In his audience with the participants in the General Chapter of Order, Pope Francis urges them to continue their "assiduous prayer" as “lovers of prayer” dedicated to "sobriety" to overcome today's cultural context that exalts "ephemeral goods and illusory artificial paradises.” Monasteries are places of charity and hospitality, a "school of prayer, and a school of charity for all". Cistercian communities are present in Asia and the rest of the world.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis received the participants in the General Chapter of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
“I go with my heart and mind to your silent cloisters, from which the prayer for the Church and for the world continues ceaselessly,” he told them. “Through you I would like to send a cordial greeting to the brothers and sisters of your monasteries throughout various countries.”
Cistercians of the Strict Observance follow the Benedictine rule according to a reform implemented in the 17th century. At present – according to Order’s own estimates – there are 2,130 Trappist monks in 97 communities, and 1,800 Trappist nuns in 72 communities. They are present all over the world, including Asia, with communities in the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Syria.
In his meeting with the representatives of the Chapter, Francis thanked “the Lord for the irreplaceable presence of the monastic communities, which represent a spiritual richness and a constant call to seek first of all “the things up above”, so as to live earthly realities to the right extent.”
Calling on them to “witnesses of assiduous prayer, of sobriety, of unity in charity”, the pontiff urged them “to give great importance to meditation on the Word of God, especially the lectio divina, which is a source of prayer and school of contemplation.”
“They are not ‘professionals’ – in a negative sense – but lovers of prayer, considering fidelity external to the practices and norms that regulate it and mark the moments not as the end, but as a means of progressing in the personal relationship with God. [. . .] And at the same time your monasteries continue to be privileged places where you can find true peace and genuine happiness that only God, our safe refuge, can give.”
Sobriety of life is useful, he added, for “concentrating on the essential and in reaching more easily the joy of the spousal encounter with Christ. This element of spiritual and existential simplicity preserves all its worth as testimony in today’s cultural context, which too often leads to the desire for ephemeral goods and illusory artificial paradises.”
“This lifestyle also favours your interior and exterior relationships with the monastery. You do not live like hermits in a community, but as coenobites in a unique desert. God manifests Himself in your personal solitude, as well as in the solidarity that joins the members of the community.
“Your Order, like every religious institute, is a gift made by God to the Church; therefore, it is necessary that he lives well inserted into the communal dimension of the Church itself. I encourage you to be a qualified witness of the search for God, a school of prayer, and a school of charity for all.”
“[Y]ou are called to make known and to share this spiritual experience with other brothers and sisters in a constant balance between personal contemplation, union with the liturgy of the Church, and welcome to those who seek moments of silence so as to be introduced into the experience of living with God.”
The pope urged the monks and the nuns to remain faithful to the “spiritual heritage, that is, to the identity of your Order” to as to live the “grateful memory of the past and the prospects for a future of hope.”
“Following in the wake of your spiritual tradition, you are able to read the current state of the Order in its moments of light and darkness, and in the newness of the Spirit, identify with courage new possibilities and opportunities to bear witness to your charism in the Church and in society today.”