When reading the book The Cistercian Way, by the late, great Cistercian Abbot, Dom Andre Louf, O.C.S.O., he impressed upon me the need to continuously move from self to God. It is not so much as one action, one time, but a mindset that you have with you all day and every day. I must admit to being a bit confused about how to do this, when I first read about it seven years ago. Since then, the Holy Spirit has been very gentle with me. Gradually, very slowly, I found myself thinking differently and so behaving differently. I tried to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus every day (Philippians 2:5), and I must confess to being more interested to the time I spent on Contemplating the Heart of Christ than just abandoning myself and trusting that Christ would give me what He wanted. What changed for me is that I went from trying to do all those steps in doing Lectio Divina (lectio, oratio, meditatio, and contemplatio) and started praying them naturally. It took time, but daily fidelity to my prayer life and constantly coming back to my center (Philippians 2:5) each and every time actually changed the level of peace in my heart. Peace was not just the absence of conflict (the definition of the World) but the presence of the Love of Christ inside. I could, and can, feel that peace which the World cannot give. What I kept hearing in my ear each day was, all this is a waste of time, you could better spend your time actually helping other people rather than retiring within in silence and solitude to seek God where you are, now. The archetypal drama of Genesis always comes to my mind. Satan is hard at work trying to separate me from the Love of Christ. Today, I am more aware of what is going on.

The Cistercian Way, as I understand it from the monks of Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), is one of simplicity in prayer, seeking God where I am, daily commitment to dying to self so that I can rise to new life in Christ (moving from self to God), and moving from my false self to my true self as an adopted son of the Father to name a few. Those can be just a lot of words, but St. Benedict, in his prologue to the Rule, states that we should “listen with the ear of the Heart.” Here are ten new, behavioral, practices that are the result of my trying to move from my false self to God.

  1. Cistercian charisms (humility) and practices (Lectio Divina) are possible outside of the Monastery setting, but must be adapted to the situation and also the person.
  2. Pray as you can. Brother Michael O.C.S.O. offered this advice to our class. It is profound yet simple. Because of this, I have a schedule of daily prayer activities but am not a slave to the agenda.
  3. The center of my life (Philippians 2:5) is always revolving, a hard target to pin down, yet that is what I have to do every day to keep from spiritual atrophy. Christ is the unchanging center, but Original Sin causes me to have to struggle to keep myself grounded.
  4. Spirituality is a daily battle with the forces of irrelevance and relativism (everyone is correct just because they think it).
  5. I must continuously fight in my battle between the World and the Spirit. I find that I must treat each day as a lifetime. Like a diet, when I fail (and this happens frequently), I must seek God’s mercy and ask for the power of Christ to make all things new, once again.
  6. Silence, Solitude, Work, Prayer and Community are the charisms that I seek to have in my mind and my heart. They help me listen “with the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict tells us in his Prologue to the Rule.
  7. I am becoming more and more able to sustain longer periods of time in my Lectio Divina. Before, my spiritual attention span was about four minutes.
  8. I find that I am becoming more and more accepting of who I am, who I want to become, and the power of Profound Listening. I like who I am but am fearful of pride in my accomplishments. St, Benedict says, in Chapter 4 of the Rule, that any accomplishments that happen as a result of using the Tool for Good Works, I should give credit to God, while those things that are sinful I should own and seek mercy.
  9. It all depends upon Christ overshadowing me with the Love from His heart and my ability to accept His energy in silence and solitude and with humility.
  10. I look forward to spending time with Christ in Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, Reading Scriptures, sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and just longing to be in the presence of the Lamb of God.

Spirituality is not the number of prayers I spend with Christ in contemplation but rather my trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each and every day. It is the time that I take throughout the whole day that longs to be in the presence of Christ Jesus. It is the struggle to move from self to God and my awareness that all of this is a result of the love that Christ has for me that enables me to relax, slow down my life, realize who I am in the sight of God, to seek simplicity of purpose, and trust in the Lord.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

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