I consider the Carthusians of both past and present to be a wonderful example of fidelity to Christ and His Church. I first heard of the Order when I was very young, while reading A Silent Life by Merton.
The thought of responding to the Call of Silent Love, to borrow the title of one of the Novice Conference volumes, has for me been a great inspiration. The Carthusian vocation has always reminded me of the Desert Fathers, and thinking of the life helped me reached a place in my heart where my words disappear, and the breath of the Holy Spirit is present. Words are not adequate to describe the fullness of reaching that place, in the depths of the heart, where I find myself united with the Light of His presence, and I can sense the souls that are His are with me, which of course includes St. Bruno and his spiritual family.
Through the years, when my romantic visions of monastic life were replaced by the harsh realities that face both monks and men who live outside the Charterhouse, and through the writings and monastic retreats I was so exposed, I became intimately connected with religious life, and my spiritual growth I feel was enhanced by this exposure.
It is in the midst of the immediate and its surround that the ever-approaching God speaks. It is here, in this present moment, in abiding, in receptive waiting despite the press of goal and schedule and responsibility that I find in each ‘now’ signs of the vast ocean that is the will of God. It is here that I am called to the Father. Finding God in the intimacy of silence and solitude in a manner that reflects the Carthusian spirit gives breadth and focus to this encounter with the Presence that calls to me and that sustains me. Nothing has given me guidance in living aligned with the golden thread that runs through the depth of the self compared to the awakening and homecoming I daily experience in being drawn through the “wound of love” into the portal of the Carthusian mystery.
The silence of the Charterhouse is filled with an unfathomable presence. It is like heart tissue, alive and sentient, vast and deep, austere and pulsating. Through the grace of exposure and intention my life progressively has been shaped around this Carthusian heart of silence and solitude, a shaping that echoes the search for God in the depth of my own heart. I have come to know-through fits and starts and often in the midst of failure–the deep wisdom, the resolute ascesis, the intimate embrace, the hidden silent simplicity of being, the brilliant nothingness, and the whispers of Love that pour forth from the Carthusian heart.
It holds for me contact with a most hidden interiority and with awe at all of creation. It mirrors, as only a sensibility shaped in likeness to the mind of Christ can, the knots of self-absorption and fear and despair that distract me from the path. It infuses me with compassionate attention to the afflicted and hungry and tormented states of being that I encounter in my profession as psychotherapist and in my occasional consulting role at the United Nations.
To follow this path which invites me with insistence is to enter into the desert. This desert of the heart leads me to ever more radical reliance on the guide. Through His counsel I work through struggle toward releasment into the freedom of divine Love. Growth in the desert of contemplation expands through actions of obedience (such as eating one meal a day, periods of fasting, days of recollection, and weeks of reclusion) that are less formally juridical than emergent through the Spirit and under the inspiration of the Carthusian Statutes.
Central to this growth for me is sustenance through devotion to Mary. The contemplative is akin to Mary, said one Carthusian, in that “he receives the Word as a lover’s secret.” I also am fed in this desert that beckons by the fruit of the psalms and by the essence that is the Eucharist.-paschal sacrifice and action of thanksgiving whose interior adoration anchors me in the midst of daily demand. This “Sacramentum Caritas” feeds my soul’s longing and leads me ever more into the silent mystery of the invisible Father’s unapproachable light.
The first image in the amazing documentary “Into Great Silence” is a flame piercing the darkness. Like Christ, that flame keeps alive the monk in whose cell it is burning. While I don’t require a flame from a wood burning stove to keep my body warm like that cloistered monk, I need Christ to keep my soul alive. The Carthusians have provided me with a discipline and an ethos to help me tend that flame, to make it grow and sustain me. There is also great joy in knowing that others, both in the world and in the charterhouses, are daily striving, like me, to tend that vital flame. There is happiness in realizing that those who have persevered before me have reached the point where they have become consumed by the Flame.
Under the Mercy,
Carthusians in America: The Foundation
The first actors of the story of how Carthusians came to the United States are three : Fr. Thomas Verner Moore, an American psychiatrist, educator and Benedictine monk, who had strong "founder" instincts and who became a Carthusian monk in the late forties, and his...
Early Times: The Sixties
The paragraphs below are transcribed and edited from the "Early Times" section of the Equinox Mountain website, specifically from a page on Joseph George Davidson and his wife Madeleine, the generous donors who bequeathed the land now established as the American...