Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 166

Since I’m a big fan of Mary, Mother of God, I’m always grateful to find a new idea that intensifies the relationship. Don’t ask me why but I’ve never read anything by the German Benedictine monk Anselm Grun until this Advent—and he’s written over 300 books!!! But, lucky for me, I picked up his book, Your Light Gives Us Hope: 24 Daily Practices for Advent at the Chautauqua bookstore on a recent visit. The daily readings and practice suggestion are brief, but weighty and creative.

I was especially taken with Grun’s thoughts on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8). That’s a tough feast to play with, but Grun reminded me that on this feast that honors Mary being conceived without sin, I am also celebrating the reality that there is, and always has been, something pure and unstained in me. And in you. And in every person.

He writes: “There, in that place where Christ dwells within us, sin has no chance. There, we are without blemish. There, guilt can make no entrance into our lives. Even if we deserve to have guilt heaped on our shoulders, there remains an innermost part of our lives that remains unaffected by sin, a dimension that is holy and without blemish from the start.”

He notes that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception brings a message of great consolation: “our innermost heart has not been touched by sin…there remains within us, at the core, something pure and blameless…our feelings of guilt cannot penetrate the heart of our identity.”

His words are a gift of comfort and consolation for so many who carry the weight of guilt like a shroud of self-judgement and self-hatred. This is the feast that calls Old Monk to light a candle to the sacred essence of her worthiness.


Clad in black robes,
I should have no attachments to
The shapes and scents of this world
But how can I keep my vows
Gazing on today’s crimson leaves?

A vowed nun
Is taught detachment
the virtue to prize.
Old Monk will never realize holiness.
She still lusts for beautiful words.
--Old Monk

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A blog by Mary Lou Kownacki
A personal journal captures what’s in the heart. Most of my adult life I’ve recorded my notes, brief reflections, poems, reactions to daily events in a journal. It is an ongoing source of monastic formation; the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. About a year ago, Old Monk began to appear on my journal’s pages. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator.

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