Monday, June 3, 2013

The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows-A Book Review

 I'm not one who carefully follows the Hollywood gossip that revolves around the lives of famous actors and actresses, but I understand from the news stories that do capture my attention that  the lives of the rich and famous are often filled with self-interest and leave very little room for God.  Of course, there are beautiful exceptions, and Mother Delores Hart is one of them.

I had never heard of Delores Hart until Lisa Wheeler from Carmel Communications offered me the opportunity to read and review the book, The Ear of the Heart:  An Actress' Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows, by Mother Delores Hart, O.S.B. and Richard DeNeut, about how a beautiful actress gave up a life of fame and riches, that of a Hollywood and Broadway actress, to completely devote herself to Christ as a cloistered Benedictine nun.

The idea of a woman giving up earthy wealth and fame, letting go of her passion for the one thing in life that she loved and in which she excelled, acting, to completely devote herself to God, tucked away in a cloistered convent, was very intriguing to me, and so I eagerly agreed to read and review The Ear of the Heart.

The book is quite lengthy at over 400 pages and I felt that a lot of the details could have been omitted without losing any of the flavor of this inspiring story.  The anecdotes of the many famous people who impacted her life was interesting, but I was most intrigued by the glimpes of how God Himself was making an impact on this young woman.  The fact that Delores, while not raised Catholic, attended Catholic Schools and converted at a very young age, and made her own way to weekly Mass without her family, was quite remarkable.  I was most captivated by the details of how God was calling Mother Delores'  to monastic life at Regina Laudis Monastery, for which she would ultimately eschew the Hollywood lifestyle and the promise of marriage, to give herself entirely over to God in a drastic entry into cloistered life. 

As the story moved to Mother Delores' entry into Regina Laudis Monastery, I became more completely engrossed.  To get an inside view of monastic life-the work, the liturgy of the hours, the relationships between the sisters, and the power of obedience-was delightfully eye-opening.   I was moved by the fact that she cried herself to sleep every night for the first three years, and although others with whom she entered the monastery had left, Mother Delores stayed and worked through the many and varied challenges of monastic life with the help of God. 

Some quotes that particularly captivated me were:

"Mother Dorcas Roselund, in describing the pitfalls of monastic life, summed it up another way.  A gastroenterologist before she entered Regina Laudis, she is now the community's baker.  Life in the monastery is "the new martyrdom," she said.  "They used to throw Christians to the lions.  Now they make us live together."

"Here were women with courage to follow an invisible love in a coffin of seclusion from the world.   They follow with no obvious support to the brink of the unknown, there to set fire to a perpetual lamp of love."

"Our daily schedule is never interrupted.  Work has to be done.  Animals have to be fed.  We have to stay here and pray and believe that we can help by doing so.  It requires discipline and clarity about what your mission is and where your body needs to be, where it can do the most good."

I found The Ear of the Heart, An Actress' Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows to be an intense look into the life of a very human woman striving for holiness by giving up all that she loved and all that she could have achieved in the world, to use her many gifts for the glory of God, and in doing so, found a joy beyond human comprehension.  It was an uplifting read!
The Ear of the Heart is available through Ignatius Press.


  1. Oh rats! I'm about half way through the book, reading it in the chapel during my late-night adoration hours, so my review is coming. But in short: I love it! The writing style is my style of writing, as are some of the quips she makes. I sometimes laugh out loud in the chapel --- and I think Jesus smiles.

    I'm glad you liked this book as well, Anne.

  2. I have been intrigued by this book; now I'm even more so. I'm old enough to remember "hearing something" about the actress Dolores Hart "giving it all up" to enter religious life. I was a (child?.. young teen?) then, and just the hint of such an amazing decision left a lingering impression. Your quote about following "with no obvious support to the brink of the unknown, there to set fire to a perpetual lamp of love" is enough to make me hop right on over to Ignatius Press......

  3. I have been wondering about this book, Anne. Thanks for the review!

  4. I too have been wondering! Thanks, Anne. I have Imitation of Mary up next so I'll have to think about this one. The story certainly sparks my curiosity and intrigues me too. God bless your summer!

  5. Anne, thanks for the review. I have this one on my amazon wish list, and if I don't get if for my birthday in a few weeks, then I'll order it myself. I remember Dolores Hart in her movies with Elvis, and I have the DVD of her playing Clare of Assisi. She was truly beautiful, in a Grace Kelly sort of way. Gorgeous blue eyes, and sophisticated but innocent. I hope they make a movie of her life. What an inspiration! I think she is scheduled to be on The World Over on EWTN Thursday night. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book :)

    1. I'm so glad you mentioned the World Over... going to set my recorder. And yes, for anyone too young to have known: she WAS a Grace Kelly type! I'd never thought of that, but absolutely!

  6. This is going to be one of my summer reads! Thanks for sharing Anne...

  7. Having completed the book, I think I'd like to add one more comment (and I will skip reviewing the book on my blog.)

    I think Sister Delores' life illustrates an important point about our relationship to God, and the Catholic Church. When she first entered the cloister, she felt deeply frustrated by the rule of blind obedience. She felt that her innate talents were being shoved to the side, and it was one of the things which led her to continually consider leaving. She loved acting, and she was good at it. And she loved relating to other people, but the vows of silence kept her quiet. But then, as time passed and opportunities arose, she helped change those things.

    Now the "cloister" has more freely speaking (and happy) nuns. While some orders had gone overboard in "doing your own thing" in the 60's and 70's, her order kept the traditional dress and seclusion of the cloister, but the sisters became more of a community than a group of obeying robots, accepting only a relationship with God, and not their neighbor. But sister Dolores helped change that. Has it gone too far, more of a "commune" than community? Perhaps it could be seen that way, but I judge by the fruits, and their vocations constantly increase.

    I think if the early Church reformers would have had the mindset of Delores, they would have protested abuses, but then accepted things they could not change --- and change things they could. And I think that is a proper use of our talents and blessings.