on the Cistercian Life
Following the first Fathers of our Order, we find in the Holy Rule of St. Benedict the practical interpretation of the Gospel for ourselves. A sense of the Divine Transcendence and of the Lordship of Christ not only pervades the whole of this Rule but also permeates our Life, totally orientated towards an experience of the Living God.
God calls and we respond by truly seeking Him as we follow Christ in humility and obedience. With hearts cleansed by the Word of God, by vigils, by fasting and by an unceasing conversion of life, we aim to become ever more disposed to receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of pure and continual prayer
This search for God is the soul of our monastic day, composed of the Opus Dei, Lectio Divina and manual work. Our Cistercian life is basically simple and austere. It is truly poor and penitential 'in joy of the Holy Spirit.' Through the warmth of their welcome and hospitality, our communities share the fruit of their contemplation and their work with others.
We carry out this search for God under a Rule and an Abbot in a community of love where all are responsible. It is through stability that we commit ourselves to this community. It lives in an atmosphere of silence and separation from the world, and fosters and expresses its openness to God in contemplation…treasuring, as Mary did, 'all these things, pondering them in her heart.'
The Church has entrusted a mission to us which we wish to fulfill by the response of our whole life…'To give clear witness to that heavenly home for which every man longs, and to keep alive in the heart of the human family the desire for this home…as we bear witness to the majesty and love of God and to the brotherhood of all men in Christ.'
(Cf Letter of Pope Paul VI to the Order, Dec 8/68; GS 38, Ag 40)
We shall do this by recognizing all that really unites us in the Holy Spirit, rather than by trying to impose unity through a legislation that would determine observances down to the last detail. Individual communities can in fact look after such details according to local needs and in conformity with the directives of the General Chapter-so long as our contemplative orientation is maintained. We are convinced that the best laws are those which follow and interpret life, and it is in the concrete experience of our Cistercian vocation that we would first of all recognize this life.
STATUTE ON UNITY AND PLURALISM
In the present Statute those observances which demand special attention in our times are presented in a more concrete fashion. Thus, the fundamental values of our life are guaranteed without imposing a detailed uniformity, where in fact a legitimate diversity should exist. Conditions are laid down so that each community, in union with other monasteries of the Order and following these guidelines, may deepen their own living experience of the Cistercian life.
TRAPPIST-CISTERCIAN ESSENTIAL VALUES----
Faithful to the thought of their Founders, Cistercian monks live under a Rule and an Abbot. They live, united in the love of Christ, in a community which is stable and effectively separated from the world.
The Abbot, as spiritual father of his community, should try to discover the will of God. One important way of doing this is by listening to his brethren in the spirit of Chapter 3 of the Rule.
In our daily horarium, we keep the balance between the Opus Dei, Lectio Divina and manual work, as required by the Rule of St. Benedict.
The hour of rising is so regulated that Vigils, which follows it, should keep its traditional character of nocturnal prayer-as we watch for the coming of the Lord.
The monk, who is tending to a life of continual prayer, needs a fixed amount of prayer each day. The Abbot will see to this for the community as a whole and for each individual monk in particular.
This search for a life of prayer should be lived in an atmosphere of recollection and silence for which all are responsible. In particular, the great silence at night and the silence in the regular places will be maintained.
Separation from the world demands that journeys out of the monastery should be infrequent and only for serious reasons. The use of radio and television will be exceptional. Discretion is needed in the use of other media of communication.
Our monasteries should practice generous hospitality, but this should not be allowed to interfere with the contemplative nature of our way of life.
Our diet should be simple and frugal. The monastic practice of fasting and abstinence should be retained.
The habit should be retained as the distinctive sign of our Order. Its use can differ from house to house.
The life of the community, as of each monk, should be marked by simplicity and poverty. Fraternal correction in the spirit of the Gospel is a help in this direction.
I. TRAPPIST-CISTERCIAN MONKS FAITHFUL TO THEIR FOUNDERS, LIVE UNDER A RULE AND AN ABBOT. THEY LIVE, UNITED IN THE LOVE OF CHRIST, IN A COMMUNITY WHICH IS STABLE AND EFFECTIVELY SEPARATED FROM THE WORLD
Basic to the Rule is the Abbot's discretionary power. He takes into account the individual circumstances of each brother, when making exceptions.
Each weekday the noon meal begins with a short reading from the Holy Rule, our Constitutions, Visitation Report, or House Guidelines; in that order.
Good manners and courtesy will foster peaceful community living.
All should be present at community gatherings, especially Mass, Divine Office in choir or at work, Chapter and noon meal.
When you are sick, or need a physician or dental appointment; please inform the Abbot or Infirmarian.
II. THE ABBOT, AS SPIRITUAL FATHER, SHOULD TRY TO DISCERN THE WILL OF GOD. ONE IMPORTANT WAY OF DOING THIS IS BY LISTENING TO HIS BROTHERS IN THE SPIRIT OF CHAPTER 3 OF THE RULE.
Among the methods used to hear the brothers are the Monastic Council, Committees and Community Sharing.
The Monastic Council consists of the Prior, Novice Master, Cellarer, one elected (2-year) member, and any invited person(s).
The Vocation/Formation Committee consists of the Prior, Vocation Director, Novice Master, Master of Studies and any invited person(s).
A brother may bring up a topic at Sunday Chapter for consideration.
The Cistercian Lay Brother vocation was fostered and encouraged by our founding fathers and this type of monastic life has survived through the centuries. The Cistercian Lay Brother is a full and equal member of the community. The most obvious element of his vocation is that he pray the Hours of Prayer, either in choir, with peers, or alone. Traditionally he prefers to spend more time serving his brothers through work, and to spend less time than others do in reading and study.
Without such vocations in monasteries few communities would prosper, for without them the sheer struggle for economic survival would require a drastic reduction of time for the Opus Dei.
We must avoid confusing intelligence with formal education. Since St. Benedict's essential requirement is that a person seeks God truly, one's education is not a determining criterion. What is necessary is that he be content with the gifts of nature and grace that God has given to make him the person that he is.
After first vows, a brother may approach the Abbot for discernment about the Lay Brother life-style for himself.
III. IN OUR DAILY HORARIUM, WE KEEP THE BALANCE BETWEEN OPUS DEI, LECTIO DIVINA, AND MANUAL LABOR AS REQUIRED BY THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT.
We pray Vigils, Lauds, Mid-day Prayer, Vespers and Compline in choir. We pray Terce and None in the Infirmary Chapel or at work.
We celebrate community Mass daily.
There is a simple exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during meditation after Vespers on weekdays.
Each should devote sufficient time to Lectio Devina, the monk's traditional form of prayer.
We sign out Library books, when using them more then one day and return periodicals when not actually reading them.
As a general policy, we do not loan books to outsiders, except with the Abbot's permission
Videos, CD's and DVD's are part of the Library. We must ask the Abbot's permission to watch anything coming from outside our library.
We generally work five hours a day at assigned community tasks.
Solemnities are kept holy, if possible.
We have a yearly community picnic, usually on the 4th of July.
IV. THE HOUR OF RISING IS SO REGULATED THAT VIGILS, WHICH FOLLOWS IT, KEEPS ITS TRADITIONAL CHARACTER OF NOCTURNAL PRAYERS-AS WE WATCH FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD.
We rise at 3:15 A.M.
Each brother may take a siesta-after lunch if possible, otherwise at an appropriate time.
No one should enter another's cell.
V. THE MONK TENDING TO A LIFE OF CONTINUAL PRAYER NEEDS A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PRAYER EACH DAY.
Our monastic cell provides a solitude where we can be alone with God for reading, prayer, rest and sleep.
We are encouraged to spend some time of thanksgiving in church after community Mass.
We have a yearly retreat.
Each may take a monthly retreat day, posting where he will be.
On Lenten weekdays, we have a 7 P.M. period of Lectio
VI. THIS SEARCH FOR A LIFE OF PRAYER SHOULD BE LIVED IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF RECOLLECTION AND SILENCE FOR WHICH ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE. THE GREAT SILENCE AT NIGHT AND IN THE REGULAR PLACES WILL BE OBSERVED.
Our contemplative tradition has embraced silence as a way of listening to the Divine Voice calling us to union with God. Today's renewal deepens our value and efforts for community relationships and personal communication. Our challenge is to integrate silence and speaking, so that we support one another in our search for God.
The Great Silence, leaving each free to be completely for God, extends from Compline till after community Mass on weekdays, and after Lauds on Sunday.
We observe silence (except in case of need) in Church, Refectory, Library, Indoor Halls, and Restrooms.
We speak only what is useful and in a low voice in: Sacristy, Kitchen, mail room, outdoor cloister, Bakery, and other places of work.
We may speak at other times and places.
VII. OUR MONASTERIES SHOULD PRACTISE GENEROUS HOSPITALITY, BUT THIS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO INTERFERE WITH THE CONTEMPLATIVE NATURE OF OUR LIFE.
We welcome candidates, retreatants and guests at our Guest House.
Candidates make reservations for a few visits before coming for Observership.
Retreatants contact the Guest Master to reserve available dates and rooms. Groups contact Bro. Francis.
Guests are relatives or friends of a monk. The monk should arrange the time of their visit with the Guest Master.
The monastery should not become a tourist attraction.
Tours of the cloister and bakery are usually not allowed. Exceptions are made with the abbot's permission.
Monks private room areas and basement are not part of a tour.
Hunting and trapping are not allowed on our property.
Monks go to the Guest House only when asked for, assigned to work there, or with permission.
Visitors may share in the liturgies with the monks.
When former live-in men come, we may visit them at the Guest House.
VIII. SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD DEMANDS THAT JOURNEYS OUT OF THE MONASTERY BE INFREQUENT AND ONLY FOR SERIOUS REASONS. THE USE OF RADIO AND TELEVISION WILL BE EXCEPTIONAL.
We ask explicit permission for any journey outside of official or medical needs.
When going out, we get whatever funds we need by using a cash request form. Upon return we give back receipts/expense form and surplus funds.
For personal expenditures, and for any departmental needs out of the ordinary, we get permission from the abbot.
We post any trip on the procurator's calendar beforehand.
Relatives and friends may visit us occasionally. We are free to spend time with them in the Guest House.
When a relative or friend is visiting a brother, he is not assigned work. In addition, he informs the abbot about any day trip with his visitor.
We do not visit home or family, unless a parent is unable to travel here.
A brother is free to visit his family when his parent or sibling is dying or has died.
Each brother works out an agreement with the abbot regarding his personal phone calls-outside of official duties.
We do not have personal cell phones.
We do not have a laptop, CD/DVD player, or radio, in our cell without explicit permission.
The brothers may use the communal computer for e-mail and internet, always with moderation and with consideration for others…but not during the Great Silence.
IX. OUR DIET SHOULD BE SIMPLE AND FRUGAL. THE MONASTIC PRACTICE OF FASTING AND ABSTINENCE SHOULD BE RETAINED.
Our noon meal consists of 3 portions, or 2 portions with several leftovers, plus a salad bar. Evening meal consists of 2 portions.
Ordinarily, we do not eat between meals.
In Advent and Lent we have no dessert at noon, and only 1 portion at night. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, our noon meal consists of bread and water.
For reasons of health, a brother may have other foods with the abbot's or infirmarian's permission.
X. THE RELIGIOUS HABIT SHOULD BE RETAINED AS A SIGN OF OUR ORDER. ITS USE CAN DIFFER FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE.
We wear our Religious habit in church, guest house, and at community meals.
Stocking caps should not be worn in church unless there is a special need.
We wear shorts only when exercising, and always wear a shirt.
We keep our hair moderately short.
XI. THE LIFE OF THE COMMUNITY, AS OF EACH MONK, SHOULD BE MARKED WITH SIMPLICITY AND POVERTY. FRATERNAL CORRECTION IN THE SPIRIT OF THE GOSPEL IS A HELP IN THIS DIRECTION.
As members of this spiritual family we should expect from the community whatever we really need. The abbot's permission is needed to ask any outsider for some item, or to accept a gift (e.g. by putting it at his place in the refectory.)
Community living requires neatness and personal cleanliness. Some practical applications are:
Keeping walls and floors, doors and windows, clean.
Making proper use of tools, cleaning and returning them promptly.
Taking unneeded things out of our cells.
Smoking is not permitted.
In our Cistercian School of Charity, we support each other as brothers in Christ's family and so grow into a closer personal relationship with Him and with each other.
Devotion to Our Lady helps us develop an ever more true family spirit towards God and neighbors.
To foster a sense of accountability, on the First Fridays of the month, after None, we will have a community sharing about any needed corrections.