Addressing “men called to contemplation in the school of St. Benedict and St. Bernard,” Pope Francis on September 16, 2022, received participants in the second part of the general chapter of the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance, currently being held in Assisi. These monks, commonly known as “Trappists,” held the first part of their chapter last February, which led to the election of a Dutch monk, Dom Bernardus Peeters, as abbot general of the Order.
In his speech, harmonizing his Ignatian spirituality with the monastic tradition, the Pope dwelt on the image of the “dreams of Jesus” on four aspects inspired by the synodal journey: “communion, participation, mission, and formation.”
This “spiritual search” should help Trappist monks to live together a path of holiness, in a logic of “fraternal communion,” insisted the pontiff.
Communion, as disciples of Jesus, “does not consist in our uniformity, homogeneity, more or less spontaneous or forced compatibility. No, it consists in our common relationship to Christ, and in Him to the Father in the Spirit,” the Pontiff insisted.
He called on Trappists not to be afraid of “diversity,” because “Jesus was not afraid of the diversity that existed among the Twelve.” Nevertheless, he warned against the danger of “particularisms” and “exclusivisms” that “cause divisions.”
Emphasizing the concrete character of “fraternal communion,” the Pope also highlighted the “dream of Jesus” to see “a Church that is all missionary.”
Evangelization of the world can be done in different ways, according to God’s “whim,” even for contemplative religious, Pope Francis explained.
“A monk who prays in his monastery is doing his part to bring the Gospel to this earth, teaching the people who live here that we have a Father who loves us, and in this world we are on our way to Heaven.”
Trappists are therefore also protagonists of a “Church on the move” by assuming a lifestyle marked by “humility and service,” thus making their baptism bear fruit in a “path of holiness,” explained Pope Francis.
According to statistics as of December 31, 2021, the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance currently has about 1,600 Trappist monks and 1,500 Trappist nuns in 102 male and 77 female communities, respectively, around the world. Among their best-known sites are the abbeys of Cîteaux, Timadeuc and Tamié, in France.
The seven monks of Tibhirine, Algeria, killed in 1996 and beatified in 2018, were part of this Order.