The observance of enclosure is one of the gifts of the Church to contemplative nuns. St. Dominic chose it for us in order that, free from worldly affairs, we may have a holy leisure to devote ourselves entirely to focusing on the mystery of God. Our constitutions say that, “this hidden life should open their minds to the breadth and height and depth of the love of God who sent his Son so that the whole world might be saved through Him.”
Enclosure is not an absolute; it is at the service of a life of contemplation. We observe what is called Papal Enclosure-that is we observe enclosure according to the norms of the Holy See for cloistered nuns.
The most recent norms, a document called Verbi Sponsa, permit entrance and exit from the physical enclosure for certain needs of the monastic community. Any sister will tell you that leaving the enclosure for a doctor’s appointment, picking up someone from the airport or taking care of business that can’t be done inside the enclosure is a sacrifice and we are more than happy to return to our “garden enclosed”!
Our enclosure provides us with the sacred space in which we learn to become at home with seeking the Face of God and where we learn to love our sisters in true friendship and fidelity. In the silence of enclosure we touch the heart of the world. Devoting our lives totally to God we perpetuate the gift which our father St. Dominic had of bearing sinners, the down-trodden and the afflicted in the inmost sanctuary of his compassion. It is a privileged place of love.
“The purpose of monastic observance especially enclosure and silence, is that the Word of God may dwell abundantly in the Monastery” – Constitutions of the Dominican Nuns