Praised be Jesus Christ!
Greetings from the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration! I am so glad to be able to write you despite the contemplative and remote nature of this life. There is no internet connection here at the monastery. So, I am grateful to my mother who will be sending this newsletter out. I would like to thank you once again from the bottom of my heart for your incredible generosity that you have shown to Catholic vocations. It is because of your support that I am now on my way to becoming a Carthusian Monk.
After wrapping up my fundraising process with Labouré in July of last year, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of months with my family before heading to Vermont where the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration is located. September 12th was the day of my official entrance into the monastery. It was a day that I had been waiting for, for three years. On December 8th the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I was accepted to the stage of postulancy within the Order. The entrance ceremony was held in the monastery Charterhouse, a place of formal meetings of the community. It began with several scriptural passages that were read by the novices. I then sat while the Novice Master washed my feet in imitation of Christ. I was then led before the Prior and clothed in a long black cloak with a hood. The ceremony concluded with me kneeling before the community and reciting Psalm 87. Postulancy within the Carthusian Order usually lasts about one year.
As a postulant of the Order I will now wear the cloak as a habit during Mass and the recitation of the Divine Office in church. I will also begin to learn how to serve the Carthusian Rite of Mass for private Masses and family visits. However, regarding the daily life, very little has changed. My day normally consists of approximately eight hours of prayer plus daily Mass, two hours of study time, and an hour and a half of manual work. During my study period, I occupy most of my time with spiritual books such as biblical commentaries and other monastic works. For physical exercise, I spend time chopping wood each day to burn in my wood-burning stove located in my cell. Winters in the Vermont mountains can be severe with temperatures regularly dropping below zero or lower especially at night. The walk from my cell to the Night Office in church is always a brisk one especially on nights likes these.
Some of the highlights of my time here thus far have been our Opera Communia days (community work). There are normally four per year. During these days, all the monks (that are able) spend the whole day performing a needful task for the community. Since arriving, I have participated in two such days. On my first Opera Communia, we were tasked with clearing a large swath of trees on the mountain side to improve the view of one of our guesthouses. The second was held just before Christmas where we spent the whole day baking desserts for the community. Each monk can choose whatever he would like to bake. My pick was to make cookies and an Oreo ice cream desert.
Besides the Opera Comunia days, what I appreciate and value most in the Carthusian life is the freedom to dedicate myself entirely to a life of prayer. It was a love of prayer that first led me to consider a Carthusian vocation. In the charterhouse, a Carthusian Monk is free from all the distractions, the noise, and obligations of a life lived in the world, thus allowing him to focus his entire attention on communing with God. Through prayer and the accomplishment of his daily duties, the Carthusian learns to see God in all things. Through faith he recognizes and finds God exteriorly in each of his daily task and all the crosses sent to him by providence. It is in these that he sees God’s will for him. Whether pleasant or painful, he knows that it is God who is encountered.
In his daily life of prayer, the Carthusian strives always to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), taking as the heart of his vocation the words of Our Lord, “You ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1). He devotes himself to vocal prayer by the daily recitation of the Psalms contained in the Divine Office. In mental prayer he meditates on the Sacred Scriptures and other pious works, immersing himself in the life of Our Lord and the teachings of the saints. By the practice of silent prayer, the Carthusian seeks simply to remain in the presence of Our Lord or Our Lady within his interior. Through years of patient practice, it is this silent prayer that becomes constant throughout the day. Known as acquired recollection, he has before him a habitual remembrance of Our Lord or Our Lady. If through distraction he momentarily loses this remembrance, a simple inward glance suffices to recollect him. Through a life dedicated to prayer and the accomplishment of God’s will, the Carthusian hopes in time to attain to divine union. This “mystical marriage” between the soul and God is for the soul, a state of perfect union with the soul’s beloved. He experiences without interruption the presence of God within himself. It is only a “thin veil” that separates him from the eternity of the Beatific Vision, a veil that he ardently desires to be torn.
I would like to encourage all of you, if you have not already done so, to devote yourself to a serious life of prayer (as your state of life will allow). God does not only call priests and religious to the state of divine union, but all Catholics. If you are faithful to a life of prayer, to the duties of your state in life, and to the inspirations of God’s grace, He will raise you, just like the saints of the past, to divine union with Himself.
Once again, thank you so much for your support of Catholic vocations. Every day I entrust your prayers and intentions to our Blessed Mother, confident that she will supply all your needs. I pray that you have a holy and blessed New Year.
Order of Carthusians