Thus says the Lord:
I will allure her;
I will lead her into the desert, and speak to her heart.
Why enclosure? What is all that about?
A certain degree of withdrawal from the world and some measure of contemplation must necessarily be present in every form of Christian life.
Some, however, are invited to “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place”, (Mk 6:31) for the sake of leading a more intense life of prayer and solitude, as a particular way of living and expressing the Paschal mystery of Christ.
For St. Clare and her sisters, enclosure arose out of their longing to “love totally the One who gave Himself totally for their love”.(Ltr3Ag15). Poor Clares undertake enclosure by virtue of a vow. We see it as a tried and most excellent support of the contemplative life, and therefore, joyfully embrace its demands.
The joy of the Lord is your strength. (Neh 8:10).
So often we see Jesus withdrawing from the crowd. “At daybreak Jesus left the town and went off to a lonely place” (Lk 4:42.) “Jesus led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves”. Mk. 9:2. “Jesus went up a hill to pray and spent the whole night there praying”. Lk. 6:12. etc.
By His example, Jesus has taught us the value of purposeful withdrawal. Hence we bind ourselves by vow, to observe this form of solitude.
The grille, and other expressions of enclosure, are symbols of the step back from the world, which we have taken, in order to keep our focus on the Person of Jesus, as we strive to bring all of humanity to Him, for healing, comfort and strength.
Our option in life, is only justified by Jesus Christ; only He can give an account of our vocational option. Jesus has to be the soul of our prayer and the centre of our life.
Rev. J. R. Carballo Minister General OFM
Lord, it is good for us to be here.
In his homily during his inaugural Mass, Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict says:
“Only when God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him…….. It is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy, which longs to break into the world.”
Not only is our call to “being” willed by Our loving Creator, every moment of our stay on earth is tenderly and joyfully foreseen and planned by Him.
“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8). God is Master of His gifts, and in His infinite wisdom, He has a unique plan for each member of the human race. “Think of the love the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are” (Jn 3:1). It is vitally important for everyone to discover what role, what service to humanity, God has marked out for each one.
If, by Divine inspiration, someone comes to us desiring to accept this life…
St. Clare has it right. A call to become a Poor Clare is not a bright idea we ourselves come up with. It must be a “Divine inspiration”. Each vocation is a completely new creation. God has His own loving way of speaking to hearts and His infallible Providence can always be trusted.
St. Clare has the greatest reverence for those enquiring about a vocation, but would not depend solely on their discernment. Dialogue and many other factors are employed to discover what the Spirit is really saying.
There are various responses to Our Lord’s gracious call. Think of Levi (Lk 5:27), almost recklessly throwing a great feast in honour of Jesus, so ecstatic was he at his great fortune in being chosen–called by Jesus, Who no doubt had the time of His life at the said party! Jesus was at ease with Levi and his friends.
Contrast Levi with the rich young man, in Mark 10:17. His was a totally certain call too. Jesus in Person invited him, but he went away sad, and must have remained so. What a tragedy! Poor “rich” man!
Levi trusted the spontaneous intuition of his heart and magnanimously embraced the invitation of Jesus. His was the proverbial: Love at first sight -- such was the impact of his encounter with Jesus. God’s joy broke into his life, and through him to others. By his refusal to answer the call, the un-named rich young man, blocked the flow of God’s joy.
Jesus would never stoop to coercing anyone and never will. He has entrusted each of us with free will and utterly respects His gift. If we trustingly amalgamate our freedom and our whole life with His Providence, then we simply CANNOT go wrong. The choice to accept or refuse is ours. What a responsibility! Yes, but: “With God we shall do bravely” (Psalm 107).
Trust in God still, and trust in Me
Come and hear all who fear God,
I will tell what He did for my soul.
A sister in St. Damian’s recalls some of the stages of her vocation journey
Sometime during my teens, the booklet: “The Secret of Mary”, by St. Louis de Montfort, I believe came into my hands – how, I can in no way recall, but I will be eternally grateful for that grace. The message of that little gem spoke to my whole being.
Under God, I know I owe it entirely to Our Blessed Lady that I arrived safely where I can best encounter God and be His co-worker (3 LtCl. 8) in the vast field of souls. It may appear to be a life apart from the world, but the purpose is to be part of the entire world, of all from Adam to the last person to grace our planet.
The choice of Religious Life was an option I sometimes considered as I grew up. At times it seemed attractive but mostly my reaction was: no way! As my days in secondary school drew to a close, I felt the need to get a sense of direction for the rest of my life. After much prayer and reflection, listening to advice, and the example of friends, I opted for Religious Life. Step 1 was taken!
When I broke the news to my widowed father, he was shattered. How could I, the very apple of his eye, do such a thing to him? I thought of deferring the consideration of religious Life but gradually realized it was "now or never"! Indeed he himself, my Dad, and many neighbours, thought it significant, that he had acted the part of the Little Flower’s father in a play, some years previously. In retrospect, I can see countless incidents which manifested the hand of God leading me to my goal. The priests who gave our retreats in my final year in school, spoke eloquently and enthusiastically about Poor Clares, an Order which had never been mentioned in previous retreats.
On one occasion it seemed as if I experienced my entire life in an instant. I knew indeed that “Our life is over like a sigh”, (Psalm 88). It was like being on a very far distant shore, looking back on my life. What would I then want to have done with it? For me, the only answer was to become a Poor Clare. Step 2 was clear.
The next dilemma was: where? I knew of three monasteries but my heart was set on Dublin. After several enquiries, I thought there musn't be a Poor Clare monastery in Dublin, so I began to correspond with the monastery nearest home. Subsequently I discovered that the sisters there were saying a Rosary for me each day. God’s providence was again at work. Thank you indeed, Sisters. I really needed all those prayers! I am most indebted to you and am grateful. Eventually one of my sisters, through work and Legion meetings, discovered the Dublin monastery and made an appointment for me. In due course I was accepted and found my niche in life. Eternity will not be too long, to express my gratitude to God. I firmly believe the call is not just to an Order, but also to a specific house of the Order. In His wisdom, He directed me to it.
I assure you the hundredfold promised by Jesus, (Mt 19:29) is no fallacy. Before I was too long here, I felt totally healed of the pain of my mother’s death, eight years earlier. What a relief! I felt as if it was all given back. I was also aware of a growing sense of calm and contentment, which are with me to this day - a taste of the hidden sweetness(3LtCl 14.b).
At one of our family visits, my Dad and sister told me they felt Jesus Himself had taken my place in the home. On another occasion, Dad told me privately that he could not be better off, than he was, with the sister who stayed with, and looked after him. This was music in my ears!
It was always a great joy to hear that relatives and friends were happy in their vocation in life. As they were especially in my prayers, I felt it was confirmation of St. Colette’s assertion, that if we do God’s will, He will do ours (Testament). St. John of the Cross tells us that the greatest service we can render anyone, is to offer them to God in Contemplative prayer. How true!
Among the many gifts that we have received and daily continue to receive from our Benefactor, the Father of mercies (2Cor 1:3), and for which we must express the deepest thanks to the glorious Father of Christ, outstanding, indeed, is our vocation
I look forward to Heaven for many reasons, not least, to finding out, how “The Secret of Mary” came into my possession.
Come and hear all who fear God,
I will tell what He did for my soul.