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October 6, 2009

From the Statutes of the Carthusian Order (Chapter 4: The Keeping of Cell and Silence)

Our principal endeavor and goal is to devote ourselves to the silence and solitude of cell. This is holy ground, a place where, as a man with his friend, the Lord and his servant often speak together; there is the faithful soul frequently united with the Word of God; there is the bride made one with her spouse; there is earth joined to heaven, the divine to the human. The journey, however, is long, and the way dry and barren, that must be traveled to attain the fount of water, the land of promise.

Therefore the dweller in cell should be diligently and carefully on his guard against contriving or accepting occasions for going out, other than those normally prescribed; rather, let him consider the cell as as necessary for his salvation and life, as water for fish and the sheepfold for sheep. For if he gets into the habit of going out of cell frequently and for trivial reasons it will quickly become hateful to him; as Augustine expressed it, "For lovers of this world, there is no harder work than not working." On the other hand, the longer he lives in cell, the more gladly will he do so, as long as he occupies himself in it usefully and in an orderly manner, reading, writing, reciting psalms, praying, meditating, contemplating and working. Let him make a practice of resorting, from time to time, to a tranquil listening of the heart, that allows God to enter through all its doors and passages. In this way with God’s help, he will avoid the dangers that often lie in wait for the solitary; such as following too easy a path in cell and meriting to be numbered among the lukewarm.

The fruit that silence brings is known to him who has experienced it. In the early stages of our Carthusian life we may find silence a burden; however, if we are faithful, there will gradually be born within us of our silence itself something, that will draw us on to still greater silence. To attain this, our rule is not to speak to one another without the President’s permission.

Love for our brothers should show itself firstly in respect for their solitude; should we have permission to speak about some matter, let us do so as briefly as possible.

Those who neither are, nor aspire to becoming, members of our Order are not to be allowed to stay in our cells.

Each year for eight days we devote ourselves with greater zeal to the quiet of cell and recollection. Fittingly, our custom is to do this on the anniversary of our Profession.

God has led us into solitude to speak to our heart. Let our heart then be a living altar from which there constantly ascends before God pure prayer, with which all our acts should be imbued.
Short Biography of St Bruno
Bruno was born in Cologne around 1030. He was still a youth when he was sent to Rheims, in France, to study at one of the most reputed universities in Europe. After completion of his studies, he started teaching at that university. In 1056, Archbishop Gervais chose him to be the Rector of the "schools" of Rheims; he held the office of Rector of studies for 20 years. Towards the end of 1076, Bruno chose exile because of the conflict between Manasses of Gournay, the archbishop of Rheims, and several important institutes of the city, including the Benedictine monastery of Saint Remi. On December 27, 1080, Gregory VII had to resolve to ask the clergy of Rheims to drive the corrupt archbishop away and to elect a new one. Bruno was chosen for this post of high responsibility and power, one of the highest ecclesiastical positions in the kingdom of France. But he had other plans. He had decided to follow Christ to the desert. It is only around the Feast of St John-Baptist, approximately on June 24, that he and six companions reached the far end of the desert of Chartreuse, under the guidance of Hugh, the young bishop of Grenoble. For six years, Bruno was able to enjoy the life he had chosen with his brothers. In the first months of 1090, Urban II, a former student of his, summoned him to Rome to help him in the service of the Church, but just a few months later, Bruno obtained the Pope's permission to return to eremitic life, provided that he would establish his hermitage in southern Italy, then under the rule of the Norman princes. Bruno chose a vast desert in the diocese of Squillace : Santa Maria della Torre. This is where he died, on October 6. 1101. From there he wrote two letters full of tender love which have been inspiring Carthusians for nine centuries. Bruno was beatified by Pope Leo X in 1514.

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