7 Pillars of Trappist-Cistercian Spirituality

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 11:03 -- mitc_admin


7 Pillars of Trappist-Cistercian Spirituality

            Clearly, all Christians are one in the Love of Jesus Christ and a full-on life commitment to His Gospel.  Yet within the Church there are an abundance of ‘spiritualties’ that emphasize certain aspects of the Gospel more particularly.  There is a Franciscan spirituality with its special emphases, Carmelite spirituality, Ignatian spirituality, etc.  So what makes our specifically Trappist-Cistercian spirituality?

            When I speak of this I emphasize 7 points or pillars of Trappist Spirituality, each of which turn out to be dependent on the others and all of which focus toward a single main goal.  Each point is worthy of special attention in its own right, but for now I would like to briefly present them together so their importance and interrelatedness can be seen.  These 7 pillars are:

            Separation from the World:  Obviously cloistered enclosure is a defining element.  We leave the world and create a physical and spiritual sacred space in which we may be free to listen, encounter and grow in God.

            Simplicity: Along the same lines, we reject all that is extravagant or superfluous.  This is so not only in diet, sleep, clothing, furnishing, but even in matters of liturgy and personal prayer. Desiring an uncomplicated relationship with the God of simplicity, we seek God by the most direct means possible.

            Liturgy: Mass in the center of our life and day, from which the Divine Office, the official prayers of the Church, radiate and return.  This continual coming home to God through the hours of day and night in communal sung prayer provides the framework of our life.  We continually and joyfully sing the Glory of God.

            Brotherhood: We are not in this alone.  We are family, a brotherhood supporting and serving one another on our mutual journey toward eternal life.

            Zeal for Souls:  We are mindful that our life is a participation in and cooperation with the Redemptive mission of Christ to bring souls back to the Father.  We believe with certainty that Jesus draws great graces from our cooperation and uses these graces for the conversion of perishing souls and the good of the Kingdom.

            Devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Jesus and to the Blessed Virgin Mary:  We cultivate a tender and personal friendship with the Lord Jesus.  Only in this intimate friendship will the brothers be happy to preserve us in a life that is ordinary, obscure and laborious.  Our Blessed Mother is an ever present guide who leads us ever more deeply into this intimate relationship with Her Son.

            Contemplative Prayer/ Eschatological dimension:  Our focus is in Heaven.  We do not have an outside apostolate.  Our total dedication toward Heaven is our apostolate and the grace we bring to the world.  This is where all the pillars coverage and what they lead us to.

So there you have it: the 7 pillars of Trappist Spirituality as I see it.  Do these resonate with you?  Do they fill you with longing?  This may be the indication of a vocation to our life and particular Trappist way of offering loving service to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyway, that is what I think.  But what do you think?

Br. Christopher

Vocations Director      


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Submitted by Christopher Cheney on

The Heart of a Monk

When asked if the number of those saved would be few, Jesus refused to give a statistical answer and cut to the heart of the question by responding, “Strive to enter.”  Then He went on to say, “For many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” (Lk. 13:23-25) 

I believe that in this teaching Jesus is not referring to physical or even moral strength, but to the strength of our desire.  Many people may “kind-of” want to go to heaven, but, as noted in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13), other desires and needs come first and so choke the desire for Heaven, preventing it from fully maturing and bearing fruit; thus the person never actually reaches Eternal Life. 

The Heart of a Monk is the Desire for Heaven.  By Heaven I mean not only the experience of bliss in the afterlife, but the state of being utterly united to God and His Will, so completely translucent to God’s Presence and Love within, that It must transforms and shines out within and through him.  This Heaven begins now in this life and reaches consummation in the world to come.  Since we only enter Heaven to the extent that we desire it, our monastic forbears rightly emphasize how absolutely crucial is the cultivation of an intense and burning desire for real, eternal life.  In his Rule for monasteries, St. Benedict challenges his monks, “Are you in a hurry toward your Heavenly Homeland?” (RB 73) and among the Tools of Good Works (RB 4) exhorts the monks, “To desire everlasting life with all spiritual longing.” 

So how does one go about cultivating a burning desire for Heaven? 

1.  In order to desire anything we must perceive it as a real good.  In order to desire Heaven most of all we must train ourselves to value it at its true worth: The Greatest of All Goods.  To do this we should meditate of the excellence of eternal life with God and the fleeting nature of life in this world and of all passing things.

2.  We must examine ourselves and our lives to see if we are really living as if union with God and His Will are, in fact, our Greatest Value.  This will be seen in how we choose to live.

3.  We must pray frequently and fervently throughout the day for a real longing for God and Hope for Heaven.  Ask and you shall receive.

In all these things we can be sure of the Help and Assistance of God, Who desires nothing more for us than our Greatest Good and Eternal Happiness with Him in Heaven.

Anyway, that is what I think.  But what do you think?

Br. Christopher

Vocations Director      

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