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The Second Vatican Council and the Order

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Changes within the Order

The question sometimes comes up as to the effect the second Vatican Council had on the Order: did the Order change and, if so, how? The answer to this question is simple: what took place as a result of the Council was in continuity with what had taken place before, though in a more intense way: those adaptations were introduced which would allow the same manner of life handed on from the beginning to persist in the contemporary world. Secondary elements, meaningful in the past but which were obstacles now due to the current mentality, were modified: for example there is no longer any distinction in dress between the choir monks and the brothers.

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The Holy See recognized this when it approved the Statutes of the Carthusian Order after being renewed in the light of the Council. We read: "The special nature of the Carthusian monastic life, with its need for retirement and separation from the world, certainly does not leave much margin for new options and experiences: nevertheless, we observe with pleasure the praiseworthy effort made by the Chapter to conform, with wisdom and prudence, your Statutes to the conciliar and post-conciliar objectives for the updating of the religious life."

And then it adds: "We are pleased to express to you our satisfaction over the jealous faithfulness with which, in respect to your venerable traditions, the (General) Chapter has known how to conserve that which, from its origins has characterized your Order: that is to say, your special eremitic vocation to prayer, thanks to a life dedicated to God in contemplation and solitude, without which the Order would lose its reason to exist."

Letter of Cardinal Antoniutti, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes.

This witnesses to the efforts the Order made to conform to the objectives the Council held forth for the religious life: a strengthened fidelity to its sources and original inspiration while removing those elements which had become anachronistic. "The updated renewal of the religious life" we read in the decree on the Religious Life "comprises both a constant return to the sources of the whole of the Christian life and to the primitive inspiration of the institutes, and their adaptation to the changed cultural conditions of our time." (Perfectae Caritatis, No. 7)

The present renewed Statutes therefore emphasize more than ever the call to a serious authentic interior life lived in silence and solitude, with the reformulation of certain ancient customs which would today impede rather than contribute to the call to life with God. The number of houses in the Order has varied greatly over the centuries. There are today 24, including five houses of nuns, located in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, England, Yugoslavia, the United States; the most recent a foundation in Brazil.

Charterhouse of the Transfiguration
Vocational Booklet - 1987
The Second Vatican Council and the Order

Carthusian Life

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