“Trappist” is the most familiar and common name by which Cistercians of the Strict Observance are known. The word derives from the monastery of La Trappe in France. This house was the home and center of a reform movement initiated by Armand-Jean de Rancé (d. 1700). In the midst of pressures and confusion that contemporary culture had introduced into religious life, the quality of this life had become very lax. Rancé saw the need to introduce firm discipline and austerity in order to preserve the values of Cistercian monastic life. He was personally able to modulate and govern the severe practices he instituted, and the monks experienced a deep joy even in harsh and painful circumstances. This spirituality was deeply influenced by a theology of reparation to God for the harms brought into the world by sin and evil.
An emphasis on strict discipline and mortification in the areas of fasting, enclosure, silence, and poverty was more observable in Cistercian monasteries until modifications were introduced by the General Chapter of 1969. The tendency to encourage severity for its own sake was corrected by an attention to inner motivations which are expressed in external asceticism. “The quietness of mind cultivated by silence is also the fruit of purity and simplicity of heart. For this reason the monk, in a spirit of joyful penitence, is to embrace willingly those means practised in the Order: work, the hidden life and voluntary poverty, together with vigils and fasting” (Constitutions and Statutes #25).