At fixed times all the abbots/abbesses come together. They discuss there the salvation of their own souls and of those committed to them. They take measures regarding the observance of the Holy Rule and of the Order where there is something that needs to be corrected or added. They foster anew among themselves the benefit of peace and charity. They devote themselves to maintaining the patrimony of the Order and safeguarding and increasing its unity. (C.77)

Friday, September 09, 2011

SEPTEMBER 09, 2011

Well into the third day of the General Chapters you start to find your rhythm, and think you know the answer when somebody asks whether we are starting the afternoon session at 2.30 PM or 3 PM: Yes, today it is 2.30 PM, yesterday’s 3 PM was an exception. In the European understanding of time…And we have a short but interesting exchange about the conception and living of time in different cultures. “Please take care to be in the aula or your commission on time” is an important message to those who are at the Chapters for the first time.

Between the soft pink clouds of dawn and the glowing pink clouds of dusk there are ever new horizons opening up – through the reports you listen to and through the persons you meet. Through the troubles of one and the loving care of another, the softness and firmness in the moving on: “The moderator – in English: Can we continue now?” There is no question of the authority in the kind, soft voice of M. Benedict heard in the ear of the English channel.  And we continue – all concentration shifted from your neighbor  to the moderator. Silence is restored and we go on listening to the reports from the regions.

Every region is presenting a one page report with some significant features of their monasteries at this time. This gives us a good background for reading the House Reports, seeing each house in a larger context. It also gives a broader picture of the Order as a whole.

A striking impression of all these reports is the honesty, openness and realism in the picture given. Admitting difficulties, pain and questions about the future, but also a joy and hope and trust for the life lived today.  This joy and trust together with the pain and suffering is also shining through the faces you see. This is the living body of Christ.

Interiority is a word repeated, going deeper in the search of God, living what we say, each person taking responsibility for the authenticity of our Cistercian charism. The problem with overload of work, the importance of a good balance between lectio divina, prayer and work.

Dialogues and attention to the affective and human development also help improving relationships in the community. Joined courses and meeting fosters unity and trust in the regions.

The Canadian Region and The Region of the Isles have done a great work looking at the precarious situation of several of their monasteries, with many aging members and few if any new vocations. There is an awareness and searching for new, creative solutions. Despite reduced numbers there is a spirit of faithfulness to the monastic calling, and a deep searching for what God wants with the community at this point. Denial may be a very human reaction in face of difficulties, and it takes time to regain trust and openness. A question raised in the aula was whether it is better to make radical changes now than waiting ten years and have them imposed on you. Several communities have made important changes to adapt to a new situation, and through this experienced a renewal, generosity, courage and vitality.

When one of the Japanese superiors spoke in the aula this morning, the sense of differences and difficulties with the language barrier was well illustrated for those of us who do not speak Japanese, and the deep gratitude for the interpreter who know the languages needed. Even with good interpreters the language barrier is an underlying reality, and several times the capitulants are asked to slow down when they speak in the assembly, so the interpreter can hear, understand and translate at the same time. Several of the regions are dealing with many different languages and having to keep bilingual meetings. The Region of Oriens experienced a new, fruitful unity when they decided to keep bilingual, mixed groups at their last regional meeting.

Sr. Hanne-Maria of Tautra