The Cloister Walk
Kathleen Norris
January 28, 2021

Observations

  1. There is a special diversity in those who follow God and answer God’s call to service.
  2. However, as “special” as that diversity may be there is nothing special about it because the diversity present in those who answer God’s call is the diversity of creation.
  3. The flaw of special diversity is it is a human construct. By imposing our will on God’s diversity and blessing of variety, humans make the foundational principle of diversity the exception as opposed to the rule.

Jerome: Jerome is well known as the translator of Hebrew Scripture into Latin. What many of “us” in the 21st century see Jerome as a typical 4th century male-centric writer and theologian. In fact, Norris calls Jerome “an equal opportunity curmudgeon.”
            It appears he did not hold either sex in higher contempt out of hand. In fact, Jerome’s writings belie a different tenor, he has a fascination in women, not as sexual beings but because it seems he genuinely believed that in them, as in [the Virgin] Mary, lay the beginnings of salvation.
            A statement often attributed to Jerome supports this claim where he said, “we judge people not by their sex but by their character.”

Thérèse: A late-19th century Carmelite in Lisieux, France. She was a contemporary of Emily Dickinson, an American poet. Reportedly, a 4-year-old Thérèse, when offered a choice of a rainbow of colored ribbons declared “I choose all.” In choosing “all” one could surmise that Thérèse was called to choose all of Christ over a life without Christ.
            Emily Dickinson wrote, “When Jesus tells us about his Father, we distrust him. When he shows us his Home, we turn away, but when he confides to us that he is ‘acquainted with Grief,’ we listen, for that also is an Acquaintance of our own.”

  1. How does Jesus’ acquaintance with grief prove more inviting than his divinity?

            Thérèse said, “… in the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love and thus I will be all things…” How inviting to realize that being love (not in love) allows a person to be connected to creation and humanity.
            More moving and profound is her quote, “… the radiance of the rose… does not take away the fragrance of the little violet… perfection consists in being what God wants us to be.”

  1. How do we know we have come closer to perfection? Of course, this side of heaven we will not be perfect, but we can strive for perfection.

What is striking in both theses people is their ability to not only acknowledge the mystery of life, but to also embrace that mystery as a natural state not as a detriment. It seems that they believe that just because we can’t explain something, or something doesn’t neatly fit our preferred reality doesn’t make it inexplicable, wrong, better, or worse – just something to be appreciated and pondered.

In answering the question, “How do we know what God wants us to be?” I think the difficulty, as human beings, is we like the finite and comparative assessments. The difficulty with a comparative assessment is answering the question, “to which standard do we compare?” Do we compare to our standard, which is subjective, or is it God’s objective standard?