My Lectio Divina meditation (Philippians 2:5) took me to ask about my being faithful to what Christ taught about loving others as Christ loved us.

Read the whole text about love with its fantastic approach to Christ being real inside you. I offer it to you so that you can enjoy the depths of meaning in Chapter 15. I simply love reading and reflecting on this passage, especially in Lent.

The Vine and the Branches.

1* “I am the true vine,* and my Father is the vine grower.a

2He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit.

3You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.b

4Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.

5I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

6* c Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.

7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d

8By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.e

9As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.f

10If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.g

11“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.h

12This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.i

13* No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14You are my friends if you do what I command you.

15I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.k

16It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.l

17This I command you: love one another.m

The World’s Hatred.*

18“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.n

19If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.o

20Remember the word I spoke to you,* ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.p

21And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,* because they do not know the one who sent me.q

22If I had not come and spoken* to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin.r

23Whoever hates me also hates my Father.s

24If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.t

25But in order that the word written in their law* might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’u

26“When the Advocate comes whom I will send* you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.v

27And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.w

When I read and reflected on this passage from John, it took me three days to complete my Lectio Divina. (I take my time because I have so much of it to take). One of the thoughts that passed my way was how much of what the Church teaches do I really believe? This led me to think of the promise I made in the final profession to become more like Christ and less like me. This is the promise I made before the Abbot of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, all the monks, and all Lay Cistercians present or absent. I have tried (that is the operable word) to love God with ALL my heart, mind, and strength. Mostly, my attempts are more like a yo-yo than a steady progression of loving God. Each day, I must begin anew and measure myself against Christ. Who you are depends upon what you place at the center of your life. It is this attitude or behavior against which you must measure your resolve.


What follows is a blog I wrote around the time of my final profession to be a Lay Cistercian for my lifetime.

As I look back on my life, which 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 failures 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 had learned and tried to keep before my eyes each day, in keeping with my perpetual promises I made as a Lay Cistercian, my anniversary of a final profession as a Lay Cistercian. I share this profession of Faith with you just as I read it two years ago and as I try to live in daily until I Passover to be with Christ.


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 statutes of the Strict Observance Cistercians as my guide for living the Gospel within the time I have remaining. Ut in Omnia Dei glorificatur.


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 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 it as far back as September 1962 (I don’t remember the day). The North on my compass is 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’t 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 a conscious choice to place myself in the presence of Christ in a deliberate prayer. Yes, Christ is everywhere, but I am not. This is a spirituality of one Being, Christ, who is both God and Human nature, being invited to 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. 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. I am just want to be present to and with him.

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 need 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 parts. 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. As Scriptures point out, this is not the peace that the world gives. The Peace of Christ is the result of being in the presence of God in contemplation. The Joy of the Resurrection is the product of 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


I may be asking the wrong question when I think of being half catholic. What half? Do I cut the Creed down the middle and believe one half while denying the other?

My sense is that I am a Catholic struggling to be more like Christ each day. This is what I term the martyrdom of the ordinary. I find it enough to measure myself against the love Christ has just for me, realizing that I am never close to 100% each day. This is why I conduct reparation for my sins (those confessed) and a resolve to sin no more. I don’t always do that, which is why I never love God with all my heart. I do try, and it is trying to place my heart next to the heart of Christ and just say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner” over and over and over, that I find my peace.

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