RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME ON MY LAY CISTERCIAN JOURNEY (SO FAR) Here are some wonderful, contemplative websites that you may help you find some rest for your soul. I admit my bias.


G.K. Chesterton

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen com/watch?v=NnXlQWmubYw

Scott Hahn and Catholic Apologetics  

Bishop Robert Barron

FIVE CONTEMPLATIVE WEBSITES When I look up something that puzzles me almost 100% of the time, I use these five sites when I think of contemplative spirituality. I offer these sites as an aspiring Lay Cistercian in search of wisdom and humility. I thought you might like to see what they are and bookmark them.

NUMBER FIVE:  CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE You will find many hours of enjoyment clicking on and reading the various sites that pertain to Cistercians. Of particular interest to me were the sites about Lay Cistercians and those highlighting the movement’s early history. There are two branches of the Cistercian observance, Regular Observance ( O. Cist.) and Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.).

 NUMBER FOUR: LAY CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE TO MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD  Read this website. Carl is a Lay Cistercian of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, also where I aspire to be a Lay Cistercian. It is my favorite website of an individual practitioner of Cistercian piety.

NUMBER THREE: RESEARCH SITES TO GROW DEEPER INTO CHRIST JESUS   If there is one source I use more than others, it is New Advent.  It contains the Catholic Encyclopedia, Summa Theologica, Bible, Early primary sources or Fathers of the Church, plus other excellent links.  Don’t miss this one.

NUMBER TWO: TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM (Vatican)  This site I have spent many happy hours looking up the actual texts about what the Church teaches, as opposed to what people say we teach but don’t. NUMBER


This is my own website.  I put it as number one because I use it the most, not because I think it is the best. It is the result of my daily Lectio Divina and a poor attempt to share some practical ways to practice contemplative spirituality, emphasizing the Cistercian heritage.  I have tried to give you a variety of websites that I use to grow from self to God.  They have all helped me look at who I am in my relationship with God (He must increase, I must decrease).

That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

THE CHRIST IMPERATIVES Here are some of the commands that Jesus gave to us to help us to convert our lives from the World to the Spirit.

• Seeking perfection? Listen to me, for I am meek and humble of heart. Matthew 11:28-30

• Thirsty? Drink of the living waters! John 7:37.

• Hungry? Eat the food that gives eternal life! John 6:33-38. 

• Bewildered? Believe in the Master! John 3:11-21.

• Without hope? Be not afraid! John 13:33-35.

• Lost? Find the way. John 14:6-7.

• Tired because of the pain? Be renewed! John 15:1-7. • Afraid? Find peace! John 27-28.

• Afraid to believe? Believe! John 11:25-27.

• Without a family? Listen! John 10:7-18.

• In darkness? Walk in the light! John 8:12.

• Spiritually depressed? Be healed! John 5:24

Welcome, good and faithful servant, into the Kingdom, prepared for you before the world began.

Being a faithful follower of the Master is the easiest thing to talk about but the most challenging thing to do. As a Lay Cistercian, trying to convert my life daily to be more like Christ and less like me, I find these imperatives like beacons on the stormy waters of living in a world influenced by Original Sin. Spirituality is work and a struggle because we live in a foreign land, one whose default is not a conveyor belt to get to Heaven. Heaven is not automatic. If it was, why be spiritual? Just sit back and sin bravely. 

 Christ has shown us the way, given us Love as the gold standard, taught us how to love because he has loved us first, by his passion, death, and Resurrection. It is this faith that conquers the World. This faith is that of the Universal Church (those who have died and are in the peace of Christ, those who live on earth and struggle with the conversion of life, and those purifying themselves). Christ wanted us to live out our moving from self to God amid the community of Faith. This community has the Mystery of Faith as its core. These imperatives help us as a community as we approach the Sacred. 

The core imperative is: love one another as I have loved you. I pray that I am what I hope to become in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Praise 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


Measurement is an essential part of science and education. It tells us what works and does not, and more importantly, why. Christ had a system for measuring success, too.

 Be careful when you take any test, especially this one. The assumptions will kill you. With that in mind, this is what you should know before you make this measurement. The good news is, there is only one yardstick with which we must be measured—have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). 


If you are interested in purchasing any of the books in this contemplative practices series, they are online at:




The Center for Contemplative Practice is a ministry of people devoted to providing spiritual resources for adults, such as publishing books, training, blogs, and online meditations. 

DISCLAIMER The ideas and meditations contained in any books or blogs shared by The Center for Contemplative Practice do not represent the official, authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church or any Cistercian Monastery or Lay Cistercian group. These ideas result from Lectio Divina’s spiritual meditations by the author and reflect only his interpretation of Catholic spiritual thoughts through contemplation. 


Michael F. Conrad, B.S., M.R.E., Ed.D., is retired from a full life of trying to make money seek fame and recognition by the world, all without much success. Regarding what the World thinks is successful, he has been a failure. Coming to his senses, even after the age of 79, he now struggles to have Christ Jesus’s mind in him. (Philippians 2:5) Still running the race and searching for the prize, he has had a lifetime of activities to help him in his quest: he is proud to have been a U.S. Army Chaplain, pastor of parish ministry, adjunct instructor of Adult Education at Indiana University (Bloomington) and University of South Florida (Tampa) and Barry University (Florida), high school instructor of religion, trainer of managers and supervisors, adjunct trainer for the Florida Certified Public Manager program, instructional designer for the State of Florida, former Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, and currently a publisher, blogger, and author, He is a Professed Lay Cistercian member of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, proud father, and a humbled husband. 

What follows is a poem about my life. It is, as yet, unfinished, as is my life, but the elements are all present.

The Poem of My Life

 I sing the song of life and Love…

…sometimes flat and out of tune

 …sometimes eloquent and full of passion

…sometimes forgetting notes and melody

…sometimes quaint and intimate

…often forgetful and negligent

…often in tune with the very core of my being

…often with the breath of those who would pull me down,

     shouting right in my face

…often with the breath of life uplifting me to heights never       

     before dreamed

…greatly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to  

    The One

…greatly thankful for adoption, the discovery of the new life    of pure energy

…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of

   The Master

…greatly sensitive for not judging the motives of anyone but         


…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian …happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration

…happy and humbled to be an adopted son of the Father …happy for communities of faith and Love with wife,      

    daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year …mindful of the significant distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest

…mindful of my center and the perspective that I am loved    

     moreover, I must love back with all the energy of my   

     heart and strength, yet always falling a little short

 …mindful of the energy I receive from The One in Whom I

      find purpose and meaning…Forever.

To The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, be glory, honor, power, and blessings through The Redeemer Son, in unity with the Advocate, the Spirit of Love.

From The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek hope that His words about the purpose of life are true, that He is the Way that leads to life…Forever.

With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce Love so I can have in me the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in life and my center…Forever.   “That in all things, may God be glorified.” –St. Benedict

Read about the Fathers of the Desert

Read the Ladder of Divine Ascent:

Read about women mystics on this URL:

Read about the classic, The Cloud of the Unknowing, author unknown. This is not for the faint of faith.

Read about St. Thomas Aquinas:

Read about key Cistercian men and women:

The following is a prayer from St. Augustine.

You are Christ,
my Holy Father,
my Tender God,
my Great King,
my Good Shepherd,
my Only Master,
my Best Helper,
my Most Beautiful and my Beloved,
my Living Bread,
my Priest Forever,
my Leader to my Country,
my True Light,
my Holy Sweetness,
my Straight Way,
my Excellent Wisdom,
my Pure Simplicity,
my Peaceful Harmony,
my Entire Protection,
my Good Portion,
my Everlasting Salvation.

Christ Jesus, Sweet Lord,
why have I ever loved,
why in my whole life
have I ever desired anything except You,
Jesus my God?
Where was I when I was not in spirit with You?
Now, from this time forth,
do you, all my desires, grow hot,
and flow out upon the Lord Jesus:
run… you have been tardy until now;
hasten where you are going;
seek Whom you are seeking.
O, Jesus may he who loves You
not be an anathema;
may he who loves You
not be filled with bitterness.

O, Sweet Jesus,
may every good feeling that is fitted for Your praise,
love You, delight in You, adore You!
God of my heart,
and my Portion, Christ Jesus,
may my heart faint away in spirit,
and may You be my Life within me!
May the live coal of Your Love
grow hot within my spirit
and break forth into a perfect fire;
may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart;
may it glow in my innermost being;
may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul;
and in the days of my consummation
may I be found consummated with You!


I love to read the late G.K. Chesterton’s works. Find ebooks on:

I recommend that you read the following Chapter 4 from the Rule of St. Benedict.

Slow down! Slow way down! All humans are hole diggers. Our whole life is spent using a shovel to dig holes of our own making. Some of them we fill up and some of them we let stand empty. It is what we choose to fill these holes that make us different from each other. Let me be less obtuse. When your mom or dad dies, that is a hole in your life. It may be a deep one or a shallow one. What is important, and why you have the ability to reason and then select what you have chosen as meaningful, is that you are the only one that can fill that hole. What you fill it with determines if you made a good choice or one that will destroy you. Back to the example: your mother has died and you are heartbroken. What will you fill that void with? You have some choices: a) nothing, you continue to grieve until the hole is filled; b) you drink alcohol so you won’t have to think about it, but the hole is still there, unfilled; c) you fill it with destructive, loose living, drugs and pills, and companions that will never allow you to fill the hole; d) you can fill it with the love and care of a living, the authentic person in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, both God and one of us. One of these will fill all the holes you have, those left by divorce, bankruptcy, failures on your part to fill that longing in your heart to be loved and to love. St. Augustine is quoted as saying: Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord. All we have is what was given to us by Christ. Taste and see, says the Scriptures, how good the Lord is. Happy is the one who takes refuge in Him. No easy paths here. But, just because your path in life is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong path. What follows are some readings that I have used to fill my own holes in life. They may not fill your hole. That only you and Christ can do together.

READ THE RULE OF THE MASTER. This precedes the Rule of St. Benedict and is one of the sources he used to write his Rule.

READ “DEI VERBUM” This document was created and approved by the Synod of Bishops in 1965 and promulgated by Pope Paul VI. Read it very carefully and very, very slowly.

READ THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TO GROW DEEPER IN THE LOVE THAT CHRIST HAS FOR US. This is an excerpt from the section on prayer. Read it carefully and deliberately. Write down just one thought that came from your reading. This excerpt is itself an excerpt from my book The School of Love.

Moving ever deeper into the subject of prayer, I found that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a beautiful description of prayer, much of which I will quote in its entirety because I don’t want you to lose the depth of meaning. I will place my comments where appropriate and allow you a space to write down your reflections.

There are three types of prayer, according to the definition from the Catholic Catechism. One is the audible prayer of the Church Universal), then meditation (prayer of the mind), and last contemplation (prayer of the heart).




2700 Through his Word, God speaks to man. By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to him to whom we are speaking in prayer: “Whether or not our prayer is heard
12 depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls.”2

2701 Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life. To his disciples, drawn by their Master’s silent prayer, Jesus teaches a vocal prayer, the Our Father. He not only prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue but, as the Gospels show, he raised his voice to express his personal prayer, from exultant blessing of the Father to the agony of Gesthemani.3

2702 The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power possible to our supplication.

2703 This need also corresponds to a divine requirement. God seeks worshippers in Spirit and Truth, and consequently living prayer that rises from the depths of the soul. He also wants the external expression that associates the body with interior prayer, for it renders him that perfect homage which is his due.

2704 Because it is external and so thoroughly human, vocal prayer is the form of prayer most readily accessible to groups. Even interior prayer, however, cannot neglect vocal prayer. Prayer is internalized to the extent that we become aware of him “to whom we speak;”4 Thus, vocal prayer becomes an initial form of contemplative prayer.


2705 Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the “today” of God is written.

2706 To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower. But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.

2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.”


2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”6 Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”7 It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself.

2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty ant in faith.

2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we “gather up:” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.

2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.8 But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.

2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.9 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”

2714 Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit “that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith” and we may be “grounded in love.”

2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of our Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.11

2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the “Yes” of the Son to become a servant and the Fiat of God’s lowly handmaid.

2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come”12 or “silent love.”13 Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.

2718 Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. The mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.

2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with [him] one hour.”14


2720 The Church invites the faithful to regular prayer: daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday Eucharist, the feasts of the liturgical year.

2721 The Christian tradition comprises three major expressions of the life of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and
17 contemplative prayer. They have in common the recollection of the heart.

2722 Vocal prayer, founded on the union of body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ’s example of praying to his Father and teaching the Our Father to his disciples.

2723 Meditation is a prayerful quest engaging thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own in faith the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life.

2724 Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.


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