A Lay Cistercian Reflects on the Practice of Contemplative Practice

As an aspiring Lay Cistercian, I would like to share with you some of the practical and real ways in which I pray, using silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the context of community. These reflection are my own and do not reflect any official monastic or Lay Cistercian opinions. I am just a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit who is writing down what I receive in contemplatio. Here is what I try to do consistently and persistently every day.

  • Establish a schedule of prayer and work each day. I am fortunate to begin with the Morning Offering as soon as I wake up (I say the one at the last page of this book), try to attend Office of Readings and Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours) at 7:40 until 8:20 a.m., recite the Rosary at 8:25 a.m. until Eucharist at 9:00 a.m., do various chores at home, do Lectio Divina, write my books or blog in the morning, Holy Hour sometime around Noon, take a nap, more writing in the afternoon, do chores, go to Premier Gym for a swim or exercise, attend Evening Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours) at my parish of Good Shepherd. It took me several years to develop this schedule. It is very flexible. I don’t always do these, but my intentions are to do so.
  • Once a month, on the first Sunday of each month, I attend the Gathering Day at Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, GA. It is mandatory that we be present, so that we can create a Lay Cistercian community of spiritual practitioners who share their experiences on how to apply contemplation to daily living with each other and receive formation from the monks. I don’t always make all the sessions, but I have committed to try to be there to join in communal prayer and sharing of spiritual insights.
  • Begin each day with a Morning Offering followed by dedicating this day to the glory of the Father through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit. Then, dedicate each day to a cause or some intention you have. What follows is what I do, but your intentions might be different.
  • Eucharist is food for the journey and not just any food. Even though I live in the physical universe, it is also the spiritual universe that composes my reality. To live in the physical universe, I need water and food to sustain my body. Likewise, to love in the spiritual universe while on earth, I need spiritual food to receive God’s sustaining energy. This spiritual food is from God and allows me to see what is unseen physically, and hear what I cannot hear physically. This spiritual food is God. How wonderful!

HOW I USE THE CONTEMPLATIVE APPROACH TO SPIRITUALITY

 The following pages are samples of the horarium (hourly agenda) I use to organize my day as a Lay Cistercian. I must tell you that I am retired and have time to devote to the practice of how to love as Jesus did. Not everyone has the great opportunity I have to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and Rosary in the parish. If I don’t keep it, no big deal, but it is an anchor.

My Center: Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. –Philippians 2:5

Five or Six Practices to support my center: These are Cistercian charisms and practices.

Silence—When I think of silence, I think of lack of worldly noise. But, it is more than just lack of external noises, like television, children playing, going to work, and traveling in a car. For me, I try to be conscious that all these sounds give glory to the Father through the Son, in union with the Holy Spirit. I try to make a space where I can reflect on my center with some degree of privacy. Silence of my heart helps me sustain the other Cistercian charisms and practices and so grow in fierce love.

Solitude— Solitude, for me, means carving out a space and quiet time to focus on how to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.

For the Cistercian monks, solitude means carving out a time and space that permits them to focus on loving God with their whole heart, whole soul and whole mind without external distractions. For the Lay Cistercian, we also concentrate on fashioning a little prayer nest but we live in the secular world and therefore embrace all the distractions as part of our prayer to the Father. St. Benedict says, “That in all things, God be glorified.”

Prayer—Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. As a Lay Cistercian, I actively put myself in the presence of God using prayer, both public and private. Even if I sometimes feel that prayer is repetitious and rote, I have noticed that the more I try to grow deeper using prayer, rather than fighting the externals, the more peace there is in my spirit. It is resting my heart in the heart of Christ that helps me love fiercely.

Work—Work as the world sees it is a means to make money. Work with a spiritual approach is transforming the ordinary tasks of the day into those that give glory and praise to the Father. Work is prayer, if offered up as praise and glory to the Father.

Community—Lay Cistercians gravitate towards communal gatherings to refresh the soul and to transform themselves deeper in the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. Even though there is great distance between us, we link together as one in our commitment to each other because we are all linked through the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. Sharing Christ with each other nourishes the Spirit in me.

 

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