The cloister with it’s grilles and high wall may appear to be the supreme sacrifice of the monastic life to those looking from the outside. But for those called to livewithin the walls, the Papal Enclosure observed by Poor Clares around the world is an inestimable gift. Far from being an escape from the world, the monastic enclosure exists to propel one towards the “one thing necessary” and greater intimacy with Christ. As Verbi Sponsa states: The enclosure therefore, even in its physical form, is a special way of being with the Lord, of sharing in “Christ’s emptying of himself by means of a radical poverty, expressed in . . . renunciation not only of things but also of ‘space,’ of contacts, of so many benefits of creation,” at one with the fruitful silence of the Word on the Cross. It is clear then that “withdrawal from the world in order to dedicate oneself in solitude to a more intense life of prayer is nothing other than a special way of living and expressing the Paschal Mystery of Christ.”
It is a true encounter with the Risen Lord, a journey in ceaseless ascent to the Father’s house… If [nuns] have withdrawn from frequent contact with their fellowmen…they were intent on sharing to a more universal degree the fatigue, the misery and the hopes of all mankind.” (Verbi Sponsa, no. 3)
Silence and prayer are inseparable. By cultivating silence in the monastery and within the ‘interior cloister’ of the soul, one is free to speak always with Christ and to listen to Him. The cloister provides that ‘place apart’ where one can seek the face of Christ and learn from Him. Without the surfeit of distractions the world offers, the contemplative also comes to a deeper understanding of oneself and experiences the need for conversion in order to grow closer to the Lord. Like Mary, who pondered the word of God in her heart, the nun finds her place in the heart of the Church in silent contemplation of the Word.
Pope Benedict XVI writes that “Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.”