Advice for a New Carthusian Postulant

The first weeks in the cell will not reveal much to you, perhaps nothing. Be humbly content to be bored and to wander around. Your heart is raw for all that you have just left, and on the rough walls nothing is drawn but a Crucifix and an image of the Virgin.

There is still too much turmoil in your imagination and your sensibility to be captivated by the Invisible. You had dreamed so much of this cell. You are in it... and you shiver. You feel like escaping. Be patient. Pray. Organize yourself a cycle of occupations, readings, some little work on the Bible or any other spiritual subject of your liking. Little by little you will discover and savor the mystique of the cell. Those who have sung it in emotional terms through the centuries were not novices. And, like you, they have tasted its austerity.

The Carthusian cell is a unique dwelling of its kind. It is not the office of an ecclesiastic, nor the room of a Jesuit or a mendicant. The Carthusian sleeps, works, eats and solaces himself in his cell. But his distinctive character lies in the fact that it is his whole universe. Except for his visits to the church, he must not look for anything outside. Everything is given to him there, in that limited space. Outside, he finds nothing; it is of no use to him. The Carthusian is subject to the cell for the subsistence of the soul. It is a refuge, a holy place where the Lord holds secret interviews with the soul. The cell is that "cellar" (Ct 2:4) where the Beloved brings his beloved to intoxicate her with his presence and his gifts.

In the cell God gives an audience to the solitary soul. Arrived at the confines of earthly life, detached from the contingencies that make so many thirsty souls groan for God, glued as they are to the harsh conditions of existence, the Carthusian monk begins his eternity in the joy of the Lord. If you are generous, you will see emerging from the shadows, little by little, that divine world in the midst of which you lived without being aware of it, because the glitter and fuss of others prevented it from manifesting itself.

Here, as elsewhere, no two souls follow exactly the same track; God does not repeat himself in his creations. Very seldom (perhaps never) does he reveal his designs in advance. To the God who awaits you, the only thing of value that you have to present to him is your entire availability. The lighter your human baggage, the poorer you are in the world's estimation, the greater will be your chance of success, for God will have more freedom to handle you. He calls you to live alone with him alone: to nothing else. If you harbor the secret desire to be or become "somebody," you are headed for failure. The desert of the Charterhouse is implacable: it unfailingly expels anyone who seeks himself.

Defend the entries to your desert: what good would the enclosure be if you let men invade it with the press, correspondence, visits? The desert, at the same time, fascinates and terrifies. It is the land of great solitude, and man, by instinct, fears the face to face with himself. There will be hours when you will feel the nostalgia of human exchanges, and the desert will seem to you horribly empty and absurd. You liked the solitude as a rest, to take a break. But you have not come as a tourist. From now on, solitude is your vital means, and no one expects the fruit of your activity. The only recourse left to you is to pour, without apparent utility, on the feet of Jesus, the precious perfume of your human capacities. If you consent to it, your reward will be splendid.

Source: Silencio Cartujano | Desde el silencio de la Cartuja (