Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows


"Listen and attend with the ear of your heart." ~ Saint Benedict

Growing up in the 40's and 50's, Dolores dreamed of becoming an actress. She tells us that it is the only thing she ever wanted to be. Yet, at the peak of a promising acting career, she abandoned her childhood dream and left Hollywood to enter a cloistered monastery.

 In her memoir, The Ear of the Heart, Benedictine nun Mother Dolores Hart, Prioress of Regina Laudis Abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut,  shares the remarkable account of her calling to the monastic life and the reasons why she has remained steadfast in her vocation for half a century. Her lifelong friend, publicist Dick De Neut assists in disclosing the details, providing a second voice to the narrative. There is a question and answer format that runs through the story, which makes one feel as if they are listening in on the conversation of two friends, as they reminisce over the good old days of Hollywood when Anthony Quinn, Gary Cooper, and Elvis Presley were all the rage. In fact, it was Dolores Hart who gave Elvis his first onscreen kiss in her first film entitled Loving You. And, the answer is, yes, Mother Dolores does tell us what it was like to kiss Elvis.  She also describes what it was like to work with Anthony Quinn and to interact with Gary Cooper.

The Ear of the Heart provides so many insights and depth into Dolores Hart’s life on a variety of levels-- spiritual, physical, emotional, and psychological.  The memoir is the brilliant account of a beautiful young woman growing up in a colorful and complex family in Chicago, who answers the call of conversion to Catholicism at the tender age of 10 and finds herself transformed into a Hollywood starlet overnight, but who continually listens with “the ear of the heart” to the call of God’s will for her life.

The Ear of the Heart captured my interest from the beginning and held it to the end, despite the fact that this book was longer than the books I usually read.  Mother Dolores tells her fascinating story with wit and charm and with complete candor.  In fact, I was surprised by all that Mother revealed about the inner workings of the monastery, as there is generally considerable privacy and secrecy associated with what goes on in monasteries. However, I believe that Mother wants to tell the truth – to bring everything to light – to show us that cloistered religious are just as human as anyone outside the monastery and face similar conflicts and challenges, which can all be resolved through the grace of God. This disclosure is also an integral part of her story, as her actions greatly impacted and changed the way the community was run, just as she herself was transformed and entered into a deeper conversion via these experiences. Her humility and obedience are evident in the way she responded to serving the Lord.

The story of  Mother Dolores Hart's spiritual journey is one of great courage and sacrifice. It is the story of a woman responding to the call of Love in her life and finding that One True Love, which brings her great peace and joy.  I highly recommend it.

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann June 2013.

Abbey of Regina Laudis

Ignatius Press



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