Cîteaux Abbey, in French “Abbaye de Cîteaux,” is a Roman Catholic abbey located south of Dijon, in the heart of Burgundy. Cîteaux Abbey established its fame as the mother house of Cistercian Order. What you may not know if that Cîteaux has a Cistercian sister in Texas. Her name is The Cistercian Lady of Dallas. Interestingly enough, it is the only abbey of the Cistercian Order in the United States.
Cîteaux Abbey, Birthplace of the Cistercian Order
Close your eyes and get ready to travel 11 centuries back in time. On March 21, 1098, on Saint Benedict’s Day, Robert of Molesme founded the Cîteaux Abbey. Imagine a group of 21 monks gathered around him seeking to follow more closely the Rule of St. Benedict as “pauperes Christi”.
The monks chose a secluded, woody and swampy site matching the Abbot of Cîteaux’s quest for a humble life solely dedicated to God.
Saint Harding, the third abbot, wrote the Charta Caritatis, that describes the organization of the Cistercian order. Then Saint Bernard influenced the Cistercian order by reaffirming the importance of strict observance to the Rule of St. Benedict.
Cîteaux Abbey Highlights
- In 1193 the monks finally completed the church. At the end of the 12th century, the Order had more than 500 monasteries. It became a place of burial for the Dukes of Burgundy. At the beginning of the 13th century, Cîteaux shined as an important center of Christianity.
- During the Hundred Years’ War, the monastery suffered fron pillage several times. The Abbey flourished again during the beginning of the 16th century until being hurt again by the French Wars of Religion.
- During the French Revolution, the government seized and sold the abbey.
- Monastic life was finally re-established at Cîteaux in 1898.
Meet the Cistercian Lady of Dallas
It all started in Hungary
The story of our Lady of Dallas commences in the late 1940’s. Cistercians monks from the congregation of Zirc in Hungary fled the persecutions of the communist regime. Several monks from Zirc took shelter in Dallas. They hoped to find an abbey where they could continue and nurture the tradition of the Hungarian Cistercians.
Then in 1954, more brothers were invited by Thomas K. Gorman, Bishop of the Dallas-Fort Worth Diocese, to come to Texas to help found a new Catholic university, the University of Dallas. Lastly, in 1961, the community formally established an independent monastery under the local patronage of Mary: Our Lady of Dallas.
European Cistercians in Dallas
Did you know that it is in a house on Swiss Avenue that the Cistercian life in Texas officially began in 1955? Consequently to the failed Hungarian uprising against Communism, a dozen young Cistercians took refuge in the community. In 1963, the monastery officially became an abbey.
Between 1965 and 1967, the monks built the Cistercian Preparatory School modeled after Europe schools. It combines an eight-year curriculum of high academic standards with an educational philosophy focused on spiritual growth.
Finally, in 1991 the construction of the abbey church began. The church has been the spiritual center of the abbey and school ever since.
Dallas-Dijon Cistercian Sisters
Today, two canonically distinct religious orders share the Cîteaux heritage. First is the Cistercian Order (O. Cist.), sometimes called “Common Observance” Cistercians. Second is the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.), more commonly known as “Trappists” named after the Abbey of La Trappe. Cîteaux belongs to the Trappists.
The Lady of Dallas belongs to the Cistercian Order. Dallas Cistercian monks describe themselves as a “community of monks priests, and teachers belonging to the Cistercian order serving the church in the Diocese of Dallas since 1955 and education youth at Cistercian Preparatory School and the University of Dallas”.
Novices embrace the monastic way of life that includes poverty, chastity, and obedience. They also observe silence, in the monastery after the nightly rosary and before the end of breakfast. For example, Internet can’t be used for entertainment.
On Sundays, around three-hundred people gather for the abbey’s conventual mass, accompanied by the Gregorian chant. You dont want to miss the Lady of Dallas Easter and Christmas liturgies. Without forgetting its special mass every first Friday in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In conclusion, the fascinating relationship between the Cistercian ladies of Cîteaux and Dallas epitomizes the spiritual dimension of the Dallas-Dijon twinning.
Whether you are a “seeker of God,” curious of the monastic tradition, or in search of peace, silence and meaning in your life, visit the sites of Cîteaux Abbey and of The Lady of Dallas. You will see that the two abbeys eagerly welcome visitors and guests, in respect of the tradition of Benedictine hospitality.