The Desire of Your Heart

by AbbessJane

Jane Tomaine is Abbess of the Feline Cloister. An Episcopal priest and retreat leader, she is also author of two books on The Rule of St. Benedict.

What is the desire of your heart?  To lose 20 pounds, to find a better job, to get your son to pick up his room, to find help with care-taking responsibilities?  These may be helpful, but desire of the heart I am asking us to consider is an inner desire that springs from who we are as spiritual people – children of God who seek to have lives of meaning and depth.  We generally don’t allow ourselves quiet time to ask questions like “What is deeply important to me?” or “What guides my thoughts and actions beyond the limited confines of my self-interest?”  Yet these questions are critical because what we desire will direct our lives even if we aren’t fully conscious of the source of our decisions and actions.

St. Benedict can help us pinpoint the desire of our heart.  The Rule can also shows us ways to live that desire.  I offer three desires of the heart that come from from the leadership positions of Abbot/Abbess/Prioress, the Cellarer and the Porter of the monastery.


st.HildaThe Desire of the Heart from the Abbot/Abbess/Prioress – Seek God First

If you asked St. Benedict what the desire of your heart should be, my guess is that he would say, “Seek God first!”

To seek God first is firmly planted in The Rule of St. Benedict.  This is certainly true for the superior of the monastery.  The superior is never to neglect the care and well-being of the persons entrusted to him or her, even if lack of resources is a pressing concern or worry.

And so, St. Benedict advises the superior to not be overly concerned with “the fleeting and temporal things of this world.”  RB 2:33.  The superior is “to remember what is written: Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things will be given you as well (Matt 6:33), and again, Those who reverence God lack nothing. (Ps 34:10) in RB 2.35-36

The desire of our heart could center on seeking God as the priority in our life.  What this priority would look like would be different for each of us.  People are entrusted to our care, too, as a parent, spouse, manager, co-worker, or friend.  We have many concerns and responsibilities that can pull us way from hope.  Our relationship with God can be the guiding light in our lives, replacing anxiousness or frustration with trust in God’s Presence and help.

Each of us could adopt practices to help us to seek God in the midst of our daily lives.  We could take a deep breath when we are frustrated and turn to God in our hearts.  At the beginning of the day we could remember God’s Presence.  We could pray before we face a difficult choice or conversation.  Reading Scripture daily is also a way we can nourish our love and desire for God.  We could take a walk or cook a meal knowing that all we do is enfolded in God.

The Desire of the Heart from the Cellarer – Offer a Kind Word

A desire of the heart might also be having compassionate and caring relationships with others.  The monastery cellarer can model this for us.

The cellarer distributes the goods of the monastery to the community.  Benedict probably knew that scarcity could create raw emotions when people  cannot have what they need or want.  When someone asks for something that isn’t available, he suggests maintaining a stance of calmness and compassionate understanding.  Instead of matching a frustrated tone or angry word, the cellarer is to “offer a kind word in reply, for it is written a kind word is better than the best gift” (Sir 18:17 and RB 31.13-14). The cellarer is to not get caught in the emotion of the situation but turn it into an opportunity to build relationship through kindness.  While the person will leave without what they wanted, at least they will know that they are loved and cared about.

If we don’t know what else to do in a situation, we can be kind and speak kindly.  This desire of the heart to offer a kind word will go a long way in promoting peace in our relationships, which Benedict himself desires with this compassionate instruction.


Porter image0011

At the gate of the monastery, place a sensible old man how knows how to take a message and deliver a reply, and whose age keeps him from roaming about. RB 66.1

The Desire of the Heart from the Porter – Ask for Help

The porter of the monastery has a demanding job.  He or she is to be always available to guests of the monastery and must practice flawless hospitality to visitors.

Benedict states that the monastery is never without guests and that the guests can arrive at unpredictable hours (53.16).  As a result the porter could be very busy at all hours of the day and night.  Benedict provides a compassionate solution to exhaustion: “Let the porter be given one of the younger monastics if he or she needs help” (66.5).  All in the monastery are to be at peace.  Here Benedict explains a way that the porter can be assured that he or she could perform the job without stress, anxiousness or fatigue.

Could a desire of our heart for ourselves be that we will become more aware of when we need help?  Can we then take steps to ask for that help?  I admit that I often think that other people, especially my husband John, should know when I need help without my having to ask for it.  Wow!  There goes my pride for sure!

If you and I can learn to ask for help from others I think we will be a whole lot calmer.  Isn’t that something we all desire  And we would give others an opportunity to offer us the gift of what we need.

Summing It All Up
The desire of our hearts can be many things.  Benedict offers us these – to seek God first, to offer kind words, and to ask for help.

Articulating a desire is important.  My old and now fully with the Lord spiritual director would remind to me, “The desire’s the fire.”

What is the desire of your heart right now?  God bless your reflections and the living into that desire.

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