While Cistercians have been around since the mid-10th century, and before them Benedictines from the time of St. Benedict (c. 540) and before them various monastic strains, Lay Cistercians are a very recent movement.

There are two types of Cistercians that trace their foundations to the 10th century, regular observance and strict observance (Trappist), formed after the French Revolution. You may want to look them up for yourself.

Regular observance. https://www.cistercian.org/abbey/

Strict observance: http://www.ocso.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=62

  1. Lay Cistercians are a very recent movement.
  2. Lay Cistercians as a group are accepted by an abbot/abbess, their spiritual superior and guide. They do not exist apart from a monastery but are not part of it.
  3. Lay Cistercians have an International Association of Lay Cistercians. http://www.cistercianfamily.org
  4. Lay Cistercians usually have a two year novitiate for discernment purposes, followed by three years of Junior promises made each year in front of the Abbot/Abbess. At the end of that time, the professed Lay Cistercians vote on the candidates for membership. If accepted, they make final promises. Monks take voews. Lay Cistercians promise to be faithful to the Rule of Benedict and have stability to this monastery. This is a solemn occasion with promises make in writing in front of the Abbott in the context of the Eucharist.
  5. Lay Cistercians commit to attending a Gathering Day once a month, during which time they pray together and learn about the Rule of Benedict and Cistercian charisms and history.
  6. Like others in the Benedictine family, Lay Cistercians follow the counsels in the Rule of Benedict. I like Chapter 4 in particular. I read it every day, or at least a part of it. Although it is only a tool and not the end result, I try to be balanced in my approach to life by using it as a guide for behavior, along with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
  7. Some monasteries, like Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, in Conyers, Georgia, have auxiliary members in places too far away to attend the Gathering Day each month. These auxiliary groups have their own agenda and meet once a month. They make the annual retreat and profess their promises before the abbot, Dom Augustine, OCSO. The monastery and Lay Cistercians also have an ecumenical group in Atlanta, GA., composed of Episcopal, Presbyterian, and other denominations.  They also meet once a month, make the annual retreat, follow the Rule of St. Benedict to seek God, and profess their promises before Dom Augustine, OCSO.
  8. Some Lay Cistercians are associated with monasteries of Trappistine nuns. https://www.mississippiabbey.org/Monastic-Associates
  9. For a list of Lay Cistercians worldwide see:  http://www.cistercianfamily.org/communities.asp?language=english&order=group
  10. If you wish to delve deeper into Cistercian spirituality expressed by Lay Cistercians, look at the documents on the website for International Lay Cistercians: http://www.cistercianfamily.org/documents.asp?language=english#  The International Group (English, Spanish, and French) meet every three years.

Check out the website of Carl McColeman, professed Lay Cistercian from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga.  He has written several excellent books on mysticism and gives retreats you won’t soon forget.  www.carlmccoleman.net

That in all things, God be glorified.  –St. Benedict

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