New England

Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. (’06)While on the campus of Thomas Aquinas College, New England, last week to offer the President’s Day lecture, a prominent alumnus priest and scholar visited the men of St. Augustine Hall to recount how he discovered his Cistercian vocation — offering some practical discernment advice along the way.

While growing up in Austria, Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. (’06), befriended the monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, a Cistercian abbey in the outskirts of Vienna, where the Divine Office has been prayed continually for almost 900 years. Later, as a student at Thomas Aquinas College, he found his heart increasingly drawn back to the ancient abbey on the other side of the world — but when he sought permission to join after his sophomore year, the abbot urged him to finish his degree first.

Pater Edmund is glad he heeded the abbot’s advice. “TAC helped me to see what’s most important in life, that the goal of life is the contemplation of God,” he says. Better prepared for a contemplative vocation, he became a postulant three months after graduation, professed his final vows in 2009, and was ordained to the priesthood in 2011, earning his doctorate in theology from the University of Vienna soon thereafter.

As a Cistercian priest, Pater Edmund has served as both a pastor and a professor. “Our monastery has 21 parishes that it takes care of,” he says. “I was a parish priest for three years, and while there were many things I enjoyed, I was very happy to go back to the monastery, back to a much more contemplative life.” Though he is far from retired from the world — he teaches theology to Cistercian seminarians and often lectures across Europe and the United States — he does not mind. “I love teaching theology,” he says. “Teaching is a more active thing, but it’s so closely connected to contemplation that it’s almost a contemplative activity.”

Foremost among his activities is praying the Divine Office. Pater Edmund described his daily disciplines, hour by hour, noting the importance of the Sacred Liturgy in monastic life. “The liturgy is what drew me to the monastic life in the first place,” he says. The reverent worship of God is central to the Cistercian charism, as dictated by St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the Rule of St. Benedict.

The men of St. Augustine’s Hall were invested in the whole talk, and afterward graciously thanked Pater Edmund, wishing him well as he continued his travels on the East Coast.