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The Vocation

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For him who is called... A Call from God

Like all religious life, the Carthusian life is the response to a call from God. We do not decide ourselves on such a vocation, it is a gift we receive. It is not a simple personal choice, it is a story of love, a story of two. It is out of love that Jesus invites certain men to follow him in solitude in the mountains, in order for them to live with him and contemplate the splendor of his face.

"Since the beginning of time, Christ, Son of God, has chosen, by the Holy Spirit, men to lead them in solitude to unite them in an intimate love" (Statutes, Prologue)

"Those who know conjugal love can feel sorry for us by thinking that we do not know what love is. May they rest assured, the love of God seen in faith, even in an obscure faith, is more sure, more stable, closer, softer, stronger, more fulfilling and inebriating than any other type of love. In faith we have a certainty that no other experience can give. Therein is the meaning of the word of Scripture: ´I will marry you in faith.´" (Yves Raguin, Célibat pour notre temps).

Man's Answer

This calling from God is left to the freedom of man; God offers, He does not impose. Today is added the difficulty that might exist in hearing this calling. Rarely known and seldom viewed in esteem, contemplative life is so far from and seems so contrary to what the modern world holds valuable, that few are able to feel the appeal. Nevertheless, today, like yesterday, candidates continue to come to our doors. What do we expect of them?

A profound desire of consecrating their lives to prayer and the search of God in love. "My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" (Ps 42:2) The ideal contemplative must have an attraction or desire for solitude, for it is the framework within which the majority of the monk's life takes place. Since Carthusians are not hermits in the proper sense, there is a communal life which cannot be disregarded. It is thus imperative that the candidate not only have a penchant for solitude, but for communal life as well. Among other indispensable qualities or character traits, mental balance and judgment are high priorities. We can further add: a maturity capable of preparing oneself to make a lifetime commitment to a new life, a spirit of faith and openness that must let itself be led by obedience, and satisfactory health.

The call to the Carthusian life will often manifest itself by a desire which might suddenly appear, following a significant spiritual experience, or slowly over time over the years. In practice, it is not easy to judge from a distance the proper traits and aptitude of the candidate. This is why, one or two retreats of some duration in a Charterhouse are necessary to help discern God's calling. Several steps will need to be taken.

Stages of Formation

Before entering the Monastery

He who wished to join a Carthusian monastery must, above all, grow his desire in prayer. Such a decision does not happen out of whim. He must then contact a monastery, explaining in as great as detail as possible, the attraction to the Carthusian life. In return, he will be asked certain pieces of complementary information regarding his studies, family, etc...

If it seems appropriate, we will offer him a retreat at the monastery in order for him to experience the life. In no other case are retreatants accepted to the monastery. If, at the end of the retreat, the results were positive, we will ask him to wait and delay his entrance a little longer before letting him in, or we might let him enter as soon as he feels ready.

Postulancy and Novitiate

Upon his entering the monastery, the candidate begins his postulancy which lasts from three months to a year. If, at that point, his vocation is confirmed, he'll take the Carthusian habit and begin his novitiate for a period of two years. Following the novitiate come temporary vows for three years, which are then renewed for two years. Solemn vows takes place at the end of those two years, at which time the monk gives himself to the life in front of God and Church for ever.

A significant degree of human maturity is required; for this reason the Statutes allow no one under 20 to be admitted, and in fact, given the delayed maturity in the west today, a person does not enter before he is 23. Since adaptability to a life of this kind becomes increasingly difficult after one reaches 40, the upper age limit is 45, though candidates after 40 are not often considered.

It is essential that a candidate have a sound judgement; a reposed, open and sociable character is very desirable. In addition, candidates for the cloister are asked to have some knowledge of Latin and an educational background in the liberal arts if at all possible, with at least two years of college. A high school education or the equivalent is asked of the brothers.

Carthusian Life

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