SIXTH INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF LAY CISTERCIAN COMMUNITIES
Our spiritual progress in the light of the Cistercian Charism
Assomption Lourdes: Centre spirituel d’accueil et de formation
"For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light." Psalm 35:10
The Lay Cistercian Spiritual Journey
- The Beginning: the call
Christ calls us into a contemplative way of life lived in the light of the Cistercian charism, and into a relationship with a particular monastery. The principal aspects of the call can be summarized as follows:
- Awareness or deepening of an inner life
- Desire for a prayer-centered life
- Recognition of the intervention of the Holy Spirit
- Awakening of reciprocity with God
This call to the Cistercian way of life requires discernment. It is lived out in community with others who have received the same call to the Lay Cistercian journey.
- The Response: Seeking to embody capacitas Dei
This encounter with the Cistercian spirituality embodied in a particular monastic community, leads us to seek to integrate the Cistercian values into our daily lives.
- The central place of community, lay and monastic, as a means of spiritual growth
Our response to the call of Christ leads us into a Lay Cistercian community where we are mutually enriched in relationship with each other and with the monastic community. The monastic community recognizes the presence of Cistercian values in the lay group and authorizes it to be called a "Lay Cistercian Community."
Walking with others brings richness, as the sharing and communion experienced are sources of support and joy. Community also creates constraints, requiring patience and listening, and could cause suffering. We recognize that community is an essential and indispensable element of our journey, a necessary means of spiritual growth. We must learn to love those who are called to the same community, sharing with each other with honesty and humility. Thus, we learn to see Christ in one another and to love as Christ has loved us.
This spirituality is not disembodied. It strives to meet the challenges of stability in spite of geographical distances and the difficulty of maintaining the spirit of community outside group meetings.
The difficulties are never considered only as obstacles, but are also a means of spiritual growth, which is made possible by grace and community support.
- Formation/Transformation: its importance for spiritual growth
Formation within the Lay Cistercian community is a lifelong journey into the richness of the Cistercian charism. Formation must be both personal and communal.
It includes the following:
- The practice of lectio divina and prayer
- The Rule of Saint Benedict
- Knowledge of the treasure of Cistercian literature
- The Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours)
- Self knowledge
- The importance of the Eucharist and other sacraments
- Spiritual accompaniment
- Life in Christ
The Lay Cistercian’s road is one particular way of living the universal journey of human beings into God. The presence of Christ is the heart of our journey: "He is the way, the truth, the life." It is necessarily a journey accompanied by others. It is the quest for the encounter with Christ who transcends us and abides in us. Our greatest hope is that the gift of discovering Christ in one another will be the path of holiness and joy for us. Our journey is inspired and nourished by the sisters and brothers in the Cistercian family; for this we will be eternally grateful.
After reflecting on our identity (Huerta 2008) and working on our formation (Dubuque 2011), we as Lay Cistercians sought to go to the heart and source of these two realities. We discovered an encounter with a Presence: Jesus Christ, the source and summit of our journey. Jesus calls us through our brothers and sisters to be witnesses of the Gospel in the world, enlightened and supported by the Cistercian tradition as it is embodied in the nuns and monks who accompany us.
May Mary, Queen of Citeaux and model of obedience, show us the way to our full transformation into the image of her Son.
Statement on the Formation of Lay Cistercians
We recognize the need for a common statement on the formation of Lay Cistercians that respects the autonomy of individual communities. This formation is necessary to build the Lay Cistercian identity as adopted at Huerta in 2008.
It is important to recognize the difference between formation and a formation program. True formation takes place through on-going conversion of life. Our openness to be formed, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is an expression of our desire to embody the Cistercian values.
Within the framework of this statement, each community develops its own formation program.
Content of Formation
Among the basic elements that can foster our conformation to Christ through the Cistercian charism, we recognize the importance of the following resources:
- Lectio Divina
- The Rule of St. Benedict
- The Cistercian Patrimony
- The Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours)
By incorporating these elements into our lives, we open ourselves to the transforming grace of the Spirit.
The content of a formation program will be adapted to the specific circumstances and needs of the individual community and its members. Every member needs a basic grounding in Christian faith.
It is important to emphasize that formation is furthered within the lay community itself, by the mutual relationship with the monastic community that accompanies them, the example offered by that monastic community, and the co-responsibility of the two communities to be a living expression of the Cistercian charism.
One of the roles of the International Association of Lay Cistercian Communities is to encourage its member communities to share their own formation resources through encounters, exchanges, forums, websites and other means.