What's on YOUR grille?

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.'

© 2017 N. Shuman

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Blog Slipped Under the Door

I like to imagine that, were he living in our age, St. Francis de Sales would be a blogger.  After reading the following on Catholic Online, I suspect my idea may not be all that far-fetched.... 

"Francis' unusual patience kept him working.  No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door.  So Francis found a way to get under the door.  He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors.  This is the first record we have of religious tracts being used to communicate with people." 

It is primarily because of his tracts, copied tirelessly by hand and slipped under doors, that Francis de Sales has been named patron of Catholic journalists.

I cannot imagine a more appropriate saint for bloggers.

May he pray for all who slip faithful, God-honoring, blog posts through today's cyber-doors.

More about St. Francis de Sales (and some lovely photos) can be found on the following video, which was posted in honor of his feast today on the Visitation Nuns' blog Honey For The Soul...

(the text of this post is from our archives)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Revisiting An Act of Mercy

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 examine His sacred wounds. What an act of mercy! "Yes, it is I," He could be saying. "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.'

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Buried in God's Will

“Do not live in fear, little flock. It has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

The temptation to worry seems to be part of the human condition.  Some of us have actually been trained in the “art” of worrying, being led to believe that in some way it helps in our management of life. As if worrying about something is a way of rendering it powerless, when of course the opposite is true. "Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" asks Jesus in Matthew 6:27.

I'm comforted by knowing that if Our Lord asked this question, it's because there are others who, like me, need to hear ourselves say "no." I am also glad to know there is something I can do when I'm attacked by anxieties and fears. "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You," says Psalm 56:3. This may sound too simple, but it's actually a good, solid beginning. It places before me a choice. I can focus on worries and concerns, or I can choose to place my trust in God... regardless of how I feel.

"So do not worry," Jesus told His listeners. "Your heavenly Father knows what you need. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." (Matthew 6:31-34)

"Entrust yourself entirely to God," said St. Paul of the Cross; "He is a Father and a most loving Father at that, who would rather let heaven and earth collapse than abandon anyone who trusted in Him.” 

"Cast all your worries upon Him, because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

"And of what should we be afraid? Our captain on this battlefield is Christ Jesus. We have discovered what we have to do. Christ has bound our enemies for us and weakened them that they cannot overcome us unless we choose to let them. So we must fight courageously and mark ourselves with the sign of the most Holy Cross." (St. Catherine of Siena)

"When you notice that your heart is moving away even the tiniest bit from that inner peace that comes from the living faith-experience of the divine presence in the soul, stop and examine what the cause of this anxiety might be. Maybe it is some worry concerning your house or children, or some situation you cannot change at present. Bury it in God's loving will." (St. Paul of the Cross)

For Reflection:  
Do I have trouble trusting in God? Perhaps it will help if I realize that even in the midst of worries and concerns, I can make the choice to place my trust in God. My feelings may be trying to run my life in this matter, but I can choose not to let them do so.

A Prayer:  
Lord, I may be having a difficult time trusting totally in You. I know You understand this. I ask You to heal me, and I choose - in spite of whatever I may be feeling - to turn the management of my life over to You. Please open my eyes to Your tender love and concern for me. 

My past, O Lord, to your mercy; my present, to your love; my future, to your Providence!”  (St. Padre Pio)

Painting: George Hitchcock, Girl on Her Way to Church

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rx: This Name

'Does one of us feel sad? Let the Name of Jesus come into his heart...
And where is that man who, terrified and trembling before impending peril, has not been suddenly filled with courage and rid of fear by calling on the strength of that Name?
Where is the man who, tossed on the rolling seas of doubt, did not quickly find certitude by recourse to the clarity of Jesus's Name?
Was ever a man so discouraged, so beaten down by afflictions, to whom the sound of this Name did not bring new resolve?
In short, for all the ills and disorders to which flesh is heir, this Name is medicine.' 

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Painting: Wilhelm Bernatzik, Vision of St. Bernard (detail)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

He Stills the Storm to a Whisper

The world is not safe from sin and evil - even the body is not safe from harm. But within the cloistered heart there is refuge. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. In the cloister I am always safe. (NS)

Someone once asked if I could share some of my favorite "pieces of grillwork." I am delighted to do so, particularly as we continue looking at the refuge we have in Christ.

In addition to scripture verses, I'm also mixing in one or two appropriate quotes from a few saints. After all, if anyone ever found the "view through the grille," it was they. 

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

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

"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)

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the waters you shall not drown.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you."  (Isaiah 43:1-2)

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

"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) 

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)


"The present burden of our trial is light enough, and earns for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. We do not fix our gaze on what is seen but on what is unseen. What is seen its transitory; what is unseen lasts forever." (1 Corinthians 4:17-18)

"I am sure of this much: that He who has begun the good work in you will carry it through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

"In Him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything."  (Philippians 4:13)

"There is cause for rejoicing here.  You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ appears."  (1 Peter 1:6-7)

"Count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial. Realize that when your faith is tested this makes for endurance.  Let endurance come to its perfection so that you may be fully mature and lacking in nothing."  (James 1:2-4)

"Even though I walk through a dark valley, I fear no evil, for You are at my side." (Psalm 23:4)

"Be firm and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

"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)

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)

"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) 

"He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed." (Psalm 107:29)


Painting at top: Nikolai N. Dubowski

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, January 10, 2017

We Come From Somewhere Else

'The false optimism,
the modern happiness,
tires us because it tells 
us we fit into this world.
The true happiness
is that we don't fit.
We come from
somewhere else.'

GK Chesterton

Painting: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1865

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Who Has Forgotten God

'It is not our economics which have failed; it is man who has failed - man who has forgotten God. Hence no manner of economic or political readjustment can possibly save our civilization; we can be saved only by a renovation of the inner man, only by a purging of our hearts and souls; for only by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His justice will all the other things be added unto us.'

Fulton J. Sheen

Painting: Anders Zorn

Friday, January 6, 2017

Where Nothing Frightens Me

'My preference is to retire with Him to the deepest part of my soul as often as possible. When I am with Him there, nothing frightens me.' 

Brother Lawrence 

Painting: William McGregor Paxton, Venice 1910 (detail)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Revisiting My Refuge

I knew, when the idea of the cloistered heart first came to me in the 1980s, that monasteries of nuns or monks have special places not open to outsiders. I realized that these areas were called cloisters.  It was enough information to get me started. “The whole idea of a cloistered heart,” I wrote in 1988, “is that the part of me referred to as the ‘heart’ – meaning my spirit, who I really AM – should be detached from the world in its attachment to the Creator of the world."

A place of refuge, no matter where I happened to be. A portable fortress, a place inviolate - where I could remain with Jesus in the midst of snowstorms, traffic jams, persecutions, illnesses, fires, floods. It was an appealing idea. It was 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. The Lord is with me, He is within my cloister.  

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

"Remember… to retire occasionally into the solitude of your heart while you are outwardly engaged in business with others.  This mental solitude cannot be prevented by the multitude of those who surround you.  As they are not about your heart, but only about your body, your heart remains alone in the presence of God.”  (St. Francis de Sales).

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


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

From Sudden Places

'The hours I tread ooze memories of Thee...
Beneath my casual feet
With rainfall as the lea
The day is drenched with Thee.
In little exquisite surprises 
Bubbling deliciousness of Thee arises 
From sudden places
Under the common traces
Of my most lethargied and customed places.'

(from The Living Pyx of Jesus by A Religious, Pelligrini, 1941, p. 27)