How Do Visitations Work at Cor Jesu Monastery?
[Please be advised that we have just moved our monastery from Christ, Prince of Peace, Retreat Center in Benton, TN to our new location in New Market, TN. Until we are settled, our ability to receive visitors will be limited. Thank you for your patience.]
General Rule of Thumb on Visitations
Verbi Sponsa, the Vatican Instruction on the Contemplative Life and on the Enclosure of Nuns, issued by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, specifies the general norms for papal enclosure that apply to communities of strictly contemplative nuns.
It should be stressed that the desire to be vigilant over the integrity of the enclosure stems not from trying to restrict the nuns in a prison like atmosphere but from safeguarding our union with God, our prayer life, and removing as much as possible unnecessary distractions that would detract and even endanger our spiritual lives. The powerhouse of prayer that is a cloister requires special oversight and we ask all visitors to respect the needs of the sisters to remain as undisturbed as possible. We are not ‘ignoring you’ or ‘hiding from you’ or ‘avoiding you’; we are praying for you! While in our period of temporary quarters awaiting the construction of the first monastery observing papal enclosure in the Diocese of Knoxville, Handmaids will need to be moving about the grounds and buildings for various prayers, duties, chores etc. Typically, a specific Sister is appointed to be the one who interacts with any visitors to the chapel or grounds and only if needed. If a guest runs into another Sister, she’ll direct them to the appropriate liaison.
“Can I come to daily Mass and bring friends and family?”
We are still arranging our daily Mass schedule and may not have Mass available at the monastery each day. In addition, our temporary Chapel has limited space and is nearly filled by the Sisters themselves.
“So, while the monastery is under construction, the Handmaids aren’t enclosed?”
No. We are enclosed now because we are a community with papal enclosure. It defines not just physical structures but how we interact with the world. It is part of who we are and how the Church specifies we should live. As our Rule of Life does not separate our Sisters into externs and choir Sisters, any Handmaid may be assigned to accomplish duties and business outside the enclosure temporarily and may be seen from time to time.
“I would like to speak to a Handmaid about arranging some spiritual direction. Can I come by to meet regularly with someone?”
As cloistered nuns we are unable to attend to active spiritual ministry of this type.
“I’m discerning the religious life. May I visit to inquire about a vocation to your community?”
If, after a period of correspondence, we discern that God may be calling you to the Handmaid life, we can investigate the possibilities of a visit or Come and See, space permitting.
“Can people enter the enclosure at any time?”
Entry by workers, craftsmen, repairmen, medical personnel, deliveries etc are permitted by canon law under the supervision of the Mother Prioress or her representative.