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Big guns in the spiritual warfare

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 06, 2009

If you've ever spent autumn in New England, you know about the "leaf peepers"-- the tourists who flock to Vermont to enjoy the foliage in early October. But early October-- and specifically this day: October 6, the feast of St. Bruno-- bring different memories of Vermont for me.

Back in 2001 I had a truly unique experience. I was invited by the Carthusians of Arlington, Vermont, to spend a day with them and write a story about their way of life. They were celebrating the 900th anniversary of the death of St. Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian order, and decided that it was an appropriate time for a bit of publicity.

I say that my experience was unique because Carthusians generally don't seek publicity-- to put it mildly. Theirs is the strictest, most ascetical order in the Catholic Church. The monks live in silence, utterly withdrawn from the world. When I commented to the prior on the oddity of a Carthusian "publicity campaign," he remarked that he could perhaps imagine another opportunity for a journalist to visit the Charterhouse in Vermont-- in another 100 years, to celebrate St. Bruno's 1,000th anniversary!

For that one day in 2001, at the monastery hidden near the top of Mt. Equinox, I had a glimpse of a totally different kind of life: a life devoted utterly to prayer and contemplation. When a man enters the Carthusian order, in a real sense he leaves the world in which you and I live. He gives up normal food, social life, travel, even speech for the rest of his days. Barring medical emergency he will not leave the Charterhouse until his remains are buried there. The Carthusian monk willingly chooses a life sentence, in solitary confinement, to devote himself totally to prayer. These are very, very serious Christian men: seasoned veterans of the spiritual combat.

Very few Christians are called to such an austere life. Most of us live ostensibly ordinary lives, absorbing a daily drubbing from the secular world. But we're engaged in spiritual combat as well. In fact we lay people are the infantry.

There are days when the skirmishing is rougher than usual, when I feel exhausted and bedraggled. Those are the days when I remind myself that while we're not alone. While we're grappling on the front lines, the big guns are booming from Mt. Equinox. Those are the days when I'm struck anew by the amazing diversity of vocations within the Church, and I thank God for my silent friends at the Charterhouse.

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  • Posted by: Universal - Oct. 07, 2009 4:19 PM ET USA

    Theer is a great movie about the Grand Chartreuse by Philip Gröning (Great Silence). A unique gem about silence, work, prayer, nightly mass... You will never have seen anything like it. Gröning was allowed to film there for a year - after the monks had deliberated the idea for more than a decade. BIG GUNS truly.

  • Posted by: Phil_Homer7612 - Oct. 06, 2009 6:33 PM ET USA

    I’d like to comment in the spirit of the Carthusians. …

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