HOW TO PLAN YOUR MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD

What follows is excerpted from my book, The Lay Cistercian Journey. As a Lay Cistercian, one of the lessons I have learned is to have consistency of practice with my five Cistercian principles (silence, solitude, work, pray, community).  If you want to have Jesus as your Center (Phil. 2:5), you must work at it every day. The world will try to keep you from being consistent. That is the temptation to follow your will and not that of Jesus. It helps to know why you want to seek God, how you want to seek him, and what to do to find him. What follows is my plan to move from self to God, each day

HOW TO ORGANIZE AND FOCUS ON THE LIFE OF CHRIST

 MY SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR EACH DAY

The following pages are samples of how I organize my day as a Lay Cistercian. Everyone who attempts the Cistercian practices and charisms will have a different challenge to seek God. What follows is how I do it, but it does not mean this is how you must do it. I must tell you that I am retired and have time to devote to the practice of how to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.

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

Five or Six Practices to support my center: These are Cistercian 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 and nuns, solitude means carving out 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 communal 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. As a retiree, my work is almost exclusively devoted to writing and my blog. For whatever time I have remaining, I want to offer my experiences and talents to help parishes implement a contemplative option to their normal parish spirituality.
  5. Community—Lay Cistercians gravitate towards communal gatherings to refresh the soul and to transform themselves deeper into the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. I commit to attending a monthly meeting of Lay Cistercians called a Gathering Day at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Even though there is a great distance between us (250 miles one way), we link together as one in our commitment to each other because we are all linked through, with, and in, the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. Prayer is where you find it. So, too, is Lay Cistercian spirituality. I have several communities of faith that help sustain me in my quest to love God with all the heart, my soul, and my strength. My parish faith community is where I do most of my Lay Cistercian practices.

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 with 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 into 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.                                                               Work to share my writings and adult learning about Cistercian spiritual practices.         
  3. Be open to the possibility of the manifest ability of all being! I want to be more conscious of my capacity to love God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole soul and my neighbor as myself (capacitas dei). I want to be open to radical hospitality, seeing Christ as my neighbor, seeking to be open to God’s message in nature, hoping for a small place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Spiritual Practices I use to sustain my center:

As a Lay Cistercian, these are some of the practices, little nests of silence and solitude, 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 and 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. You grow beyond saying Our Fathers or Hail Marys.

Liturgy of the Hours: This practice, refined by St. Benedict c. 540 AD in his Rule of St. Benedict, organizes the monks to pray the Psalms seven times a day. I try to 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.My faith alone cannot make this happen. 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.

Reading the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4:  Each day, part of taking up my cross is reading Chapter 4 of St. Benedict, the Tools for Good Works. I offer this reading in reparation for my sins and for the strength to be strong next time I am tempted.

Dedication of the Day: My offering each day for a different intention.

Monday: Penance: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those in my book of Life.

Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, those in my book of Life.

Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Joseph, those in my book of Life.

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 in my book of Life.

Friday: For an increase in God’s 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 in my book of Life.

Key to any spirituality is being consistent with your practices.

 

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

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