Monasteries of the Heart
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
This evening I attended the first of several meetings on Joan Chittister’s book, Monastery of the Heart. For those who are not familiar with her work, Chittister is a prolific writer of amazing spiritual depth. She is also a Benedictine nun. This book is her attempt to share some thoughts on the ways in which some of the ideas and ideals lived in communal religious life might be lived out in an “ordinary, everyday” life. She suggests we make monasteries of our hearts.
My own opinion is that the concept of communities of celibate men or women living in close quarters and often under rigid discipline has not always been a healthy or spiritually productive one. However, I do believe that most of the people who have tried this (for centuries on end) have had at heart the intention of coming closer to God, and that God has drawn very near to every soul who desires that closer connection. I know that I can learn deep truths from some of these fellow Christians: Brother Lawrence is one good example. I feel that way about Chittister’s writings. They are rich in spiritual truths and I have been blessed by them.
So I thought that for the next few weeks I’d take those of you who are interested to my meetings with me.
Tonight, after prayer that God would help us “listen with the ears of our hearts” (one of the Benedictine prayers), we read together the introduction of the book and discussed some of the questions it raised. One of these questions was, “Do you agree that seeking the Divine is an attempt to complete the incomplete? Why or why not?”
My own reaction to this was that there are two ways (at least) to see the term “incomplete.” One is something that is broken or inadequate. The other is something that is new, small, has not grown up yet.
I can’t explain why I always, as long as I can remember, from babyhood or at least toddlerhood, have been strongly aware of the presence of God around me and in me. I have never experienced the “search for God” that is such a huge and sometimes desperate part of the lives of so many. Yet I began to be aware, in a small way as early as 7 or 8, and certainly by 14 and up, of my need and desire to “grow up” in God—to “complete the incomplete” in that sense. I am still aware of that need and desire.
Throughout my life it is also true that there has been much brokenness—both damage done to me by others who had power over me in one way or another, and damage done to myself by my own unwise choices. So one of the ways I like to think of the Holy Spirit’s work is as a sort of “force field,” holding me and all my holes and cracks together while I’m mended from the inside out. Completing the incomplete.
Paul said we see unclearly, as in the dim mirrors of polished metal with which he was familiar. We don’t see the Whole—and only a few of the parts, for that matter. But together with God we keep putting the puzzle pieces together, discovering parts of the Big Picture as we go, and one day (oh, please, God, soon!!) the Picture will be Whole. Complete.
Come, Lord Jesus! And in the meantime, keep the shields up and our force fields of faith activated. Amen!