There is no doubt about it. When I first began my training as a novice Lay Cistercian, I took baby steps to implement a Lay Cistercian Way that would fit my particular situation in life (a retired, broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit). Eight years later, I find myself still broken down and still taking baby steps in my Cistercian practices and charisms. Now, I am more aware of my surroundings.
Here is an early blog on my applications of New Cistercian practices to my life. This applies only to me. You must discover your own application.
I met a man, quite similar in appearance and temperament to me, who keeps trying to pray as much as possible in the hopes of becoming more like Christ and less like himself. The more he prays, he thought, the holier he would become and thus the closer he would become to his center (Philippians 2:5). In trying to use the World as a measuring stick for holiness (quantity equals quality), he overlooked the dimension of the heart. The mind is good at measuring quantity, while the heart looks for quality. It is not how much you pray but how much your heart can make room (capacitas dei) for Christ. He was seduced into thinking that prayer was all verbal and must be done in Church, while actually that is an important part of the contemplative life for a Lay Cistercian but there is always more. Formal prayers are not the end in themselves but only ways to be present to Christ, only the beginning of the process. This happens from the beginning of each day, which is why the Morning Offering prayer is so important. Prayer is not what you do as much as lifting the heart and mind to God wherever and however you seek God daily.
One of the ways to approach the Sacred is to follow a daily routine. Some people call it a habit. Do this every day for 30 days. If you are unable to do so, you might want to consider if your spirituality needs to go to the gym. What follows is my exercise to move from self to God.
Place this aide on your mirror. When you wake up in the morning, offer everything you do today as glory to the Father and for the grace to do God’s will, through Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Monday: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those on my prayer list
Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, classmates from St. Meinrad Seminary, those on my prayer list
Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Joseph, those on my prayer list
Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St.Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of Norcia, Italy and those on my prayer list
Friday: For an increase in grace to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and my neighbor as myself.
Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in my faith through the Holy Spirit and for those on my prayer list.
Sunday: To give praise, honor, and glory to the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was, and is to come at the end of the ages
FIDELITY TO THE LIFE OF ONE WHO IS SIGNED WITH THE SIGN OF FAITH
In my life, it is important that I have a schedule to follow. I refuse to be used by a schedule (feeling that I have sinned if I don’t adhere to it perfectly) but would rather use it to help me seek God where I am and as I am, each day. I share with you my daily practices. I must emphasize the word “daily”. It is such a simple word but has crushed me more times than I would like to admit. These habits are what I do daily and I do not wish to impose them on you. You may wish to try some of them or none of them. If you do try them, do them daily and feel the struggle that it takes to be worthy of being an adopted son or daughter of the Father.
EACH DAY, READ CHAPTER 4 OF THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT. NO EXCEPTIONS! — the Rule contains practices offered to his monks by St. Benedict (c. 540 AD). Most of the chapters contain practical guides on how to organize the daily lives of monks of his time. If you go to this site, you will find a wealth of information about St. Benedict and also a tutorial from the Abbott on the meaning of each chapter of the Holy Rule. The key here is asking God to become what you are reading. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict Here are some of the Chapters of the Holy Rule that I use to take up my cross daily and follow Christ.
I read and try to practice these Chapters as one who is a professed Lay Cistercian of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) in Georgia, always mindful of the lifetime promises I made to Christ through the Abbott, Dom Augustine, O.C.S.O. I am not a monk living in a monastery. My monastery is the limits of the World in which I seek to find meaning. I am challenged to adapt the Rule to help me seek God daily where I am and as I am. Some days are better than others. I have discovered that it is the time I take trying to calm myself down so as to present myself to God properly, that is also a prayer.
EACH DAY, RECITE THE OFFICE OF READINGS, THE MORNING PRAYER, AND THE EVENING PRAYER. These prayers are prayers of the Church Universal. Somewhere in the world, the faithful are reciting these prayers in praise of the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit. They are public prayers of reparation for the sins and shortcomings of the Church and all members. It is praise and thanksgiving to the Father for considering us as adopted sons and daughters. Since before c 540 (St. Benedict), holy men and women have been praying these prayers seven times a day, 365 days a year, continuous prayer for all of us to the Father that He grant us mercy, sinners all. These Hours are not limited to “just Catholics”. There is no such thing as Catholic prayers. Our Catholic heritage contains prayers that have been part of our tradition for twenty centuries. Anyone can pray these prayers because we don’t pray to the Catholic Church or any Church. Prayer is our communication with Christ, mind to mind, heart to heart, and also to love others as Christ loves us. No one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Ecumenical groups also pray the Liturgy of the Hours together and are linked together by the Universal Prayer of the Church.
Watch the example of one of the Hours from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), in Georgia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbE92dFGG50 What did you notice about this prayer? I was struck by how slow the monks sang hymns and prayed the Psalms. It was like walking in honey.
EACH DAY, READ OR LISTEN TO SACRED SCRIPTURE — Some people read the Scripture to prove they are better than anyone else. How far away are they from the Kingdom of Heaven. St. John writes about why we have the Scriptures in John 20:30-31 when he says: “Conclusion.*30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s31But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”t
The biblical quotation is from a website you should bookmark under CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL. It is the website of the Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/20.
EACH DAY, IN FACT, SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, DO LECTIO DIVINA.– When I first began doing Lectio Divina on June of 1963, I was very scrupulous to follow Guigo II’s Ladder of Contemplation. As I approach the end of my life on earth, I am much more forgiving of following the steps of Guigo II. I pray Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) without realizing that there are steps. Even seven years ago, when I first became interested in applying to be a Lay Cistercian, I have found myself having one, long session of Lectio. Now, my Lectio sessions total one, sometimes two hours per day, but I spread that out over three or four shorter sessions. My daily schedule is flexible, yet strict enough, that I pray at least once a day at 2:30 a.m. (twenty minutes), then do my Lectio Divina at my computer at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., after Compline.
If you are looking for a challenging read, open this URL. http://www.umilta.net/ladder.html
The Steps for Lectio Divina: Spiritual Reading (source unknown)
Step 1. Lectio (lex-ee-oh), “Reading”
Read the Scripture passage. Try reading it out loud. Try reading it several times. Let the words sink in deeply. Open your mind and heart to the meaning of the words.
Step 2. Meditatio (med-it-tots-ee-oh), “Meditation”
Reflect on the Scripture passage. Think deep thoughts. Ask yourself questions such as the following:
What does this passage say to me?
Who am I in this passage?
What do I see? What do I hear?
What do I think?
Which character do I most relate to?
What do I most need to learn from this?
Try taking notes on your answers to the questions. Try journaling about the insights gained with meditation.
Step 3. Oratio (or-o-t-see-ah), “Prayer”
Move into the heart of the matter. Feel deep feelings. Consider the following questions as you respond to God:
What do I want to communicate to God?
What am I longing for in my relationship with God?
What do I desire in my prayer life?
What secrets of my heart are ready to be expressed? Is there joy? grief? fear? gratitude?
Express your intimate self to God in your own personal way.
Step 4. Contemplatio (con-tem-plot-see-oh), “Contemplation”
Simply rest in the presence of God. Be passive and just enjoy God. Settle into the tenderness of God’s love.
(Variation) Step 4/ Additional Step 5. Actio (ax-ee-oh); “Action”
Ask yourself the following questions in utter honesty:
How is God challenging me?
Is there a good thing God is calling me to do?
Is there a harmful thing God wants me to stop doing?
What is the next step I need to take?
Decide on a course of action