In late April and early May our community had the privilege of hosting the annual Juniors’ Seminar—a monastic version of Summer School. Juniors’ is a term we reserve for monks and nuns who have made First Vows but have not yet taken Solemn Vows. Cistercian Fr. Michael Casey (of Tarrawara Abbey in Australia) was the presenter and “Juniors” from across the United States attended the ten-day gathering. One of those Juniors was/is our own Br. John, and he offered this brief reflection on his experience of the seminar:
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” This verse from Matthew is both an understatement and the embodiment of this year’s Juniors’ Seminar. That presence was put into words by Fr. Michael Casey, truly one of the wisdom elders of our Cistercian way of life. He used his book, Coenobium, to frame his talks and the discussions that followed. Fr. Casey pointed out the need for constant spiritual growth—growth that can be assisted by understanding our Cistercian past, while addressing the challenges of the present. He offered us answers and more importantly raised questions.
Besides being educationally fruitful and encouraging, the conference successfully realized one of the aims of the Charter of Charity: “unity of spirit” or synodality as we might call it today. The participants (from various monasteries) quickly became a community united by one charity, and one rule. This was exhibited throughout the seminar by the openness of discussions and respect for other’s opinions, the generous cooperation and collaboration in assigned tasks, and the sincere gratitude and humble attitudes shown.
With deep appreciation to all who made this seminar possible and such a success.
Your brother in Christ, Br John.