- Well, what is living the Gospel? Maybe St. Francis comes to mind. This great saint, whose life you can read here, read the Gospel and was convicted to live it out in a radical way. He and his followers lived a life of prayer, poverty, preaching, and caring for the poor and sick, living as mendicants and owning nothing, based on the texts of the Gospel, especially:”If you wish to be perfect, go, and sell all your possessions, and give t0 the poor…come follow me” (Matthew 19:21); “Take nothing for your journey, neither staff not knapsack, shoes nor money” (Luke 9:3); “If any man will come after me, let him renounce self, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)
- In all his apostolic fervor, St. Francis viewed St. Clare and the other cloistered nuns to whom he gave a rule of life as his companions in living the Gospel. He told them, “Since by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the most high King, the heavenly Father, and have taken the Holy Spirit as your spouse, choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers always to have that same loving care and special solicitude for you as for them” (The Rule of St. Clare, Ch. VI). “We could object that ‘Enclosure is not concerned with Christ, nor is it related to the Gospels.’ Love urges us to act as Jesus did. Jesus walked the roads of Galilee, surrounded on all sides by the crowds, but he also went up the mountain in the evening to pray alone to his Father, and to lay before him the cry of suffering humanity. His whole life is a mirror, but none of his disciples can reproduce it entirely. There are features of his life that have struck us personally, that we have recognized as being for us: Jesus leading his disciples away from the crowd, either into a house to discuss the Word with them, or into the desert to let them rest with him. Or we might think of Jesus’ thirty hidden years, or of Jesus driven into the desert by the Spirit, or of Jesus whose whole life is a going out, a departure, and a return to the Father. In its solitude his Cross is a hermitage, as is his ascent into heaven when the clouds enclosed him and he was no longer visible to his disciples” (Walled About With God: the history and spirituality of enclosure for cloistered nuns).
- But what about the command of Jesus, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation”? (Mk 16:15). Cloistered nuns do fulfill this apostolic mission – not only that, but St. Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun who entered the cloister at 15 and died there at 24, was proclaimed by the Church to be the patroness of all missionaries, along with St. Francis Xavier. This is because the Church has always understood that “Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history” (Pope St. John Paul II). Through prayer and sacrifice, nuns remain always in spirit at the foot of the cross and receive the Love that Jesus pours forth in order to provide an overflowing reservoir of grace for the active apostolate. In the Acts of the Apostles, when the Gospel is being spread, we see women devoting themselves to prayer, and beginning with Pentecost, this prayer fills the Church to the Holy Spirit. “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). “He went to the house of Mary, mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12). “And on the sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who has come together” (Acts 16:13).
- Ultimately, “Love is the entire gospel: it is the entire Jesus, in the arms of His Mother and the arms of the Cross” (Fr. Mateo, quoted in I Believe in Love). And “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). This is what cloistered nuns do – not of their own power, but by the grace of God.