01 February 2010

Heaven on Earth

The Carthusian, Guiges, using as examples the lives of Saint John the Baptist with his unceasing prayer in solitude in the desert and our Lord Himself Who would go into the mountains to pray alone, said: “There is nothing better one can choose in life than solitude with the soft sweetness of the Psalms, the application to reading, the fervor of prayer, the depth of meditation, the transport of contemplation, and the baptism of tears.”

Generally as a rule, the Carthusians do not accept retreatants into the Charterhouse, except those who feel they may have a Carthusian vocation. But whether it was those who were testing a vocation or those in which the rule was excepted, visitors to the Charterhouse have made some interesting proclamations concerning their time spent there. Borrowing from the book, “Halfway to Heaven” by Robin Bruce Lockhart, here are some of those statements which were found in the visitors’ book at Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse, Parkminster:

“I would love to live and die here.”

“Precious peace and silence.”

“I have found here that peace which the world cannot give.”

“Thank God for such centers of prayer. He lives in a special way in the community.”

“Truly a place of healing. Thank you Fathers and Brothers for a lovely encounter with Christ.”

“This heaven on earth.”

“Please God here I experienced the beginning of the exquisite taste of peace.”

“Thy will be done. . . and here it is.”

“Now I know that I am loved, before I just hoped.”

“A milestone in my life. Much is said in silence.”

“Here I met the happiest people in the world.”

“An oasis in a crazy world.”

“The highlight of my life, such as may not recur.”

And the phrase which was found most often in the visitors’ book was: “An unforgettable experience.”

And from an eighteen year old who was hoping to enter the Order as a novice wrote: “Please God that in two years I may enter this House and never come out of it again.”

The second Superior General of the French Congregation of the Oratory, Père Charles de Condren (1588-1641), wrote: “The dwelling amidst the mountains of La Grande Chartreuse is not an abode for the people of the world. It needs a being who is all soul to live in such a spot. But when this paradise has been reached, there is nothing more to hope for on earth. You may come from where you will in the world, even from its holiest shrines, but once arrived at this House of God, the gate of Heaven, you must become a saint or you never will become one anywhere.”