So, recently I have been having some correspondence with the Novice Master of a Carthusian charterhouse due to some feelings that I may in fact be called to that order (read my blog if you want to know a bit more about that). In a letter that I received today, there was a beautiful bit about solitude and how it relates to family. It was in response to a question that I had about leaving people behind, and how the Carthusian solitude would practically make me dead to them. I thought that this would be useful to post, as the life of a contemplative is one of the many holy vocations that God provides, and perhaps this may help someone discerning that call.
"Perhaps I could say, the bottom line is that when one has an authentic call, that is, when the Holy Spirit is present in the attraction one feels to the Charterhouse, one will receive the graces necessary to take the step of leaving the world and one's loved ones. However, this does not mean that the pain this separation entails will disappear or become less. Grace does not always remove this pain, but gives the strength to go through it.
In fact the pain you feel, or foresee others might feel when you will leave them to enter a monastery, is normal. It shows you have a heart. Even great saints like, for example Teresa of Avila, felt much pain at the separation with their families.
Carthusian solitude is real. It is the beauty of our life: living totally for God, in God. It is also a cross, indeed, a certain 'death' as you write yourself. It is good to be aware of this and to be honest with oneself and others about this. We never go home for family events like marriage or when a close family member passes away. We only leave the monastery for administrative or medical purposes.
Sometimes the separation from the family remains a difficult issue during one's whole life. Most of the time, however, both the monk and the relatives discover a deeper meaning in their separation. Fundamentally, the only thing generous parents want to is to see their children happy. When parents see that their son is happy, they usually grow towards more serenity and acceptance. With the eyes of faith we know that, through our life of prayer we contribute to the extension of God's Kingdom. Christ pours out his light and peace over our loved ones, through the Eucharist we celebrate daily, and through our silent remembrance of them in his presence. So, in the monastery we are in fact much closer to them than if we would be if we stayed in the world. This, I think, is the experience which most of us here and also our relatives have.
Pray much on this question if you perceive it as a difficulty. One day, maybe, when you feel ready, talk about it with the people you think your departure might make sad. Who knows, they might show more understanding than you imagine."
I hope that you all find this as good and useful as I did.