On the occasion of the end of the month of the Bible (and St. Jerome’s memorial) we would like to share with you a comparative chart of the Four Gospels. We believe that it will be very useful for the moments of Lectio Divina, that way of meditating with the Scriptures that is so characteristic of the Carthusian life.
Stephen was born in Lyons (France) into the noble family of Châtillon in the mid-12th century. We know little about his early life, but at twenty-five he came to try the Carthusian life at the Charterhouse of Portes(France). He was favorably impressed and asked to be admitted. The monks accepted him gladly.
He soon stood out for his great fervor and self-denial. He radiated piety. When saying Mass, he had the gift of tears. The sight of a crucifix was sufficient to carry him into ecstasy. His spirituality can be summarized as follows: ardent devotion to the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the holy Eucharist, and to our Lady, and also zeal for the liturgy. All of his piety was manifested in a vibrant atmosphere of love of God and of neighbor. So it was not astonishing that when the Prior of Portes died, the monks elected Stephen as his successor (in the year 1196). As Prior he fulfilled the expectations of the community, putting all his gifts into service of a prudent leadership, while maintaining his union with God. His reputation soon spread beyond the Charterhouse.
In 1202 the little French diocese of Die, not very far from Portes, needed a new Bishop. The officials of that diocese were unanimous in their choice of Stephen. At first he refused energetically, but when they drew his attention to the example of Hugh, the Carthusian Bishop of Lincoln in England, who had died two years earlier, he finally accepted.
As Bishop he kept up monastic prayer and austerities, while at the same time, by preaching and good example, he worked tirelessly and fruitfully for the salvation of souls. Just like other Carthusians who became Bishops, Stephen used to take a retreat from time to time in his monastery, refreshing mind and body in solitude. He always did so without showing in any way the high dignity with which he was invested.
He was well aware of the fact that the responsibilities of a Bishop are not without risks. That is why, although still only in his fifties, he said one day to a dying Carthusian brother: “Brother, this infirmity will take you to the Lord. When you are with Him, please pray for me and ask Him for the grace not to allow me to continue in my episcopal ministry.” Remarkably Stephen died twelve days after the brother died, on September 7, 1208. He was around 55 years old, and had been a Bishop for six years.
Prayer: All-powerful God, it is not our frail body but our ardent spirit which can reach Your eternal glory. Make us, like Saint Stephen, strive always for those heavenly realms. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen.
Even when the Carthusian Order does not promote the beatification or canonization of any of its members, there are Carthusian blessed and saints. In most cases, these saints were bishops (such as Saint Anthelm) or martyrs (like the English Carthusian martyrs). In those cases, the dioceses they belonged to (and not the Carthusian Order) promoted their causes.
In 2017, the cause of canonization of Salvador Montes de Oca was opened by the diocese of Valencia (Venezuela). If he is canonized, he will become the first Carthusian saint who was both a bishop and a martyr.
He was born in Carora (State of Lara, Venezuela) on 21 October 1895. He was ordained a priest on 22 September 1922. In 1927 he was appointed as the second Bishop of Valencia by Pope Pius XI.
The political situation of the time triggered the struggle of Bishop Montes de Oca in favor of Human Rights and the Doctrine of the Church. This led to his expulsion from Venezuela in 1929. He returned to the country in 1931.
The Carthusian charism caught his attention and he decided to take the monastic habit in the Charterhouse of Farneta (Italy) on 4 January 1943. He took the name of Bernard.
In the summer of 1944 he was involved in the Nazi massacre carried out against the monastic community of Farneta, guilty of having given hospitality to several partisans and Jewish refugees. Bernardo and Father Prior were killed by a machine gun in the night between the 6 and 7 September 1944 at Monte Magno di Camariore, Lucca, Italy. Father Bernard was 49 years old. Ten other Carthusian monks would be killed in the following days.
Although buried at the time in unmarked ditches, their bodies were finally exhumed and identified. All of them, except for Dom Bernard were buried in the cemetery of the monastery. The mortal remains of Monsignor Salvador Montes de Oca were transferred to Venezuela. He is now buried in the Cathedral at Valencia.
Prayer to ask for a grace through the intercession of the servant of God Salvador Montes de Oca.
Father of infinite goodness: you have blessed the Church of Venezuela with the luminous life of your servant Monsignor Salvador Montes de Oca, second bishop of Valencia and monk of the Charterhouse of Farneta.
He sowed in your people a fervent Eucharistic spirit, love for the ministerial priesthood and a tender Marian devotion. Besides, he defended in an exemplary way the values of the family, freedom and human rights.
Driven by love for you and a yearning for perfection, he entered the Contemplative life at the Charterhouse. Grant us to live his spiritual legacy.
We beseech you to glorify him with the recognition of his virtues and his beatification. And if it is for our good, we ask you for the grace to…
(Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory)
La strage di Farneta. Storia sconosciuta dei dodici Certosini fucilati dai tedeschi nel 1944 (Luigi Accattoli 2013)
Douze Chartreux de Farneta fusillés par les nazis en 1944 (by a Carthusian Monk 1996)
The Silent Summer of 1944. Carthusian monks in Italy opened their doors, saving many from death camps; their reward: martyrdom (Giuseppina Sciascia – L’Osservatore Romano, English Weekly Edition – February 2, 2005, p. 4-5)
To contact the Foundation Monsignor Montes de Oca: