Then Came Heaven - LaVyrle Spencer The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows - Dolores Hart, Richard DeNeut

I'm reading LaVyrle Spencer's last book, Then Came Heaven, which is an unusual story set in 1950 and features a Benedictine nun who eventually leaves the religious life and a widower who lost his young wife in a train accident. The heroine, Sister Regina, has been a nun for eleven years but has been struggling with her vocation for a while. A crisis of the soul, so to speak, chafing against the rules, restrictions, the separateness of her life in the order and the secular world.


It reminded me of this documentary of Mother Prioress Dolores Hart. Dolores Hart was a very successful film actress starring in movies with Elvis Presley, Montgomery Clift, Robert Wagner, was compared to Grace Kelly,  and even enjoyed success on Broadway, winning a Tony for The Pleasure of His Company. She was also engaged when she decided to become a noviate in the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a contemplative order, in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Not too long ago, she wrote a book about her journey, The Ear of the Heart, which I enjoyed a lot.


The title sounds strange, I know, but is the first line in the Holy Rule of St. Benedict which teaches and guides those in monastic life about the virtues of humility, silence, and obedience as well as rules for daily living down to the last detail including how one dresses, what to eat and drink, how visitors are received, and on and on. 


 Listen carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart.


Those perscriptions set out in the Rule are at the heart of Sister Regina's crisis (she especially struggles with obedience), but Sister Regina, just as Mother Dolores did before leaving Hollywood for a contemplative religious order, has to listen with her heart before she can decide whether to continue on as Sister Regina or become Jean Potlocki again.