Brother Michael, OSCO, one of our Junior Instructors, gave us many wonderful insights into Lectio Divina, one of which was, “Pray as you can.” For a monk in a monastery, the setting helps him or her to focus on Christ without distraction with a schedule devoted to praying the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Lectio Divina, reading Scripture, study of the works of monks and nuns throughout Cistercian history. For one who can only aspire to be a Lay Cistercian, such as myself, I do not live in a monastery, so the question becomes, “Can anyone practice Cistercian spirituality which stressed silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community, while living in the secular world?” My answer would be yes, but with three caveats.

  1. Don’t try to be a monk. Be yourself. Pray as you can and where you can. Look for opportunities for silence and solitude, such as waiting for a dental appointment, going to Trader Joe’s and waiting in the car, driving to and from anywhere, attending daily Eucharist and Eucharistic Holy Hour.  Make room for Jesus.
  2. If your parish does not have these helps to contemplative practice, you can get a group of like minded people together and begin to implement them slowly. Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am, says Jesus.
  3. Don’t rush to flood your mind with words and Scriptural readings. Although good, your mind needs time to assimilate the impact of these ideas. Carve out a time for Lectio Divina, which is only taking a sentence or phrase and saying it over and over.  Make a place for Jesus in your heart.

Simple is better. Don’t try to pray too much or both your mind and your spirit will be unable to process the many ideas. Take one idea and try it over and over and over. I have, as my purpose in life, and also my Lectio Divina saying, Philippians 2:5, “have in your the mind of Christ Jesus.: Those eight words have been my mantra since 1964. You know what? I still have not exhaused the depths of that one phrase, such is the wisdom of God.

Don’t be a fanatic. Learn from Christ for he is meek and humble of heart. Meek here does not mean weak. You don’t have to push your thinking on others. Our only mandate from Christ is to love one another as He has loved us. Of course, we will never reach the end of that charge from The Master.

Remember the saying, “I am not you; you are not me; God is not you; and, most certainly, you are not God.” –Michael Conrad



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