God Alone
Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani Abbey Be still and know that I am God. - Psalm 45
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Dear LCG Members:

All of you are remembered in my heart and prayer these graced days of Advent and Christmas. I am grateful for the many graces I see in your lives, your abiding desire to draw near to the living God even as he draws near to us n his beloved Son. May his peace and live fill all our hearts.
Fr. Michael Gethsemani Abbey

To all my Cistercian Family: All joy in the birth of our Lord!
Paul Kimmel
Pendleton, IN

My prayers for a holy, happy Christmas season for all LCG partners.

Jim Duncan
Bristol, VT

[The following greeting was sent to Fr. Damien Thompson, Abbot of Gethsemani.]

Fr. Damien,

The Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani (LCG) send our heartfelt regards to you and the community of the Abbey of Gethsemani for the joy and hope of the rebirth of Christ in our lives. We are grateful for all the support and prayers that you and the community have provided us during 2005.

This past year has been one of many experiences of growth and new beginnings for Lay Cistercians worldwide and within the Lay Cistercian community associated with Gethsemani. We are especially grateful for the generosity provided by the community making it financially possible for us to participate in the Third International Lay Cistercian Meeting at Clairvaux, France in June.

Be assured of the continued support and prayers of the Lay Cistercians for you and the community in 2006, as we continue to grow together in living the Cistercian spiritual values and practices within the context of our distinctive ways of life.

With peace and fraternal love of the Christ,
Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani Abbey

Michael Brownís Reflection at Merton Memorial Mass in LouisvilleĖ Dec. 10

On this Third Sunday of Advent, we are joyful. The Lord is near! Isaiah and those of us gathered here today rejoice heartily in the Lord for God is the joy of our souls. In the reading from St Paul, we are encouraged to pray always. In the Gospel of John, we read that John the Baptist is the voice of one crying out in the desert. It is easy to think of Thomas Merton when hearing these readings today. He taught us much about joy and prayer. In many ways he was also the voice of one crying out in the desert, a true prophet for our times.

When I was asked to speak today, I wondered why. I did not know Thomas Merton personally, nor am I a Merton scholar. What can I say about Merton that others havenít said better? I decided that all I could do today is speak simply from my heart, as an ordinary layperson, about a man who has impacted my life in many ways.

I can say, without hesitation, that Thomas Merton has been a very influential person on my life. When I was a young man, like Merton, I wanted to be a Franciscan. While attending a Franciscan seminary, one of the friars gave me The Sign of Jonas as a gift. I read it with enthusiasm. It was the beginning of the end of my Franciscan vocation. Mertonís reflections on life in the monastery caused my heart to burn within me. I felt strongly that God wanted me to go to the monastery.

In time, I was accepted into the community of Gethsemani. When I got there I was in awe of being part of the monastery that I had learned about through Mertonís books. Although it was a wonderful experience for a young man, I realized eventually that the monastic life was not for me so I left the community.

After leaving the community, I continued to make retreats at Gethsemani and to read Mertonís books. Inspired by Merton, I tried to maintain something of the prayer life I had begun at Gethsemani. This continued even after I married and began a family. Why couldnít I live a contemplative life in the world as a married man with a family? In reality, I had left the monastery but the monastery had not left me. Part of me was still spiritually a monk.

For a number of years I did my own thing until I began meeting other lay people with similar desires and spiritual yearnings. With the assistance of one of the monks, we began meeting together at Gethsemani and sharing our stories. Merton was often mentioned in these stories.

This was the beginning of what is now the Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani. We are a committed group of lay people, male and female, young and old, married and single, living in the world, who strive to live the contemplative life according to the Cistercian charisms of silence, solitude, simplicity, stability, and conversion of manners, in the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict.

My personal journey, begun with Mertonís Sign of Jonas, took me to France this past summer. I went there to attend an International meeting of Lay Cistercians, monks, and nuns in Clairvaux, the city of St Bernard. There were over 100 people from more than a dozen countries, representing 26 Lay Cistercian communities. Several times, when people read my nametag and saw that I was representing Gethsemani, they would enthusiastically acknowledge Merton. No translation was needed! While in France, I was also able to visit Citeaux, the birthplace of the Cistercian order that Merton loved so well. Sitting in the abbey church at Citeaux, I was a long way from the 19-year-old Franciscan seminarian reading his 95-cent, paperback copy of the Sign of Jonas. I would not have been in France this summer, nor standing before you now, if it were not for Thomas Merton.

For me, the door to the contemplative life, and to a deeper awareness of Godís presence in life, was opened by Thomas Merton. God has used Thomas Merton to open my eyes to a new way of seeing and to a whole new way of living. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to visit Gethsemani many times and to spend some weekends in Mertonís Hermitage. On my first overnight visit to the hermitage, I had a wonderful experience that gave me a sense of oneness, not only with God, but with Merton. It was around this time of year. It was late at night and very dark. I was sitting in Mertonís chair in front of a roaring fire. Outside there was a drenching downpour of rain. I was reading Mertonís ďRain and the RhinocerosĒ from Raids on the Unspeakable. As I rocked in front of the fire, I read the following words. "The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!" It was a true contemplative moment. As I read these words, it would not have surprised me to look over and see Merton at his desk, writing in one of his journals.

God has used Thomas Merton to awaken within millions of people a hunger for God through a deeper contemplative awareness. I feel blessed by Godís grace to have been touched by Merton. Because of him, nothing has ever been the same for me. I certainly never listen to rain the same way I did before reading ďRain and the RhinocerosĒ. Let me end today with some final words from Mertonís New Seeds of Contemplation. The Lay Cistercian Plan of Life begins with these words. They remind us that God calls all of us to holiness and to a deeper oneness with Him.

"Contemplation is the highest expression of manís intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that source."

Thank you, Father Louis!

Michael Brown
Louisville, KY
December 10, 2005


It has become necessary to request an increase of our annual support for our Lay Cistercian community. The LCG Advisory Council has been discussing the possible need to increase the annual offering for over a year now. The suggested minimal offering is now $10 a year. An additional amount will be gratefully accepted.




January 8, 2006 Epiphany Sunday LCG gathering at Gethsemani

April 22, 2006 LCG Advisory Council meeting in Oxford, Ohio

September 15-17, 2006 Annual LCG Retreat at Gethsemani Abbey

Note: The LCG retreat for 2006 is scheduled the weekend of September 15-17, 2006. Retreat House reservations for LCG members and candidates can be made from March 15 through May 1, 2006. Call 502-549-4129 to make a reservation.


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