Realizing that my next blog would be posted on the last day of November, I felt inspired to write about “Holy Souls and Cloistered Hearts.” You may be asking yourself right at this moment, “what exactly is a cloistered heart?”
Well, before I answer that question, I want to go back in time many years ago when I first came across a beautiful blog written by a “holy soul” named Nancy Shuman. The name of the blog was The Cloistered Heart, and I found myself hooked on reading her postings regularly. She had received a beautiful gift from God to take fine artwork that was open to public domain and marry it to sacred scripture.
Nancy gave a little preview of her calling to a “cloistered heart” on her blog and I quote her as follows:
Since 1990 or thereabouts, I’ve embraced a vocation within a vocation to live as a cloistered heart in the midst of family life. Articles on the Cloistered Heart have been in several publications, most notably Review for Religious in 1993. The Cloistered Heart book was reviewed in Laywitness Magazine in 1999, and its most recent edition is available, among other places, through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’m certified in Spiritual Direction through Our Lady of Divine Providence in affiliation with Franciscan University of Steubenville, and I strive to keep everything I write in line with Scripture and the teachings of the Church (as outlined in the Official Catechism of the Catholic Church).
So, what exactly is a cloistered heart according to Nancy Shuman?
The following is Nancy’s definition:
A cloistered heart may be married or single, nurse or engineer or homemaker, yet the heart can be cloistered.
My cloister is not made of bricks and stones, but of God’s holy will in which I have chosen to live.
The will of God forms for me a “cloister grille,” through which I may view and respond to all people, all circumstances, all things that make up the world in which I live.
My commitment to God does not conflict with family life, but rather enhances and empowers it.
Nancy continues with the following,
I have learned that, in the cloister of my heart, I, too, have a “choir stall.” Mine is a portable place of prayer, traveling with me to supermarket, airplane, mall. I can “sit down” in this prayer-chair regardless of surroundings, seeking God’s touch upon my life and on the lives of those around me.
There are no bells to call me to the choir stall. I must build reminders into my own life. I find the following practices helpful, even necessary, if I hope to keep my life on track:
Upon awakening in the morning,
I can enter my choir stall by beginning my day with a prayer. This is the framework upon which the rest of the day will be woven.
At some point during the day,
I try to set aside a block of time to spend with God. I spend time in prayer with Scripture. It may also be possible for me to go to Mass or Adoration. “Even if your daily life in the service of mankind is overburdened with work, it has to include time devoted to silence and to prayer. . . Learn to pray! ” (Pope John Paul II)
Throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening,
I use brief prayers to return me to my choir stall. I turn my heart to God with inward phrases of prayer, no matter what I am doing or where I happen to be. “Jesus, I trust in You. . .” “Holy Spirit, be my guide. . .”
As I begin various activities,
I can enter the choir stall by offering my actions to God and imploring His aid. “O you who fear the Lord, praise Him in the places where you are now. Change of place does not affect any drawing nearer to God, but wherever you may be, God will come to you.” (Gregory of Nyssa).
As I retire,
I close the day in my choir stall. “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in His peace.” (From Liturgy of the Hours, Night Prayer).
Lord Jesus Christ, I ask You to form in me a habit of prayer. Draw me to meet with You day after day, no matter what my circumstances, in the choir stall of my heart.”
When I first read Nancy’s definition of what a “cloistered heart” should be, it was totally the opposite of what I first had drawn up in my mind. I had visions of being a “cloistered nun” or a hermit living alone in the wilderness but I learned how far off I was in that kind of thinking. I loved that Nancy painted a picture of a “portable cell” being carried throughout the day within our hearts and also supplied beautiful visuals of ways to carry this off in our own personal lives daily on her blog.
In “Part II,” I will introduce you to Nancy and give you a glimpse of how I perceived her carrying out her vocation and how she touched my life by living it with me on a personal basis even though we were miles and miles apart.
To be continued. . .but I leave you now with a prayer from St. Faustina that just gives the final AMEN to what Nancy wrote as a roadmap to being a “cloistered heart.”
(Jesus) “.. reign in the most secret recesses of my heart,
there where my most secret thoughts are conceived,
where You alone have free access,
in this deepest sanctuary where human thought cannot penetrate.
May You alone dwell there, and may everything I do exteriorly take its origin in You.
I ardently desire, and I am striving with all the strength of my soul, to make You, Lord, feel at home in this sanctuary.”
(St. Faustina; Diary, #1721)
As we enter into this great Season of Advent, let us give Jesus the
“Key to our Hearts.”
What an Awesome Birthday Gift for Him!!!
©2018 Anita Guariglia
Photo Credit Featured Image – Boldt Castle/Anita Guariglia
Photo Credit – Rose, Heart & Key/Pixabay
Quotes from Nancy Shuman directly from www.thecloisteredheart.org
St. Faustina: Diary, #1721