HOW TO ORGANIZE AND FOCUS ON THE LIFE OF CHRIST
SEEKING GOD EACH DAY IN ALL THAT COMES MY WAY
The following pages are samples of the horarium (hourly agenda) and Internet sites that I use to organize my day as a Lay Cistercian. Everyone who practices the Cistercian practices and charisms, for those, not a monk or a nun, will have a different challenge to seek God. This 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 focus is not to do this or that Cistercian practice and I will automatically have God in me, which seems rather presumptuous of me, but rather in humility and obedience to the command to Christ to love each other as He loved us, to ask God to come into me so that I might worthily use these practices to move from self to God. He must increase and I must decrease.
There are voices in my consciousness that tell me all this dying to self is made up by people who did not want me to fulfill my life as a human being, that all this seeking God each day is a waste of time because I can’t see God or feel the immediate presence that I am making up in contemplation, that there is no resurrection from the dead only a dead end, and that my prayers don’t do anything except feed my own need to punish myself for imaginary sins and failings. I have a choice to take these temptations from Satan to the next level and make them the center of my life (the ninth and tenth Commandment calls it coveting), or I can say the one word that dispels the darkness and bring light from light back to my inner self. As I run the gauntlet of what remains of my life, I use these practices to place my heart next to the heart of Christ and learn of Him for He is meek and humble of heart. I seek only
The Praise of the Father.25 At that time Jesus said in reply,* “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.26 Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.o
The Gentle Mastery of Christ. 28* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest.29* Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is God’s playground we must use His Rules if we want to play in his sandbox. Fortunately for us, there is only one rule: to love God with all our hearts, and all our minds, and all our strength and our neighbor as our self. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36) Because the whole of humanity that was, is, and will, be did not have the energy or will to bring God’s kingdom to earth, God Himself in the Second person of the Blessed Trinity became one of us, like us in all things but sin. The purpose was to have the energy of God, that which has no beginning and no end, to lift up human to have the opportunity to live in this Kingdom of Heaven with God…Forever. Now, the second Adam who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might inherit this Kingdom of Heaven created for us from before the existence of time, space, matter, and physical energy. But, humans had a problem (explained in the Book of Genesis). We live in the World but must use our reason and free will to make the jump to the Kingdom of Heaven where we will begin our journey to Forever. We Christians are somewhat schizophrenic in that we live in the physical world and use human reason in our daily lives, but take our values and direction in obedience to the will of the Father from God, the opposite of what the world holds out as meaningful. Once again, in Baptism, Faith, which is the energy of God reaches down to lift us up to make us adopted sons and daughters of the Father and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Forever. It is only through Faith that this could happen. It is only because Christ accepted us first that we can approach the Father through, with, and in Christ, with the energy of the Holy Spirit. We depend on everything from Christ, our Christ Principle from whom flows all that is good.
Every day is a lifetime in the Kingdom of Heaven. We must accept Jesus as Lord every day of our life, having in us the mind of Christ Jesus to dispel the corrosive rust of Original Sin. This brings me to the Cistercian practices and charisms. They sustain me each day as I struggle against voices that try to corrupt me with pride, my own importance, rather than to seek humility and constant Faith. These are the tools of the Art of Contemplation, those bits of help which are not ends in themselves but transform me from self to God with God’s own energy. Life is all about discovering love. Love is all about discovering energy, Energy of God is all about the Mystery of Faith, which St. Augustine said “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict
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 I use as my centerpieces as a Lay Cistercian to measure if I am doing something for my benefit or to give praise and glory to the Father through, with and in Christ Jesus, in the unity with the Holy Spirit..
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, 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 in 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 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 consistent in 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 amid community. Community here means 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.
3. Work to share my writings and adult learning about Cistercian spiritual practices.
4. Be open to the possibility of the manifestibility of all being! I want to be more conscious of my own 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. I want to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), I don’t just want it, I will pay any price (using Cistercian charisma and practices to die to self so that I might rise with Christ to a new life each day)
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 growing deeper in spiritual awareness, there are four steps. Read (lectio); Meditate (meditatio); Pray (oratio); Contemplate (contemplatio).
Meditation and Spiritual Reading: This practice gives me time to focus on Scriptures and Spiritual Readings about how to grow deeper in Christ Jesus. Nothing is more central than to read the inspired Word of God and to seek, in humility and truth, to become what I read. John 20:30-31.
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. It is trying to focus on how to move from self to God using the Life of Christ Jesus as motivation.
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 three times 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.www.divineoffice.org
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. 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. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
Dedication of the Day: My offering each day for a different intention.
A PRAYER FOR PERSPECTIVE
Our Father, source of all goodness and fulfillment, we struggle so many times to see your will in what we attempt each day. We are most alive, most human when we look at you in the delicate way the sun greets each leaf in the morning by brushing it gently with the gold paint of dawn, the way the rose radiates subtle smells effortlessly to praise you far more than mere words, the way the seashore throttles the sands with clashing sounds, the way coffee con leche tastes with Cuban bread, the way you touch us with the unseen reality of your love. All creation gives you glory by their being. “That in all things, God be glorified.” Give us daily food for the journey, and you did your people in the desert. Give us good friends to help keep us honest about ourselves. Give us your Spirit to make the gifts real in treating others with unconditional love and faith. Allow us to forgive those who wrong us and pray for those who put us down for loving you. You are the gate through which we must pass on our journey to Forever. Show us the way to be gentle and humble of heart. Give us wisdom so that we can see what is unknown, know what is unseen, and love pure energy. With St. Paul, may we prefer nothing to understanding you and serving you with gladness all the days of our lives. When the Devil tempts us, may the angels that minister to you night and day also be our protectors from choosing our false self.
May you bless us with your spirit of mercy and penance, so that we might resist evil and our failures to love you with all our hearts, as you were once tempted in the Garden of Gethsemani.
To live the life of Christ as a Lay Cistercian is not without distinct challenges and responsibilities. If would be so easy just to say you want to be a Lay Cistercian and bask in the glow of what the monks and nuns do in their daily lives as if you wishing to be like them is actually like them. Like the book of James points out, faith without works is dead. So too is a Lay Cistercian Journey without the struggle of trying to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). As the Fox in the book, The Little Prince, points out: it is time you take to be with someone that makes it meaningful.
As one who can only aspire to be a Lay Cistercian, it takes five years of practice (two years as a Novice, and three years as a Junior) before one makes final promises, and that is just to begin to run the race. It is the race itself that is meaningful, the time it takes to live out the Life of Christ in daily events, to see and share the love of Christ in community of believers that you may only see once a day or once a month, the daily habits formed by practicing prayers over and over, while all the time making them fresh and new each day, and all this to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil.2:5).
Is it worth the cost? For those for whom Christ has captured them, as St. Paul says in Philippians 3:7-16, “…I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For Him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ Jesus and be given a place in Him.”
That passage has begun to transform me from self to God, ever so slowly and unobtrusively, so that what had become routine and stale is now new and fresh with the realization that I have only begun to grasp “…the breadth and the length, the height and the depth, until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, (I am) filled with the utter fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-20) Praise to the Father, to the Son, and 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.
RESOURCES THAT HELP ME MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD
I share with you what I have received via the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia, and also from the Lay Cistercians (with permission).
Blessings on you this day. Remember, peace is not the absence of conflict but rather the love of Christ in your heart. It is this that will conquer the world, if not the earth, then certainly the world as you experience it.
Please pray for all monks and Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) that all may seek God every day in every way and become what they seek.
REFLECTIONS ON SILENCE AND SOLITUDE BY A BROKEN-DOWN, OLD TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
CHARISM FOUR: Silence and Solitude
Both silence and solitude are distinguishing characteristics of anyone who wants to be a contemplative monk or nun. But it would be a mistake to take words on their face value and not see them about the mission of a particular Order. Carthusians, for example, are hermits and follow the Rule of St. Benedict, and also St. Bruno. Cistercians may be divided into two branches, one that is called Regular Cistercians OCist, https://www.cistercian.org/abbey/ and those that are more contemplative, Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, O.C.S.O. http://www.trappist.net. Trappist Cistercians differ from those of the Regular Order in their emphasis on contemplative living (silence and solitude).
Slow down your reading and your thinking. To grow deeper from my false self to my true self (Galatians 5), I had to slow down my reading of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. All of my reading now is intentionally slow, not because I am getting old, although that is indeed the case, but that I take time now to REST on the word and savor them. The Psalms, in particular, are my target for this new approach to reciting the Liturgy of the Hours.
Read one of my favorite Psalms below in your usual way, don’t pause between each stanza or between the antiphon and the Psalm, just get through it as you would normally do, reading it quickly. Don’t pause for reflection. Read it the second time but this time pause for a few minutes between each stanza as you let the Holy Spirit have a chance to speak. The third time, seek to become what you read with God’s help.
FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS
Antiphon: Turn not your head away from me nor remember my sins.
3Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your merciful love;
according to your great compassion,
blot out my transgressions.
4 Wash me completely from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
5 My transgressions, truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
6 Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.
So you are just in your sentence,
without reproach in your judgment.
7 O see, in guilt, I was born,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
8 Yes, you delight in sincerity of heart;
in secret, you teach me wisdom.
9 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
10 Let me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may exult.
11Turn away your face from my sins,
and blot out all my guilt.
12 Create a pure heart for me, O God;
renew a steadfast spirit within me.
13 Do not cast me away from your presence;
take not your holy spirit from me.
14 Restore in me the joy of your salvation;
sustain in me a willing spirit.
15 I will teach transgressors your ways,
that sinner may return to you.
16 Rescue me from bloodshed, O God,
God of my salvation, and then my tongue shall ring out your justice.
17 O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
18 For in sacrifice you take no delight;
the burnt offering from me would not please you.
19 My sacrifice to God, a broken spirit:
a broken and humbled heart,
O God, you will not spurn.
20 In your good pleasure, show favor to Sion;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
21 Then you will delight in right sacrifice,
burnt offerings wholly consumed.
Then you will be offered young bulls on your altar.
ALL: Praise be the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages.
Antiphon: Turn not your head away from me nor remember my sins.
RESOURCES TO HELP ME GROW FROM SELF TO GOD
I share my joy with you about a website that I discovered by Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B. with very rich contemporary subjects and also patristic and other primary sources. You can read the actual texts of the ecumenical councils, plus other great writers. Father Luke conducts an on-line course in bioethics. Here is his shortened bio as copied directly from his website.
FATHER LUKE’S BIO:
“Fr. LUKE Dysinger has been a member of the Benedictine monastic community at Saint Andrew’s Abbey Valyermo, California, since May 1980. He has served in the past as a novice master, junior master, and prior; he is presently librarian and second cantor. He teaches patristics, the history of Christian spirituality, bioethics, and human sexuality at Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, where is a full professor and chair of the department of moral theology. He teaches monastic formation and monastic spirituality at the School of Theology of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.
Prior to joining the monastery, he trained as a physician, graduating from the University of Southern California School of Medicine in 1978, and completing his residency in family practice in 1981. He serves as chair of the bioethics committee at the Antelope Valley Hospital Medical Center in Lancaster, California, where he is a member of the medical staff. He consults as a contract bioethicist at St. Francis Medical Center, Lynnwood.
He studied theology in Oxford, completing his studies for ordination in 1985 and his D.Phil. in patristics in 2000. He has published a translation of the Rule of Benedict, as well as articles on Evagrius Ponticus, lectio divina, and other subjects in monastic spirituality and bioethics. His book, Prayer and Psalmody in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus, is available from Oxford University Press.”
FATHER LUKE’S COURSE ON BIOETHICS
READINGS AND AUDIO LECTURES FROM ST. JOHN’S SEMINARY
This site is the resource for which I have been anxiously awaiting. What a treasure trove of courses and great primary texts from saints to heretics, from Christ to Mohammed, in the original texts (in English). I must add this site to my top websites.
MY TOP WEBSITES FOR SPIRITUAL AWARENESS (Copied from a prior blog).
I use the Internet a lot these days. Granted, there is a lot of blather contained in it, but there are some gems that I use almost every week as I seek God daily through silence and solitude. In no order of importance, here are the sites that have helped me to move a tiny bit from self to God.
WORD ON FIRE — www.wordonfire.org This is the site that features Bishop Robert Barron and his ministry. I love this site because you are able to sign up for his daily meditations on the Eucharist plus a Sunday commentary. If you are so inclined, you can sign up for his Word on Fire Institute. This has my highest recommendation and I use it nearly every day. You can go to YouTube.com and type in Bishop Barron to see some of his videos. All of us are blessed because of Bishop Barron and his team of evangelists.
DR. SCOTT HAHN — http://www.scotthahn.com Here is another magnificent site that just oozes with the Holy Spirit. When you access his website you are able to click on some of his video sessions. Anything that comes from the St. Paul Center is worth your time and spiritual energy. You can also access Youtube to find more of Dr. Scott Hahn’s videos.
NEW ADVENT — https://www.newadvent.org/ I use this site when I want to look up resources, such as The Catholic Encyclopedia, Fathers of the Church, the Bible, Summa Theologica, and my personal favorite, and an up to date newsletter that is loaded with commentary and links to other significant events of the day. It is yours for free.
TRAPPIST BROTHERS AND SISTERS — https://www.trappists.org/history-of-the-trappists/notable-monks-nuns/ This site is one I use for all things Trappist, one of two branches of the Cistercian Order, the other being Regular Cistercians. It has my highest recommendation because I use it to check out what is going on with the Trappists.
A LAY CISTERCIAN LOOKS AT REALITY — https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org This site is one I created to reflect on the reality of each day using Cistercian, specifically Trappist practices and charisms. I have been blessed to be accepted by Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Conyers, Georgia) as a Professed Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net
THE DIVINE OFFICE — http://www.divineoffice.org If you wish to join others in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, this is the on line site I use, since I am quarantined due to COVID 19. It also has a link to my blog.
USCCB- http://www.usccb.org is the website for the Bishops of the United States. I use this to look up scriptural quotes, the latest in developments that affect our Faith in this country.
THE VATICAN NEWS — https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-05/church-recognizes-miracle-attributed-to-ven-michael-mcgivney.html This is a site to read about news from the Holy Father and Vatican. Highly recommended.
There are many other site that are just excellent, but these are the ones I use the most.