The Carthusian Order and the Pope

A few days ago we commemorated the anniversary of the foundation of the first Carthusian monastery, on June 24, 1084, in the Chartreuse Massif (France), on the initiative of St. Bruno and six companions. And today, June 29, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Saints Peter and Paul, martyred in Rome. Peter is remembered for being the first Pope, and that is why this day is also called «Pope’s Day».

Visit of St. Bruno to Pope Urban II (Zurbarán)

It does not seem to be a coincidence that the anniversary of the foundation of the Order and Pope’s day are so close in time. It seems rather a sign of the closeness that has existed between the See of Peter and the Order since its origins. In fact, out of obedience to Pope Urban II, in the year 1090, St. Bruno leaves the newly founded monastery in Chartreuse to become the Holy Father’s advisor in Rome.

It did not seem that St. Bruno was able to adjust to the curial environment. In fact, a year after his arrival to Rome, in 1091, Urban II granted St. Bruno permission to retire and live a totally eremitical life. He set him only one condition: that he should not leave Italy, so that he could continue to count on his advice. It was then that St. Bruno founded the Carthusian monastery of Serra San Bruno. And after ten years, he died there.

Pope John Paul II at the Carthusian Monastery of Serra San Bruno (1984)

Years later this second Carthusian monastery became a Cistercian monastery. But in 1514, the year of the beatification of St. Bruno, the monastery once again became a monastery of the Carthusian Order. It is in this charterhouse that the relics of St. Bruno are preserved. Among those who have gone to venerate them are two popes: St. John Paul II (in 1984) and Pope Benedict XVI (in 2011).

Pope Benedict XVI prays Vespers at the Carthusian Monastery of Serra San Bruno (2011)

Finally, it is worth mentioning that on June 3, 2014 Pope Francis wrote a letter to Dom François-Marie Velut, then General of the Order, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the beatification of St. Bruno. In this letter he said about the saint:

I thank God for this beautiful and radiant figure. Bruno’s life, rich in the Gospel, continues to be an inspiration for men and women who desire to follow Jesus in a special way through prayer, and who offer themselves for the salvation of the world.

Five centuries have already passed since Leo X decided to include Bruno in the liturgical calendar after observing the devotion of so many of the faithful to the servant of God. Even today, the whole of his existence, all of it dedicated to the assiduous search for God and communion with Him, remains a shining star on the horizon for the Church and the world.

I greet with special affection and admiration the spiritual daughters and sons of this great saint. In a powerful and beautiful way, their religious consecration points out to the people of this time the faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ. This faith is the true and only light «capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence (…). Faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion.» (Lumen Fidei 4)

Benedict XVI’s made a memorable visit to the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno in 2011. During that visit he asserted that the current socio-cultural situation is characterized at times by noise and at other times by individualistic solitude. I make my own the words of my predecessor in reiterating that, in this situation, «the specific charism of the Charterhouse comes to the fore as a precious gift for the Church and for the world. This is a gift that contains a profound message for our life and for all humanity.» (Homily of Pope Benedict XVI at the Carthusian Monastery of Serra San Bruno, October 9, 2011)

I encourage the monks and nuns to renew their lives by offering themselves to the Lord. I entrust the Carthusian Order to the maternal solicitude of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Bruno. And I willingly grant them a special apostolic blessing.

Let us pray on this day for the health and intentions of Pope Francis and for the unity of the Church.

Pope Francis blesses an icon of St. Bruno

Source: Cartusia Lover

26 June: Saint Anthelm (monk and bishop)

Anthelm of Chignin was born into a noble family of Savoy, France, in 1107. He was first provost of Geneva Cathedral and canon of Belley Cathedral.  Nevertheless, by the grace of God, he refused to find his joy in these exterior possessions and human glory. He had a brother who was Procurator at the Charterhouse of Portes. Conversations with his brother when he visited him and with the Prior convinced him of the excellence of Christian abnegation in the monastic life. He entered the charterhouse of Portes in 1136 or 1137 and soon surpassed the other monks there in the monastic virtues.

Pope Alexander III Consecrates Anthelm of Chignin as Bishop of Belley (Carducho)

This came to the ear of the superior of the Grande Chartreuse, Guigo, who asked the Prior of Portes to send Anthelm to the Mother house, where an avalanche had killed seven of the monks a short time earlier. So it was at the Grande Chartreuse that Anthelm made profession.

Under Guigo’s successor, Hugh, Anthelm was made Procurator. He humbly accepted this charge, although he did not feel any attraction to it, and fulfilled his office with much profit for the House without overlooking his own spiritual needs.

In 1139, when a new Prior was needed, the community, by a unanimous vote, elected Anthelm. As Prior, he rebuilt the Mother house at a site less susceptible to avalanches. But his principal endeavor was the spiritual progress of the community which soon experienced his firmness, tenderness, wisdom and humility. He visited his monks with frequency in their cells and the gentleness of his words filled their hearts with peace. The sick, both in body and soul, had the particular interest of his fatherly care.

He had a special gift in providing a remedy for temptations and in animating those who were discouraged. As regards those who were proficient in the spiritual life, he judged them worthy of all honours. He showed to them all the proofs of perfect esteem even going as far as to give them the right of way as they passed by and to stand up in their presence.

It was during his priorate that the wish was expressed by the Priors of the other Charterhouses for a more stable and more structured organization of the Order in the form of an annual General Chapter. Anthelm was open to this and welcomed the first General Chapter at the Grande Chartreuse in 1140. After the foundation by Saint Bruno (1084) and the Consuetudines written by Guigo (1121-1128), this first General Chapter was like a ‘third starting point’ for the Carthusian Order.

Portes Charterhouse

Humble as he was, he repeatedly asked to be dismissed as Prior. After twelve years, in 1151, he finally obtained this. But as the Prior of Portes had died at that time, the monks of Portes asked Basil, Anthelm’s successor as superior of the Mother house, to send them the latter as their new Prior. Anthelm had to accept this.

During his priorate storms destroying the harvest in the region of Portes caused a scarcity of food. Anthelm distributed generously wheat and vegetables from the monastery storage rooms to the farmers. He also came to the financial aid of other monasteries.

Two years later the diocese of Belley, in which Portes is located, needed a new Bishop. The people there strongly wanted Anthelm to become the Bishop. He refused, but to no avail. Pope Alexander III ordered him to accept and ordained Anthelm in 1163.

As Bishop he offered great services to the Church. Within the first year of his consecration he launched a reform of the clergy. He defended the rights of the Church against the powerful. He tried in vain to mediate between St Thomas Becket and King Henry II of England. A bitter conflict with Humbert, count of Savoy, ended with Humbert asking the holy Bishop’s forgiveness, which the latter granted him with great benignity.

He kept up the same monastic fervor as before. Every year he would withdraw for a few days at the Grande Chartreuse, where he had a cell like the other monks. Recommending charity and concord to his priests, Saint Anthelm died on June 26, 1178. Because of the many miracles at his tomb he was soon venerated. Today he is the patron Saint of the diocese of Belley, where the cathedral preciously keeps his relics. His feast is kept both by the Carthusians and the diocese of Belley on June 26.

Let us pray:

Lord our God, You love peace and unity.

By the prayers of Saint Anthelm may we seek always

Your kingdom and together praise You.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Sources: Carthusian Saints (by a Carthusian monk)

25 June: Blessed John of Spain

Blessed John was born in 1123 in the kingdom of Leon (Spain). At the age of thirteen he left his country for France, both to escape the Moslems and for the purpose of studies. He settled in the town of Arles, in Southern France. At sixteen he felt drawn to the monastic life and entered a monastery in the vicinity. After some years, he heard about the recently founded Order of the Carthusians and their monastery of Montrieux not far away, founded in 1118, 5 years before he himself was born. Drawn to their austere and entirely contemplative life, he joined the Carthusians there. Once a Carthusian, he was ordained a priest, was named sacristan and eventually — still a man in his twenties! — elected Prior. We may assume he was precocious on the natural level, but even more so by the early maturity of his virtues.

The nuns of the monastery of Prébayon in the vicinity, following the Rules of Saint Caesarius of Arles and of Saint Benedict, were so impressed with the fervor of Montrieux under John’s leadership that they asked to be admitted to the Carthusian Order, which till then had consisted only of monks. The Prior of the Mother house, la Grande Chartreuse, and Superior General of the Order, Saint Anthelm, authorized this. He asked John to adapt the Consuetudines of Guigo, which were the Carthusian Rule at that time, to the nuns. He did so and this was the beginning of the female branch of the Order. It was the year 1145.

Various difficulties at Montrieux lead to his retirement from the priorship and he moved to la Grande Chartreuse in 1150. Just then, a noble lord in neighboring Savoy asked for a monastery of Carthusians on his lands. Saint Anthelm saw in Blessed John the man of Providence. He sent him to make the foundation in Savoy, which was eventually given the name of le Reposoir. There he governed wisely as Prior for some years.

While being in this new monastery, for several years he copied, for the nuns, the liturgical books in use at the Chartreuse. Finally, he contributed to the ratification of the nuns’ affiliation with the Order, probably during the Second General Chapter in 1155, in which he participated as prior of the Charterhouse of Reposoir.

On June 25, 1160 John died, not yet forty years old. Through unusual circumstances he was interred not inside the enclosure, as the custom is, but outside. In fact, during his priorate, two servants of the monastery, having died in the mountains, under an avalanche of snow, had been interred in an inappropriate place, outside the enclosure, for which John had been reproved. To make amends he had made his monks swear that after his death, they would bury him at the same place as the two servants. This, however, permitted John’s tomb — with his renown for sanctity — to become the object of popular pilgrimages. The faithful prayed at his tomb and many miracles occurred in the course of the centuries, particularly cures of malignant fever. In 1864 Blessed Pius IX approved the cult of Blessed John of Spain, venerated since time immemorial.

Let us pray: God our Father, You called on Blessed John to help draw up a Rule for our nuns. May we who have eagerly embraced the monastic life arrive also at the perfection of charity. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Reposoir Charterhouse. This House still exists but is today a monastery of Carmelite nuns.

Sources: Carthusian Saints (by a Carthusian monk)

Was Thomas More a Carthusian Aspirant?

Some saints have had a special relationship with the Carthusian Order. St. John of the Cross considered the possibility of becoming a Carthusian monk before St. Teresa convinced him to help her in the Carmelite reform. And before founding the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola considered entering the Seville Charterhouse . As we celebrate today, 22nd June, the memorial of the English martyr St. Thomas More (1478-1535), we would like to focus on his relationship with the Carthusian Order.

In 1499 Thomas More, then a brilliant young law student hardly come of age, went to live at the Carthusian monastery of London. In words of William Roper, his-son-in-law and first biographer, «he gave himself to devotion and prayer in the Charterhouse of London, religiously living there, without vow, for about four years». Did he occupy a monk’s cell? Probably not. Most likely he lived in the guesthouse, or somewhere near the monastery. It is hard to believe that he would have been allowed, without any vows, to live for four years in the cloister. The current Statutes of the Carthusian Order establish that «those who neither are, nor aspire to becoming, members of our Order are not to be allowed to stay in our cells» (Book 1, chapter 4.9). Rules must have not been so different in More’s times.

Also, we must remember that at this time More was a diligent student of law at Lincoln’s Inn. Possibly St. Thomas had his lodging near Lincoln’s Inn, hardly a quarter of an hour distant across the gardens and meadows, from where he could, while still pursuing his profession, keep in touch with the monks and be in daily attendance at Divine Office.

Thomas and Margaret in the Tower of London

His intentions, if he ever seriously had any, of joining that or some other order underwent a change at the end of four years. The philosopher Erasmus, Thomas More’s friend, says that «there was no obstacle to his adopting this kind of life, except the fact that he could not shake off his wish to marry. Accordingly he resolved to be a chaste husband rather than a licentious priest.» However, fate was once more to bring his line of life into close touch with that of the Carthusians when, in 1535, awaiting his own fate in the Tower of London, he saw from his window the Carthusians led away to their cruel end. «Meg,» he said to his favourite daughter, Margaret Roper, «seest thou that these blessed fathers be now as cheerful in going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriages.»

Act of Supremacy (1534)

Notable, too, is it that, after More’s execution, when ten Carthusians stood chained upright in filth and misery in Newgate, awaiting Death the Deliverer, it was More’s adopted daughter, Margaret Clement, who played the part of a good angel to the unhappy men. Nine out of these ten monks died from starvation between June and September 1537. Blessed Willliam Horn survived until 4th August 1540, when he was executed at Tyburn Tree. His martyrdom closed the list of the eighteen English Carthusians who died for being Roman Catholics. One of William’s fellow martyrs on that day was Giles Heron, Thomas More’s son-in-law.

Some autors say that the statement made by Erasmus that More «resolved to be a chaste husband rather than a licentious priest» was an implicit reference to the Carthusian monks. We should notice, however, that the Carthusians were held in high esteem by St. Thomas since he called them «blesssed fathers». Besides, no reference to immoral sexual behavior has ever been brought by any writer against the London Charterhouse. Even at the Suppression, when the ill-famed commissioners Roland Lee, Richard Layton and their fellows would have ransacked the very sewers of the monastery to find some charge against the community, they brought forth no single word against the purity of life in that cloister.

Four years living close to the Charterhouse of London must have been a turning point in Saint Thomas’ life. The habits of prayer, fasting, and penance stayed with him for the rest of his life. The Carthusian spirituality play a similar role in many people today. Even when these people do not become a Carthusian monk or nun, the Charterhouse is an orienting star in their lives. Like in the life of Saint Thomas, the Carthusian spirituality is the compass that points to what is essential: God’s first.

Sources (with links to complete texts):

Charterhouse in London: Monastery, Mansion, Hospital, School (Gerals Davies 1921)

Erasmus to Ulrich von Hutten (1519)

The Life of Sir Thomas More (William Roper 1556)

The London Charterhouse: Its Monks and Martyrs (Lawrence Hendricks 1889)

24 May: Blessed William of Fenol

Today the Carthusian Order celebrates blessed William of Fenol. He is the only carthusian monk in the calendar of saints who was neither a priest nor a martyr. He is celebrated with the «rite of twelve readings» (the equivalent to a feast in the Roman rite). He could be considered the patron of carthusian brothers (those who are not priests). In the following lines we present his biography.

William was born in the early twelfth century, in the township of Monferrato, in the diocese of Alba, in Northern Italy. His family was no doubt an ordinary, but very devout family. He was drawn to solitude and did in fact become a hermit. We may think that his life of prayer as a hermit deeply united him to God.

However, a woman of ill repute came to disturb him in his hermitage. He was able to resist her temptations, but afterwards he realized that he needed the protection of a cloister. So he took the road to the nearby Charterhouse of our Lady of Casotto, Asti, and asked to be admitted as a brother.

Casotto Castle. In this place was located the Carthusian monastery where Blessed William lived.

As brother William, he became an outstanding member of the community. He faithfully followed the observance of the Rule. He looked upon his superiors only with the eyes of faith and was always disposed to obey them immediately. The virtue by which he shone the most was that of simplicity. “If the eminent practice of virtue is admirable when joined to the splendor of doctrine, better still is its charm when it has for its company the ingenuity, the candor, the simplicity of soul. This simplicity must serve as the supreme wisdom especially for those called to live in the obscurity of the cloister” (statement of «the Postulator»; that is, the official who presented a plea for his beatification in the Roman Catholic Church).

The legend tells that for a time he was in charge of supplying the monastery with provisions. He was the perfect target for highway robbers, and more than once he was left with nothing of what he had obtained from alms. One day he was asked to prepare food for the monastery. There he goes, accompanied by a mule, begging for alms in the farms and villages of the area. He is robbed several times. William enters into a crisis, and complains to the Prior, who, between serious and mocking, invites him to defend himself «even with the mule’s leg». The humble Carthusian, always obedient, the next time he is attacked by bandits, takes the mule’s leg, and manages to scare off the robbers. William puts the animal’s leg in its place and returns to the Charterhouse. However, in his haste he places it upside down, so that the mule limps with great difficulty. The prior notices this. To verify what is true in what is told of the prodigy of our Blessed, he scolds him for his carelessness. Next he orders him to put the leg back as it should be. And so, in front of the whole community and apologizing for his mistake, he naturally removes the leg and puts it back in the right place. All this, of course, without the animal losing blood or braying in pain. Even though it is possible that this story was made up as a parable to emphasize the value of obedience, we include this episode here to explain why in many images this Blessed appears with the leg of a mule.

His simplicity of heart was a great preparation for contemplation. His piety focused on Christ crucified and he could not think of the Passion of our Lord without becoming deeply afflicted. And so, freed from all fear and earthly plans, his only desire was for Eternity, preparing himself for it with constancy until his death, which occurred around the year 1200.

He was buried in the cloister cemetery of the Charterhouse, but God let it emphatically be known that He wanted him to be buried at the gatehouse, outside the enclosure, so that the faithful could come to pilgrimage to his tomb. It is this popular veneration century after century, with accompanying miracles, which are the proof of the sanctity of this humble brother of whom we know so little.

Medieval image of the Blessed. It has a shorter scapular, as used by the converted brothers, and the leg of a mule, symbol of a miracle he performed during his lifetime.

Pope Saint Pius V authorized the transfer of his relics in 1568, and Pope Blessed Pius IX authorized in 1862 the veneration of brother William, whose body was still incorrupt. His feast used to be December 16, but according to the spirit of Vatican II it has been moved outside of Advent and the Carthusians now celebrate him on May 24.

As we said earlier, William could be considered something like the patron of lay monks (known as «brothers»). On this day let us pray especially for them. They are one of the pillars of the Order.

Let us pray:
Lord God, You are the nobility of the truly humble,
and to serve You is to reign.
May we imitate the simplicity
of our brother Blessed William, and thus
attain the kingdom
You have promised to the lowly.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord.
Amen.

***

Bibliography: MAYO ESCUDERO, Juan (2000). Santos y beatos de la Cartuja.

Let us pray on this day for all the Carthusian brothers (Photo: Eduardo Longoni).

Cardinal Robert Sarah in the Grande Chartreuse

Extracted from the prologue to the book «The Power of Silence».
Author of the book: Cardinal Robert Sarah
Author of the prologue: Nicolas Diat
Year: 2016

When the idea germinated of asking the Father General of the Carthusian Order to take part in this book, we scarcely thought that such a project was possible. The cardinal did not want to disturb the silence of the principal monastery of the Order, and it is extremely rare for the Father General to speak.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, in the early afternoon, our train stopped at the station in Chambéry. The gray sky was suspended over the mountains that surround the town. The sadness of winter seemed to set the landscape and the people in a sticky glue. As we approached the Chartreuse mountain range, a snowstorm started and covered the valley with a perfect white. After coming through St. Laurent du Pont on the famous way of Saint Bruno, the road became almost impassable. Driving along by the high walls of the monastery, we came across the novice master, Father Seraphico, and several young monks who were returning from their walk. They turned around as the cardinal’s automobile passed, greeting him discreetly. Then the car stopped in front of a long, solemn, austere building: we had arrived at the Grande Chartreuse.

Thick clumps of snowflakes fell, the wind rushed into the fir trees, but the silence already enveloped our hearts. We slowly crossed the main courtyard, then were directed to the large priors’ house, built by Dom Innocent le Masson in the seventeenth century, which opens onto the imposing officers’ cloister. The seventy-fourth Father General of the Carthusian Order, Dom Dysmas de Lassus, welcomed the cardinal with an especially touching simplicity.

Quickly, after a conversation that lasted no more than five minutes, we arrived at our cells. From the window of the room where I was settled, I could contemplate the monastery, clothed in its white mantle, nestled against the overwhelming slope of the Grand Som, more beautiful than any of the images that have built up the immutable myth of the Grande Chartreuse. The long, solemn series of separate buildings lined up in a row, then, down below, the buildings housing the “obediences” or workshops of the lay Brothers. Very rarely can an outsider pass through the doors of the citadel. In this inspired place, the long tradition of the eremitic Orders, the tragedies of history, and the beauty of creation cross paths. But that is nothing compared with the depth of the spiritual realities; the Grande Chartreuse is a world where souls have abandoned themselves in God and for God.

At half past five, Vespers (Evening Prayer) gathered the Carthusians in the narrow, dark conventual church. In order to get there, it was necessary to walk through endless cold, austere corridors, where I kept thinking about the generations of Carthusians who had hastened their steps in order to participate in the Divine Office. I thought again also about the hateful, disturbing eviction of the religious on April 29, 1903, following the passage of Émile Combes’ law on the expulsion of the religious congregations, which was reminiscent of the dark hours of the French Revolution and the forced departure of the Carthusians in 1792. It is necessary to reflect on that profanation and the arrival in the ancient monastery of an infantry battalion after it had smashed the heavy entrance gates, then of two squadrons of dragoons and hundreds of demolitions specialists. The magistrates and the soldiers made their way into the church, and the Fathers were brought out of their choir stalls one by one and led outdoors. The enemies of God’s silence triumphed in shame. On the one side were the fierce supporters of a world liberated from its Creator, and on the other—the faithful, poor Carthusians, whose only wealth was the beautiful silence of heaven.

On that February evening in 2016, from the first gallery, I saw the white, hooded shadows who were taking possession of the stalls. The Fathers quickly opened the large antiphonaries that allowed them to follow the musical scores of the Vesper texts. The light diminished little by little, the chanting of the psalms followed; the cardinal, who had taken his place beside Dom Dysmas, cautiously turned the pages of the ancient books to follow the prayer. Behind him, the rood screen that separated the stalls of the Fathers in choir from those of the lay Brothers sketched in the half-light a large cross that seemed to lend still greater dignity to this striking darkness.

Carthusian «Salve Regina»

Carthusian plain chant imparts a slowness, a depth, and a piety that is sweet and at the same time rough. At the end of Vespers, the monks intoned the solemn Salve Regina. Since the twelfth century, every day, the Carthusians have intoned this antiphon to the Virgin Mary. Today there are hardly any monasteries where these notes still resound. Outside, night had fallen, and the faint lights of the monastery finally stopped time. The only thing that broke the silence was the rumbling of the packs of snow that fell from the roofs. A fog seemed to climb from the depths of the narrow valley, and the black mountain slopes provided grandiose, gloomy scenery. The monks went back to the cells. After walking through the immense corridors of the cemetery cloister, each one returned to the cubiculum where he passed such a significant part of his earthly existence. The silence of the Grande Chartreuse reasserted its inalienable rights.

While the earth is sleeping, or trying to forget, the nocturnal Divine Office is the burning heart of Carthusian life. On the first page of the antiphonary that Dom Dysmas had prepared before I arrived, I could read this notice: “Antiphonarium nocturnum, ad usum sacri ordinis cartusiensis.” It was quarter past midnight, and the monks were extinguishing the few vigil lights that were still lit in the church. Perfect darkness covered the whole sanctuary when the Carthusians intoned the first prayers. The night made it possible to observe more clearly than ever the glowing point of light marking the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The sound of the wood in the old walnut stalls seemed to blend with the voices of the monks. The psalms followed one after the other to the slow rhythm of a Gregorian chant tone; those who regularly attend the Divine Office at Benedictine abbeys might regret the lack of purity in the style. But Night Prayer does not lend itself well to merely esthetic considerations. The liturgy unfolds in a half-light that seeks God. There are the voices of the Carthusians, and a perfect silence. Toward half past two in the morning, the bells rang for the Angelus. The monks left the church one by one. Is the nocturnal Divine Office madness or a miracle? In all the Charterhouses in the world, night prepares for day, and day prepares for night.

The Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was profoundly touched by the two nocturnal services that marked his stay. For the Cardinal, night warms a man’s heart. The one who keeps vigil at night goes out of himself, the better to find God. The silence of night is the most capable of crushing all the dictatorships of noise. When darkness descends upon the earth, the asceticism of silence can acquire more luminous dimensions.

Cardinal Sarah and Dom Dysmas

Before we departed, the cardinal wanted to have a moment of recollection in the cemetery. We walked through the monastery, those long, magnificent galleries, like labyrinths carved out by prayer. The large cloister measures 709 feet from north to south, 75 feet from east to west, or a quadrilateral with a perimeter of 1,568 feet. The foundations of this Gothic complex go back to the twelfth century; since then, permanent silence has reigned.

In the Carthusian deserts, the cemetery is located at the center of the cloister. The graves bore no names, dates, or mementos. On the one side, there were stone crosses, for the generals of the Order, and on the other—wooden crosses for the Fathers and the lay Brothers. The Carthusians are buried in the ground without a coffin, without a tombstone; no distinctive mark recalls their individual lives. I asked Dom Dysmas de Lassus the location of the crosses of the monks who had been his contemporaries and whose deaths he had witnessed. Dom Dysmas no longer knew. “The gusts of wind and the mosses have already done their work”, he declared. He could find only the grave of Dom André Poisson, one of his predecessors, who died in April 2005. The former general died at night, alone, in his cell; he departed to join all the sons of Saint Bruno, and the vast troop of hermits, in heaven.

Since 1084, Carthusians have not wanted to leave any trace. God alone matters. Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis—the world turns and the Cross remains. Before leaving, in the sunshine beneath an immaculate blue sky, the cardinal blessed the tombs. A few moments later, we left the Grande Chartreuse. The Benedictine monk who had come to pick us up declared: “You are leaving paradise.”

10 May: Blessed Nicholas Albergati (carthusian monk, bishop and cardinal)

Nicholas was born in Bologna, Italy, in 1375. Having obtained his degrees in law at the University of his native city, he was heading for a brilliant career in law, but a providential circumstance moved him to embrace the monastic life in the Carthusian Order. Once visiting the Charterhouse of Bologna, he was detained by a storm and attended the night Office, or Matins, as the Carthusians call it. He was so impressed by the way the monks sang the Office that he could not but ask to be admitted among them.

He made profession and was ordained a priest, always giving an excellent example of the monastic virtues. Unhesitatingly his fellow monks elected him their Prior in 1407, after he had been among them for twelve years. Ten years later the diocese Bologna needed a Bishop. Nicholas was the one all the magistrates unanimously voted for! But he firmly declined. “Only if the Reverend Father Prior of the Grande Chartreuse orders me to accept, will I do so”, he said. Undeterred, the city magistrates sent a delegation to the far-off monastery in France. Reverend Father Dom John Griffenberg consulted his community. All thought Dom Nicholas should accept.

So he became Bishop, but did not abandon the monastic observance, practicing it in the same manner as when he was still in the cloister. He was devout, humble and depreciated what is only transitory. He wore the same rough habit as before, with the hair shirt, observing all the fasts of the Order and making abstinence on bread and water on all Fridays.

He had a deep interior life, spending long hours of prayer at night. Even in the midst of numerous religious and secular affairs which could have likely been obstacles, he was nonetheless able to live according to the spirit of the Carthusian vocation. In everything he appeared as a true son of Saint Bruno.

But his services for the Church were not to remain limited to his diocese of Bologna. Two Popes, Martin V (1417- 1431) and Eugene IV (1431-1447) used him in important roles for the good of the Universal Church. After a mission trying to make peace between France and England, he was given the cardinal’s hat in 1426. As Cardinal “de Sancta Cruce” (because his titular Church was Santa Croce, Holy Cross, in Rome) he made peace between the duke of Burgundy and the king of France (peace of Arras, 1435). Later, at the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence, he had a role of the very first order.

He always showed a profound humility, prudence and simplicity. But what most distinguished him was obedience. He did not forget that Saint Bruno (founder of the first Charterhouse), in order to put himself under the immediate service of the Pope, had also left the desert of the Charterhouse, the place he cherished above anything else.

A trial struck him from his own townspeople, who rebelled against him as Bishop. He had to flee Bologna and took refuge with his fellow Carthusians in the Charterhouse of Florence. The Bolognese repented of their action however, and Pope Eugene IV insisted that Nicholas be restored to his see.

Toward the end of his life, he had only one wish: to return to the Charterhouse. He died however on a diplomatic mission to Siena, where he had to accompany the Pope in 1443. On May 9, he breathed his last in that city. After his death, he appeared to his assistant Tommaso da Sarzano and predicted to him that he would become Pope, which soon happened, for he became Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455). Three centuries later, Pope Benedict XIV, who had also formerly been archbishop of Bologna, confirmed the cult of this holy Carthusian.

Prayer: Lord, give us that simplicity of life by which Blessed Nicholas was able to persevere in the Carthusian ideal even in the midst of so many external cares. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Source: Santos y beatos de la Cartuja (by Juan Mayo Escudero)
Paining: Recognition of Cardinal Niccolò Albergati (by Vicente Carducho)

4 May: English Carthusian martyrs

In 1535 King Henry VIII decided to break away from the Roman Catholic Church. He forced his English subjects to sign the «Act of Supremacy» that established that the head of the Church in England is not the Pope but the King. Many of them accepted. Others managed to flee the country in order to remain loyal to the Pope. Still others suffered martyrdom. This is the case of saints John, Robert, Augustine and their companions, martyrs whom we remember today. They are commemorated in the Order with the «rite of twelve readings». We offer below eight of these readings. In them, the Carthusian Father Maurice Chauncy, who managed to escape from England, recounts the martyrdom of his brothers in the Order.

1

In the beginning of the year 1535 it was settled by the King, and enacted by the celebrated Act of his Parliament, that all should renounce the authority and obedience they owed to our lord the Pope, or any other superior in other countries, and should acknowledge under an oath, the King himself as supreme head of the Church, in spiritual things as well as in temporal things, under penalty of being held guilty of high treason, and punished with death. Then the three venerable father priors, John, Augustine and Robert, reflecting that the anger of the King was like a messenger of death, resolved together that they would endeavour to mitigate it (leaving the result to the judgement of God), and would anticipate and preoccupy the time of the expected  arrival  of  the  King’s  councillors  by  going  to  Thomas  Cromwell,  the King’s  vicar,  to  implore  him  to  help  them  as  far  as  he  could  to  get  them exempted  from  the  King’s  decree,  or  to  obtain  some  mitigation  or  relaxation from the tenor or rigour of it, in regard to taking the oath. Having then approached him and laid before him their wishes and supplications, he not only denied their petition, but ordered them to be sent to the Tower as rebels.

The Martyrdom of the Priors of the Charterhouses of London, Beauvale and Axholme (by Vicente Carducho)

2

After remaining in the Tower for several days suffering many inconveniences, but standing with great constancy against those who oppressed them, the order for the execution of the three father priors arrived. This was the manner of their death, if manner it can be called, where beyond all human example, the barbarous cruelty of the worst tyrants was surpassed. On being brought out of prison they were thrown down on a hurdle and fastened to it, lying stretched out on their backs; and so lying on the hurdle, they were dragged at the heels of horses through the city until they came to Tyburn: a place where, according to custom, criminals are executed, which is one league distant from the prison. Who can relate what grievous things, what tortures they endured on that whole journey, when one moment the road lay over rough and hard places, at another through wet and muddy ones, which exceedingly abounded. On arrival at the place of execution, our holy father was the first loosened, and then the executioner, as the custom is, bent his knee before him, asking pardon for the cruel work he had to do. O good Jesus! who would not weep to see the servant of Christ undergoing such suffering? Who could behold the benignity of so holy a man without being saddened; how gently and modestly he spoke to his executioner, how sweetly he embraced and kissed him, and how piously he prayed for him and for all the bystanders.

3

On being ordered to mount the ladder to the gibbet where he was to be hanged,  our  father  meekly  obeyed.  Then  one  of  the  King’s  council,  who  stood there with many thousand people who came together to witness  the  sight, asked   him   if   he   would   submit   to   the   King’s   command   and   the   Act   of Parliament, for if he would he should be pardoned. The holy martyr of Christ answered: “I call upon Almighty God, and I beseech you all on the terrible day of Judgment, to bear witness that being here about to die, I publicly declare that not through any pertinacity, malice, or rebellious spirit, do I commit this disobedience and denial of the will of our lord the King, but solely through fear of God, lest I should offend his Supreme Majesty; because our holy mother the Church has decreed and determined otherwise than your King with his Parliament have ordained; wherefore I am bound in conscience and am prepared, and am not confounded, to endure these and all other torments that can be inflicted, rather than go against the doctrine of the Church. Pray for me and have  pity  on  my  brethren,  of  whom  I  am  the  unworthy  prior.”  And  having  said these things, he begged the executioner to wait until he had finished his prayer, which was, In you, O Lord, I take refuge… down to Into your hands I commend my spirit, inclusive. Then when a sign was given, the ladder was turned, and so he was hanged. Before his holy soul left his body, one of the bystanders cut the rope, and so falling to the ground, he began for a little bit to throb and breathe.

4

Our father was then dragged to another adjoining place, where his garments were violently torn off and he was again extended naked on the hurdle. Then the bloodthirsty executioner laid impious hands on him. Having ripped open his belly, he completely eviscerated him, tore out his heart and entrails and threw them into the fire, during which time our  most  blessed father not only did not cry out on account of the intolerable pain, but on the contrary, while they were tearing out his heart, prayed continually and bore himself most patiently, most meekly and tranquilly, so much so, that not only the presiding officer, but all who saw these things wondered. Being at his last gasp  and  nearly  disembowelled,  he  cried  out  with  a  most  sweet  voice:  “Most lovable  Jesus,  have  mercy  on  me  at  this  hour.” And, as trustworthy  men  have reported, he said to the executioner, while in the act of tearing out his heart: “Good  Jesus!  what  will  you  do  with  my  heart?”  And  saying  this,  he  expired. Lastly, his head was cut off and his body divided into four parts. In this manner, Reverend Father, your holy son was found faithful till death. He passed from this world to the Lord, on the fourth day of May, 1535, in his forty- eighth year, and the fifth year of his priorate, like a good shepherd who gave his life, not only for his sheep, but for justice, and the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our holy father having been thus put to death, the two other venerable fathers, Robert and Augustine, with another religious named Reynolds, of the Order of Saint Briget, being subjected to the same  most  cruel death, were  at the same time deprived of life, one after another.

5

Memorial located in the Charterhouse of London

Those three saints having been thus put to death, certain men of low condition, and not worthy to be named, came within the next three weeks to Cromwell, vicar of the King, asking authority to make sport of and maltreat other Carthusians. This request having been readily granted, they came to us in a noisy manner and carried off three other venerable fathers, our remaining officers, namely, father Humphrey Middlemore, then being the vicar, and previously procurator of our house; father William Exmew, who had become procurator on removal from the vicariate, and father Sebastian Newdigate, a priest and monk of our house. These three were led off ignominiously to a most filthy prison, where for two whole months they were bound and fastened tightly with iron chains around their necks and thighs, and were cruelly made to stand erect against the posts and pillars of the house, without any relief or relaxation for any purpose whatsoever. At the end of these weeks, they were brought together before the Council and questioned on the same article on which our father had been put to death, and the same proposals were made to them that were made to our father.

6

As these three fathers constantly professed that they would not go against the decrees and practices of holy mother Church, they were condemned to the same punishment, torture, and death, and within ten days, they suffered the same things as their father. These three were young in regard to  age,  but mature in mind, full of grace and virtues, and of illustrious family – one of whom,  father  Sebastian,  had  been  brought  up  in  the  King’s  house.  All  were especially learned and of great constancy; boldly alleging from the Sacred Scriptures, before the judges, that the King could not arrogate to himself, as a right and by divine authority, that supremacy of the  Church,  which  Jesus Christ our Lord gave to the Pope and to priests. And they went to death, as to a banquet, accepting it with the greatest meekness, and  patience  of  heart, alacrity of body, and joyful countenance, in the hope of eternal life, the 19th of June, 1535. From the death of these holy brothers of ours, two years elapsed before others were imprisoned, but not without great tribulation to us.

Ruins of Beauvale Charterhouse (where Saint Robert was prior)

7

The enclosure was divided: one part followed Jeroboam, who made Israel sin; the other adhered to the house of David, mindful of the justice of the one God, which it had learnt from its youth. One part of the community, seeing how straitened they were, the imminent danger of the overthrow of the house, that they could gain nothing by resisting, and that all the world had followed the King, these, overcome by weariness, committed themselves to the divine mercy, and consented to the royal will, yet not without great pain to their consciences, and many tears. But the rest of the community were not willing to regard the preservation of the house of  stone as more precious than themselves, but at once preferring the salvation of their souls to the material house, freely gave up all they had for the sake of their salvation, and would not accept deliverance through any pretence, but with constancy opposed the King, that  they might find a better resurrection and a house not made with hands in heaven.

Tyburn Tree (London – UK)

8

The number of these last was ten, all professed of our London house: three priests, Richard Bere, Thomas Johnson, and Thomas Green; one deacon, John Davy; and six converse Brothers: William Greenwood, Thomas Scryven, Robert Salt, Walter Pierson, Thomas Redyng, and William Horn. All of these, on the fourth of the calends of  June, 1537, were thrust into a very foul prison in the city, called Newgate, where all, except one, in a short time died of the filth and foulness  of  the  prison.  The  King’s  vicar  was  greatly  vexed  at  their  deaths  in this manner, swearing with a great oath that had they lived, he would have treated them more severely. The survivor, William Horn, a converse Brother, remained safe in prison for three years. Brought forth at length to death, on the fourth of August, 1540*, he suffered like our venerable father, and finished his life with like cruelties. So the son followed the father, maltreated most harshly and for a long time, preferring to be put to death for the love of  Jesus Christ, and for the faith of  his spouse, the Catholic Church, rather than to speak falsely or to perjure himself.

Prayer: All-powerful God, You sanctified by martyrdom John and his companions because of their fidelity to the Pope. Following the example of their unshakeable attachment to the unity of the See of Peter, may we be able thus to serve You in peace. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Source: The History of the sufferings of 18 Carthusians in England, Burn and Oates, 1890, p.47-70. In: Lectionary for Maitins – Year A – 4 May – Readings 1-8 (Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse 2021)

* Father Chauncy gives the 4th of November, 1541. Wriothesley’s Chronicle, p. 121, says, “This yeare [1540], the fowerth daie of Awgust, were drawen from the Tower of London to Tiburne, Giles Heron, gentleman . . . William Horn, late a lay brother of the Charter House of London…» Wriothesley and Stow, who give the same date, were both in London at the time. Chauncy, who was living at Bruges, must have been misinformed.

Letter of St. Catherine to a Carthusian monk

Today the Church celebrates St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), a saint who has a special connection to the Carthusian Order. She wrote at least twelve letters to several Carthusian monks who received spiritual advice from her. One of these letters — written to a carthusian monk on the island of Gorgona — is included in the readings for today’s Matins (readings 1 to 8). This is what we would like to share with you today.

1

Dearest and very loved son in Christ gentle Jesus, I Catherine, slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, am writing to you in his precious blood. I long to see you living in the house of self-knowledge, where you will learn every virtue. Without such knowledge you would be living in every sort of evil, irrationally. But  you  could  say  to  me,  “How  can  I  get  into  this  house,  and  how  can  I keep living there?” I will tell you. You know that without light there is nowhere to walk but in the dark, and the darkness will make us stumble. In such darkness you would not be able to recognise what you need along the way. We are all pilgrim travellers, set on the road of the teaching of Christ crucified. Some walk by the way of the commandments, in ordinary charity. Others go the way of the counsels, the way of perfect charity, but without cutting themselves off from the commandments.

2

In this house of self-knowledge you discover your chief enemy, who would like to make you stumble, your selfish sensuality cloaked in selfish love. That enemy is surrounded by a host of vassals, two of whom are the constant companions of selfish sensuality. One of these is the world with its vanities and pleasures. The other is the devil with his deceits and all his annoyances and deceptive imaginings. Our sensual will leans toward these and gladly finds pleasure in such imaginings no matter how the devil presents them. These principal enemies have many servants, all of whom stand ready to make you stumble, unless the light gives you the discernment to do something about it. So reason takes the light of most holy faith and goes into the house to take control of selfish sensuality. For she knows that this sensuality wants and seeks nothing less than her death. And so she rises up energetically and draws the knife of hatred for that sensuality and of love for true solid virtue, and with it she kills the enemy.

3

After this your enemies cannot make you stumble. The just Lord does give them license to knock at the door, but he allows this so the guard will be more alert and wisely stay awake instead of falling asleep on the bed of apathy. He also wants to see whether or not this house is sturdy, so that if it is found not to be so, you will have reason to reinforce it, and in the light will see what it is that makes it sturdy and lasting. Once you have seen what that is, take firm hold of it. And what is it that makes us strong and enduring? Continual humble prayer made in the house of self-knowledge and of knowledge of God’s goodness to us. This sort of prayer has humility as its foundation, humility learned in this same house, the house of self-knowledge. We are clothed in the fire of the divine charity discovered in our coming to know God when, in the light, we see how indescribably much we are loved by him. This love is proved and guaranteed in the first creation, where we see that we were created out of love in the image and likeness of God. And in the second creation we see that we were created anew to grace in the blood of the humble spotless Lamb.

4

There are three ways we can understand prayer. The first is continual prayer, to which everyone is obligated. This is true holy desire grounded in charity for God and our neighbour, by which all that we do for ourselves or for our neighbours is done for God’s honour. Such desire is constantly praying; I mean, the movement of charity in what we do is praying continually before our Creator no matter where we are or when. What fruit do we derive from this? We receive a calm tranquillity within, the tranquillity of a will in harmony with and submissive to reason, a tranquillity that finds nothing a stumbling block. It is not hard for us to bear the yoke of sincere obedience when we are given burdens to carry and manual work to do or are asked to serve our brothers as occasions and circumstances demand; or when we would like to be actually praying and have to do something else. This is the sort of prayer the glorious apostle Paul invites us to when he says that we should pray without ceasing.

5

There is another sort of prayer. This is vocal prayer: saying orally the Divine Office or some other prayer one might wish to say. The purpose of this sort of prayer is to lead into mental prayer, and this will be its effect if it is well grounded in the first sort of prayer and if you persevere in practicing it, always urging your mind to concentrate on, offer, and be receptive to the movement of charity for God rather than to the sound of the words. And walk wisely: when you sense that your spirit is being visited by God, put words aside, except in the case of the Divine Office, which you are obligated to say. And here is how you will reach the third sort of prayer, mental prayer: by lifting your mind and desire above yourself to consideration of God’s affectionate charity and of yourself. There you will come to know the teaching of truth when you taste the milk of divine sweetness flowing from the breasts of charity. The fruit and effect of this is the unitive state, where you become so united with God as to see yourself no longer in reference to yourself but to God, and your neighbours in reference to God, and God in terms of his infinite goodness.

6

Now you know what makes us persevere staunchly in the house of self- knowledge, and what it is that leads us there, and where we find it. I have said it is the light that guides us, and that we find it in the teaching of Christ crucified. And it is prayer that locks us in and keeps us there. This is the truth. So, dearest and very loved son, I want you to live continually in the house of self-knowledge so that you will be able to fulfil the vow of holy obedience into which you have recently entered. There is, in fact, no other way you could keep that vow. Once the enemies have been put out and the chief enemy, our sensual will, is dead, this house is filled and beautified with the virtues. I want you to pay attention to this, for it wouldn’t be enough for the house to be empty and not filled up again. This is the cell I want you to carry about with you in whatever you have to do around the island and everywhere else. Never leave it, whether you are in choir, in the refectory in the assembly, or at work; in whatever you have to do, stay locked within it.

7

I want you too, when you are actually praying, always to direct your understanding to consideration of the movement of God’s charity rather than to whatever gift you may seem to be receiving from God, so that your love may be pure and not mercenary. As for your physical cell, I want you to be there as much as obedience allows, preferring to be embattled there rather than at peace elsewhere. For the devil makes use of this trick with solitaries to make them weary of their cells. He sends them more darkness and struggle and harassment in their cells than outside so that their cells will come to terrify them, as if the cell were the cause of their evil thoughts. I don’t want this to make you turn back. No, be constant and persevering. Never be lazy, but use your time for prayer, for holy reading, and for manual work, keeping your memory always filled with God so that your soul may not be taken over by idleness.

8

I also want you to judge everything in terms of God’s will, so that you will not fall into disliking and gossiping about your brothers. And I want you to be really distinguished for ready obedience – not now and then or in half-measures but completely. Never resist the will of the rule or of your superior, but make yourself a mirror of observance, a mirror of the Order’s customs, doing your best to observe them even to the point of death. Consider yourself contemptible and of no account, killing your selfish will and disciplining your body with the mortification dictated by the rule. I want you to try hard to bear in charity the words and actions that sometimes seem unbearable – either because of the devil’s deceit or because of your own weakness or because they are in fact unbearable. In this and in everything else put up a good fight, and so live by Christ’s word, that the kingdom of heaven is for those who do violence to themselves.

***

Source: The Letters of Catherine of Siena, transl. Suzanne Noffke, vol. IV, p. 48-54. In: Lectionary for Maitins – Year A – 29 April – Readings 1-8 (Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse 2021)

22 April: Saint Hugh of Grenoble

Saint Hugh (1053 – 1132), the saint we are celebrating today, could be considered the co-founder of the first Charterhouse. Actually, he was the bishop who received Saint Bruno and his six companions into his diocese, and it was he who granted them the Charterhouse desert («Chartreuse» in French) to live a monastic life there. Below are eight of the twelve readings from last night’s Matins (or Office of Readings). It is part of a biography of Saint Hugh of Grenoble authored by Guigo, who was the fifth prior of Chartreuse.

1

Hugh had entered the monastery already fervent, and he returned all the more so, when the same pope who had consecrated him, Gregory VII, bade him return to his bishopric. He had increased more in virtue through one year’s pursuit of the monastic life than many do from the labours of a lifetime. From that time on, vigilant circumspection was his only cloister, whereby he regulated both his senses and the thoughts of his heart; rectitude was his abbot, from whose requirements neither favourable nor unfavourable circumstances could ever avert him. For a religious community he was to have pious and upright associates, whom he wished never to be without, considering the words of the Psalm: With the holy you will be holy yourself, and blameless with the innocent man. In fact, the entire universal Church was to be his community, one which he embraced with so deep and sincere a love that neither its sufferings nor its joys could leave him unmoved. For, just as the Apostle says, Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is made to fall and I am not indignant? ; just so, Hugh always rejoiced at the good fortune of the Church, and was in anguish over its reverses.

2

As Hugh was thus conducting himself in the episcopate, scarcely three years after his return from the monastery, there came to him Master Bruno. He was a man renowned for piety and learning, the perfect refulgence of integrity and self-control, and the epitome of all that it means to have attained true maturity of spirit. With him were Master Landuino, who was to succeed him as Prior of the Chartreuse; Stephen of Bourg and Stephen of Die, canons of Saint Rufus who, in their desire for the solitary life, had obtained leave from their abbot to follow Master Bruno; also, a certain Hugh whom they referred to as their Chaplain, since he alone among them exercised the functions of the priesthood; finally, two laymen, Andrew and Guarin, who were to be known as Converse Brothers. They were looking for a site suitable for the eremitical life, but as yet they had not been successful; it was with this hope that they came to our saint, drawn at the same time by the redolence of his manner of life. Hugh received them and entertained them not only with joy, but with reverence as well, and then made their desires a reality. For, not alone with his help and advice, but in his very company as well, they were able to enter the desert of Chartreuse and make a foundation there. Hugh had, in fact, recently seen this same desert in a dream: seven stars were leading the way, and God himself was there building a habitation worthy of himself. It was now no less than seven men who presented themselves before him. Thus, he willingly seconded the plans not only of these men, but also of their successors, and he graciously assisted the inhabitants of the Chartreuse with his counsel and beneficence until death.

3

Although he was already truly ablaze with divine love, the flame of his virtue was fed by the example of, and contact with, these men, just as a burning torch gains from the placement of others around it. He frequented their company not as ruler or as bishop, but as a companion and most humble brother. As they dwelt two by two in the cell at that time, and Hugh showed himself so ready to render service, as far as possible, to all, his cell companion made a point of protesting (William, at that time Prior of Saint Lawrence, and later Abbot of Saint Theofrid, a man bound, like many others, by a strong devotion to Master Bruno). He said that Hugh arrogated to himself almost all the humble tasks within the cell, and that the bishop comported himself not even as an equal, but rather as a servant. He remarked wistfully that he could do nothing to return the service, even in those matters wherein it was the custom to take turns, since the bishop was always there before him.

4

Hugh applied himself with such devotion to the eremitical life that, at times,  Master  Bruno  had  to  force  him  to  leave,  with  the  words,  “Go  to  your sheep, and do your duty in their regard!” Furthermore, he was aflame with such a love for deep humility and poverty that he would have sold all his mounts to give the proceeds to the poor, and gone about preaching on foot. There was someone, however, whose counsels he followed as though they came from the mouth of his abbot, that is, Master Bruno, the man of profound heart. He would not allow it, fearing vainglory on Hugh’s part, censure from the other bishops  for  singularity,  or,  which  was  also  obvious  enough,  Hugh’s  inability  to carry through his plan because of the difficulty of the terrain. It happened, nonetheless, that in his contempt for fleshly concerns and his notably zealous pursuit of the spiritual, Hugh overly indulged in vigils and fasts, reading, prayers and meditations, and the like, and fell grievously sick with an ailment of head and stomach. This was to cause him unbelievable inconvenience and pain, with its frequent and virulent attacks, for the entire forty years that remained of his life.

5

When would we ever finish recounting his admirable qualities, even if but briefly touching upon them? For divine grace had gathered into this one man such countless splendours of virtue, that they would have sufficed to make a great many men illustrious and noteworthy, had they been distributed one by one. If chastity is prized, who could be found purer than he? If it is truthfulness we seek, who was more circumspect in speech? In love of God, who more fervent? In love of neighbour, who more benevolent? Who was lower in his humility or more generous in his alms? Who more abundant in his gift of tears, more fervent in prayer, more sublime in contemplation? Who has been more stout- hearted in his endurance of tribulation? In his prudence more cautious? More strict in his justice or more balanced in his temperance? And yet, although he was so great a man as this, he himself never ceased to disparage himself as useless and unproductive, according to the dictum of the Gospel: When you have done everything, say ‘We are unworthy servants.’ He considered that just such a one now occupied the Episcopal seat, received its honours, and made use of its goods, having neither the merits nor the accomplishments of a bishop.

6

Taking careful note rather of the virtue that he lacked than of that which he possessed, he strongly desired to lay down, by all means, the episcopal burden. Indeed, as we emphasized at the beginning, this opinion of himself and the desire that flowed from it were with him from the moment of his elevation until death. Since, moreover, this conviction grew daily in strength, he finally sent messengers with a letter to this effect to Pope Honorius II. When these failed to obtain his request, and rather returned with a letter of encouragement that counselled perseverance, he himself undertook the journey to Rome, although illness and old age weighed upon him. For he was strengthened by the hope of obtaining repose for the future, and therefore pleaded with the pope to grant his old age its desired rest, and to provide the Church of Grenoble with a more suitable pastor in his place. Yet, despite all the pretexts he thought he could adduce based on his physical and moral condition, not even in person could he obtain what he wished: permission to attend only to God and his own spiritual needs. For the Holy See was convinced that, however feeble and ailing the bishop was, he would more greatly benefit the flock in his care by the example of his life and his personal authority, than could anyone  else,  no matter how vigorous and healthy. Thus, after obtaining some additional requests from the pope, as well as his esteem and consolation, he returned to France.

7

Although it had always been clear, from his words and deeds, that God dwelt in his blessed soul, it was most especially in his last illness that it was manifest to all who and what sort of man he was, with what pure affection he had reverenced the Lord, and how profound was the love whereby he had taken the defence of justice and truth in the course of his very long life. For, the unusual violence of his sickness caused his memory to become almost entirely lost or confused, at least in the area that stores the images of spatio-temporal events, that is common to good and evil alike, and indiscriminately serves the purposes of both. Yet, if this section was muddled or destroyed, on the deeper level that is characteristic of angels and saints alone, that is formed by the contours of justice and truth and the whole of liturgical cult, it was not only equal to previous performance, but showed itself the more intrepid and devout. So much was this the case, in fact, that he besought the divine mercy with the beating of his breast, with litanies and psalms, throughout the length of the day and night.

8

There is really nothing left to say; for these were his dispositions to the last. Throughout all, he never ceased to manifest a special love for his Carthusians and their unworthy prior, a fact I can only mention with tears, nor did he forget them in the midst of his final afflictions. Thus, in the year of our Lord 1132, in at least the eightieth year of his age and the fifty-second of his episcopate, at cock crow on the first of April, the Friday before Palm Sunday, Blessed Hugh, remarkable for reputation and works among all the bishops of his time, his house placed in order and stocked with every good, and with the Church and people committed to his care enjoying tranquillity and peace, made his way to the house of the Lord. He left a Carthusian behind as his successor, in accordance with what he had so long and greatly desired.

Prayer:

Father, through Saint Hugh you manifested the
Church’s pastoral care for our first founders.
Through his intercession may our Order continue to
flourish.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

+

Source:

*There are three cycles of matins readings: A, B and C. Each house (Carthusian monastery) chooses which cycle to follow.

Images used (in the sequence in which they are shown in this post):

  • St. Hugo welcomes Bruno and his companions. St. Hugo gives Chartreuse to the founders. Detail from Scenes from the life of St. Bruno and the Charterhouse Order. German school, c 1490-1500 Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Detail.
  • Saint Hugo, Bishop of Grenoble (painting by Francisco de Zurbarán).
  • The origins of the Order, engraving in the first edition of the Statutes by Amorbach, Basel, 1510.
  • ‘St Hugh in the Carthusian Refectory’, by Francisco de Zurbarán.
  • St. Bruno bids farewell to St. Hugo before his journey to Rome (Vicente Carducho – Museo Nacional del Prado).

Mount Calvary: Love for the Cross.

The cross towers over the monastery: it is a warning. Everything here flourishes in the shadow of the cross and in it you come to take shelter. It is good to draw your attention to it at once. The world does not put a better face on it than in St. Paul’s time: foolishness to some, scandal to others (1 Cor 1:23). Even those who preach on thee cross do not do so without much timidity.

Only in his light does the life of the Carthusian make sense. Christ warns you: «If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me» (Lk 9:23). You are weak and sensitive like every man, and that prospect is not altogether pleasant. The Cross would no longer be the Cross if it ceased to afflict. Only the spiritual part of your soul will be able to rejoice. Even for a generous soul, the only attraction of the cross is its relationship to Jesus.

The Son of God became incarnate in order to suffer. His first conscious act at the very moment of his conception was to offer himself as a victim to atone for our sins: «Sacrifices and offerings you did not want, but you formed me a body. Holocausts and atonements for sin did not please you; then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God'» (Heb 10:51). That will was that he should suffer and shed all his blood for us. He will say it later: «No one takes my life from me, I lay it down for myself… this is the command I received from my Father» (Jn 10,18).

Jesus enters fully into the paternal plan and, conforming his will perfectly to that of the Father, he chooses positively to suffer: «Instead of the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross» (Heb 12,2), that is, a whole life of toil and pain, of body, heart and soul: everything in him has been pierced with the bitterness of the Cross. Thanks to this tremendous sacrifice we are what we are supernaturally, «sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ» (Heb 10:10).

The monk does not need to be taught that «the disciple is not above the teacher, nor the servant above his master» (Mt 10:24). If he is in danger of forgetting this, let him listen to St. Peter: «If in doing good you must suffer and bear it patiently, this is pleasing to God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps, he who was blameless» (1 Peter 2:20-21). By its structure, the Christian is a crucified person, and the reason for this is given by St. Paul: «I have been crucified with Christ, for it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me» (Gal 2,19), and «Christ wants to continue his Passion in his members» (Col 1,24).

The cross is engraved in you by all the sacraments, from Baptism onwards, when you were told when you were signed: «Receive the sign of the Cross on your forehead and in your heart». Confirmation has added a precision: the Cross is your combat script: «I mark you with the sign of the Cross and confirm you with the chrism of health». The Eucharist and Penance revitalise this sign to remind you that everything, in the order of grace, has come to you through the Cross. It is your strength and your programme of life. You will be judged according to it.

The Charterhouse that shelters you from the world is the replica of Eden. Where a garden of delights, the steppe; where a leafy tree, the Cross; man was lost in the earthly Paradise, he is redeemed in the desert. The Cross is the true tree of life.

Climbing the slope of the hermitage you ascend to your Calvary. Don’t dramatise anything; there is no worse deception than the verbal or sentimental inflation that often covers up squalid realities. Many generosities are heroic only in imagination. They are more dream than life.

The cross of the carthusian monk is very simple and very modest, even if it is heavy. You will be hopelessly riddled with the thousand and one setbacks of religious life. It is the most trivial of crosses, heavy because it does not arouse anyone’s interest or compassion. Each one only feels the weight of teir own cross, the only one that hurts. To entrust one’s sorrows to another is no small relief. Don’t do it. In so many ways he knows how to put to the test the marvellous instrument of sensitivity! As the author of it, He polishes it with divine art. The Carthusian should not be bothered by this, for did he not come to the monastery to resemble Christ crucified? God always takes us seriously. Sometimes you will feel like rebelling. A single glance at the crucifix can quell that impulse, without eliminating your sufferings. You would lose a lot by rebelling, even by letting off steam.

Everything that is painful, physically, morally, spiritually, whatever the instrument, men, events, things, even if you are the cause, has the value of a cross for the spirit of faith. It is enough that you accept and offer the painful consequences of your faults or failures. The Church calls Adam’s calamitous slip of the tongue «happy guilt». The best penance is to bear out of love the annoying effects of your follies. Do so, you will always enjoy peace.

If you love intensely, you will long to be lying on the Cross. Do not grieve to see yourself far from it. It is good enough never to rebel, never to flee. Jesus Himself did not go up to Calvary in triumphal march; do not lose sight of Him. St. Paul tells you «Reflect on him who endured such contradiction on the part of sinners, so that you may not grow weary and discouraged» (Heb 12:3).

Holy Scripture is very realistic, it is aware of the poor human heart. The God who inspired it is also the one who moulded us, and our complaints do not displease him when they are addressed to him: «Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest» (Mt 11:28). Our groanings found an echo in the Heart from which so rich a word flowed. We are never to complain about God to men, but He is not displeased when we address gentle reproaches to Him. If Christ is truly your friend he is sufficient for you.

The Carthusian must pray much. Be wary of your weakness; you are no more courageous than the Apostles who protested when Jesus prophesied to them: «You will be scandalised because of me this very night» (Mt 26:31). And so it was. Your only security is that Jesus has prayed for you so that your faith will not fail (Lk 22:32).

Be humble. Carry as best you can the crosses of Providence, before asking for heavier ones. Distant danger does not frighten; how many are paralysed by its proximity! This, however, calls for the love of the Cross. Resignation is the lowest degree of adherence to the Will of God. It lacks warmth and drive; it leaves a trace of regret. Faith in the wisdom, power and goodness of God does not act with full force in the soul. It is one thing to accept what God disposes; it is another to accept it, to want it positively with him, in the clear vision of the good of the Cross.

You are not the one to give yourself this dynamic illumination: by meditating at length on the Passion you prepare yourself, assiduous prayer and generosity in the ordinary sacrifices incline the Lord to grant you this grace. However, you will undoubtedly carry with you for a long time the humiliation of an unconfessed aversion to the Cross.

Do not flee at the first warning, nor cry foul at a scratch. Compare your cross with the sum of suffering that the struggle for life inflicts on the people of the world. Your pusillanimity will make you blush. It is to Jesus and no one else that you must confess your worthlessness, unless you can do no more. He is the only one who can give you effective help. The non-essential confession of our grievances is often worm-eaten with self-love. A human derivative is sought, or an approval of our impatience is begged for, perhaps a little admiration for our tenacity.

The Charterhouse teaches to carry the cross alone, following Jesus and like him. The Cyrenian thought he was being helped by Jesus, when it was Jesus who was injecting his strength into him. On the Cross Jesus did not want the least help, the least relief. You do not possess, it is true, his divine strength, but he is there to sustain you. Your cross is a splinter of his, and he carries it more than you do.

The cross is the daily bread of the Carthusian monk. Without appearance or beauty,» wrote Guigo the Carthusian, «this is how truth must be worshipped. But he wears it so smilingly that he seems to have none. His tears are for the Lord, who makes them flow: «You have an account of my wandering life, put my tears in your bottle.» (Ps 55:9).

Source: «The Hermitage: Spirituality of the Desert». By a monk. Original language: Spanish.

Painting: Christ on the Cross with St. Bruno, Hugo of Lincoln and Hugo of Grenoble. Circa 1600.

«Vita Christi» (the life of Christ)

On 10 (or 13) April 1377 (or 1378) the Carthusian monk Ludolph of Saxony died. Now, in a week in which we especially meditate on the life of Christ, we would like to share with you an extract from his book «Vita Christi», in which Ludolph tells us about the importance of meditating on the life of Our Lord.

For other foundation no man can lay, the Apostle says, but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Anyone who wishes to lay down the burden of sins and  attain  peace  of  heart  should  heed  God’s  gracious  invitation  addressed  to sinners: Come to me all that labour with the toil of vices and are burdened, with the baggage of your sins, and I will refresh you by healing and reviving you; and you shall find rest to your souls here and hereafter. Listen, patient, to your loving and devoted physician; come to him with heartfelt contrition, sincere confession, and the firm intention to avoid evil and do good. The sinner who already faithfully believes in Christ and has been reconciled to him through penance should strive to stay close to this physician by devoutly meditating on his most holy life as much as possible.

But take care to do this with deliberation, and not hurry through the reading  of  Christ’s  life;  rather,  take  a  small  selection  in  turn  each  day.  With such devout reflections you can celebrate a daily Sabbath for Christ; your thoughts, feelings, prayers, praises, and all of your daily work will lead to this, and you will find delight in it. Here you will find a respite from the din of distractions and worldly preoccupations, and you will enjoy sweet repose. Wherever you may be, return often here; this is a sure and holy refuge  to protect you from the manifold varieties of human weakness that constantly assail God’s servants. Frequently  consider  the  major  events  in  Christ’s  life:  his  incarnation, birth, circumcision, epiphany, presentation in the temple, passion, resurrection, ascension, sending of the Holy Spirit, and his second coming as Judge. Do this with an eye to definite spiritual recollection, self-discipline, and consolation. Meditate on the life of Christ with a thirst to put into practice what you read there.

There  are  many  reasons  that  this  way  of   living  should  be  a  sinner’s greatest aspiration. First, for the forgiveness of sins: when we judge ourselves, accuse ourselves in confession, and freely undertake penance, we are already delivered in no small measure from the squalor of sin; we walk attentively with God and are meditating in the aforesaid manner. For our God is a consuming fire, purifying those who cling to him of their sins. Second, for enlightenment: the one who comes to our aid is a light shining in the darkness. Those who are illumined by this light learn to set proper priorities, giving themselves first to Christ and then to godly concerns, their own, their neighbour’s, and those of  the world. Third, for the gift of tears: these are so necessary for a sinner in this miserable valley. Christ, who is the fountain of gardens and the well of living waters, customarily gives these tears to one who stays close to him.

Fourth, for renewal after the sinful lapses of daily  life: the  Lord  always lifts up those who cling to him, as he says: Make a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: whosoever being struck shall look on it, shall live. Fifth, because of the sweet and longed-for taste, this practice holds for those who possess it, as the Psalmist says: O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet. Sixth,  for  the  knowledge  of  the  Father’s  majesty,  which  can  be  had  only through Christ, as he himself teaches: Neither does any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him. Seventh,  for  the  sure  deliverance  from  this  world’s  dangers  that  it  offers: faithful sinners who daily welcome Christ into their hearts and make a bower for him from these sweet meditations will in turn be sought out and welcomed by Christ after death. What they longed for and grew accustomed to here below they will enjoy forever: life with Christ.

This is a blessed, well-irrigated way of life; it purifies and renews sinners who cling to it, making them fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. To live like this is sweet and lovely: for conversation has no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness, but joy and gladness. This food is so agreeable and delicious that, once a loving heart has tasted it, all other practices will seem bland. It nourishes and refreshes, for, as Ambrose observes, those who receive Christ into their inner dwelling feed on the greatest delights and abundant pleasures. It is the consolation of the solitary, for whom it is the best of  companions, giving joy, comfort, and solace; for the sinner it is a tower of strength against the face of the enemy. This way of life offers an easy and thorough way to contemplate the Creator (a duty from which no one may excuse  oneself)  because  there  is  no  faster  way  to  reach  the  heights  of  God’s majesty than by meditating on the life of our Redeemer.

Everyone can follow this practice, the young beginner as well as those advanced in the spiritual life, and all find here a pleasant home in which to nest like a dove, and a hiding place for the offspring of their chaste love. This meditation makes the saints loving, solicitous, and disposed kindly to those who invoke them because of the joy we share with them. For example, could the Blessed Virgin, the mother of mercy, tenderness, and grace, possibly despise you or turn her eyes from you, sinner though you are, when she sees you take her Son (whom she loves above all) into your arms and hold him close to your breast, and this not just once a day, but frequently? Could she possibly desert you when she sees you holding her Son each and every day, attending to every detail of his life, and offering him every service of devotion and affection? Certainly not. So it is with the other saints: they look gladly on those with whom God is pleased to dwell; this way of life turns their clients into their companions, because it is their way of life, too.

Clearly this is the life of  Christ’s mother, who served him and cared for him for so many years. This is the life of the apostles, his intimate companions, who persevered faithfully with him. This is the life of the heavenly citizens who enjoy Christ, marvel at his wondrous works, and reverently attend him for all eternity. Here we find what is truly the best part: to sit at the feet of Christ and listen to his words. Rightly, it is not taken away from one who by  grace possesses it, for this is the reward promised to the good and faithful servant : a life begun here on earth but fulfilled in eternity. No tongue can sufficiently praise this way of life, which is truly good, holy, and more eminent than any other: it marks the beginning of that profound contemplation we long for in the angelic, eternal life of  our true homeland. What can compare with abiding continually with Christ, in whom the angels desire to look? If you wish to reign with Christ forever, begin to reign with him now; do not abandon him, for to serve him is to reign.

According to Augustine, among the entire collection of divine records contained in Sacred Scripture, pride of place should be given to the gospels. For this reason, see to it that you always hold them in  your  hands and carry  them in your heart; they will best illuminate for you the life and deeds of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all that pertains to your salvation. In the gospels themselves you will learn the life story of the  Word incarnate, what he commands and what he promises, in which you have the way, the truth, and the life. Study carefully Christ’s example: from his life, you will see that you can live rightly; from his commandments, you will know how to live rightly; from his promises, you will desire to live rightly. With these three weapons you can repel our three enemies (impotence, ignorance, negligence). The one who chooses to remain ignorant will be ignored, the negligent person will be neglected, the one who feigns lack of ability will be cast out. So rouse yourself, O soul devoted to Christ! Be alert, Christian! Examine diligently, ponder attentively, tease out scrupulously every detail in the life of Jesus Christ, and follow in your Lord’s footsteps. For your sake he came down to earth from his heavenly throne; for your own sake, flee earthly things and strive for those of Heaven. If you find that the world is sweet, know that Christ is sweeter; if you find that the world is harsh, know that he endured all its pains for you.

Source: Lectionary for Maitins – Year A

21 September – Readings 1-8

Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse (2021)

Images used in this article are different

illustrations to the book «Vita Christi»

My Carthusian Experience

(letter from an ex carthusian aspirant)

Among those of us who admire the Carthusian Order, several of us have had the honor and privilege of having lived for a few days in one of its monasteries. Having made several retreats at “Cartuja San José”, in Argentina, I’m writing this in order to share this gift with those who haven’t been able to stay in a Carthusian monastery.

There are three biblical quotations that come to my mind when I think of my experience there. The first is Lk 4:1-2: “Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit (…) was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days (…)”. As it is well known, with few exceptions, one can make a retreat in a Charterhouse only if one aspires to embrace that way of life. For sixteen years I was a chronic aspirant. For various reasons, sometimes I felt I had the vocation and sometimes I didn’t. In those sixteen years I made several retreats, eight more exactly, which lasted five days each. That brings the total to about forty days. Maybe it was more (there were retreats of six days I think), but I like the number forty because it helps me to see that going there wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a mistake in my personal history.

I went there as an aspirant for the first time when I was seventeen years old, in January 2000, for a visit that lasted a few hours. I knew that it would take at least four years to enter for two reasons: no one under twenty-one is accepted and the monastery (the building) was at least four years away from completion. The four founding monks were living in a temporary mini Carthusian monastery (now called St. Bruno’s house and has some of the brothers’ workshops). Where the monastery is now located, at that time, it was just removed earth and some foundations. That’s how I also felt, as someone under construction. In those four years I grew up with the monastery. I made three retreats in 2001, 2002 and 2003. But before the new monastery was finished and before I turned twenty-one, many doubts led me to postpone my entry indefinitely.

At the invitation of the rector (there was no prior at that time) I visited the Charterhouse again in 2006 and 2007, but not as an aspirant. In fact I did not occupy monks’ cells; I stayed in the guest house (it was an exception, in a Charterhouse the guest house is for relatives of the monks). They were two very Carthusian retreats but I was free to follow my own rhythm and schedule. After 2007 I stopped going.

In 2011 I visited the “Cartuja” again when my family and I went to see the Dakar rally in Córdoba province, where the monastery is located. This time I was able to go with my mum and two brothers. They were shocked. One of my brothers is in fact an atheist and somewhat anti-clerical, but even today, when we talk about the Charterhouse (the Order or the monastery we visited) he always says “they are something different, they are special”.

That visit also had a deep impact on me. I was about to graduate and I felt more mature. After graduating, in January 2013 I decided to make a final retreat before entering at least the monastery. It was my sixth retreat in the Charterhouse but for the first time I was going to inhabit a monk’s cell. A father’s cell more exactly (Carthusian monks are either “fathers” or “brothers” and the cells are different, bigger for the fathers because they spend more time there). During that retreat, the novice master and I agreed on a date for me to enter as a postulant: July of that year. I didn’t enter immediately because I had some debts to pay. However, in April 2013 a painful event in my family, involving the church (of which I prefer not to give more details) meant that my presence outside was still important. And once again I postponed my entry.

This painful event I was talking about was a turning point in my family’s religiosity. It was a crisis. It affected me too. I was deeply depressed and even started being medicated. And once the clouds began to open up after the storm, a few years later, I made my last two retreats at the Charterhouse, in 2015 and 2016. I occupied brothers’ cells. And in 2016 I saw that that was not my place; in fact I left a few days earlier than planned. Or maybe it is my place, but I was not at my best personally.

It is now 6 years since I last visited this “holy land”. This is the longest period of time without going there since 2000. In these six years the contact with the monks has diminished. I remember that in the first years every time I called them on the phone they answered and I could talk to them. Now my communication with them is sporadic e-mails with the novice master, the only one with whom I am still in contact. Visits like the ones I made in 2006, 2007 and 2011 are now unthinkable. Just as I am very different from the seventeen years old teenager I was on my first visit, San José Charterhouse is not the same either. It has also been maturing and growing as a community. Consequently, it has also been closing the enclosure more and more to resemble the ideal that St. Bruno had when he founded monasteries in Chartreuse and Calabria nine hundred years ago. That is why contact has been decreasing. They are praying.

Sometimes I consider the idea of another retreat there (with the novice master’s permission obviously), but at the moment it would be more difficult to enter as a postulant. I have a stable job which I would have to give up if I want to enter, and if it doesn’t work as a Carthusian I would have to start from scratch in a world (and in a country) where getting a job is increasingly more difficult, especially for someone close to forty. And my family, who in my distant adolescence looked so favorably on my consecration as a religious, would not see it in the same way now. Not to mention that the family has grown and I now have nieces and nephews.

Even when I’m not a Carthusian, the Charterhouse is inside me. This brings me to the second of the three biblical quotations: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem…” (Psalm 137). No one who has gone there leaves the monastery without learning something. In my case it was to detach my faith from the sensitive. There I understood that God is present even when we don’t see him, he listens to us even when we don’t speak, and he speaks in silence. I discovered this above all in the silence and solitude of the cell. I also had a very rich liturgical experience. The mass in the Carthusian rite, so simple and with so many silences, with that balanced combination of Latin and vernacular, and the matins and lauds at midnight… All this was a real school of prayer. I will never forget the Charterhouse. It is in me as the Holy Land was in the heart of Moses. And this brings me to the third biblical quotation which is Deut 34:4. I feel that God says to me too, as to Moses: “I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not enter it”.

P/S (about this last picturte): One Monday afternoon, in January 2013, we were having the weekly walk. Father Juan told me «this is a good place to take a picture of the monastery». I replied: «yeah, but tomorrow morning the light of the sun will help».
Next morning I went there and took this picture. When I see it, I can’t but think of the holy carthusian monk who suggested me to take it.

How photographer Tamino visited the «earth angels»: «I was moved, happy, honoured»

What is the world of the Carthusian monks in Pleterje like? Tamino Petelinšek, a photographer who spent almost a month at the monastery last year, tells you about it.

Photographs of the Carthusian monasteries, which the talented photographer Tamino Petelinšek visited in Pleterje for a year, adorn the cover of National Geographic Slovenia. Inside, there is an extensive report. Among other things, he shares with us the insights with which he has recently been «blessed» by the exhaustion he has recently overcome.
It is not every day that a photographer has his work on the cover and in the lead article of National Geographic magazine. Nor is it usual to feature monks.

Tamino Petelinšek

How did you get involved in the «project» of visiting and photographing the Carthusian monks in Pleterje for a year?

A few years ago I went to Pleterje to buy some old apple and pear tree seedlings. At that moment I remembered my first visit to Pleterje, when my father and I met father Stanislav Capudro, who gave us a banquet and showed us around the monastery.
That was the first time I glimpsed the mystique of the place. When I was five years old, the Carthusian church was deeply engraved in my memory. Wanting to relive a bit of Carthusian life, I naively left a note for Prior Francis to call me if he ever needed a photographer. He called me back after six years and told me that he was preparing a new video presentation for visitors. He commissioned me to take new shots of community life. He gave me unlimited time.
His invitation gave me a new flight and a sense of God’s love. I was moved, joyful, honoured. We agreed that I would go there whenever I wanted, especially on weekends. For the night I was given a cell-like room with a small wood cooker, a kneeler and a table with a window. The bed was hard and the lunches were superb.
Over time, I became close to almost everyone in the community. They accepted me as one of their own, even though I knew that, despite my efforts to be invisible, I bothered them. I was aware that I was an outsider, even if they let me know otherwise.
It was difficult, especially at the beginning, because their rhythm of life is completely different. For them, the day ends at 5 p.m. when they go to bed, so that it is easier to get up at 11 p.m. These were the hours of silent observation of the monastery, when I knew that I would probably not meet anyone.

How long did these «excursions» usually last?

Because of work and family, I could not afford to «disappear» for a week. I stayed at the Charterhouse for a maximum of four days, and often two nights. 28 days in total. That is the key to good reporting. It is a fallacy to expect good stories to be produced in a few days.

Cemetery of Pleterje Charterhouse

What particularly impressed/surprised/excited you at the Charterhouse?

On my first visits, I found the silence and isolation very distressing. You have to face yourself, you have no distractions. It’s like being in prison, but it’s a very beautiful prison. You are in constant contact with yourself, and sooner or later God calls to your heart and speaks.
The rhythm of daily life is very hard, with a fixed schedule. I admire the friars for dedicating their whole life to this spiritual routine, which is in constant relationship with the Creator. In my eyes they are angels, but they have their feet on the ground.

What is angelic and what is earthly about monks?

They are down to earth in the sense that they know their basic needs in life. Although many of them have been in the cloister for most of their lives, they are well acquainted with human evils, they are familiar with diseases, with wars. They know well the sins of the world, and the night prayer is especially for them. They pray for us. That is why they have also eliminated the disturbing elements from their lives.
They are very well informed, especially about the essentials. Even if they have no telephone, internet, radio. Once a year they watch a film at the prior’s suggestion. They read Slovenian religious press, and foreigners also subscribe to foreign Catholic newspapers and books. From time to time they hear something about politics that they read in the religious press. Therefore, journalists have a great responsibility.
We have a lot of ballast in our way of life. It was only when I left the Charterhouse that I saw what I could eliminate from my life, what I didn’t need.

What is your modern wayside shrine like?
We know their motto «Ora et labora» (Pray and work). In eight hours of prayer, spread throughout the day, they pray for our sins, for the world, for all the suffering that exists. They get up at 11 o’clock at night and pray until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.
They pray singing Gregorian Chant, which is in Latin. The readings are in Slovenian. The Carthusian monks are multinational communities, and the rules state that the members must speak the language of the country in which the monastery is located. Thus, most of the monks in Pleterje are foreigners.
According to the ancient monastic tradition, work is a powerful support for the practice of the virtues on the way to perfect love. By striking a balance between the inner and the outer man, it brings more fruit to the brothers in their solitude.
As vegetarians, the role of dairy and fish dishes is a very important element of the menu. They eat twice a day. The best food in Pleterje is undoubtedly trout, which is grown in the monastery garden. The real speciality of their cuisine, in my experience, is trout liver.
However, the monks do not live permanently in solitude. On Sundays they gather in a circle under the large redwood trees by the monastery cemetery and discuss daily affairs in a fraternal manner, with no individual standing out. On Mondays they usually take a walk around the monastery, where they talk in pairs. Sometimes these walks are particularly beautiful.

Tamin’s work was awarded Feature of the Month among 40 National Geographic editions worldwide. There is a good chance that the story will also be published abroad.
Full interview -in Slovenian: Photographer Tamino Petelinšek and his report on the Charterhouse in Pleterje (aleteia.org)

Three Years of the New Carthusian Calendar of Saints

“The Charterhouse is more interested in making saints than in declaring them,” wrote Pope Benedict XIV in 1744. This is why the Order never introduces nor encourages causes of canonization of any of its members. However, the Church has recognized 35 saints and blessed in the Carthusian Order: its founder Saint Bruno, three priors, eight bishops, one lay brother, two nuns, eighteen English martyrs and two French martyrs.

In general, this large number of saints is composed of bishops and martyrs, in which case the Carthusian Order does not take part in the beatification and canonization process. In other cases, a “cause” never existed, and the declaration was decreed directly by the Pope. This is called “equivalent canonization” (equipollens canonizatio, in Latin). This is when the Pope recognizes that the veneration of a saint has existed in the Church since ancient times and without interruption.

The first Carthusian to be added to the calendar of saints was Saint Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln (England), who died in 1200 and was canonized in 1220. At the same time the celebration of Saint Hugh of Grenoble was also added. He was not a Carthusian monk but could still be considered a co-founder of the first Carthusian monastery. The beatification of Saint Bruno in 1515 naturally brought his inclusion in the calendar. His memorial went beyond the limits of the Order when he was canonized in 1623. In 1607 the memorial of Saint Anthelm, who convoked the first General Chapter of the Order in 1142, was added. And in 1745 was also added the memorial of Blessed Nicholas Albergati, an Italian Carthusian and bishop of the 15th century.

During the pontificate of Pius IX, nine Carthusian saints and blessed were incorporated into the calendar of the Order: Blessed John of Spain (initiator of the female branch of the Order), Saint Rosaline and Blessed Beatrice (French nuns of the 13th and 14th centuries), Saints Stephen and Artold, Blessed Ayrald (the latter three, together with Saint Anthelm, were monks in the French Carthusian monastery of Portes), Blessed William of Fenol (the only Carthusian monk in the calendar of saints who was neither a priest nor a martyr), Blessed Odo (of whom not much is known) and Blessed Boniface of Savoy (a Carthusian novice who never professed because he was appointed Bishop of Canterbury).

In 1887 Pope Leo XIII beatified the eighteen English Carthusians martyred under the reign of Henry VIII, and in 1894 the memorial of Blessed Lanuin, companion and successor of Saint Bruno in the Charterhouse of Calabria, was added to the calendar.

After the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI canonized saints John, Robert and Augustine, who belonged to the group of eighteen English martyrs beatified by Leo XIII. The three of them were the first of this group of English monks to be martyred, on 4 May, 1535. Finally, in 1995, two new blessed were added to the calendar of saints by John Paul II: Claude Beguignot and Lazarus Tiersot, martyred during the French Revolution.

In nine centuries of history some of these saints have been celebrated on different dates, sometimes depending on the monastery. This is why until recently there were several different Carthusian calendars. It was only three years ago that a unified calendar was approved for the whole Order. This Calendarium ad Usum Ordinis Cartusiensiswas approved on 30 November 2018 by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. This calendar prescribes the following celebrations:

JANUARY

3 Blessed Ayrald, Monk and Bishop (optional memorial)

14 Blessed Odo, Monk and Bishop (optional memorial)

FEBRUARY

4 Blessed Lanuin, Monk (optional memorial)

APRIL

22 Saint Hugh of Grenoble, Bishop (12 readings)

MAY

4 Saints JohnAugustineRobert and Blessed Companions, Monks and Martyrs (12 readings)

10 Blessed Nicholas Albergati, Monk and Bishop (optional memorial)

24 Blessed William of Fenol, Monk (12 readings)

JUNE

25 Blessed John of Spain, Monk (3 readings)

26 Saint Anthelm, Monk and Bishop (12 readings)

JULY

6 Saint Rosaline, Virgin and Nun (12 readings)

14 Blessed Boniface, Monk and Bishop (optional memorial)

16 Blessed Claudius and Lazarus, and other Carthusian Martyrs (3 readings)

AUGUST

5 Blessed William Horn, Monk and Martyr (3 readings)

SEPTEMBER

7 Saint Stephen, Monk and Bishop (optional memorial)

OCTOBER

6 Saint Bruno, Monk (solemnity)

8 Saint Artold, Monk and Bishop (optional memorial)

NOVEMBER

13 All the saints of the Carthusian Order, Monks and Nuns (12 readings)

14 The Departed Members of the Carthusian Order (3 readings)

17 Saint Hugh of Lincoln, Monk and Bishop (12 readings)

25 Blessed Beatrice, Virgin and Nun (3 readings)

Anyone familiar with the Roman Rite must have noticed that there are no «feasts» in this Carthusian calendar. Besides, there are celebrations called “3 readings” and “12 readings”, and the category “monk” and “nun”, which do not exist in the Roman Rite. It is worth mentioning here that the Carthusian Order has its own rite, both in the Mass and in the canonical hours. In the “memorials”, the saint is mentioned only in the final prayer. In the celebrations of “3 readings” there are more elements taken from the proper or the common rite. In the celebrations of “12 readings” and in the “solemnities”, the readings of “matins” (equivalent to the “office of readings” in the Roman Rite) are taken from the proper of saints. And, as the name suggests, there are twelve readings in these celebrations.

It is also worth mentioning that Blessed William Horn (celebrated on 5 August) is one of the eighteen English martyrs beatified by Leo XIII. He has his own celebration because he was the last of them to be martyred, on 4 August 1540. Finally, the “other Carthusian martyrs” mentioned in the Carthusian calendar on 16 July, together with Blessed Claude and Lazarus, are several other Carthusians killed because of their loyalty to the faith and the Church. They are:

*other Carthusians, victims of the French Revolution, not yet beatified;

*Dom Justus van Schoonhoven, sacristan of the Charterhouse of Delft (The Netherlands), martyred by Calvinists, in 1572;

*the monks of the Charterhouse of Roermond (The Netherlands), also martyred by Calvinists, in 1572;

*Six monks of Montalegre, killed in Barcelona during the Spanish civil war, in 1936;

*the twelve Carthusians of Farneta, near the city of Lucca, Italy, shot by a contingent of SS Nazis because they had given refuge to Jews and Italian partisans on the ‘wanted list’ of the German army, in 1944.

Author: Francisco Albarenque Rausch

Bibliography:

A Carthusian (2006). “Carthusian Saints”. Retrieved from Charterhouse of the Transfiguration (chartreux.org).

Calendarium ad Usum Ordinis Cartusiensis.

Clarós Blanch, P. (2020). tesisenred.net/handle/10803/669167

Escudero Mayo, J. (2000). “Santos y beatos de la Cartuja”. Retrieved from juanmayo.net

Painting:“Virgen de Las Cuevas” (by Francisco Zurbarán).

Other sources consulted:

A Carthusian of Cartuja San José (Argentina).

A Carthusian of St Hugh’s Charterhouse (United Kingdom).

Hace 10 años el Papa Benedicto XVI visitaba la Cartuja

Hoy se cumplen 10 años de la histórica visita de el Papa emérito Benedicto XVI a la Cartuja de Serra San Bruno, al sur de Italia, en la región de Calabria. Fue en aquella cartuja en donde San Bruno, padre fundador de la Orden, murió. Benedicto pronunció la homilía durante el rezo de Vísperas que a continuación transcribimos.

Venerados Hermanos en el Episcopado,
queridos hermanos cartujos,
hermanos y hermanas,

Doy gracias al Señor que me ha traído a este lugar de fe y de oración, la Cartuja de Serra San Bruno. Al renovar mi saludo reconocido a monseñor Vincenzo Bertolone, arzobispo de Catanzaro-Squillace, me dirijo con gran afecto a esta comunidad cartuja, a cada uno de sus miembros, a partir del Prior, padre Jacques Dupont, a quien doy las gracias de corazón por sus palabras, pidiéndole que haga llegar mi pensamiento grato y bendiciente al Ministro General y a las Monjas de la Orden.

Quisiera ante todo subrayar que esta visita mía se pone en continuidad con algunos signos de fuerte comunión entre la Sede Apostólica y la Orden Cartuja, que han tenido lugar durante el siglo pasado. En 1924 el Papa Pío XI emanó una Constitución Apostólica con la que aprobó los Estatutos de la Orden, revisados a la luz del Código de Derecho Canónico. En mayo de 1984, el beato Juan Pablo II dirigió al Ministro General una Carta especial, con ocasión del noveno centenario de la fundación por parte de san Bruno de la primera comunidad en la Chartreuse, cerca de Grenoble. El 5 de octubre de ese mismo año, mi amado Predecesor vino aquí, y el recuerdo de su paso entre estos muros está aún vivo. En la estela de estos acontecimiento pasados, pero siempre actuales, vengo hoy a vosotros, y quisiera que este encuentro nuestro pusiera de relieve un vínculo profundo que existe entre Pedro y Bruno, entre el servicio pastoral a la unidad de la Iglesia y la vocación contemplativa en la Iglesia. La comunión eclesial de hecho necesita una fuerza interior, esa fuerza que hace poco el padre prior recordaba citando la expresión «captus ab Uno», referida a san Bruno: «aferrado por el Uno», por Dios, «Unus potens per omnia«, como hemos cantado en el himno de las Vísperas. El ministerio de los pastores toma de las comunidades contemplativas una linfa espiritual que viene de Dios.

«Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare«: abandonar las realidades fugitivas e intentar aferrar lo eterno. En esta expresión de la carta que vuestro Fundador dirigió al Preboste de Reims, Rodolfo, se encierra el núcleo de vuestra espiritualidad (cfr Carta a Rodolfo, 13): el fuerte deseo de entrar en unión de vida con Dios, abandonando todo lo demás, todo aquello que impide esta comunión y dejándose aferrar por el inmenso amor de Dios para vivir sólo de este amor. Queridos hermanos, vosotros habéis encontrado el tesoro escondido, la perla de gran valor (cfr Mt 13,44-46); habéis respondido con radicalidad a la invitación de Jesús: “Si quieres ser perfecto, le dijo Jesús ve, vende todo lo que tienes y dalo a los pobres: así tendrás un tesoro en el cielo. Después, ven y sígueme» (Mt 19,21). Todo monasterio – masculino o femenino – es un oasis en el que, con la oración y la meditación, se excava incesantemente el pozo profundo del que tomar el “agua viva” para nuestra sed más profunda. Pero la Cartuja es un oasis especial, donde el silencio y la soledad son custodiados con particular cuidado, según la forma de vida iniciada por san Bruno y que ha permanecido sin cambios en el curso de los siglos. “Habito en el desierto con los hermanos”, es la frase sintética que escribía vuestro Fundador (Carta a Rodolfo, 4). La visita del Sucesor de Pedro a esta histórica Cartuja pretende confirmar no sólo a vosotros, que vivís aquí, sino a toda la Orden en su misión, de lo más actual y significativa en el mundo de hoy.

El Papa Benedicto XVI en la cartuja de San Bruno (Calabria)

El progreso técnico, especialmente en el campo de los transportes y de las comunicaciones, ha hecho la vida del hombre más confortable, pero también más agitada, a veces convulsa. Las ciudades son casi siempre ruidosas: raramente hay silencio en ellas, porque un ruido de fondo permanece siempre, en algunas zonas también de noche. En las últimas décadas, además, el desarrollo de los medios de comunicación ha difundido y amplificado un fenómeno que ya se perfilaba en los años Sesenta: la virtualidad, que corre el riesgo de dominar sobre la realidad. Cada vez más, incluso sin darse cuenta, las personas están inmersas en una dimensión virtual a causa de mensajes audiovisuales que acompañan su vida de la mañana a la noche. Los más jóvenes, que han nacido ya en esta condición, parecen querer llenar de música y de imágenes cada momento vacío, casi por el miedo de sentir, precisamente, este vacío. Se trata de una tendencia que siempre ha existido, especialmente entre los jóvenes y en los contextos urbanos más desarrollados, pero hoy ha alcanzado un nivel tal que se habla de mutación antropológica. Algunas personas ya no son capaces de quedarse durante mucho rato en silencio y en soledad.

He querido aludir a esta condición sociocultural, porque esta pone de relieve el carisma específico de la Cartuja, como un don precioso para la Iglesia y para el mundo, un don que contiene un mensaje profundo para nuestra vida y para toda la humanidad. Lo resumiría así: retirándose en el silencio y en la soledad, el hombre, por así decirlo, se “expone” a la realidad de su desnudez, se expone a ese aparente “vacío” que señalaba antes, para experimentar en cambio la Plenitud, la presencia de Dios, de la Realidad más real que exista, y que está más allá de la dimensión sensible. Es una presencia perceptible en toda criatura: en el aire que respiramos, en la luz que vemos y que nos calienta, en la hierba, en las piedras… Dios, Creator omnium, atraviesa todo, pero está más allá, y precisamente por esto es el fundamento de todo. El monje, dejando todo, por así decirlo, “se arriesga”, se expone a la soledad y al silencio para no vivir de otra cosa más que de lo esencial, y precisamente viviendo de lo esencial encuentra también una profunda comunión con los hermanos, con cada hombre.

Alguno podría pensar que sea suficiente con venir aquí para dar este “salto”. Pero no es así. Esta vocación, como toda vocación, encuentra respuesta en un camino, en la búsqueda de toda una vida. No basta, de hecho, con retirarse a un lugar como éste para aprender a estar en la presencia de Dios. Como en el matrimonio, no basta con celebrar el Sacramento para convertirse en una cosa sola, sino que es necesario dejar que la gracia de Dios actúe y recorrer juntos la cotidianeidad de la vida conyugal, así el llegar a ser monjes requiere tiempo, ejercicio, paciencia, “en una perseverante vigilancia divina – como afirmaba san Bruno – esperando el regreso del Señor para abrirle inmediatamente la puerta» (Carta a Rodolfo, 4); y precisamente en esto consiste la belleza de toda vocación en la Iglesia: dar tiempo a Dios de actuar con su Espíritu y a la propia humanidad de formarse, de crecer según la medida de la madurez de Cristo, en ese particular estado de vida. En Cristo está el todo, la plenitud; necesitamos tiempo para hacer nuestra una de las dimensiones de su misterio. Podríamos decir que éste es un camino de transformación en el que se realiza y se manifiesta el misterio de la resurrección de Cristo en nosotros, misterio al que nos ha remitido esta tarde la Palabra de Dios en la lectura bíblica, tomada de la Carta a los Romanos: el Espíritu Santo, que resucitó a Jesús de entre los muertos, y que dará la vida también a nuestros cuerpos mortales (cfr Rm 8,11), es Aquel que realiza también nuestra configuración a Cristo según la vocación de cada uno, un camino que discurre desde la fuente bautismal hasta la muerte, paso hacia la casa del Padre. A veces, a los ojos del mundo, parece imposible permanecer durante toda la vida en un monasterio, pero en realidad toda una vida es apenas suficiente para entrar en esta unión con Dios, en esa Realidad esencial y profunda que es Jesucristo.

¡Por esto he venido aquí, queridos hermanos que formáis la comunidad cartuja de Serra San Bruno! Para deciros que la Iglesia os necesita, y que vosotros necesitáis a la Iglesia. Vuestro lugar no es marginal: ninguna vocación es marginal en el Pueblo de Dios: somos un único cuerpo, en el que cada miembro es importante y tiene la misma dignidad, y es inseparable del todo. También vosotros, que vivís en un aislamiento voluntario, estáis en realidad en el corazón de la Iglesia, y hacéis correr por sus venas la sangre pura de la contemplación y del amor de Dios.

Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis – así reza vuestro lema. La Cruz de Cristo es el punto firme, en medio de los cambios y de las vicisitudes del mundo. La vida en una Cartuja participa de la estabilidad de la Cruz, que es la de Dios, de su amor fiel. Permaneciendo firmemente unidos a Cristo, como sarmientos a la Vid, también vosotros, hermanos cartujos, estáis asociados a su misterio de salvación, como la Virgen María, que junto a la Cruz stabat, unida al Hijo en la misma oblación de amor. Así, como María y junto con ella, también vosotros estáis insertos profundamente en el misterio de la Iglesia, sacramento de unión de los hombres con Dios y entre sí. En esto vosotros estáis también singularmente cercanos a mi ministerio. Vele por tanto sobre nosotros la Madre Santísima de la Iglesia, y que el santo padre Bruno bendiga siempre desde el cielo a vuestra comunidad.

¿Se convirtió San Bruno por las palabras de un muerto?

Poco antes de morir Teresa de Lisieux le dijo a una de sus hermanas de sangre: “Si los santos volvieran a la Tierra, la mayoría no se reconocería por lo que decimos y lo que escribimos sobre ellos.”

Hoy celebraremos la solemnidad de San Bruno de Colonia, fundador de la Orden de los cartujos, fallecido el 6 de octubre de 1101. Una de las cosas en las cuales seguramente este santo no se reconocería en absoluto es en la leyenda que nació en torno a su conversión y vocación. Esta leyenda aparece por primera vez en forma escrita hacia el año 1300, 200 años luego de la muerte del santo, y dice así:

Funeral de Raymond Diocrès, detalle de «Escenas de la vida de san Bruno y de la orden la Cartuja» – (Escuela alemana, c1490-1500 Gemäldegalerie, Berlín)

Falleció en París un famoso doctor. En sus funerales de cuerpo presente y con asistencia de la Universidad, se incorporó el difunto para exclamar: —Por justo juicio de Dios soy acusado. Al día siguiente se repitió el portento con nueva exclamación: —Por justo juicio de Dios soy juzgado. Y al tercer día, ante una multitud espantada, gritó: —Por justo juicio de Dios soy condenado. Estaba presente Maestro Bruno con varios amigos. Fuertemente impresionado, arengó a sus compañeros y con seis de ellos se retiró a la soledad.

Uno de los argumentos más fuertes contra la historicidad de este relato es que la Universidad de París fue fundada en 1150. Nunca hubo una universidad en París durante la vida del santo.

Otro argumento, no menos fuerte que el anterior, es el silencio que el mismo san Bruno conserva acerca de estos hechos en las cartas que de él se conservan, que son dos. En una de ellas incluso le recuerda al remitente, su amigo Raúl, cómo en realidad nace su vocación a la soledad de la Cartuja:

¿Te acuerdas, amigo mío, del día en que nos encontrábamos juntos tú y yo con Fulcuyo le Borgne en el jardincillo contiguo a la casa de Adam, donde entonces me hospedaba? Hablamos, según creo, un buen rato de los falsos atractivos del mundo, de sus riquezas perecederas y de los goces de la vida eterna. Entonces, ardiendo en amor divino, prometimos, hicimos voto y decidimos abandonar en breve las sombras fugaces del siglo para captar los bienes eternos, y recibir el hábito monástico.

Tampoco mencionan el hecho quienes sobre él escribieron luego de su muerte en el “rollo de los sufragios”. Este “rollo” es una recopilación de 178 mensajes que escribieron diferentes contemporáneos del santo, de diversas partes de Europa. Por último, nada se menciona de esta espectacular conversión en la primera biografía que se escribe de San Bruno, en el año 1136:

El Maestro Bruno, alemán de nación, de la célebre ciudad de Colonia, nacido de conocida familia, muy instruido en letras profanas y divinas, canónigo de la iglesia de Reims —primera sede de las Galias— y su maestrescuela, abandonando el mundo, fundó el desierto de Cartuja y lo rigió seis años. Mandado por el papa Urbano, del que antes había sido maestro, marchó a la Curia para ayudar al mismo Pontífice con su apoyo y consejo. Pero no pudiendo resistir la agitación y costumbre de la Curia, ardiendo en deseos de la soledad y quietud perdidas, dejó la Curia, rechazó el arzobispado de Reggio, para el cual por voluntad del Papa había sido elegido, y se retiró al yermo de Calabria llamado la Torre. Reunidos allí numerosos laicos y clérigos, llevó a cabo, mientras vivió, su programa de vida solitaria. Y allí murió y fue enterrado, unos once años después de dejar Cartuja.

“La conversión de San Bruno ante el cadáver de Diocres” (por Vicente Carducho)

No solo en la época medieval la leyenda sobre su conversión fue repetida como un dogma por poetas, hagiógrafos y artistas. Incluso hoy todavía se repite. Pero la verdad es austera, como la vida de un cartujo. No tiene nada de espectacular. Hoy, día de san Bruno, tenemos una buena oportunidad para comenzar a prescindir en nuestra espiritualidad de tantas leyendas que rodean muchas veces las vidas de los santos. De buscar la verdad se trata. Y la verdad nos hace libres.

Fuentes:
Maestro Bruno, padre de monjes (por un Cartujo) Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos – Madrid, 1980.

Cita de Santa Teresa de Lisieux: Carmelite Authors 101: St. Thérèse of Lisieux – YouTube

San Hugo y el Día Internacional del Alzheimer

El 21 de septiembre se celebra el Día Internacional del Alzheimer. San Hugo de Grenoble, obispo que ayudara a fundar en su diócesis la Orden cediendo los yermos terrenos de la Cartuja a San Bruno y sus seis compañeros, también sufrió esta enfermedad antes de su muerte.

Murió cuando le faltaban dos meses para los 80 años. Algún tiempo atrás lo olvidó todo, su memoria se apagó fruto de la demencia senil (alzhéimer). Tan sólo recordaba salmos y el padrenuestro.

San Hugo pasó el último periodo de su vida recitando el salterio y repitiendo padrenuestros, es decir rezando en su propia soledad, lo que él siempre anheló y en parte no pudo hacer debido a la responsabilidad de su cargo.

Sufrió muchos achaques de salud a lo largo de su vida, pero siempre supo llevarlos como verdaderos “regalos de Dios”. Trastornos gástricos que le producían dolores y le impedían digerir los alimentos. Un dolor de cabeza continuo por más de 40 años (que no lo sabían sino su médico y su director espiritual y que nadie podía sospechar porque su semblante era siempre alegre y de buen humor). Los malos pensamientos que  rodearon toda su vida haciéndolo sufrir muchísimo, pero sin lograr que los consintiera; y al final de su vida la artritis que le producía dolores inmensos y continuos pero nadie se daba cuenta porque sabía colocar una muralla de sonrisas.

El sueño de san Hugo de Grenoble

El calendario cartujano celebra hoy a San Hugo, obispo de Grenoble (Francia), quien podría considerarse, junto a San Bruno, co-fundador del primer monasterio cartujo. Hugo nació en Châteauneuf-sur-Isère hacia el año 1053. Manifiesta desde su joven edad una piedad extraordinaria y una gran facilidad para la teología. Siendo aún laico fue investido como canónigo de Valence. Debido a su fama de piadoso, en el Concilio de Aviñón de 1080, fue elegido obispo, aún sin haber estado ordenado, con 26 años. A pesar de su oposición, que en Roma se atribuye a una excesiva humildad, es ordenado obispo por Gregorio VII. Fue obispo de Grenoble hasta que muriese con 79 años, el 1 de abril de 1132.

San Hugo duerme junto a su mitra de obispo. Su sueño: siete estrella en el cielo. Pintura de Vicente Carducho.

La vida de San Hugo siempre está asociada a la Orden de la Cartuja. Fue en el año 1084 cuando recibió a San Bruno con sus seis compañeros en su diócesis con la intención de retirarse del mundo. Aquellos siete monjes fundarían la Orden, cuyo fin principal sería alabar a Dios en la soledad.

Cuenta la leyenda que San Hugo tuvo un sueño premonitorio de aquella visita. Soñó que siete estrellas en el firmamento (símbolo iconográfico muy habitual en la Orden), que representaban a los siete hombres que buscaban la soledad. Hugo los condujo por un laberinto de montañas escarpadas de su diócesis, hasta un desierto de rocas y de pinos, llamado Chartreuse (Cartuja). Ahí, construyeron cabañas de madera y un oratorio de piedra. Un pobre refugio de donde nació la Grande Chartreuse (Gran Cartuja). Desde hace unos 9 siglos, en ese mismo lugar, la Orden sigue viva, iluminando el cielo como aquellas siete estrellas lo hicieran en el sueño de San Hugo.

Así fue como Hugo ayudó a fundar la comunidad eremítica de la Cartuja en aquellos parajes yermos e inhóspitos. Desde entonces éste siempre se asociaría al orden.

Dibujos del s. XV sobre la fundación de la Cartuja: el sueño, la llegada de San Bruno y sus compañeros, la elección del lugar y la fundación (A Carthusian miscellany of poems, chronicles, and treatises... British Library)
The Carthusian Miscellany (Religious Prose and Verse) in Northern English, including an epitome (summary) of Mandeville’s travels. F22.

Al final de su vida la artritis le producía dolores inmensos y continuos pero nadie se daba cuenta de que estaba sufriendo, porque sabía colocar una muralla de sonrisas para que nadie supiera los dolores que estaba padeciendo por amor a Dios y salvación de las almas.

Murió cuando le faltaban dos meses para los 80 años. Algún tiempo atrás lo olvidó todo, su memoria se apagó fruto de la demencia senil. Tan sólo recordaba los salmos y el Padrenuestro. Tras su muerte fue canonizado rápidamente, tan sólo dos años después de su muerte. Fue el 22 de abril de 1134 por el Papa Inocencio II. Es por ello que su memoria se celebra mañana.

En el escudo de la Orden Cartuja figuran, sobre una Cruz en el Mundo, siete estrellas que simbolizan el
sueño de San Hugo
.
Una frase envuelve todo ello, en latín “Stat Crux dum voltitur orbis”, que significa: “La Cruz
permanece mientras el mundo gira”

Miércoles de ceniza

Cuarenta días antes del Domingo de Ramos, inicio de la Semana de Pasión, se celebra el Miércoles de Ceniza, primer día de la Cuaresma.

Es una fecha móvil en el calendario litúrgico en la que se impone ceniza en forma de cruz sobre la cabeza de los fieles mientras el sacerdote utiliza alguna de las siguientes frases de la Biblia:

«Concédenos, Señor, el perdón y haznos pasar del pecado a la gracia y de la muerte a la vida» (Gén. 3:19)

«Recuerda que polvo eres y en polvo te convertirás» (Gn. 3,19)

«Arrepiéntete y cree en el Evangelio» (Mc. 1,14-15)

Es una vieja costumbre de penitencia y duelo la de cubrirse la cabeza con ceniza. Los judíos y pueblos del Próximo Oriente lo hacían como gesto de luto, de muerte y de  espera en otra vida, de arrepentimiento y de sacrificio. Qué es la cuaresma sino un tiempo de espera y de preparación.

En los primeros siglos de la Iglesia, las personas que querían recibir el Sacramento de la Reconciliación el Jueves Santo, se ponían ceniza en la cabeza. En el año 384 d.C., la Cuaresma adquirió un sentido penitencial para todos los cristianos y desde el siglo XI, la Iglesia de Roma solía poner las cenizas al iniciar los 40 días de penitencia y conversión.

La ceniza procede de la quema de las palmas y ramas de olivos del Domingo de Ramos del año anterior, conservadas para tal rito. De acuerdo a la tradición, esto recuerda que lo que fue, signo de gloria, pronto se reduce a nada. En la tumba barroca del Papa Alejandro VII, Bernini esculpió a un Papa arrodillado y sin tiara pontificia, penitente y despojado de riquezas, con el lema mortuorio de: «Sic transit Gloria mundi» (Así pasa la Gloria del mundo), que señala lo efímero de los triunfos.

También la ceniza es símbolo de que vamos a morir (memento mori), que nos convertiremos en polvo… por lo que hemos de vivir en paz y armonía para con Dios, para con los hombres y para con nosotros mismos.

Los cartujos, inmersos en el recogimiento que durante estos días reina, dan un paso más en su austeridad. Tanto en adviento como en cuaresma, días de preparación respectivamente, prescinde en su dieta habitual (en la que la carne ya está suprimida) de los lácteos. Además, sólo toman pan y agua los viernes, como casi el resto del año.

Bodegón «Pan y agua»

Bodegón «Pan y agua»

Como dice un amigo: «Tiempo fuerte para profundizar en nuestra relación personal con el mismo Jesús»

Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas

Hoy he visto una imagen de San Bruno que portaba un libro, símbolo en este caso de fundador de la Orden, los Estatutos, más que de Doctor de la Iglesia. En él, junto al dibujo de una calavera, símbolo de la muerte, de lo perecedero, del tiempo que se va y no vuelve, se podía leer en latín la siguiente frase del Eclesiastés (1:2):

 Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas

 Vanidad de vanidades, todo es vanidad. Un claro mensaje el que manda San Bruno… la inutilidad de los placeres mundanos frente a una gran certeza: estamos aquí de paso buscando la unión con Dios. La muerte alcanza a todos y hemos de vivirla de forma íntegra a nuestros valores. ¡¡¡Tempus fugit!!!

Detalle de la imagen de San Bruno

Detalle de la imagen de San Bruno

Precisamente ayer me hablaban del sufrimiento que todo apego, deseo o ambición lleva consigo implícito; sufrimos cuando la frustración aparece, cuando las cosas no salen como uno espera, cuando nos apegamos a algo como si fuera nuestro sin serlo… y la principal consecuencia aparece: desosiego en el alma (ansiedad le llamarían otros). No hay muchas soluciones… sólo el desapego, contemplar que la vida es fugaz, que todo está en permanente cambio: el aire que respiramos, así como el día pasa a la noche, o un árbol hoy será distinto a como  mañana lo veremos… el viento o las olas del mar que pasan y ya nunca más volverá a pasar la misma. Las personas cambiamos cada día, envejecemos, evolucionamos… nada es perenne… sólo Dios permanece, saber que “Dios no se muda” que decía en un poema Santa Teresa de Ávila, es la solución.

¿Qué es la vanidad? Encuentro esta definición: “se define como un tipo de arrogancia, engreimiento, una expresión exagerada de la soberbia. De acuerdo a la teología cristiana clásica, la vanidad consiste en depositar la confianza en forma excluyente en las cosas mundanas, lo que hace que el hombre no necesite de Dios. Es considerado muy a menudo como el «vicio maestro»”.

Meditemos cuántas veces sobrevaloramos innecesariamente a algo o a alguien.

Ama a Dios y a tu prójimo como a ti mismo. Será lo que permanezca.

Tortilla cartujana

La historia de la tortilla es posiblemente tan antigua como el del hombre mismo, por la simplicidad de sus ingredientes y por su fácil preparación. Ya Hernán Cortés hablaba de su existencia en la América precolombina: “Venden huevos de gallinas y de ánsares, y de todas las otras aves que he dicho, en gran cantidad; venden tortillas de huevos hechas. Finalmente, que en los dichos mercados se venden todas cuantas cosas se hallan en toda la tierra…”

Hay varios orígenes de la expresión “tortilla francesa”, pero todas y cada una de ellas derivan de la Guerra de Independencia, aquella en las que las tropas de Napoleón invadieron España allá por el 1808.

Se dice que las tropas francesas durante su invasión robaron y expoliaron todo cuanto pudieron, sin respetar nada.  Entre aquellos robos se llevaron los recetarios de la Orden de la Cartuja, popularizándose la receta en Francia (la famosa omelette, de ahí la variante de la mantequilla), y tiempo después, cuando la receta regresó a España se le empezó a llamar “francesa” que sonaba más exótico qué “cartujana”, a pesar de que éstos fueran… sino los inventores, sí los grandes promotores de este plato.

Con toda seguridad lo que hoy llamamos “tortilla francesa” es lo que conocieron nuestros antepasados bajo el piadoso y cenobítico nombre de “tortilla cartujana”, pues ésta nació en las cocinas de la Orden. Plato austero, recurrente y proteínico, en perfecta simbiosis con la filosofía de la comunidad y que además complementa perfectamente con la dieta cartujana exenta de carne.

Cartuja

El refectorio… reflejo de la Orden.

 RECETA

Los ingredientes son básicos (para 1 persona):

 -2 huevos

-Aceite o mantequilla

-Sal

-Perejil

 El secreto siempre está en batir bien los huevos, ya que de esa manera se ahorra y queda más esponjosa:

Cuatro huevos en un convento, bien batidos hacen ciento.

Después, se añade una pizca de perejil fresco picado muy finamente y la sal al gusto. A continuación se vierte en la sartén caliente, la cual tendrá un poco de aceite o de mantequilla (otras variantes hablan de mezclarlo todo primero). Tortilla viene del latín torta: “voltear”, así que se procede a doblar la tortilla sobre ella misma hasta que cuaje, como si fuese un hábito de monje, doblando igualmente una de las puntas de la tortilla para formar la capucha (seguramente esta presentación sea un guiño actual).

Pan cartujano en el Panishop.

Hace un tiempo descubrí pan cartujano en una panadería. Se trata de una franquicia española instalada en algunas capitales de provincia, es: Panishop. Se dedica al estudio y elaboración del pan desde las más diversas variedades; también apuestan por los dulces y  la bollería típica de cada región.

Pan cartujano

El pan es un alimento imprescindible para la dieta mediterránea, y como no para la dieta de un cartujo;  es más, muchos días, generalmente los viernes por ser el día de la Pasión de Cristo,  sólo se alimentan de él por mortificación. Dicen los estatutos: “Los monjes del claustro hacen una abstinencia semanal, generalmente el viernes. Ese día se contentan con pan y agua. En ciertos tiempos y días hacen ayuno de Orden, en el que tienen una sola comida.

El pan en la tienda

No tenemos constancia de que los cartujos elaboraran un tipo de pan único para su orden, pero la referida franquicia (por razones o no de marketing) dice al respecto: “El Pan Cartujano es una especialidad tradicional andaluza, que ha sido posteriormente extendida por toda la geografía española. Su masa dura con miga regular y apretada, se caracteriza por un inconfundible olor y excelente sabor, debido a las cualidades que le aporta el haber sido elaborada al estilo tradicional sin levadura y con masa madre natural.”

Se vende en hogazas de 300 gramos, cantidad perfecta para su uso individual y diario, de ahí más lo de pan cartujano; está elaborado con harinas de trigo y trigo malteado. Sinceramente está exquisito.

Cartel publicitario

 

La cartuja de Monegros y la basílica de la Virgen del Pilar en Zaragoza

En mi último viaje visité la Basílica de Ntra. Sra. del Pilar en Zaragoza, la volvía a visitar después de quince años. Es cierto que la madurez que te dan los años y la perspectiva de la vida te hace verla diferente…pero sin duda me volvió a impresionar tanto o más de como entonces lo hizo.

En esta ocasión, algo preparada la visita, quería observar, palpar y saborear la basílica. Para conseguirlo nada mejor que escaparse “uno consigo mismo”, para ir despacio y poder escuchar cada piedra.

Escribo esta entrada por la Capilla de Santiago de la Comunión, situada casi enfrente de la Santa Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, ya que la imagen del apóstol titular está alojada en un bonito templete circular que perteneció en otro tiempo a la cartuja de  Nuestra Señora de las Fuentes, más conocida como la cartuja de Monegros, en el término municipal de Sariñena, en la comarca de Monegros, provincia de Huesca.

Aquella cartuja, hoy en manos privadas y muy lastimada por el tiempo, fue construida  en el siglo XVIII en estilo barroco, tal y como es el templete al que nos referimos.

Fue fundada en 1507 por los condes de Sástago, D. Beatriz de Luna y D. Blasco de Aragón, con el fin de enterrar allí a su hijo don Artal. El clima, la tierra yerma y la desaparición de sus benefactores… hizo que los monjes abandonasen este primer asentamiento para instalarse en lo que años después sería, desde 1563, la Cartuja de Aula Dei, en las proximidades de Zaragoza.  La suerte lo le fue favorable a esta cartuja. Vendida a la orden de los carmelitas en 1565, pero en 1589 los cartujos tuvieron que volver a ella y retomar sus antiguas celdas, ya que era necesario para poder hacerse cargo de una herencia ligada a la fundación.

 Si la orden se caracteriza por su pobreza y austeridad, fueron tiempos de mayor escasez si cabe, de dificultades por los escasos recursos económicos. Fue en 1717 cuando los excedentes pudieron hacer mejoras, y se empezó a construir una nueva cartuja en mejor lugar y con mejores condiciones, hecho que se prolongaría a lo largo del s. XVIII.

 Si ya había sufrido esta cartuja durante la Guerra de Independencia (1808-1814) o el Trienio Liberal (1820-1823), fue la desamortización de Mendizábal (1836) la que puso la puntilla e hijo desaparecer a la orden de esta cartuja para siempre, pues sus monjes tuvieron que abandonarla tal y como sucedía en otro lugares, pasando de este modo a manos particulares. Desde 2002 es Conjunto Histórico-Artístico y Bien de Interés Cultural.

Por las fechas de construcción sabemos que las obras que allí se encontraban eran barrocas, así como las pinturas murales que aún se pueden ver, realizadas por el  cartujo Manuel Bayeu (1740-1809), hermano del pintor Francisco Bayeu y cuñado de Goya. Entre ella el templete, objeto de nuestra entrada.

Desconocemos cómo el referido templete llegó a la basílica de El Pilar en Zaragoza; hay que suponer que en el momento de la desamortización el cabildo decidiría su traslado o compra. Fue construido por Carlos Salas Viraseca (1728-1780), escultor español de gusto neoclásico que también hizo las obras de la Santa Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Pilar y de la catedral de Huesca entre otras.

El templete es barroco clasicista y se cubre con una cúpula calada, como sucede en la Santa Capilla que alberga la imagen de la Virgen del Pilar dentro de la basílica. Aunque estuvo decorado con veinte imágenes, solo quedan cuatro esculturas sedentes de los Padres de la Iglesia policromadas. La estatua de Santiago titular se debe a Carlos Palao y Otrubia (1857-1934), escultor zaragozano, al igual que las cuatro imágenes exentas de los ángulos del pequeño baldaquino.

Desde el silencio de la cartuja, bienvenido seas

Amigo en este camino que es la vida, bienvenido:

Hoy es 6 de octubre de 2012, festividad de San Bruno, fundador de la orden monástica de la Cartuja; con la esperanza de que halles aquí sosiego para tu alma o la información que necesites, te saludo e invito a que leas estas letras que escribo para ti.

Es casi imposible captar en unos instantes la esencia espiritual de los monjes y monjas que un día decidieron seguir los pasos de este santo, aquellos que un día se desprendieron de este mundo para comenzar una nueva vida en solitario y dedicarse plenamente a la alabanza de Dios; máxime en estos tiempos que se premia el laicismo y que la sociedad busca en otras culturas exóticas las respuestas a sus inquietudes espirituales; ahora que se fomenta en consumismo y se valora lo inmediato…   Por este motivo nace este blog que pretende mostrar, sin ninguna pretensión, unos valores firmes y anclados en la paz que esta Orden irradia desde hace más de nueve siglos.

Estas letras, querido lector que la voluntad caprichosa de Internet te ha traído hasta aquí,  no proceden del interior de los muros de una cartuja… más bien salen desde la agitada rueda de la vida, vida que nos espolea a depender de unos intereses banales  creados, ya sea por nosotros mismos ya por la sociedad, la cual nos empuja a olvidarnos del porqué de nuestra verdadera existencia.

Parafraseando un escrito cartujano: «El hombre que busca sentido a su vida, el que busca a Dios encontrará aquí el alimento para continuar su camino». No pretende más mi anónima intención, compartir la riqueza espiritual que he descubierto de la mano de estos hombres.

 Laus Deo

En el silencio de la cartuja

San Bruno (por Francisco Rivalta)

Amigo,

Quien quiera que seas, a quien los azares del Internet han conducido hasta aquí, eres bienvenido. Aquí no encontrarás nada o poco de lo que el mundo actual aprecia.

«Sólo en el silencio más absoluto se empieza a oír.»

La Cartuja y el Papa

Hace unos días recordamos el aniversario de la fundación del primer monasterio cartujo, el 24 de junio de 1084, en el macizo de Chartreuse (Francia), por parte de San Bruno y seis compañeros. Y hoy, 29 de junio, celebramos la solemnidad de los santos Apóstoles Pedro y Pablo, martirizados en Roma. A Pedro se lo recuerda por ser el primer Papa, y es por eso que a este día también se lo llama «el día del Papa».

Visita de san Bruno al Papa Urbano II (Zurbarán)

No parece ser casualidad que el aniversario de la fundación de la Orden y el día del Papa sean días tan cercanos. Es más bien un signo de la cercanía que existe entre la Orden y la Sede de Pedro desde sus orígenes. De hecho, por obediencia al papa Urbano II, en el año 1090, San Bruno deja el recientemente fundado monasterio en Chartreuse para convertirse en asesor del Santo Padre en Roma.

Al parecer San Bruno no termina de adaptarse al ambiente curial. De hecho, al año de llegar a Roma, en 1091, Urbano II le concede a san Bruno poder retirarse y vivir una vida totalmente eremítica. Le puso una sola condición: que no se vaya de Italia, para poder así seguir contando con su asesoramiento. Es entonces que San Bruno funda la Cartuja de Serra San Bruno. Y luego de diez años, allí muere.

Papa Juan Pablo II en la Cartuja de Serra San Bruno (1984)

Años más tarde esta segunda Cartuja pasaría a ser un monasterio cisterciense. Pero en 1514, año de la beatificación de San Bruno, el monasterio pasa a ser nuevamente una casa de la Orden Cartujana. Es en esta cartuja en donde se conservan las reliquias de San Bruno. Y entre quienes han ido a venerarlas se destacan dos papas: San Juan Pablo II (en 1984) y el Papa Benedicto XVI (en 2011).

Papa Benedicto XVI reza las Vísperas en la Cartujade Serra San Bruno (2011)

Por último, cabe mencionar que el 3 de junio de 2014 el Papa Francisco escribió una carta a Dom François-Marie Velut, entonces General de la Orden, con ocasión de los 500 años de la beatificación de San Bruno. En esta carta decía acerca del santo:

Doy gracias a Dios por esta hermosa y radiante figura, cuya vida, rica en Evangelio, sigue siendo una inspiración para los hombres y mujeres que desean seguir a Jesús de manera especial mediante la oración, y que se ofrecen por la salvación del mundo.

¡Ya han pasado cinco siglos desde que León X, observando la devoción de tantos fieles hacia el siervo de Dios Bruno, decidió incluirlo en el calendario litúrgico! Aún hoy, toda su existencia, toda ella dedicada a la búsqueda asidua de Dios y a la comunión con Él, sigue siendo una estrella brillante en el horizonte, para la Iglesia y el mundo.

Saludo con especial afecto y admiración a las hijas e hijos espirituales de este gran santo. Su consagración religiosa señala poderosa y bellamente al pueblo de este tiempo la fe en Dios revelada en Jesucristo como la verdadera y única luz «capaz de iluminar toda la existencia humana (…). La fe es luz que viene del futuro, que nos desvela vastos horizontes, y nos lleva más allá de nuestro ‘yo’ aislado, hacia la más amplia comunión.» (Lumen Fidei nº 4)

Recordando la memorable visita de Benedicto XVI a la Cartuja de Serra San Bruno en 2011, hago mías las palabras de mi predecesor al reiterar que la situación sociocultural actual, caracterizada a veces por el ruido y otras veces por la soledad individualista, «el carisma específico de la Cartuja se pone de relieve como un don precioso para la Iglesia y para el mundo, un don que contiene un mensaje profundo para nuestra vida y para toda la humanidad.» (Homilía del Papa Benedicto XVI en la Cartuja de Serra San Bruno, 9 de octubre de 2011)

Animando a los monjes y monjas a renovar su vida ofreciéndola al Señor, confío la Orden Cartujana a la maternal solicitud de la Santísima Virgen María y de San Bruno, y les concedo de buen grado una especial bendición apostólica.

Recemos en este día por la salud y las intenciones del Papa Francisco y por la unidad de la Iglesia.

El Papa Francisco bendice un ícono de San Bruno

Fuente: Cartusia Lover

26 de junio: San Antelmo (monje y obispo)

Antelmo de Chignin nació en una familia noble de Saboya (Francia) en 1107. Fue primero preboste de la catedral de Ginebra y canónigo de la catedral de Belley. Sin embargo, por la gracia de Dios, se negó a encontrar su alegría en estas posesiones exteriores y en la gloria humana. Tenía un hermano que era procurador en la Cartuja de Portes. Las conversaciones con su hermano y con el Prior lo convencieron de la excelencia de la abnegación cristiana en la vida monástica. Entró en la Cartuja de Portes en 1136 o 1137 y pronto superó a los demás monjes del lugar en las virtudes monásticas.

El Papa Alejandro III consagra a Anthelm de Chignin como obispo de Belley (Carducho)

Esto llegó a oídos del superior de la Gran Cartuja, Guigo, que pidió al prior de Portes que enviara a Antelmo a la casa madre, donde una avalancha había matado a siete monjes poco antes. Así pues, Antelmo profesó en la Gran Cartuja.

Cuando Guigo fue sucedido por Hugo, Antelmo fue nombrado procurador. Aceptó humildemente este cargo, aunque no sintió ninguna atracción por él, y cumplió con su función con mucho provecho para la Casa pero sin descuidar sus propias necesidades espirituales.

En 1139, cuando se necesitaba un nuevo prior, la comunidad, por unanimidad, eligió a Antelmo. Durante su priorato reconstruyó la casa madre en un lugar menos expuesto a las avalanchas. Pero su principal empeño fue el progreso espiritual de la comunidad, que pronto experimentó su firmeza, ternura, sabiduría y humildad. Visitaba con frecuencia a sus monjes en sus celdas y la dulzura de sus palabras llenaba de paz sus corazones. Los enfermos, tanto en el cuerpo como en el alma, tuvieron el interés particular de su cuidado paternal.

Tenía un don especial para poner remedio a las tentaciones y para animar a los desanimados. En cuanto a los que eran muy buenos en la vida espiritual, los juzgaba dignos de todos los honores. Les daba todas las pruebas de perfecta estima, llegando incluso a cederles el paso y a ponerse de pie en su presencia.

Fue durante su mandato cuando los Priores de las otras Cartujas expresaron el deseo de una organización más estable y estructurada de la Orden en la forma de un Capítulo General anual. Antelmo se mostró abierto a ello y acogió el primer Capítulo General en la Gran Cartuja en 1140. Después de la fundación de San Bruno (1084) y de las Consuetudines escritas por Guigo (1121-1128), este primer Capítulo General fue como un «tercer punto de partida» para la Orden Cartujana.

Cartuja de Portes

Humilde como era, pidió repetidamente ser relevado de su cargo de Prior. Después de doce años, en 1151, finalmente lo consiguió. Pero como el prior de Portes había muerto en ese momento, los monjes de esa casa le pidieron a Basilio, sucesor de Antelmo como superior de la casa madre, que les enviara a éste como nuevo prior. Antelmo tuvo que aceptarlo.

Durante su priorato, las tormentas que destruyeron la cosecha en la región de Portes provocaron una escasez de alimentos. Antelmo distribuyó generosamente entre los campesinos trigo y verduras de los almacenes del monasterio. También acudió a socorrer económicamente a otros monasterios.

Dos años después, la diócesis de Belley, en la que se encuentra Portes, necesitaba un nuevo obispo. La población quería que Antelmo fuera el elegido. Él se negó, pero fue en vano. El Papa Alejandro III le ordenó aceptar y consagró a Antelmo como obispo en 1163.

En su nueva misión prestó grandes servicios a la Iglesia. En el primer año como obispo impulsó una reforma en el clero. Defendió los derechos de la Iglesia frente a los poderosos. Un amargo conflicto con Humberto, conde de Saboya, terminó con Humberto pidiendo el perdón del santo obispo, que éste le concedió con gran benignidad. Como obispo además trató, aunque en vano, de mediar entre santo Tomás Becket y el rey Enrique II de Inglaterra.

Mantuvo el mismo fervor monástico de siempre. Cada año se retiraba unos días a la Gran Cartuja, donde tenía una celda como los demás monjes. Recomendando la caridad y la concordia a sus sacerdotes, San Antelmo murió el 26 de junio de 1178. Debido a los numerosos milagros que se produjeron en su tumba, pronto fue venerado. Hoy en día es el patrón de la diócesis de Belley, donde la catedral conserva sus reliquias. Los cartujos y la diócesis de Belley celebran su fiesta el 26 de junio.

Oración:

Señor, que amas la unidad y la paz,

concédenos por intercesión de San Antelmo

buscar siempre, todos juntos, tu voluntad y

alabarte a una voz, con un solo corazón.

Por Cristo Nuestro Señor. Amén.

Fuentes: Santos y beatos de la Cartuja, de Juan Mayo Escudero.