The autobiography of Mother Dolores Hart (written with her long-time friend, Richard DeNeut), The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows, is now available from Ignatius Press. Here is some of the descriptive copy, from the Ignatius Press site:
Dolores Hart stunned Hollywood in 1963, when after ten highly successful feature films, she chose to enter a contemplative monastery. …
Dolores was a bright and beautiful college student when she made her film debut with Elvis Presley in Paramount’s 1957 Loving You. She acted in nine more movies with other big stars such as Montgomery Clift, Anthony Quinn and Myrna Loy. She also gave a Tony-nominated performance in the Broadway play The Pleasure of His Company and appeared in television shows, including The Virginian and Playhouse 90. An important chapter in her life occurred while playing Saint Clare in the movie Francis of Assisi, which was filmed on location in Italy.
Born Dolores Hicks to a complicated and colorful Chicago family, Mother Dolores has travelled a charmed yet challenging road in her journey toward God, serenity and, yes, love. She entered the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, at the peak of her career, not in order to leave the glamorous world of acting she had dreamed of since childhood, but in order to answer a mysterious call she heard with the “ear of the heart”. While contracted for another film and engaged to be married, she abandoned everything to become a bride of Christ.
Mother Dolores Hart has been given special permission to give some interviews about her life as a young actress, her response to the call to enter the convent, and her life as a cloistered sister. Here are some links to and excerpts from those interviews:
• “Hollywood actress-turned-nun details vocation in new book” (Catholic News Agency, May 7, 2013):
“I have used the analogy of falling from a 20 story building because that’s what I felt like the first night after I entered,” Mother Hart told CNA May 6.
When she was approached by her life-long friend Richard DeNeut some 10 years ago about the possibility of writing a memoir, she feared that she would have neither the time nor the memory to write all “the wonderful things that happened” into a book.
However, DeNeut insisted saying that her memoir would be “very good” and “very important” for others to read.
The friends began speaking for about an hour each day over the phone and Skype to get her story on paper and eventually they had enough material for a book.
However, they ran into difficulty when many publishers wanted to start the book with her role in “Loving You,” the 1957 film where she gave Elvis Presley his first on-screen kiss – which would have left out details of her turbulent upbringing and childhood conversion to Catholicism.
Eventually the pair turned to Ignatius Press, the California-based Catholic publisher because they “promised they would stay honest” to her story, Mother Hart said.
“We didn’t do it because they were a Catholic publisher,” she said, “mainly because they made that promise.”
• “Mother Dolores Hart: From Movie Star to Heavenly Star” (National Catholic Register, May 6, 2013):
What did you find as your biggest challenge in the abbey?
The biggest challenge for me was learning Latin. I still don’t know it, and I still have to go back and read it and say, “This is what it means.” I can’t pick up a Psalm and read through it like some of the novices can. I just never, never could get over the hump. I failed Latin in school, too! [She chuckles.] …
What’s important for our readers to know that you’re rarely asked about?
The one thing is the Gregorian chant, and what a gift it is to be able to sing and to pray at the same time. I think that I would hate to see people lose that part of the Tradition of the Church, because the chant goes back over a thousand years.
People come to the chapel, to this church, sometimes to just hear the chant sung [the nuns chant the Mass and full Divine Office eight times every day in Latin, as prescribed by St. Benedict].
I think that’s a very beautiful and wonderful gift for someone: to be able to sing their prayer. It changes something inside of you in a way I can’t describe. But I think it’s deeply prayerful. … And you have to believe in what you sing.
JWK: You didn’t grow up Catholic, did you?
MOTHER DOLORES: Well, actually, I had been sent to Catholic school by my grandparents because they didn’t want me to cross the streetcar tracks. So, they sent me to the local Catholic school…We had the custom in those days where you had to fast from midnight and I was so jealous of the kids that got the sweet rolls and chocolate milk. I had to eat at home a breakfast beforehand. So, one day I said to the teacher “I really would love to take the bread with the children.” And she said “Really?!”, thinking what I meant was that I wanted the Eucharist. So, she told the priest “I think the little girl would like to be a Catholic.” (Then) she said “Well, if you want the bread with the children, you have to take the course and until you understand the faith.” So, I went home and said to Granny “If I take the Catholic course I can have the sweet rolls!” …
JWK: What do you say to people who view Hollywood as anti-religion? Do you subscribe to that view?
JWK: What would you like people to take from your story?
MOTHER DOLORES: I would hope people would in reading this one story of one life, and a life that went through all the different possibilities in life, that they would see that out of loving one another you can find faith in God because the Lord said this is the way that you know him — is to love one another. So, you’re not gonna have a vision of God coming down. I don’t believe that’s the way it works. I think the way it works is that when you see someone else, you get to know them and you love them and serve their life, that to me is what brings you to the reality of Jesus Christ.