In response to your question about the reason that the Carthusians appeal to me…
I think there is something in the fact that they are considered the most ascetic, and as for whether their rule would be a personal fit for me - well, I’m not sure about that at the moment.
In a journey of discernment, you give a great deal of thought to what God wants from you, and in my case it is on my mind pretty much constantly. I have quite a few choices in life, and many fields that I could go into apart from a religious vocation. Though I feel irresistably drawn to becoming a nun, and called in this way more than in any other, I find myself thinking I could be successful in other fields. I think this is to be expected in the process of discernment and it doesn’t cause me too much worry. The sense of choice is also quite predominant in my mind because I am a convert from an atheist family and they seem to be quite dismayed that I might “waste my life” and become a nun, and their efforts to dissuade me rub off on me sometimes, though mostly I just feel very sad that they don’t understand.
Anyway, that’s a bit of background. Where do the Carthusians come in? I think because I’ve always thrown myself into whatever I do one hundred percent. There are plenty of examples where I was very extreme in doing this as a teenager, before I knew Christ and even as a new person in Christ, this aspect of my personality remains. So, with this sense of choice also comes the sense that whatever I do, I must do it with all of my heart, soul and mind. There is a sense of opposition, of either/or - an example of this opposition, and my need to do things 100%, is that one tempting thought I get from time to time is to ditch the whole religious vocations thing and go and do something “really big” and “change the world”, and I think that if I were a Carmelite then “the world” would still be quite present to me, and I might not purge myself fully of this desire. But when you have an order which utterly shuns reknown like the Carthusians, then it is a pretty good way of ridding myself of that desire (and it is something I want to rid myself of, as while fame is not a bad thing, in my case it impedes my surrendering totally to God). Which is why I am attracted to enclosed orders in general because if it is God’s will that I become a nun, I think he is calling me to give myself completely to him and to mortify myself completely when it comes to all the other things I am attracted to. I don’t mean to dismiss the other orders - it’s just that some of the sisters I have met from the more “active” side of things lead a life not dissimilar to mine now, in terms of how much time they spend in prayer and the sort of work that they do. I can’t really go into why I feel otherwise here as it’s quite personal, but I’m very drawn to spending my life in contemplation.
When someone in my family goes “what’s the value in that?!” I think along the lines of today’s Gospel reading where Jesus says “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it”. Thanks to God, I have found my “fine pearl”, though I just glimpse it and it is too fleeting in the context of the life I currently lead. I know what I need to do to find it, and I’m prepared to “sell everything”. For me the “pearl” I seek is spending my life contemplating my Lord and God, and the cost would never be too high. If I can draw closer to God by renouncing more of my will and further mortifying my other desires then so be it. Only if that is the case though… I don’t want to be very human and go for the Carthusians just because they seem the most hardcore or attach some kind of spiritual pride to it, because that wouldn’t bring me closer to God. I am pretty sure after a great deal of prayer that God wants me to renounce myself, and I know through experience that when I do so He lavishes even more gifts upon me. Having worked that out that this is the case, my question about the Carthusians is, could God possibly want me to lead as austere a life as would be open to me in the religious orders? I don’t really know - that’s the question for me at the moment.
I know the Carmelites and Carthusians differ. I would say affectively and in a very instinctive, feelings-based sense, I fit the Carmelites. When I read the writings of the saints, some are interesting enough, while others make my heart melt. Likewise, some saints one doesn’t pray to much, while others are like best friends in Heaven. Well, I’m very attached to the Carmelite saints and I’ve always felt that, even before a vocation was on the horizon - when I was Baptised and Confirmed I chose St. Teresa as my patron. So in that sense, I’m more drawn to the Carmelites.
But I am asking a lot of questions at the moment about what role feelings play in the discernment process. Should I be worried that I don’t pray to St. Bruno in the same way? Again, I don’t know. I don’t think I should go on feelings alone. I do feel called to do something really radical, to go into the desert like the first desert fathers, which applies more to the Carthusians. I also feel called to penance, and I think that the life of the Carthusians would be a greater sacrifice for me. Sometimes in my life at the moment I try to do stuff that goes against my nature, because in doing so I will challenge myself and reform myself. Is it more important for something to already feel a perfect fit, or is it more important to choose a life that will be a greater challenge, and to do violence to oneself? Ultimately, it doesn’t come down to what I just feel like - rather it comes down to what will help me grow in holiness and what will help me to become Christlike.
So yeah, many questions! I think I will write to the Carthusians. I will try to do so in the next 2 or 3 weeks as right now I can’t find the time. I’ll keep you updated.