Monday, 6 October 2008

Feast of St Bruno, founder of the Carthusians


St Bruno was initially a church bureaucrat (a good one!) on a path to be a bishop when he fulfilled a vow and became a hermit.

He initially joined up with St Robert of Molesmes and the early Cistercian group, but found it wasn't his thing (not strict enough?!), and set off with six companions to Bishop St Hugh of Grenoble, who had had a vision of the men. They set up an isolated centre for study and prayer at Chartreuse in 1084 until Bruno was recalled to Rome by Urban II (his former pupil) in 1090, where he acted as a papal advisor.

By 1091, he was begging to be allowed to return to his companions. Instead, he eventually founded a second charterhouse in Italy so he could be within reach of the Pope if needed.

Thanks to the film, Into Great Silence, something of the lifestyle of the Carthusian choir monks and laybrothers, with its extreme asceticism, is pretty well-known - despite the fact that one can't visit even their churches, let alone make a retreat there. One could positively feel the cold seeping in against that furnace in the cell, and feel the freezing cold in that church!

But personally, the thing I particularly admire is their very slow chant, interspersed with long silences, so that the night office of Matins and Lauds which they sing in common in the Church stretches out to 2-3 hours plus (more or less double the traditional Benedictine regime! ). All up, the Carthusian choir monk traditionally spends around six hours in Church (I believe it may be less these days, as instead of a conventual mass plus an individual mass, they now all concelebrate the conventual mass), the rest of his time in his cell or hermitage garden.

So do pray today for vocations to the Order, and the perseverance of their monks and nuns, because we solely need their prayers and penances offered on our behalf.

2 comments:

Cardinal Pole said...

"But personally, the thing I particularly admire is their very slow chant, interspersed with long silences, so that the night office of Matins and Lauds which they sing in common in the Church stretches out to 2-3 hours plus (more or less double the traditional Benedictine regime! )."

But it's all Novus Ordo, right? So much for 'never deformed, never reformed'. The 'Liturgical Renewal' did not even leave the venerable Carthusians unscathed.

Terra said...

I think it would be an oversimplification to say it is all novus ordo, at least as far as the Office goes!

My understanding is that the conventual Divine Office is essentially unchanged except for the use of a wider selection of patristic etc readings at Matins.

In their cells they continue to use the Little Office of Our Lady as well as the old psalm schema, but have the option as to whether it is in the vernacular or Latin.

For Mass, I believe it is a 'novus ordo' version of the Carthusian rite (wreckovation at its worst, they did try and resist but were forced to conform).