Book Review: The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows

The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows
by Mother Dolores Heart, OSB & Richard DeNeut

As a young impressionable girl, my sister loved Elvis Presley. As an adult she marks the anniversary of his death without fail. Me? I was never a huge fan; I liked maybe three of his songs. Once in our teen years we took part in a missions conference being held in Memphis. Our two leaders were huge Elvis fans and we ended up outside the gates of Graceland, hoping for a glimpse of Elvis. On one such occasion I was tired and put my purse under my head and fell asleep on the grass while my sister and a friend ran toward the house before they were stopped by security. It is a story we love to tell to show the differences between our personalities. When asked to read a book for review I quickly chose this one in part because of my sister and her love for Elvis; also I caught the end of a documentary some time back about Mother Dolores and I thought it would also be a complimentary insight to the documentary.

Little did I know that this book was about so much more than rejection of fame and assimilation into relative obscurity. I mused as the book downloaded to my Kindle that it would be an interesting topic for discussion with my sister. I thought she would probably find it difficult to believe that a young beautiful actress would turn down co-starring with “the King” and find contentment in a monastery.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! About four chapters in I was completely hooked. Dolores Hart was real, she had problems, challenges and a less than stellar home life. I thought most people could easily relate there. She had faith even at a young age and she knew what she wanted: to be an actress. She worked toward that end and achieved much success. Part of the book chronicles this part of her journey in a most enjoyable narrative, almost as if one is hearing Dolores’ own voice while she “fills you in” on what is happening in her life. Throughout the narrative one thing is clear: Dolores was no Hollywood phony, she was a real person who had a love and compassion for many many people she met. Her pedigree is also interesting – her father was actor Bert Hicks and Mario Lanza was her uncle. Throughout the text she shows, with increasing strength, her Catholic faith.

I don’t often recommend books to people, but I can assure you that whether you like Elvis or not, whether you have heard of Dolores Hart or not, even whether you are Catholic or not, this is a read worth your time. I came away changed, challenged and feeling very happy to have made Dolores Hart’s acquaintance and to be privileged to hear the story of her journey from being an actress poised on the brink of stardom to her ascent to God’s plan for her as a cloistered nun and now abbess at Regina Laudis, the Benedictine monastery where she was continually drawn.

The book is readable, but more than that it left an impression on me of a woman who didn’t reject all her accomplishments in favor of an vague notion of “something better.” Rather it is the telling of her willingness to listen to God even when she wasn’t quite sure if it was God who was speaking.  Dolores Hart wrestled with God’s call in her life. She questioned, she struggled, she examined, and in the end she listened with the ear of the heart. May we all be so attuned to how and where we are called. I know as I prepare my Christmas list this book will be wrapped and under the tree for my little sister, and once she “meets” Dolores we will have lots to discuss.
I leave you with a quote from early in the book from St. Benedict himself: “sin is not so much doing something wrong; sin is not being true to who we are.”

This book is available at the Slattery Library inside the Catholic Center, or online at

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