Point Counterpoint

Very few people know any Carthusian monks or nuns at first hand. I know only one, but being a nun myself and a lapsed medievalist, I feel a connectedness, a degree of understanding of his strange and beautiful vocation that can make me sad, at times, that I was not called to such a perfect expression of love for God.

The Carthusian vocation is strange and beautiful — strange in its rarity and intensity, for very few can live the eremitical life fruitfully and generously, as it must be lived; beautiful in its focus upon God alone amidst the beauty and silence of the Alpine snows that were its first home. St Bruno’s gift to the Church was a very great one, but also a much misunderstood one. Today, when the Catholic Church is dismissed by many as a load of paedophiles and perverts, I like to recall the witness of the Carthusians and their solitary prayer. However many failures there are in the Church — and wherever there are human beings, you will get failures — however much sin and shame blackens her face — and how black it has seemed of late! — the Carthusians remind us of the Church’s essential integrity and holiness as the Bride of Christ. They are the wise virgins, keeping their lamps alight throughout the hours of darkness until the Bridegroom comes.

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7 thoughts on “Point Counterpoint”

  1. You made me laugh this morning when you said many dismiss the Church as a bunch of pedophiles and perverts- which is true… this is precisely what a number of people think, but what made me laugh is that within the Church it is hardly the case and those that err are a drop in the ocean if you compare to the thousand and millions of devoted Catholics, priests and religious. But this side of the Church is often hidden and only the scandalous cases are brought in the limelight but from which others form their opinion. People like yourself do a tremendous job in correcting that vision and spreading the word around of what the Church is really about. That is why our parish priest backs up anyone who not only tells it how it really is but shows that it is so with loads of photos to upload on facebook etc… internet is never a waste of time.

    • Thank you, Eva. People feel betrayed when someone who OUGHT to be good behaves wickedly, and it isn’t helped when there is fudge and cover-up; so although, as you rightly imply, the incidence of abuse within the Catholic Church is no greater than (and statistically seems much less than) elsewhere, the effect is greater. Having said that, a Church which can produce and sustain the kind of holiness the Carthusians exemplify is surely graced by God and displays what Newman called the authentic Note of holiness.

  2. I so love the Carthusians. One of my favorite books for inspirational reading is They Speak by Silences. And the film, Into Great Silence, is mesmerizing. I wonder why there are significantly fewer Carthusian nuns than monks? Are men simply better suited, physically, to such a radically austere life? One doesn’t like to think so, but perhaps it’s true.

    • Carthusian nuns are not allowed to live the same kind of life as the monks but are more coenobitic. I think that, rather than any physical weakness, may explain why there are fewer nuns than monks — plus the age-old problem of fewer financial/material resources and the difficulty all cloistered nuns now have of finding chaplains for Mass and the sacraments. The nuns retain some very ancient liturgical usages in their form of consecratio virginis, etc.

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