Cloistered Life – Selfish or Self-gift?
Sometimes people have the idea of cloistered life as being a selfish life…one “escapes” from the world to live on a spiritual “high” close to God. But if a woman enters the monastery to “escape” her troubles she will only find that they have followed her right into the cloister.
No, one enters the cloister not to escape her problems but to learn to embrace them as she embraces her own humanity in Jesus Christ. It is there, in the Heart of Christ, His pierced Heart, that she also learns to embrace aridity in prayer and daily life.
We are average, ordinary women, asked to stand before God on behalf of His people, such as Queen Esther did in coming before the King (Esther C: 12 – D:12).
As I shared in an earlier post, this past Lent I re-read He Is My Heaven: The Life of Elizabeth of the Trinity. When I read the section I will quote below, I thought, “this so clearly states the goal of being a Passionist Nun!” You see, we are not freed up from the responsibilities of family life, employment, etc. to live a life of selfishness but we are freed up so as to give a complete gift of self.
Granted this is the end goal…it takes a life-time to reach this goal…and that too is the making of a Passionist Nun…the prayer and sacrifices of daily life teach one to live a holocaustal life in union with Jesus Crucified. Truly a life of serious dedication…truly a life of JOY!
It was for self-sacrifice and total giving that she [Elizabeth] had entered Carmel. In February, a family friend, Mme. de Bobet, sent her a copy of the works of St. John of the Cross, and his writings helped her penetrate more deeply into the spiritual meaning of her self-giving. Quoting from his works she wrote:
“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; and, actually, you cannot have life without Him!” (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 1,7).
‘That is the whole life of Carmel, to live in Him. Then all sacrifices, all immolations become divine, for through everything the soul sees Him whom it loves, and everything leads it to Him; it is a continual heart-to-heart! you see you can already be a Carmelite [Passionist!] in soul. (Letter 136)