As I look back on my life, and that is a very long look indeed, I usually reflect on what is good and try to forget all those times (the majority of my life) where I made a fool out of myself or was outright full of myself. To list all those faults and failing would take a book of many chapters and quotes. I won’t bore you with all those details. I will, however, share with you one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) that looked at the positive things I have learned and try to keep before my eyes each day, in keeping with my perpetual promises I made as a Lay Cistercian, my anniversary of final profession as a Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net . I share with you this profession of Faith just as I read it two years ago and as I try to live in on a daily basis until I passover to be with Christ.
FINAL PROMISES AS A LAY CISTERCIAN OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MONASTERY (TRAPPIST), CONYERS, GEORGIA
I, Michael Francis Conrad, a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a community of Catholics living in the world, promise to strive for a daily conversion of life as my response to the love of God.
I commit myself to live in a spirit of contemplative prayer and sacrifice in obedience to God’s universal call to holiness, using daily Cistercian practices and charisms of simplicity, humility, obedience to God’s will, hospitality, and striving for conversion of life to move from self to God.
I give thanks to my wife, Young, and my daughter, Martha, for standing with me on my journey. I ask for prayers from the Monastic community of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and the Lay Cistercian community, to include the Ecumenical and Auxiliary communities. I place myself in the hands of those already stand before the throne of the Lamb, including Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, the Seven Cistercian Martyrs of Our Lady of Atlas, Father Anthony Delisi and other deceased monks and Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and also Deacon Marcus Hepburn. Finally, I accept the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the constitutions and statues of the Strict Observance Cistercians as my guide for living the Gospel within the time I have remaining. Ut in Omnia Dei glorificatur.
FIVE LESSONS THAT HAVE SHAPED MY LIFE
Here are the five lessons that have shaped my life.
I. HAVE IN YOU THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS. This quote from Philippians 2:5 sums up my purpose in life and also the motivation that propels me forward to whatever awaits me when my life will change but not end. I use it as my Lectio Divina quote each and every day. I have tried to use is as far back as September 1962 (I don’t remember the day). It is the North on my compass, the reason for my trying to transform my life from my false self (seven deadly sins) to my true self (seven gifts of the Holy Spirit). It is the reason for my being here on earth for whatever time I have. It motivates me to want to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for the Lord to come by and grace me with His presence (God, of course, is everywhere). I can’t imagine what I would be without this North on my compass.
II. LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST LOVES YOU— I went from thinking that having in me the mind of Christ Jesus as meaning I must be in Church as much as I am the Church, the Body of Christ. The Church Universal are all those who have been signed by the blood of the Lamb, and all those whom God deems worthy to be in Heaven. Loving others as Christ loves us means that I don’g judge who goes to Heaven (a subtle form of idolatry) but worry that I am not worthy enough to be an adopted son of the Father.
III. CONTEMPLATION ENTERS THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST — Yes, God’s presence is everywhere, but I am talking about me making an conscious choice to place myself in the presence of Christ in a deliberate prayer. This is a spirituality of one Being, Christ who is both God and Human nature, being invited to have a picnic with me. It is my invitation to Christ to be present to me in a special way, one with no agenda, no hidden needs on my part. I am just want to be present to and with him. Yes, Christ is everywhere, but I am not. What I do in contemplation is sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and ask Christ to grace me with his presence. Even as I sit in silence and solitude before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic adoration, my prayer is for Jesus to have mercy on me for my lack of Faith and to wait until He wants to talk to me. I don’t want to presume on the mercy of God for me.
IV. TRANSFORMATION FROM SELF TO GOD— If my spiritual life is a room, have I cluttered it with so many useless values of the World, that Christ has no room. To make room, I must be humble to admit that I am in need of salvation each and every day of my life. Each day is a lifetime of trying to move from self to God. It is only due to God’s grace or energy that I can even move or transform myself. I have found Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict of particular help in identifying the tools for good works and a list of those attitudes and practices I must perform to move from self to God. Each day, I read Chapter 4 in total or in some part. My prayer for me is that I might become what I pray, moving from pride and idolatry of my false self to that of humility and obedience to the will of the Father.
V. THE PEACE OF CHRIST IN MY HEART — Loving others as Christ loves me has the effect of being one with not only Christ, but also the object of that love in those around me. This is not the peace that the world gives, as Scriptures point out. The Peace of Christ is the result of being in the presence of God in contemplation. The Joy of the Resurrection is the product from having in me the mind of Christ Jesus, without condition, open to the Holy Spirit in humility and obedience to whatever Jesus is telling me. Peace is not the absence of hostility but the presence of love, the real presence of Christ here before me just as he is in heaven sitting on the Throne of the Lamb of God. Faith alone, God’s own energy, enables me to be an adopted son of the Father. Church alone, the Body of Christ, allows me to love others as Christ loves me. It is letting your light shine before everyone so that “..they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” I am called to share that peace of Christ with those around me, those marked with the sign of salvation and those who have not yet accepted Christ. I am called to judge not the motives or hearts of others in the church and let God judge those outside it. This is the peace that is beyond all telling.
Glory 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