20 July 2010

The Way of Faith

What follows is from the Preface of a book written by a Carthusian monk which is out of print. The Preface was written from Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse at Parkminster, in the year 1964, on the feast of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Remaining true to the Carthusian way of anonymity, all the writer of the Preface tells us about the author of the book is that he was a Carthusian monk who spent years ‘in charge of old lay-brothers’. Here’s an excerpt of the Preface.

There are miracles and miracles, down to this very day; and all answer to real prayer is, after all, a miracle in a sense, since it is none other than the supernatural coming down into this very natural world; a continuation – may we not say – of the Incarnation itself. There is no reason why prayer should be answered, or that the poor anxious souls of this world, involved, whether they will or not, in the battle that is continually going on ‘in high places’, should have their Memorare heard. But when it is heard, and they are comforted and helped on their way, then we term it at least a kind of a miracle, for which we can only very humbly say, Deo gratias!

Let no one think that life in a Charterhouse consists of returning to cell after three hours spent in choir on a cold winter’s night, to find our Lady waiting with the holy Child in her arms. The Carthusian way of life, like life in any monastery – for men or women – is sterner stuff than that! Indeed, as time goes on and the monk begins to feel age creeping on him, it may be that the life becomes purely one of faith, and all thought of miracles in the sense of visions and such like has long since departed from his memory – or his hope! It is doubtful if he would believe them if he saw them: the way of faith is surer.

Yet the writer of these lines has witnessed many near-miracles, shall we say, of an intellectual order, during years spent in charge of old lay-brothers, grown very close to God in the course of their long and faithful service. One instance alone must suffice. An old French lay-brother lay dying. For many a long month he had been able to do nothing but sit immobilized in a chair, saying his Rosary – Rosary after Rosary: he could do no more. On this day, in the event to be his last on earth, normally unable to move, he was seen to sit up, utterly alert. Then he said, speaking to someone he seemed to see at the end of his bed: ‘Qui êtes vous, Madame? . . . Who are you, Madam’? Then he himself was heard to answer: ‘Je suis Marie, ta Mère . . . I am Mary, your Mother’. The words were heard, but nothing was seen. Imagination? Perhaps. But, if so, a very good kind of imagination on the part of a dying man, for which he might well be envied.