May 21st, 2011 – International Meeting of Lay Cistercians

Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 7:37-39




Dear Brothers and Sisters,


            About 25 years ago small groups of lay people began to be formed around various Cistercian communities.  They wanted to embody in their lives, as lay people living in the world, the essential values that monks and nuns of the Cistercian Order live within their communities. The successive General Chapters of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance perceived an inspiration of the Holy Spirit in that movement and manifested their confidence in it, letting it evolve in its own ways, without hastening to legislate about it.  At the last General Chapter, the representatives of all the monasteries of the Order voted the following text which has, in its simplicity, an historical importance : “ We recognize the existence of a lay expression of our Cistercian charism in the lived experience of the groups of lay persons associated with a number of the monasteries of our Order”.


             The Cistercian charism does not belong to anyone in particular;  it does not even belong to the Cistercian Orders officially recognized.  It belongs to the Church, that is, to the whole People of God.  You believe that what you experience in your groups makes you part of a large movement of the Spirit, larger than each one of your groups.  For that reason you gathered here in Dubuque, first of all in order to share in this common grace, but also to exchange among yourselves how you live that grace and to discern what God wants of what the Members of the General Chapter of 2008 recognized as a new expression of the Cistercian charism.


            The Holy Spirit is present in the midst of us.  He is present during this celebration and He will accompany us in our exchanges.  There will probably be no tongues of fire that will come down on the assembly.  It is probable that nobody from us will start speaking in foreign tongues that he/she did not know before, and nobody will hear in a different language what I am presently saying in English ( the proof is that some of you are following what I say through a translation!). But the Holy Spirit is there.  We must believe in his presence and most of all be attentive to it.


            In the tradition of our Order, we begin each important event of the life of a community – like an abbatial election or a Regular Visitation – with a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, as we are now doing.  We feel the need of the lights of the Holy Spirit.  But let’s be careful!  We should not be asking for an extraordinary external intervention of the Holy Spirit who would tell us what we have to decide.  We must rather ask for the grace to be attentive to the Spirit of God already present in each one of our hearts.  We must, most of all, ask for the grace of the purity of heart that will free us of ourselves, of our attachment to our personal ideas, perhaps our ambitions, so that we may be open to the Other One.  That Other One is the Holy Spirit, of course.  It is also each one of our sisters or brothers, through whom the Spirit speaks to us.


            Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, speaks of the Body of Christ, that is, the Church, composed of many parts, each one having received its own gift from the Spirit.  A beautiful commentary of that text from Paul would be a sentence of the Testament of Christian de Chergé where he describes God the Father taking pleasure in restoring the “resemblance” in each one of his children, playing with their differences.  Les us religiously respect these differences with which God loves to play.


            Let us most of all listen to Jesus’ exclamation on the last day of the Feast : “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink... Rivers of living water will flow from within him”.  Let us ask for each one of us the grace to be really thirsty, so that we may swim all together during the whole week in these rivers of the Spirit.



Armand VEILLEUX      








Same Homily

in French

in Spanish