The following comments are my own reflections from the document on Lay Cistercian Journey discussed at a Gathering Day of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery on October 1, 2017. It is part of our on-going Junior Professed Formation Program. Each month, our Lay Cistercian Advisor, Brother Cassian, OSCO, presents various approaches to 20th Century Cistercian Spirituality for Lay Cistercians based on the documents of International Lay Cistercians. What follows is the Lourdes document on Lay Cistercian Spiritual Journey. Look it up for yourself on:
http://www.cistercianfamily.org/documents/Spiritual%20Journey%20FINAL%2020June2014.pdf Over the next two to three weeks, each day, I will be commenting on one part of this document as it affects me as an aspiring Lay Cistercian, struggling to move from self to God. The text is bolded for your ease of reading. My reflection follows.
Over the next two to three weeks, each day, I will be commenting on one part of this document as it affects me as an aspiring Lay Cistercian, struggling to move from self to God. Today, we look at the response to the call. The text has been bolded for your ease of reading. My reflection follows.
2) The Response: Seeking to embody capacitas Dei. This encounter with the Cistercian spirituality embodied in a particular monastic community, leads us to seek to integrate the Cistercian values into our daily lives.
In the previous blog, I had you look at the document prepared by International Lay Cistercians to be used by each particular monastery. In my own experience, it took me three or more years to hear the call to join the Lay Cistercians. I had always wanted to be a Cistercian monk, but now I could join my brothers and sisters as a Lay Cistercian, or at least I could apply for membership. Later, I was to find out that the Holy Spirit Monastery has accepted as a group of Lay Cistercians, those not Roman Catholic. They are called Ecumenical Lay Cistercians. It is wonderful! But I digress.
My response to the call was an insatiable appetite to be less and less of me and more and more of Christ. As St. John says, “He must increase and I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30) I can’t say I was overly religious or pious, but it is like a bee instinctively coming back to the hive, from whence it derives its purpose for being.
If you talk to any Lay Cistercian, you will have a unique and inspiring story of their journey to accept the very strict practices of Cistercian spirituality as a member of this particular community. In my own case, the prior seventeen years, I had been applying to join the Catholic Church, with no permission being granted. The reasons for such a long period of time are complicated. I am a validly ordained Roman Catholic priest. When I left the active ministry in 1982, my ministry did not stop, just went underground. I eventually applied for laicization (the bishop is not my immediate superior, only my wife). This process is one of going from excommunication to one of full communion again with the Body of Christ. That was important to me because of the heritage taught to me by my parents, so I applied to the Pope, at that time Saint Pope John Paul II. Unlucky for me, for sixteen years, the Pope did not see fit to grant any requests for laicization, so I waited and waited. It did not help that my paperwork was lost once and I had to start over from the beginning. I have Msgr. Michael Reid to thank as my guardian angel who helped me write out the three inches of paperwork required and who did not treat me like I was the bottom of a birdcage.
So you see, my call and response were not without trauma and challenges. I could not appreciate the resurrection of Christ without His passion and death on a cross. I appreciate where I am as a Lay Cistercian as a result of overcoming my personal obstacles. One of those obstacles was my own stubborn will and ego. I had to let go of all the anger and resentment I had for the Church and substitute for it faith, hope, and love. These are not just platitudes, but inform my behavior with what they signify. It helped that I saw things, not as the world sees them but with the mind of Christ Jesus (the purpose of my life as found in Phil. 2:5). Even in my struggles, I silently and inescapably I was so angry with the Church (in my twelfth year of waiting for some word, any word from the Church that I even existed) that I took the complete course of instruction for converts to Anglicanism at St. Peter’s Church, Tallassee, Florida. I credit them and Father Dudley with helping me refocus my energies on the Catholic Church my heritage and true love. If it were up to the people of St. Peter’s Church, I would be an Anglican today. They were inspirational and many of them said they were former Roman Catholics. I simply could not make the jump from my heritage to one I considered good but not completely Apostolic. On my Lay Cistercian Journey, Anglicans refocused me on Christ and helped me move to a place where I could be accepted so that I could accept Christ as my center.
To even respond to the call from Christ to be a Lay Cistercian takes God’s own energy to help me see and overcome my pride and the sin of Adam and Eve, obedience to the will of God.
Well, that is me to date. I’m not perfect but in process of becoming. What I have in place is the framework from my monastic community to help me integrate these values and charisms into my daily life, the same life that must take up the cross daily and follow Christ.
That in all things, may God be glorified. St. Benedict