One thing I lacked about seven years ago before I became an aspiring Lay Cistercian, was order in my life. I have since devised a way for me to seek God as a Lay Cistercian member of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga. Each person will be different in the way they practice contemplative spirituality. Here are some of the things that make up my spiritual system. It is my spiritual pathway. I don’t always do them, but they are my default behaviors and practices none the less. The following is excerpted from my book, Six Thresholds of Life, found in the Store section of this blog.
AN EXAMPLE OF MY CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUAL SUPPORT SYSTEM
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.
1. 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.
2. Solitude— Solitude, for me, means carving out 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, may God be glorified.”
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 a 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.
My spiritual goals for the rest of my life:
1. Take up your cross daily and follow Christ. The cross, in this case, is being consistent in spiritual practices. Although there is no penalty attached for not performing them, the more you want to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus, the more you will have what you wish for. Take what comes your way and transform it through Christ Jesus.
2. Solitude in the midst of community. Community here means a support and sustaining faith group, such as Lay Cistercians of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga. and Good Shepherd faith community at daily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, with its ministries to the poor, the sick and those in need. Where two or three gather in my name, says the Master, there I am also.
3. Work to share my writings and adult learning about Cistercian spiritual practices.
4. Be open to the possibility of the manifestibility of all being! What seems like a mouthful of cotton candy is actually a way of saying that I will be more conscious of loving God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole soul and my neighbor as myself.
Spiritual Practices I use to sustain my center:
These practices are little nests I carve out of my routine, not because I need the discipline but because they place me in direct contact with the mind and heart of Christ.
Eucharist – The Sacrament of unity with God through Christ Jesus with the Holy Spirit as Advocate. This is the bread of Heaven. This is the pure energy of God for my transformation. This is my destiny in one prayer of gratitude with the community of believers.
Lectio Divina—This ancient, monastic practice allows me to grow deeper in spiritual awareness, there are four steps. Read (lectio); Meditate (meditatio); Pray (oratio); Contemplate (contemplatio).
Meditation and Spiritual Reading: This practice gives me a time to focus on Scriptures, Spiritual Readings about how to grow deeper in Christ Jesus.
The Rosary: Meditations on the life and purpose of Christ Jesus One of my favorite practices is a mantra-like prayer to help me meditate on the high points in the life of Jesus.
Liturgy of the Hours: This practice, refined by St. Benedict in 580 AD in his Rule of St. Benedict, organizes the monks to pray the Psalms seven times a day. I pray the Psalms at least twice a day. The key is consistency and prayer in common, if possible. It is the prayer of the Catholic Church every hour of the day, every day of the week, giving praise, honor, and glory to the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit.
Eucharistic Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament: I believe that Jesus Christ is present, body and blood, soul and divinity, under the appearance of the bread. This is an ancient practice and one of the most revered of all practices. If this is indeed the living Christ, why would you not want to visit? This takes fierce love to practice.
How I organize my daily practices:
Horarium: (This is the default pattern of my spiritual practice.)
4:00 a.m. Rise
4:10 a.m. Silent Prayer
Morning Offering Dedication of the Day
Monday: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those on my prayer list
Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, those on my prayer list
Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Joseph, those on my prayer list Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of Norcia, Italy and those on my prayer list Friday: For an increase in grace to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and my neighbor as myself.
Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in my faith through the Holy Spirit and for those on my prayer list.
Sunday: To give praise, honor, and glory to the Father through the Son my means of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was, and is to come at the end of the ages
4:30 a.m. Liturgy of the Hours: Readings in private (optional)
5:00 a.m. Exercise at gym: (Monday through Friday)
6:30 a.m. Breakfast:
7:00 a.m. Private prayer: Lectio divina in private
Spiritual reading in private
8:00 a.m. Liturgy of the Word: Morning Prayer in common Rosary in common
9:00 a.m. Holy Mass: In common
10:00 a.m. Exercise at gym: (Monday through Sunday)
11: 15 a.m. Work: Writing, Blog, Special Projects
12:30 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m. Liturgy of the Hours: Midday Prayer in private
1:15 p.m. Work: Writing, Blog, Special Projects
4:00-5:30 p.m. Adoration before Blessed Sacrament in common
Lectio Divina and Meditation in private
Liturgy of the Hours: Evening Prayer in common
5:30 p.m. Supper
6:00-7:30 p.m. Exercise at gym or swimming
8:00 p.m. Liturgy of the Hours: Night Prayer in private (optional)
8:30 p.m. Work: Writing, Blog, Special Projects
To be fair, I don’t always perform this schedule as written above. I do try to do it, however.
That in all things, may God be glorified. — St. Benedict