One of the first things I remember being told early in my formation was that friars and monks are not the same thing. This applies very clearly to the observance of Cloister: Dominican friars’ Cloister is different from a monk’s cloister. For most monastics, the cloister – the residential living space – is the place where they spend most of their lives, and leaving the cloister is not a very common occurrence. A Dominican friars’ Cloister is not so restrictive; it would be difficult to be a preacher if one hardly left the house. Because of this, Cloister is not strictly regulated, but is left to local prudential judgement.
Because of this, it’s easy to see Cloister as a less significant thing than it really is; Cloister gives a place of retreat for the friar who uses and observes it wisely. If we observe Cloister well, we are not running away from the world, but finding and keeping a space where a we can recharge and recuperate. The inner sanctum to each friar’s cloister is his own room – his cell – and in the cell, we cultivate the second support.