25 June 2009

The Carthusian Priest: A Vocation of Conformity to Jesus

A priest of the Carthusian Order spends a great deal of his day in a hermitage; there he conducts his activities, which, as their vocational brochure reads, “nurture a deeply contemplative life.” The priest’s day of activities in the hermitage include prayer, studying, reading and manual labor. Before his day ends he will have prayed all the hours of the Canonical Office as well as all the hours of Our Lady’s Office. Once a week the Office of the Dead is also prayed.

Only three times per day does the Carthusian Father leave his cell: Canonical Matins and Lauds (Night Office), Mass and Canonical Vespers, all of which are done in the Church and make up the monks’ life in community. All other Offices are prayed in the solitude of the cell. Because of this schedule, a Carthusian Father’s priestly ministry is exercised for his fellow Carthusian brothers and vocational retreatants.

Generally, the Carthusians do not accept retreatants unless they feel they may have a Carthusian vocation. This makes a Carthusian’s priestly ministry different than most since they will have virtually no contact with the outside world; his vocation is designed for “greater conformity to Jesus, the High priest, Who unites the monk in a special and sacramental way to His life of prayer and sacrifice.”

Here is a typical Horarium of a Carthusian Father, which is different than that of a Brother:

11:30 PM
Matins of Our Lady in the cell

12:15 AM
Canonical Matins and Lauds in the Church

Between 2:15 & 3:15 AM
Return to the cell
Lauds of Our Lady
Retire to bed

6:30 AM
Rise – Remain in the Cell
Prime of Our Lady
Canonical Prime
Mental Prayer

7:45 AM
Community Mass in the Church
Private Masses

Between 9:00 & 9:30 AM
Return to the Cell
Free Time
Mental Prayer
Terce of Our Lady
Canonical Terce
Spiritual Reading
Manual Work

11:45 AM
In the Cell
Sext of Our Lady
Canonical Sext
Dinner (always meatless – bread and water on Friday)
Free time

2:00 PM
In the Cell
None of Our Lady
Canonical None
Spiritual Reading
Manual Work

4:00 PM
Vespers of Our Lady in the Cell

Canonical Vespers in the Church
After Vespers, return to the Cell for free time and a light meal

7:00 PM
In the Cell
Examination of Conscience
Canonical Compline
Compline of Our Lady

8:15 PM
Retire to Bed

You may have noticed that the Carthusians pray the Angelus four times per day instead of the usual three times and they have a divided sleep schedule.

A few words about life in the Charterhouse:
There are no radios, televisions or secular newspapers and magazines. Any noteworthy news occurring in the world is left to the wisdom of the Prior as whether or not to share such news with the monks. The monks may not know specifics but they know this is a troubled world and its healing is what they pray for – that the Light of Christ will overcome the darkness.

Scripture is very important in their spiritual reading. The Carthusian Statutes read: “For they are mistaken who think they can easily attain to interior union with God, while previously having neglected the study of the Word of God, or later abandoned it altogether” (5:2).

Please remember these dedicated men in your prayers in this “Year for Priests” whose life is hidden with God.