Tag Archives: Cistercians

Conyers Cistercians – New IRL Affiliate & New Abbot!

abbot-aug-ocsoAt the September Board of Director’s meeting of the IRL, we were pleased to approve the application of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, as our newest Affiliate community. This past summer has been a momentous time for the Trappist monks who on May 29, 2016, elected Father Augustine Myslinski, OCSO, as their eighth Abbot. On August 15, the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta, conferred the abbatial blessing on Abbot Augustine in the Abbey church. “Today we bless and dedicate Abbot Augustine as he fully accepts his election as the abbot of the monastery of Conyers,” said Archbishop Gregory, “and places all of his trust in God’s fidelity which never forsakes.”

On the abbey website it states: The abbatial blessing of an abbot is a sacrament, having been established in the Western church since the eighth century. During the liturgy, Archbishop Gregory bestowed the church’s blessing upon Abbot Augustine to confirm him in his ministry. In the rite of blessing, the abbot promises to persevere in determination to observe the Rule of St. Benedict and to encourage the brothers in the love of God, the life of the Gospel and in fraternal charity.

Abbot Augustine is a Chicago native but moved with his family to Georgia when he was 11 years old. He initially entered a diocesan seminary but before his ordination as a deacon, discerned that God was calling him elsewhere. That elsewhere was the abbey in Conyers where he professed vows as a brother in 2005. Further discernment led to his ordination as a priest in 2011. “I resisted this call for many years.” He said. “When I first heard God calling me to monastic life, my response was, ‘Go pick on somebody else!’”

ocso-abbeyThe Monastery was founded in 1944, when twenty-one Trappist monks left Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky for the wilderness of rural Georgia. Together they built the magnificent Abbey Church, a massive concrete structure that took 15 years to complete. The last surviving member of original 21 Conyers monks died in 2014 at age 102.

Today, the community of 34 monks spanning several generations meets seven times a day for communal prayer of the Divine Office beginning with Vigils at 4:00 a.m. and ending with Compline at 7:30 p.m. As Cistercian monks, they profess the Benedictine vows of obedience, stability and conversatio morum (“Conversion of Life” as referenced in chapter 58 of the Rule of St. Benedict.)

abbey-church-aerialRetreat guests are invited to fully participate in the monastic schedule of the Divine Office. The Abbey Store provides visitors with the opportunity to purchase food products, such as fudge and biscotti, that are made at The Monastery Bakery by the Monks. The stained glass studios of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit have been in operation since 1957, first used for in the Abbey Church.

We pray for Abbot Augustine, his brother monks and all who come to their door seeking to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, that the Lord may bless them for their commitment to Christ, His Church and His people.

“God doesn’t need our prayers because He takes care of everything,” Abbot Augustine said. “Instead He wants our prayers. One reason He wants our prayers is because it draws us closer together in unity and love—united together in Christ Jesus.”

An Abandoned Monastery Rises

vinaTraveling around Europe, especially in England, there is no sadder sight than an abandoned monastery. That is why is heartening to read about some old stones that have been restored to their original purpose.

It is an amazing and miraculous story….

The Cistercian (Trappist) monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California, recently celebrated the reconstruction of an ancient Cistercian Chapter House on their grounds. Originally part of the Santa Maria de Óvila monastery in Spain, it was built between 1190 and 1220 AD.  The monastery was founded by King Alfonso VIII of Castile who had it built after recapturing the area from the Moors. It became a home for Cistercian monks who, following the Rule of St. Benedict, flourished for many centuries. By 1835, however, four monks remained and the monastery was closed.

In 1931, the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst bought and brought part of the dismantled monastery stones to San Francisco with the intention of building a magnificent home to replace his mother’s burned down house. However, with the onset of the Depression and his financial woes, the stones were given to the city of San Francisco with the hope that it would become a museum in Golden Gate Park. But this too never came to pass and the stones were left abandoned and decaying in the park.

In 1984, the monks convinced the city to give the stones to them so they could be used on their property for their true purpose—a place where God could be glorified and served. The Chapter House, when completed, will include a reception room, display area and archival library.

New Clairvaux Abbey was a daughter house of Gethsemani in Kentucky. They in turn became the motherhouse for Our Lady of Joy, a Cistercian monastery of exiled Chinese monks in Hong Kong.  Subsequently, in 1984, a new foundation, Holy Mother of God, was opened in Taiwan.  In 2001 New Clairvaux accepted “paternity” of Our Lady of Peace, a house of nuns located in Nicaragua. The CIstercian abbey is the only one in California.

The monks support themselves by growing prunes and walnuts and since 2005 growing grapes and producing their own wine. They also, with a brewing company, produce a Trappist-style beer called Oliva

New Clairvaux Abbey is named after Clairvaux in France, St. Bernard’s founding abbey, the place where he was made abbot when only 25 years of age. When Bernard died in 1153, seven hundred monks lived at Clairvaux.  The abbey in Vina currently has 22 monks. May the New Clairvaux be blessed with holy and persevering vocations ala St.Bernard!

Cistercian Centenary

August 20th is the Feast Day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and this year the Cistercians are celebrating an extra-special anniversary for 2013 is the 900th centenary of St. Bernard’s entrance into Citeaux, the Motherhouse of the Cistercians.  The date of his entry was either 1112 or 1113 so for the past year the Cistercians have been commemorating this anniversary with a daily prayer for vocations.


Cîteaux Abbey was founded in 1098 by Sts. Robert, Alberic and Stephen Harding, monks from the Benedictine Abbey of Molesme who were seeking to follow the Rule of St. Benedict more closely. St. Bruno also resided in the vicinity of Molesme around the same time (1082) but he left to become the founder of the Carthusians.

When St. Bernard arrived at Citeaux, which hadn’t had a vocation in some time, there were thirty men with him, including his uncle and four of his brothers! When he was only in his twenties, he established a new Cistercian abbey in the Valley of Light or Clairvaux. At the time of his death, 700 men resided at Clairvaux and 68 new abbeys had been founded by him. What a difference one Cistercian made in the life of the Church!


So let us join the Cistercians today and pray their prayer for vocations:

Most gracious Father,

in setting up the New Monastery our fathers followed the poor Christ into the desert.

Thus they lived the Gospel by rediscovering the Rule of Saint Benedict in its purity.

You gave Bernard of Fontaine the ability

to make this new life attractive and appealing to others,

in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Grant that we today, after their example,

may live our charism deeply in a spirit of peace, unity, humility,

and above all, in the charity which surpasses all other gifts.

May men and women of our time be newly called to follow the Gospel in monastic life,

in the service of the Church’s mission, and in a world forgetful of You.

Remember Lord, Cîteaux, where Bernard arrived with his companions.

May the brothers there continue to live in the enthusiastic and generative spirit of the founders.

Remember all who live the Cistercian charism.

Remember all Cistercian communities, those which are aging and those newly-born,

in all parts of the world, north and south, east and west.

Let them not lose courage in times of trial,

but turn to her whom Bernard called the Star of the Sea.

 Holy Father, from whom we have already received so much,

grant us again your blessing that our communities may grow in numbers,

but above all in grace and in wisdom, to your glory,

who are blessed for ever and ever.


Cistercian Nuns Plan New Monastery

The Cistercian nuns of the Valley of  Our Lady Monastery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, are making plans for a new monastery.

According to a member of the architecutural firm of Cram and Ferguson Architects, it is “the first new traditional ecclesiastical project to draw on the simplicity and balance of Cistercian monastic architecture, and the first ever undertaken in the United States.” The principal of the firm traveled to Le Thoronet, Sénanque, and Silvacane in France to absorb and understand the ancient Cistercian traditions and architecture, and how to make it practical for today.

The sisters have the fortunate problem of outgrowing the space of their present monastery. Plus the noise of the world has grown around them and they are seeking a more contemplative site suitable to their way of life. The site for the proposed monastery is 229 acres in rural Iowa County southwest of Madison, Wisconsin. The new monastery will be able to house 35 sisters, in order to handle the anticipated future growth of the community. They currently number 17.

The Valley of Our Lady Monastery is an IRL Affiliate community. They were  founded in 1957 by the nuns of Frauenthal Abbey in Switzerland whose own foundation dates to the 13th century. They are the Cistercian Order’s first and only community of nuns in the English-speaking world. They receive their inspiration from the Sacred Scriptures, desert monastic tradition, the Rule of St. Benedict and the documents of the Church’s magisterium. And of course the Cistercian Fathers of the 12th century, most notably, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. They pray the Divine Office in Latin with Gregorian Chant. 

If you would like to donate to the building project, please visit their website.

The nuns also invite us to join them in praying the Sub Tuum, the oldest known prayer to the Mother of God which daily ends their office of Lauds.

We fly to thy patronage,
O holy Mother of God;

despise not our petitions
in our necessities,

but deliver us always
from all dangers,

O glorious and blessed Virgin.



St. Bernard’s Sons

Today is the memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercian Doctor of the Church and a giant in Church history. During his lifetime, he founded 68 monasteries and his legacy lives on today. In recognition of his eloquence, he is called Doctor Mellifluus (Honey-Sweet/Spoken). Pope Pius XII wrote an Encyclical on Bernard with the same title.

The famous Cistercian writer Thomas Merton said of Bernard that he “could be as tender as a mother to anyone who did not give evidence of being a hardened pharisee, and who had in his heart something of Christ’s unending patience with the weak sinner.”

The Cistercian Abbey of the Genesee is an IRL Affiliate Community founded in 1951 from the Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, burial place of Thomas Merton. Just over a week ago, they celebrated the entrance of a postulant, Ed Pierson, followed by the priestly ordination of Fr. Isaac Slater who celebrated his first Mass on August 12th.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of all Cistercian monasteries, intercede for her sons, that they may receive many holy vocations, and honor the legacy handed down by their great Father, Bernard.