Monasteries of the Heart

Heart of the Matter

What is Heart of the Matter? For most of my adult life I’ve kept copybooks filled with stories, prayers, art, quotes poems—anything that gives insight to the human journey. It is my favorite spiritual practice. It is also an ongoing source of monastic formation: the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. Now I have a blog copybook called Heart of the Matter. Welcome.  —Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator

I believe....

The renewal of baptismal promises is a high point at the Easter liturgies we just celebrated. “Do you believe in…” the celebrant asks over and over and the congregation responds, “I do” to the tenets of the faith.

Well, the church creed is one thing, but how about a personal creed. What do I believe, really? To find out I wrote the words “I believe” ten times on a sheet of paper and finished the sentence. Here’s what I came up with:

A Hint of the New

I didn’t realize that Bill Shannon had died until I picked up the 2012 summer issue of The Thomas Merton Seasonal. It was dedicated to him since he was the founding president of the International Thomas Merton Society and a Merton scholar.

For Beginners Only

The feast of the Solemnity of Saint Benedict, the founder of western monastic life, is March 21. The Rule of Benedict is a spiritual classic used by millions of seekers for over 1500 years. A line in the Rule that I like to visit frequently is found in the last chapter where he instructs us to “keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that you can set out for the loftier summits….”

A Pope Dream

On the night after Pope Francis was elected, I dreamt of Dan Berrigan. Like the new Pope, Dan Berrigan is a Jesuit. He is also a poet, a peace activist, a prophet and a nonviolent resister of war and injustice. Dan Berrigan has been a hero of mine for over 40 years, but I’ve never dreamt about him.

The Good Fight

“I preach with the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other,” evangelist Billy Graham once said. Today I’m going to write with the newspaper in both hands, specifically this Sunday’s Erie Times-News.

In one hand I’m holding a story about the futility of war:


In the book, Writing—The Sacred Art, one of its authors, Aaron Shapiro, suggests a writing practice he calls “Heart Lines”—an exercise that uses the line of a psalm or the poems of Rumi as a jumping-off point for writing from the heart. We’ve done that on this blog before but it’s nice to have a name.

He urges us to take a line that appeals and then write with abandon. “Write quickly;” Shapiro instructs, “don’t think, just feel.” Here’s Shapiro’s example taken from Psalm 7, “Judge me, Searcher of Hearts, according to my integrity”:

A Woman for Our Times

Sister Anne McCarthy, a member of the leadership council for Monasteries of the Heart, recently visited Ireland where she made a pilgrimage to the site of her mentor, Saint Brigid of Kildaire. I interviewed Anne when she returned because this is a saint for all members of Monasteries of the Heart.

Who is Brigid of Kildaire?

Acts of kindness

In a previous blog, I suggested a New Year’s resolution to do random acts of goodness each month in 2013 in memory of the 26 children and adults killed in Newtown, CT. last December. (See blog, “A Better Place, ” Jan.1, 2013.) Since then I’ve been on the alert for ways of doing this.

Dance for Women

Valentine’s Day 2013 was a love note from women across the globe to each other.

I’m still smiling about 30 of us dancing around the block where we work to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Only we changed it to “Oh when the women begin to rise, oh when the women begin to rise, I want to be in that number when the women begin to rise.” We banged drums and shook rattles and banged on pots and pans…and danced.

A Few Postcards

Why did we choose the name Monasteries of the Heart for this movement?

We did so because monasticism is a heart-centered spirituality. Monks are not so much intent on knowledge about things outside themselves (good as that is) but about inner knowledge, about knowing their hearts.

“Abba Poemen said to Abba Joseph, “Tell me how to become a monk.” He said, “If you want to find rest here below, and hereafter, in all circumstances say, 'Who am I?' and do not judge anyone.”


Subscribe to RSS - Heart of the Matter