nasty green liquor makin’ monks

I cannot imagine living a life filled with silence, solitude and contemplation. Today, Debbie and I visited a place where that is exactly what fills each day… and night. And as strange as it sounds to me, it is fascinating.

I’d never go to the Grand Chartreuse Monastery by myself. Sort of funny, since solitude is so much a part of life there. I don’t know if Debbie really wanted to go, but I suggested it and she agreed.

The museum is not the actual monastery where the monks still live. You visit a building where the brothers used to live. There are brothers and fathers; I imagine there are not enough of them now to make the extra building necessary. I imagine the income generated from the curious helps, too.

The drive up to the museum took about an hour and wound through mountains and forest I’d never driven through. To say that the founder wanted a remote location is an understatement. It is amazing that they managed to find the spot and build on it 900 years ago.

The view is amazing. You can’t see the valley or the city. All you can see is more mountains and trees. You can hear the soothing ring of cow bells. The monastery is in a “silent zone.” I don’t know exactly what that means. Certainly all the cars driving up aren’t silent. And the people were respectful, but not silent. The peace and quiet there may just be the natural result of being so far away from everything else. Just being there is… contemplative.

Inside you get the smallest glimpse into life as a Carthusian monk. You see what the hallway where they live looks like… how plain and simple it is. Each door is marked simply with a letter of the alphabet and a piece of scripture starting with that letter. Like Sesame Street for the deeply religious. You see the little window through which the brothers deliver food to the fathers and the small wooden signs with which the fathers request a new loaf of wheat bread. Kaitlyn could never be a monk, she hates crusty bread. You see what each member’s “cell” looks like. A small, plain room with a simple bed, a place to pray, a table for reading, a table for eating, and a small wood burning stove for heat. You have to chop your own wood for it. They spend most of their days in their cells, praying. And in the middle of the night, they all gather in the church for between two and three and a half hours of chanting and prayers. Maybe they spend all day in their rooms praying so that if they nod off, no one will see.

The life is not one I can really understand. It sounds so very strange. Yet, there was something about it that I could appreciate. The notion of being so far removed from civilization. The idea of spending time contemplating life and nature and God. The tour included a movie with interviews of two of the monks. They said that monks feel emotions deeply and when they hear news of the suffering in the world, they feel immense pain. Debbie and I could not understand feeling that pain, praying so deeply, and yet not feeling the need to leave the solitude to go out and try to change what’s going on in the world. These men say they are called to this special life devoted to prayer and finding a deep connection with God… but these men say they learn to block out the pain of the world. I cannot help but think that God wants us to feel that pain and use it to try to help others. Not to hide from it.

5 Responses to “nasty green liquor makin’ monks”

  1. D.A.D. says:

    It does seem a shame for persons to be isolated and let their prayers be their only contribution to life. These men obviously have a very precise and focused outlook on living, one which most all of us would never understand. Not eating crusty bread is only the tip of the iceburg of why Kaitlyn would never be a monk (or Solitary Sister, or whatever). Reminds me of when Aunt Ida was in a Catholic hospital, insurance wasn’t paying on time, and my mother received a nasty letter threatening foreclosure if she didn’t pay her sister’s bill…..all signed by Little Sisters of Mercy and The Poor.

  2. Todd Hollst says:

    When I visted there, I thought I heard “soothing” cow bells…but you convinced me it was the ringing in my head from the liquor.

    And I wish god would call me to make liquor…and not just drinking it!

  3. mandy says:

    oh, God called you, but you were passed out and didn’t hear the phone ringing, so some French guy picked it up and he’s living in your cell right now.

  4. mandy says:

    Was the letter also signed “have a nice day”????

  5. Tish says:

    What happened to the “nasty green liquor makin’ monkeys”?

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