"The Secret" shared by Jean-Marie Howe, retired Cistercian Abbess of the Abbey of the Assumption in New Brunswick, is that through immersion in monastic life men and women enter into contact with the Mystery of Christ, a contact which takes place at the level of the heart and gives birth to spiritual being. To explain this transformation, she discusses prayer—common prayer and personal prayer—and the lectio divina, holy reading which feeds prayer. She does not shy away from tensions between the monastic and the secular worlds in which monks and nuns live. To elucidate what she calls "the essential"—the secret of the heart which is spiritual being—Sister Jean-Marie employs a diverse array of materials (novels, film, music, and sculpture) in addition to traditional monastic values and doctrines.
Born in Massachusetts, Jean-Marie Howe lived there and in New York City before entering Notre Dame de l’Assomption in 1954. She served as both Novice Mistress and Abbess before retiring in 1999. She has continued journeying toward the depths of her "heart" as the irresistible call of the "other Order" continues to catalyze the quest.