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