Monday, March 3, 2008

Carthusian Monks

I absolutely loved the film Into Great Silence (Die Grosse Stille in German). Being such a whiz on electronic stuff, after several years as a netflix subscriber I discovered only yesterday that I could download many films onto the computer at home freely instead of waiting for the mail each time (Duh!).

The first download I attempted was this wonderful picture of the life of Carthusian Monks at the Grande Chartreuse Monastery, the head monastery of the Carthusian order, founded by St. Bruno in 1084. The film has very little dialog at all. The lives of the monks there were shown in film without much explanation or any attempt to make the film 'showy' or dramatic.

I did take issue with one of their translations... I believe the translation into English of one portion of the film to be not quite as good as it could have been... The German text was: "Du hast mich verfuerht, O Herr. Und ich, ich habe mich verfuehren lassen." I believe this should be translated as: "O Lord, you have seduced me. And I, I have let myself be seduced." The English subtitle translation was: "O Lord, you have seduced me. And I was seduced." In some ways, you may think I am being a bit nitpicky, but it does have a bit of a different meaning, not in a good way, with their English translation... I like mine better!

I heartily recommend seeing this film. I think, if you aren't familiar with the order, it would be helpful to check out the information online which describes the order a bit. It would have helped me to know that Carthusian monks don't live in community the way other orders do, but are more like a group of hermits that share some aspects of their lives and live under the order established by St. Bruno (not the rule of St. Benedict).

Here is a small excerpt from the Official Carthusian website:

The meaning of "being a Carthusian"
Among the religious families, there are those like the Benedictines and Cistercians, who live more in community. Others live in greater solitude. Camaldulites and Carthusians belong to the latter. The monks and the nuns of the Carthusian Order, while living separately in their own monasteries, share the same rule and follow a unique model in the person of their founding Father, Saint Bruno.
The Carthusian does not live alone as the Carthusian monastery is a community. Nevertheless, he will pass the greater part of his life in his cell where he prays, works, takes his meals, and sleeps. During the course of the week, he only leaves three times a days for offices and communal mass: in the middle of the night, the Night Office, the morning Eucharist and Vespers towards the night.
The Carthusian can be a cloistered monk or a brother, two different ways of living the same vocation of solitude.
This solitude is not lived for its own sake, but as a privileged means of attaining intimacy with God.
No one can follow this path if not called by God. The discernment of this call (
vocation) asks that we make a retreat of two weeks at the monastery. Other than this, Carthusians never receive retreatants.
Almost all our homes were built along the same basic principles: a grouping of hermitages (or "cells") linked to one another by a cloister which ends at the communal grounds: church, refectory, and the Chapter, separated by the entrance door by the workshops and the lodging of the monk in charge of the day to day running of the house. There are the "main" homes (like La Grande Chartreuse, with over 30 cells) and the "lesser" homes (like Portes, in the French region of Ain, which retains many primitive aspects of a charterhouse)
At la Grande Chartreuse the Museum of la Correrie allows one to have an idea of the Carthusian life.

After watching this very moving film, I did a bit of searching online and discovered there is a Carthusian monastery in the U.S (in southern Vermont) . Their site is: .

A word of caution: This film is pretty long... it shows an entire year in the lives of the monks at the Grande Chartreuse Monastery, complete with fabulous scenic shots of the surrounding mountains and the changing of the seasons. Many of the shots are of very mundane things associated with the daily requirements of living...

My thoughts after watching this film were that we are so very blessed to have these contemplative orders offering their prayers for the world.

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