Solitude and Monastic Life


#1

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.


#2

Thanks for sharing. This separation from family is a great impediment to me as well as I think about monastic life.


#3

I read your post and your blog and I want to congratulate you on your first steps into the seminary. The Church can definitely use more young men like yourself and I think it's important you are trying to get to adoration daily and using some of your free time for prayer beyond the "required" times set for you by the seminary.

I had a priest say to me once that the best way to test a vocation is to do it. You are struggling over whether to be a diocesan priest or a Carthusian and whichever path God leads you down will be a blessing for both you and the Church. So far what I've gathered from what you've written is your inquiries into these orders are mostly through letters and reading and most likely websites.

No matter how much of that you do you can't get a true taste of their life without spending some time with them. Maybe over the summer, after school is over for the year, you can visit the Carthusians for an extended period -- say a week or two. Then you can see if this calling you are sensing is reinforced or if you can't wait to get back to the diocese fast enough. You could find that two days in the charterhouse are enough to make up your mind.

Until then keep praying and in contact with them, but know that now you are living in a diocesan seminary, but as yet you don't know what it would be like in the charterhouse. You could find that it's nothing like you had imagined or it could be the greatest experience you ever had.

I hope this helped a little bit.

ChadS


#4

Unfortunately I am still too young to visit a charterhouse. They require that a man be at least 20 years old in most charterhouses. The one in America requires that I be 23. So, for now I must simply pray and see how it goes.


#5

[quote="Biedrik, post:4, topic:221770"]
Unfortunately I am still too young to visit a charterhouse. They require that a man be at least 20 years old in most charterhouses. The one in America requires that I be 23. So, for now I must simply pray and see how it goes.

[/quote]

Ahh...I wasn't aware that there was a lower limit on the ages. Until that time, use your time in seminary to grow and mature both spiritually and emotionally. Perhaps these next 3 or 4 years will confirm you in your time as a diocesan priest or if not by the time you are old enough you should be mature enough to know that is exactly what you want and is the life you are called to.

ChadS


#6

Praying for you with a Bible verse from today's Liturgy of the Hours:

Afternoon reading (None) (Ezekiel 34:15-16) ©
I will pasture my sheep, I will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks.
I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make
the weak strong. I shall be a true shepherd to them.


#7

[quote="Biedrik, post:1, topic:221770"]
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

[/quote]

It's great to see someone else discerning a vocation to the Carthusians! I have been completely fascinated with them ever since I found out about them and have also been in contact with the Novice Master at the Vermont charterhouse. Right now I'm caught between a possible call to the Carthusians and the Trappists. Please keep my discernment in your prayers and know that I will do likewise.


#8

[quote="Joshua_P, post:7, topic:221770"]
It's great to see someone else discerning a vocation to the Carthusians! I have been completely fascinated with them ever since I found out about them and have also been in contact with the Novice Master at the Vermont charterhouse. Right now I'm caught between a possible call to the Carthusians and the Trappists. Please keep my discernment in your prayers and know that I will do likewise.

[/quote]

That's awesome to hear! It's nice to hear that someone else is thinking of them. I will keep you in my prayers.


#9

It seems as though there's quite a dichotomy in terms of what you're attracted to.

You say that you're experiencing a heartfelt (i.e., the zeal you wrote about) attraction to the Carthusian life... where you will 'retreat' from the world, and the secular communities and secular laypeople, and live life in common with a group of men whose time is thoroughly planned and controlled.

On the one hand, there is your current commitment to the Archdiocese (or diocese?) as a seminarian heading towards a life as secular priest... where you will live in a community of secular laypeople, receiving a salary and education so that you can maintain yourself at the worldly standards of the community you serve.

These seem to be good contestants for the two most extreme vocations in the Catholic world. Let me ask: is your attraction to the Carthusian Order at all influenced by the stress or whatever emotion of now--after experiencing seminary--feeling that the duty of living in the world, as a member of a worldly community as a diocesan priest might not be your calling (or something you would like to do)? If so, it might just be a kind of 'reactionary impulse', and you might want to explore the wide, wide array of other religious orders and congregations available.

I know its difficult, because most of their awareness/vocation campaigns aren't exactly penetrating most young peoples' radar. :(


#10

[quote="AcolyteLector, post:9, topic:221770"]
It seems as though there's quite a dichotomy in terms of what you're attracted to.

You say that you're experiencing a heartfelt (i.e., the zeal you wrote about) attraction to the Carthusian life... where you will 'retreat' from the world, and the secular communities and secular laypeople, and live life in common with a group of men whose time is thoroughly planned and controlled.

On the one hand, there is your current commitment to the Archdiocese (or diocese?) as a seminarian heading towards a life as secular priest... where you will live in a community of secular laypeople, receiving a salary and education so that you can maintain yourself at the worldly standards of the community you serve.

These seem to be good contestants for the two most extreme vocations in the Catholic world. Let me ask: is your attraction to the Carthusian Order at all influenced by the stress or whatever emotion of now--after experiencing seminary--feeling that the duty of living in the world, as a member of a worldly community as a diocesan priest might not be your calling (or something you would like to do)? If so, it might just be a kind of 'reactionary impulse', and you might want to explore the wide, wide array of other religious orders and congregations available.

I know its difficult, because most of their awareness/vocation campaigns aren't exactly penetrating most young peoples' radar. :(

[/quote]

I just wanted to add something more to this thought. Do you feel your call is to the priesthood or the Carthusian life. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the Carthusians try to keep most of their members as brothers? Since they are an eremitic order and contact with the outside world is extremely limited there are no missions or parish work for them so in a house with 20 or 30 brothers they may only have 2 or 3 that have been ordained to the priesthood. Since you are in the seminary now to become a priest, would leaving that to enter a order where ordination is more of a long shot be acceptable?

ChadS


#11

[quote="ChadS, post:10, topic:221770"]
Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the Carthusians try to keep most of their members as brothers? Since they are an eremitic order and contact with the outside world is extremely limited there are no missions or parish work for them so in a house with 20 or 30 brothers they may only have 2 or 3 that have been ordained to the priesthood. Since you are in the seminary now to become a priest, would leaving that to enter a order where ordination is more of a long shot be acceptable?

ChadS

[/quote]

It is my understanding that Carthusian priests are the basis of the order, fully carrying out the order's charism of silence and solitude. The brothers are there to help foster this environment by taking care of tasks such as cooking, upkeep, and whatever industry the Charterhouse uses for income. But the primary concern of the order is to have the fathers, or choir monks, maintain silence and solitude in constant prayer.

Though I think that the line distinguishing choir monks and brother has blurred a bit especially since Vatican II. Traditionally brothers were basically too under educated to carry out the devotional and ecclesiastical duties of the fathers and this is not so much the case anymore.

I would imagine that the percentage of fathers to brother is at least 50/50 if not more fathers. So it's not so much of a long shot to be a priest in the Carthusian order. Some things that should be taken into consideration though, especially compared to diocesan priesthood, is the fact that the Carthusians still do everything in Latin, like chanting the Divine Office and Mass, and they actually celebrate their own form of the Mass based on an older Rite, the Grenoble Rite if I'm not mistaken.

Just a little information on this less known order of the Catholic Church...


#12

What is the extent of that separation? Is it the same for all monks? Thanks


#13

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

I am currently looking into the Carthusians as well. There are only two English-speaking Charterhouses in the world, so the choice of where to go is pretty simple.

Thank you so much for sharing this correspondence. It is a beautiful thought to consider that though we are physically separated from our loved ones, we are spiritually connected to them by our prayers in this life, and hopefully in the next.

I, too, considered the diocesan priesthood first. But over the years I realized I am undeniably interested in religious life, so I did not enter the diocesan seminary. Keep prayerfully discerning. If over the years you find that you still have the conviction that you will find holiness and best serve God only as a religious, that may be a sign.

God bless you and love you. o{]:slight_smile:


#14

I thank you too for sharing this. I am married, now, but for some time when I was younger felt attracted to the charterhouse, but never got even as far as writing them, overrun by the 'cares of this world' that are addressed in your letter, with advice that part of me wishes I could have heeded back then.

Though I now praise and thank God for my beautiful wife and wonderful children, there is still a not insignificant part of me that regrets that I did not have the strength to take the evangelical councils more seriously when I was younger. If any of you have a legitimate opportunity to take a vocational retreat at a Carthusian monastery, I implore you to do so.

Even if you turn out not to have a monastic vocation, the experience will likely still prove to be worth it. Even if you end up as something so worldly as a politician, exposure to Carthusian life may make a fundamental difference in your life, and for your soul. Just look at St. Thomas More.


#15

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