Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lost in His Heart

'I feel entirely lost in this divine Heart. It is as though I were in a fathomless abyss, in which He discloses to me treasures of love and of grace for those who consecrate and sacrifice themselves to give and procure for Him all the honor, love and glory in their power.'

St. Margaret Mary

public domain photo

This is a repost from the archives of 6/12/15.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Name of Our Redemption

'How happy we will be if, 
at the hour of our death, 
as well as during the whole 
of our lives, we pronounce 
the Sacred Name of our 
Savior with due respect. 
It will be like a password 
with which we freely enter 
into heaven, for it is the 
name of our redemption.'

St. Francis de Sales


Painting: Baciccio, 'The Triumph of the Name of Jesus'

This is a repost from the archives of 8/7/16.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Our Patroness

The concept of the cloistered heart can be said to have several "patrons," but one saint in particular serves as a primary role model.  Why?  Perhaps the following will help, at least a little, to answer that question....

St. Jane de Chantal was Francis de Sales' co-founder of the Visitation of Holy Mary.  Before becoming a nun, however, Jane was a young widow consulting St. Francis for spiritual direction.  At that time, she was a busy laywoman with four children to raise.  

Recognizing the desires of her heart, Francis de Sales directed Jane "in her growing intimacy and conformity to the signified will of God.  He even confirmed her in the practice of imaging her own spiritual world with monastic imagery.  For example, she took the Virgin Mary as the Abbess of the cloister of her own heart."  
(Wendy Wright, Joseph Power OSFS and Peronne Marie Thibert VHM, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, Letters of Spiritual Direction, Paulist, 1988, p. 41) 

"The spirit of God does not depend on retirement.  Rather it is a spirit that strengthens and perfects all occupations." - St. Jane de Chantal

"Ah, what a happiness to live thus in the world without sharing in its miserable affections and aims!"  - St. Jane de Chantal

"You must adhere to this practice of looking at God within you and it will absorb all others."  - St. Jane de Chantal

"Our Lord, in no place of Scripture, says... give Me thy head, thine arms, thy life, but only:  My child, give Me thy heart.  Whoso has a person's heart, has the entire person.  The heart is the seat of love.  When I shall have thy heart, I shall set My love upon it.  I will make My love dwell therein and then all the rest will follow as a consequence."  - St. Jane de Chantal

This is a repost from the archives of 5/24/13.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Cloistered Heart of St. Margaret Mary

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque's was a heart filled with fire.  Jesus chose to reveal to this Visitation nun a Heart ablaze - His own Sacred Heart.  I think it's accurate to say that the saint encountered the Fire of Jesus' love and reflected it back to Him.  Love met love, Heart met heart, Fire met fire.  But the story did not end there.

Jesus entrusted to Margaret Mary a mission:  to spread the message of His fiery love.

"My Divine Heart," Christ said in an apparition to this humble nun in 1673, "is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you in particular, that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning charity any longer. They must burst out through you."

St. Margaret Mary later wrote: "Jesus asked for my heart, which I begged Him to take, and He placed it in His adorable One, in which He showed it to me as a tiny speck consumed in this burning furnace. Then, taking it out as a burning flame shaped like a heart, He replaced it in the place from which He had taken it."  

St. Margaret Mary said many things that strike at the very core of my "cloistered" heart.  I have room here for a few examples....

"Our Lord frequently told me that I should keep a secluded place for Him in my heart, where He would teach me to love Him."  

"I beg the Sacred Heart of Jesus to deign to consume ours in the flames of His holy love, so that they may live and breathe only to love, honor and glorify Him." 

"Jesus Christ is the true friend of our hearts, and they are made for Him alone.  They cannot find rest, joy, or satisfaction except in Him."

"He wants your heart without reserve."

Jesus wants my heart without reserve.  He desires my love in return for His.  

How will I respond?

Detail of painting by Georges de la Tours, cropped and digitally altered.  In public domain.

This is a repost from the archives of 6/13/13.  

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Revisiting Visitations

The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth is one of my favorite feasts.  On so many levels, it speaks to my life as a cloistered heart.
Mary visited Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56) because she had BEEN Visited by God.  She didn't go to Elizabeth alone - she went with the Presence of Christ inside her.  As one living "cloistered for Jesus" in the midst of the world, I carry Christ inside me as well.  Not in the same unique way, certainly.  But according to Scripture and Church teaching, I indeed carry Him within. 

Mary went on a simple visit to Elizabeth.  It was an occasion that I'm sure went unnoticed by many.  A woman went to visit her kinswoman; something that happened all the time.  No one would have cried out: "look, there goes Mary on mission!" or "how about that!  This visit will be written of in the Bible!"  From the merely human perspective, it was simply a time of normal interaction between two women, two relatives.  

And so it is with us.  You and I have opportunities every single day to visit people with the presence of Christ.  In the everyday activities of life, we visit family members, neighbors, store clerks, callers on the phone. 

I find it extremely helpful when I make a conscious effort to visit these persons with the love of Our Lord.  That is - with an awareness of Christ within me.  I have found that it makes quite a difference in my attitude when I think of things this way.

I ask myself: What might happen if I make a conscious effort to go through today "on visitation?"  

What if I first visit the Lord in prayer, and then specifically visit every person I encounter with the love of Christ?  This does not mean I have to say or do anything that will draw attention.  It can mean that I pray a silent aspiration for the mailman, smile at a harried store clerk, relate to family members with patience.  I might write a note to a friend, send an e-mail of encouragement, call a lonely relative.  

My visitations can be simple and unnoticed.  But as I carry the love of Christ to those around me, it just might be that Heaven will rejoice.

This is a repost from the archives of 5/31/17.  

Sunday, May 20, 2018


'Veni Creator Spiritus!
Breathe on me, life giving Spirit of God,
come as a Wind.
I am dead, quicken Thou me.
I am listless, inoperative, lukewarm, indolent,
revive Thou me.
Sweep from my soul all its torpor,
all its indifference, all its decay.

'Veni Creator Spiritus!
Come as a Fire.
I need the fire that destroyeth all things rank and gross.
Many such elements are in my soul.
I need the fire that purifyeth imperfect motive, inconsistent life.
I need the fire that infuseth new warmth and glow.

'Veni Creator Spiritus!
Come as a Speech.
O, give me utterance that I may tell
the wonderful works of God.
Give me boldness that none may make me afraid.
Give me the grace of witness-bearing,
that my lips may testify gladly
to Christ, my King.
Give me demonstration of spirit,
wide horizons, great prospect, immortality.
Yea, give me a Feast of Pentecost in my soul.
Veni Creator Spiritus!'

     (from Fervorinos from the Lips of the Master, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1940, p. 184) 

Drafted by NS 3/27/14

Sunday, May 6, 2018

What IS a Cloistered Heart?

We ask ourselves the question now and then, in different ways. 

Is 'The Cloistered Heart' an analogy? (yes).  Is it a way of life? (yes).  Is The Cloistered Heart an article, a book, a blog?  Is it Catholic?  Is it people who pray for the Church and the world and one another?  

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.  

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)

Drafted by NS 8/3/17

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cloistered Heart Easter Blessings! Christ has Risen, Alleluia!

During her final illness and prior to her death, on August 30, 2017, Nancy expressed her ongoing desire that the blog continue after her death.  It has taken a while to get things organized so as to be ready to honor Nancy's wishes and begin to send out posts from The Cloistered Heart blog for those who were faithful followers and those who will discover it anew.  

During Nancy's illness, she drafted posts to be published at a later time.  The blog will draw from these unpublished drafts, as well as from the archives.  May you be richly blessed by the return of The Cloistered Heart blog.  May God be honored and praised in the "cloister of our hearts!"  Alleluia!  

NS/CHC    [Nancy Shuman / Cloistered Heart Community]