Enclosure: The Cloister of the Nuns

As contemplative nuns, we seek in all the aspects of daily life to deepen our attentiveness and our response to the presence of God at work in the world.  St. Benedict urges us to "attend with the ears of your heart" to the voice of God speaking in our prayer, in our community life, in our work, and in our surroundings.  Quoting Psalm 95, he warns: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

Because the task of contemplative attentiveness is difficult and demanding, we choose to maintain a certain distance from the clamor that can tear at the edges of our inner silence.  One of the traditional disciplines that serve to protect our focus is cloister or enclosure.

The Roman Catholic Church maintains two types of cloister for contemplative religious: papal enclosure and constitutional enclosure.  We observe constitutional enclosure, which allows us a certain latitude for mixing with the public, while still preserving our contemplative way of life.  We delegate certain members of the community to receive guests and retreatants; we go to town to shop and do whatever other business life requires; we answer the telephone, read newspapers and news magazines, make judicious use of the Internet, and try to stay aware of the needs of the world for which we pray daily.  However, we ordinarily do not accept work outside the confines of our monastery and valley; we do not watch television or listen to the radio; we limit our conversations with family and friends by letter, telephone and e-mail; we do not go out for social or entertainment purposes; and we visit our families only under very limited circumstances, though we welcome them to visit us once a year.

The reason for the discipline of enclosure is not that we dislike other people or the world around us.  On the contrary, we enjoy people, and we are often fascinated by what we see and read and learn about the world that is God's gift.  THAT is the reason we choose enclosure!