We are delighted to present the article “The Carthusians of Vermont” by Mark Bauerlein, originally featured in the May 2024 issue of First Things.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to First Things for granting us permission to publish this article on our website.  Please visit firstthings.com

Charterhouse of the Transfiguration

At the Carthusian monastery on Mount Equinox in Southern Vermont, Carthusian monks adore God and intercede for the world in silence.

Because of their vocation to solitude, the monastery is not open to visitors.

SERVING THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD

Carthusians consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and to seeking God in the secret of their hearts. Embracing solitude and austerity for the love and glory of God in accordance with His will, they intercede for the Church and intensely desire the well-being and salvation of the world they have renounced.

All who choose this solitary life participate in Christ’s sacrifice and serve the Church as faithful witnesses. Moreover, the Carthusian Order embraces penance so as to share in the saving work of Christ, Who redeemed humanity from the bondage of sin through constant prayer to the Father, and by offering Himself to Him in sacrifice.

The Catholic Church regards the consecrated life as a special sign of the mystery of redemption at work within the Church. It is like a sacrament — an instrument of God’s Will.

Carthusian emblem

“In embracing a hidden life we do not abandon the great family of our fellow men. Apart from all, we are united, so that it is in the name of all that we stand before the living God.”

(Carthusian Statutes 34:2)

SAINT BRUNO, PILGRIM OF THE ABSOLUTE

Bruno of Cologne, a highly respected eleventh century scholar, wearied of the political aspects of his role as canon of the cathedral and head of the cathedral school in Rheims, France. In 1084, Christ, the Word of the Father, led six followers into the Chartreuse mountains outside of Grenoble, France to unite them to Himself in intimate love (Carthusian Statutes 1:1). Met there by Bishop Hugh of Grenoble, who foresaw their arrival in a dream, Bruno and his companions built small log cabins in a semi-circle in an Alpine valley four thousand feet above sea level in the Chartreuse range. This became the first Charterhouse, later known as La Grande Chartreuse.

Today, twenty-one Carthusian monasteries around the world continue Bruno’s sacred legacy, which has remained an unbroken tradition for over 900 years. The Carthusian monastery has always perceived itself as a “desert” where God draws His people to speak to their hearts. The Carthusian enters an authentic silence and solitude stripped of comforts and consolations. There, God leads him on a journey of surrender that eclipses the illusory happiness of worldly success and possessions.

Carthusian emblem
“What benefits and divine exultation the silence and solitude of the desert hold in store for those who love it…here God crowns His athletes for their stern struggle with the hoped-for reward: a peace unknown to the world, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

(Saint Bruno’s letter to Raoul Le Verd)

Charterhouse the monastery

The Monastery

The first settlement of Carthusian monks in the United States dates to 1950, and the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, designed by Victor Christ-Janer, was completed in 1970 and consecrated two years later as the first Carthusian monastery in the Western hemisphere.

While all Carthusians leave the world to consecrate their lives to Jesus Christ in solitude and contemplation, the physical structure of the Charterhouse reflects the diversity of the shared Carthusian vocation. The hermitages of the fathers are in one wing and the cells and work areas of the brothers in another.

A common cloister unites these two living arrangements and provides access to a third, shared area containing the Church, chapels, refectory, Chapter House and other areas essential for community life.

“It was essential, above all else, to avoid the architectural expression of grandeur and pride that … has been the mark of religious architecture throughout the ages.”

(Robert H. Mutrux, Great New England Churches)

Carthusian emblem