What is Cloistered Life?

Nun Cloistered life is a formal way of life recognized by the Church to invite men and women to find within the hidden life of the monastery a place where they can experience the loving exchange of hearts with Christ Jesus. In this enclosure, they find their true selves and experience a foretaste of Heaven!

Postulator on St. Elizabeth of the Trinity: ‘A Beautiful Example of a Young Lay Saint’

rsz_cna_st_elizabeth_of_the_trinity-650x581In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register in the Vatican, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s postulator, Carmelite Father Romano Gambalunga, reflected on why Elizabeth epitomizes holiness, though as a little girl some would have said otherwise.

Moreover, the Carmelite priest shares how her example can inspire young people, especially those considering religious vocations, give peace to those suffering and provide all of the faithful a model on living out holiness in a frenetic and superficial world.

Pope Francis made the 20th-century Carmelite nun a canonized saint, October 16, at the Vatican, and her feast day will be November 8. This March, the Pope paved the way for the mystic and spiritual writer’s canonization, as he acknowledged a miracle worked through Blessed Elizabeth’s intercession.

Born Elizabeth Catez in France in 1880, she grew up in Dijon. Though she felt the call to be a Carmelite very young, Elizabeth obeyed her mother’s wish for her to wait until she became 21 to enter the convent. In the meantime, she lived an active social life, capturing many hearts, was an accomplished musician and contributed to her parish, doing all for Christ and always trying to radiate his light.

In 1901, she entered the Carmel community in Dijon, writing several works while there, including her prayer “O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore.” Only five years later, she died there at age 26 from the adrenal disorder Addison’s disease.
What would you say constituted the sanctity of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity?

Simply because, like all the saints, she believed in the revelation that God is love, is the Father, that Jesus is his son and he gives us his spirit of mercy and love. And if we live by faith, then we experience this Spirit ourselves, this energy that baptism gives us. On the day of first Communion, she already decided that she would totally give herself over to him. Up until that day, she was a terrible child.

Yes! The priest who was preparing her to for her first holy Communion said: “This little one will become an angel or a devil.” She had an incredible character. [She] was a volcano! She was an artist, was very sensitive, played the piano … but could not really go to the convent, when she wished to, because her mother told her to wait. So she lived instead her love of Jesus as she went to parties, through friendships, in trips and in working in the parish. The Lord taught her to live deep communion with him, even in the midst of all this. St. Elizabeth is a beautiful example of a young lay saint because she lived only the last five years of her life in the convent. And there, she radiated Christ’s light, and many drawn to her observed: “We see her, but we feel like we see ‘someone else.’” In fact, this is interesting, given that she said, no matter what stage of her life, “Lord, I wish that when people meet me, they see you.”
Her vocation to the religious life was met with resistance by her mother. It is a situation that happens often today to many considering a vocation.

All young people go through a difficult phase, when they decide to become themselves and demand freedom to do so. So often, even today, conflicts arise with their parents. But when there is a religious vocation, then the conflict is a bit paticular, because the parent understands that the child is not his anymore, and if he does not accept that, it is a problem. Elizabeth, however, teaches us that our freedom comes from hearing the voice of God, not by rebelling or being “against” someone. Elizabeth also teaches young people today what it means to obey their parents, to accept that they may need time, but encourages them to try anyway, together with the Lord, to help them better understand what God wants for us.
How can her life, marked by illness, be an example to those who suffer with illness? How can she teach us to think of Jesus’ suffering on the cross?

There are incredible letters she wrote to people with great suffering. Some to a depressed lady come to mind, in which Elizabeth says that the meeting with the Lord, that is to say our journey of holiness, is a downward path, into an abyss of our misery, of our nothingness. But yet, she explained, at that point, there is the deep impact of another abyss, that of the mercy of God. With this, our misery is no longer an obstacle to our happiness. Physical illness or moral despondency become a blessing. Also, when her sister was pregnant for the first time and had worries, Elizabeth encouraged her to live out her pregnancy as Mary did, with total trust that God would take care of her and help her each step of the way.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity died so young, but was already famous to the people of Dijon. What would you explain as the cause for this?

Elizabeth was very well-known because she was a natural leader: great temperament, social skills, vivacity, great ability to love and cultivate friendships. She was beautiful, and one could joke a little flirtatious, if you will, as she loved dressing elegantly and took care of herself. She was fascinating to young people, but friendly, not at all cold or distant. Also, as an artist, she was already famous, having won various awards, and, in the parish, she worked with the choir. She was also very involved in a normal young person’s social life, in festive evenings. … So when she entered the convent, the reaction of many was thinking: “But this is a wasted life! You had all these gifts and go to lock yourself up in a convent? And to do what?” Then came that, as one calls it, “fame of sanctity.” After her life, those in her Carmelite community wrote of this great writer and mystic, and word of her holiness spread more and more.
What does St. Elizabeth teach us today? How can she inspire us?

One of her typical expressions was: “My vocation, now as I go to Heaven, will be to help souls to cling with a simple movement to the soul to God who lives in them.” We live in very superficial world where everyone is always running and pleading for more time. … Elizabeth teaches us that if we understand that God is in us, then we live “from the inside,” with an awareness that gives light to all that we do. Every moment, then, becomes a moment in which we enter a bit more into the mystery of Christ.


The Vocation to Be a Contemplative Nun — A Benedictine Nun Reflects

The vocation to be a contemplative nun  is perhaps best understood in the light of the mystery of the Body of Christ which we, the Church, are. The mystery of contemplativebenedictinenunthe Body of Christ was first introduced by St. Paul and we read of it in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains that just as a body of flesh has many parts so it is with Christ’s Body the Church.  In just the same way as each body part has a different and  necessary role for the body to function (see 1Cor 12:14ff)  so also in the Church, there are many different people with many different functions  all of which are essential to the vitality of the Church.

Many liken contemplative nuns to the heart of the Church, which gives the power of love and fidelity to the other members through continual prayer and sacrifice. The contemplative nun is an essential part of the life and holiness of the Church. It is to the heart that our Lord speaks and the response of love from the soul begins in the heart. The task of the contemplative nun is to be the heart of the Church in continual dialogue with the Trinity — a continual heart to heart, listening and responding to the Eternal Word of the Father. Our Lord told us, “Abide in me… without me you can do nothing.” The contemplatives abide in Him in a special way as they live hidden in Christ, and through prayer bear fruit in the Church’s apostolic members.

The contemplative life acknowledges in a radical way the ultimate truth that no good we do is ours, but it is all the work of God.  It is a life of pure faith which testifies that the “victor is the one who believes” (1 Jn 5:5). We, the Church, are only successful, fruitful, through our faith. Thus it is that a life of pure faith is  truly the most fruitful, the most victorious.  It is through their hidden lives of faith that the contemplatives serve the Church and help it to grow. (Perfectae Caritatis, 7)  Contemplatives give themselves to God alone — He who is most worthy of our entire lives — and are the “glory of the Church and an overflowing fountain of heavenly graces.” (Perfectae Caritatis, no. 7)

A contemplative nun’s life of prayer is a life dedicated to the praise of God. Indeed the life of praise of God is the highest vocation to which all are called.  The summit and source of all the activity of the Church is the liturgy, the prayer, praise, and contemplation of the Blessed Trinity. In fact, the goal of the apostolic life is to lead all to the praise and worship of God. Thus the contemplative vocation exercises this essential duty of Church that of continuously giving praise to the Father.

For more information visit the Benedictine Nuns of Walburga.


“From Kansas to Carmel to Heaven” – Mother Regina of Christ the King’s Vocation Story

LAF 0616.indd“Mom was talking to me and thought it would be a good idea if I told you, in one letter for all three of you, some of the details pertaining to our trip to Lafayette, Louisiana, when we took Kathleen down there to enter the Carmelite Monastery,” he penned. He wrote of departing around noon on the day of Sept. 21, after allowing his two youngest daughters, Anne and Maggie, to stay home from school in order to spend as much time as possible with their sister Kathleen before the trip.

After stopping and visiting with various family acquaintances along the way, the Mullins arrived at Lafayette’s Carmelite Monastery—which was then located on College Avenue—at approximately 3:00 p.m. on Sept. 23. “I stopped the car in front of a beautiful home and yard directly behind and next to the big vine-covered wall behind the monastery,” Mr. Mullins wrote. “The place was so beautiful I asked the lady of the house, Mrs. Gauthier, if I could take some pictures of Kathleen in her gardens with the monastery walls and trees in the background. She was glad to comply and told us what a wonderful person the mother prioress was and she made us feel good telling Kathleen how lucky she was and how happy she’d be. Kath, of course, didn’t need that encouragement because her mind had been so completely set the whole world couldn’t change it.”

Now, nearly 60 years later, young Kathleen is known as Mother Regina of Christ the King. Physically she  may no longer be the 17-year-old girl that her fatherLAF 0616.indd photographed in front of Mrs. Gauthier’s home on College Avenue, but spiritually, her conviction to the Carmelite life has kept her jovial, steadfast and strong.

“On September 24th, I will be 60 years in Carmel,” she recently wrote to remind her five siblings in very much the same way her father did all those years ago. “When I entered, one of the first things that caught my eye was a sign that said: ‘I have brought you into the land of Carmel, to eat its fruits and the best things thereof.’

“There can be no doubt but that it was Our Lady herself who brought me into her
land of Carmel and, of course, the most blessed ‘fruit’ she has given me is the fruit of her womb, Jesus! All other ‘fruits’ of the land of Carmel flow from him.

“After many years, I can truthfully say: life gets better and better,” Mother Regina says. “From Kansas to Carmel and then to Heaven is the road Jesus mapped out for me.”

To read the rest of the article click here.



Seeking Silence in a Poor Clare Monastery

poorclareKatie Devitt stood in front of the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Kokomo, Indiana.

She carried her only remaining possessions:

  • Clothes
  • Two rosaries
  • Two Bibles
  • A few family photos

Her family waited beside her, fully aware of what this day meant.

Devitt will never touch them or her friends again. She may see her parents just a few times a year, but only through a screen. Mail is limited. Personal phone calls are not permitted. She may only leave the monastery for medical appointments.

When Devitt was ready, she said her goodbyes and then knocked on the door. Behind it, nine cloistered sisters waited.

At a time when few young people enter religious life, Devitt, Arts ’05, chose what some would call one of the most extreme paths: the life of a cloistered contemplative nun.

A native of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Devitt once dreamed of being a rock critic for the Chicago Tribune. She was raised Ukrainian Greek Catholic, but never gave her faith much thought outside of Sunday Mass.

That changed when she came to Marquette University and discovered Catholic Outreach, a group that meets weekly to reflect on the Scriptures. When the group started singing the hymn “As the Deer,” Devitt felt something move inside her.

“And bam, it just happened,” she says. “I felt Jesus’ presence for the first time. I knew without a doubt that He was real and that He loved me.”

She fell to her knees and sobbed. She realized how little she knew about her faith, how desperately she wanted to know more.

Devitt started attending daily Mass and switched her major from journalism to theology. Still, she never thought about a religious vocation.

“I thought I’d get married and have kids like everyone else,” she says.

Sophomore year brought another pivotal moment—the 9 p.m. Sunday Mass at Straz Hall. Rev. William Prospero, S.J., shared the Gospel story of the rich young man who asks Christ how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus responds, “Sell your possessions, give to the poor, then come, follow me.”

During the homily, Father Prospero urged students to contemplate what Jesus wants them to do with their lives.

Devitt received Holy Communion. She prayed.

Endless thoughts of the sisterhood started bombarding her mind.

“I didn’t know what a sister looked like, but I could see myself being one. I didn’t know what a sister did, but I could see myself doing it,” she said. “I started crying because I felt such an intense peace and happiness.”

She wiped the tears from her eyes and sprinted upstairs to her three roommates.

“Guys,” she said. “I think I’m supposed to be a nun.”

By the following morning, Devitt wondered if she’d lost her mind. Her next five years of discernment involved a lot of research and internal struggle, wondering whether God was really calling her to this life.

She went on her first “Nun Run,” a whirlwind road trip of different Catholic orders. The first stop was at the Poor Clare monastery in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. The place was a stark difference from the non-cloistered, active orders she later visited. A metal grate separated the Poor Clare sisters from visitors, and a nun in full habit came out to talk.

“I was completely shocked,” Devitt says. “It seemed so archaic in some ways. But the sister was speaking so gently, and you could just see the joy in her life. In a very internal, subtle way, I was like: ‘I want this. I want this in my life.’ It seemed intensely attractive to me, and, on the other hand, it freaked me out that I found it attractive.

After graduating from Marquette, Devitt spent three years teaching high school. Meanwhile, she went on eight more Nun Runs, visiting more than 30 orders. Along the way, she had the support and camaraderie of Maggie Voelker, a college friend, who briefly entered the Carmelites.

“I could always tell she had a very strong faith, and whatever she ended up doing it would be in service of God,” Voelker says of Devitt. “I could see something a little more intense in her spirituality.”

Devitt continued to feel a pull toward the Poor Clares. In addition to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Poor Clare sisters take a vow of enclosure.

“Their purpose is to give their lives totally to Christ and offer prayers and penances for the entire world,” she explains. “They are hidden from the world in order to be accessible to the world. And that’s a very, very beautiful thing, but it scared me a lot to think about the practical things. … It would mean I wouldn’t get to travel, I wouldn’t get to go home, I wouldn’t get to hug my mom again. There was a lot of fear there.”

So, she prayed, telling God, “I know you want me to be a sister, but I won’t be one of those scary contemplative sisters.” But none of the active orders felt right. “I desired to give myself in a more radical, complete way. For me, an active order wasn’t enough,” she says.

Devitt made up her mind after her fourth visit to Kokomo. As she knelt in Mass at the monastery, a warmth and peace came over her. She knew she’d found her home.

“In the light of faith, it makes the most sense in the world,” she says. “We have the unique vocation to be all things to all people by being completely hidden in Christ. A missionary in Africa working with AIDS victims or a teaching sister, they are noble, beautiful and selfless people. If that is what God wanted me to do, I would do it. But you touch a limited amount of people directly. Through prayer you are able to touch the entire world.

She dreaded breaking the news to her family. Her mom called and asked how she liked Kokomo. “I loved it,” Devitt said.

“That’s great — you have to follow Jesus,” her mom told her. “Now’s the time to be brave.”

Christine Dsragnesevitt recognized something spiritually unique in her daughter years before, although she never envisioned her active, fun-loving Katie joining a cloistered order. But Christine was moved and reassured after hearing about a seriously ill girl in Kokomo who, unable to join the Poor Clares herself, prayed that someone else would take her place.

A few weeks later, Katie asked to join the monastery. “To think of yourself as the answer to someone else’s prayer is kind of humbling,” Devitt’s mother says.

Devitt, now Sister Mary Agnes of the Lamb of God, before taking her final vows

After visiting Katie at Christmas, Christine Devitt said her daughter was “positively glowing with enthusiasm and happiness” in her postulant jumper and short brown veil.

Although she knew it would be hard to hug her daughter for the last time, she says it would be harder if Katie were a missionary halfway across the world or in a monastery just up the street.

She is used to Katie living in another state, and she can visit her a few times a year.

Other family and friends had a harder time understanding Devitt’s decision and questioned whether she was “wasting” her life and talents by going into seclusion. Devitt says she understood their feelings but that they eventually came around when they saw her commitment.

“The bottom line is they care about me and support me,” she says. “Even if they don’t think it is right, they trust my decision and support me and my judgment.”

The nuns start their day at 5 a.m. Their activities revolve around Mass and seven sessions of prayer, known as the Liturgy of the Hours. The evening recreation hour is a time for the sisters to talk and laugh together, but most of the day is spent in silence.

“The world is so noisy,” she says. “We are afraid to be quiet. We are worried what we might figure out about ourselves. We are constantly on our cell phones, iPods and computers. The quiet is appealing to me, but it will be a big adjustment.”

After asking to join the Poor Clares, Devitt stopped buying new clothes and wearing makeup and contacts. For Lent she gave up her iPod, once one of her favorite possessions, to help ease her attachment to “stuff.”

But leaving behind the people she loved was infinitely more painful.

“In a weird way, it seems like all the people in my life are dying,” she says. “It hurts a lot. But you have to do it for the vocation. I need to have an undivided heart for Jesus.

“Once I give it all to Him,” she adds, “I can love the world with a divine love.”


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