The Carthusian Order

Statutes

Ch. 1 Prologue
Ch. 2 Praise of Life in Solitude
Book 1 : The Cloister Monks
Ch. 3 The Cloister Monks
Ch. 4 The Keeping of Cell and Silence
Ch. 5 Occupations in Cell
Ch. 6 The Observance of Enclosure
Ch. 7 Fasting and Abstinence
Ch. 8 The Novice
Ch. 9 The Novice-Master
Ch. 10 Profession
Book 2 : The Lay Monks
Ch. 11 The Lay Monks
Ch. 12 Solitude
Ch. 13 Enclosure
Ch. 14 Silence
Ch. 15 Work
Ch. 17 The Novice
Ch. 18 Profession
Ch. 19 Donation
Ch. 20 The Formation of the Brothers
Book 3 : The Community
Ch. 21 The Daily Celebration of the Liturgy
Ch. 22 Of Life in Common
Ch. 23 The Prior
Ch. 26 The Procurator
Ch. 27 The Sick
Ch. 28 Poverty
Ch. 29 The Care and Administration of Temporal Goods
Ch. 30 Stability
Book 4 : The Order
Ch. 31 The Government of the Order
Ch. 32 The Canonical Visitation
Ch. 33 Conversion of Life
Ch. 34 The Function of our Order in the Life of the Church
Ch. 35 The Statutes Themselves
Book 5 : Rites and Acts of Carthusian Life
Ch. 36 Rites of Carthusian Life
Ch. 38 Election of a Prior
Book 6 : The Liturgical Seasons
Ch. 41 The Liturgy in our Order
Ch. 52 Liturgical Chant
Ch. 53 Ceremonies of the Community during the Divine Office
Ch. 54 Ceremonies for the Office in Cell
Book 9 : Sacraments and Suffrages
Ch. 62 The Sacraments
Ch. 65 Suffrages

Statutes

Chapter 1


Prologue »

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

  1. To the praise of the glory of God, Christ, the Father’s Word, has through the Holy Spirit, from the beginning chosen certain men, whom he willed to lead into solitude and unite to himself in intimate love. In obedience to such a call, Master Bruno and six companions entered the desert of Chartreuse in the year of our Lord 1084 and settled there ; under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they and their successors, learning from experience, gradually evolved a special form of hermit life, which was handed on to succeeding generations, not by the written word, but by example.
    >At the repeated request of the other deserts founded in imitation of that at Chartreuse, Guigues, the fifth Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, committed to writing the organization of their way of life ; this they all undertook to follow and imitate as the rule of observance and bond of love of their newborn family. Then, after the other Priors of Carthusian observance had for a long time sought the permission of the Priors and members of the Grande Chartreuse to hold a common Chapter in that House, during the priorate of Anthelm, the first General Chapter was assembled, to which all the Houses — the Grande Chartreuse included — pledged themselves in perpetuity. It was also at this time that the nuns of Prebayon spontaneously embraced the Carthusian life. Such were the beginnings of our Order.
  2. As time went on, the General Chapter, in the light of experience and of new conditions that arose, adapted the form of Carthusian life, thus stabilizing and clarifying its structure. Since a mass of ordinances gradually accumulated from this continuous and careful adaptation of our customs, the General Chapter in 1271 promulgated the Ancient Statutes, made up of the fusion of these ordinances with the Customs of Guigues and the usages of the Grande Chartreuse into one coherent whole ; in 1368 other documents were appended called the New Statutes ; and in 1509 still further documents, known as the Third Compilation.
    On the occasion of the Council of Trent the three collections then in existence were reduced to one body, named the New Collection of the Statutes, the third edition of which was approved in specific form by the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Innocent XI, Iniunctum Nobis ; a new edition, however, revised and brought into conformity with the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law then in force, was approved, again in specific form by the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XI, Umbratilem.
  3. At the command of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, an appropriate renewal of our way of life was undertaken according to the mind of the conciliar decrees, our separation from the world and the exercises proper to the contemplative life being most carefully preserved. As a result, the General Chapter of 1971 approved and promulgated the Renewed Statutes, which were revised and corrected with the co-operation of all the members of the Order.
    To bring them into conformity with the Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, these Statutes were again revised and divided into two parts, of which the first, containing Books 1 through 4, comprises the Constitutions of the Order. We, therefore, the humble brothers, Andrew, Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, and the other members of the General Chapter of 1989, approve and confirm these present Statutes.
    We do not, however, wish the earlier Statutes, especially the more ancient, to be forgotten; rather we desire that, although they no longer have force of law, their spirit may live on in our present observance.
  4. In conclusion, considering how God has graciously deigned from the beginning till the present day to foster, guide and protect the Carthusian family, supplying us in abundance with everything leading to our salvation and perfection, we exhort and beseech through the divine mercy and goodness, all the professed and members of our Order to strive, each in his own vocation and task, to respond with all possible gratitude to such paternal generosity and benevolence on the part of the Lord, our God. This we will achieve, if we labor faithfully and carefully in the regular observance handed down to us by these Statutes, so that our exterior conduct being rightly and fittingly ordered and cultivated, we may the more ardently seek, the more quickly find, the more perfectly possess God himself in the depths of our souls; and thus, with the Lord’s help, we may be enabled to attain to the perfection of love — which is the aim of our Profession and of the whole monastic life — and through it, to obtain beatitude eternal.

Chapter 2


Guigues’ Praise of Life in Solitude « »
  1. Those monks who have praised solitude wished to bear witness to a mystery, whose riches they had indeed experienced, but whose full penetration is reserved for heaven alone; for in solitude there is ever being enacted the great mystery of Christ and his Church, of which our Lady is the outstanding exemplar, but which lies hidden in its entirety in the depths of every faithful soul, where to its unfolding solitude greatly contributes. Hence, one should seek in the following chapter — taken from Guigues’ Customs — as it were, sparks of light thrown off from the soul of him, to whom the Holy Spirit entrusted the compilation of the first laws of our Order. For these words of our fifth Prior, while they do indeed interpret Sacred Scripture in the vein of ancient allegory, nevertheless, when rightly understood, attain sublime truth, which links us, who enjoy the same grace, with our early Fathers.
  2. In praise of solitude, to which we have been called in a special way, we will say but little; since we know that it has already obtained enthusiastic recommendation from many saints and wise men of such great authority, that we are not worthy to follow in their steps.
  3. For, as you know, in the Old Testament, and still more so in the New, almost all God’s secrets of major importance and hidden meaning, were revealed to his servants, not in the turbulence of the crowd but in the silence of solitude; and you know, too, that these same servants of God, when they wished to penetrate more profoundly some spiritual truth, or to pray with greater freedom, or to become a stranger to things earthly in an ardent elevation of the soul, nearly always fled the hindrance of the multitude for the benefits of solitude.
  4. Thus — to illustrate by some examples — when seeking a place for meditation, Isaac went out to a field alone; and this, one may assume, was his normal practice, and not an isolated incident. Likewise, it was when Jacob was alone, having dispatched his retinue ahead of him, that he saw God face to face, and was favored with a blessing and a new and better name, thus receiving more in one moment of solitude than in a whole lifetime of social contact.
  5. Scripture also tells us how Moses, Elijah and Elisha esteemed solitude, and how conducive they found it to an ever deeper penetration of the divine secrets; and note, too, what perils constantly surrounded them when among men, and how God visited them when alone.
  6. Overwhelmed by the spectacle of God’s indignation, Jeremiah, too, sat alone. He asked that his head might be a fountain, his eyes a spring for tears, to mourn the slain of his people; and that he might the more freely give himself to this holy work he exclaimed, "O, that I had in the desert a wayfarer’s shelter!" clearly implying that he could not do this in a city, and thus indicating what an impediment companions are to the gift of tears. Jeremiah, also said, "It is good for a man to await the salvation of God in silence." — which longing solitude greatly favors; and he adds, "It is good also for the man who has borne the yoke from early youth," — a very consoling text for us, many of whom have embraced this vocation from early manhood; and yet again he speaks saying, "The solitary will sit and keep silence, for he will lift himself above himself." Here the prophet makes reference to nearly all that is best in our life: peace, solitude, silence, and ardent thirst for the things of heaven.
  7. Later, as an example of the supreme patience and perfect humility of those formed in this school, Jeremiah speaks of, "Jeering of the multitude and cheek buffeted in scorn, bravely endured."
  8. John the Baptist, greater than whom, the Savior tells us, has not risen among those born of women, is another striking example of the safety and value of solitude. Trusting not in the fact that divine prophecy had foretold that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, and that he would go before Christ the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah; nor in the fact that his birth had been miraculous, and that his parents were saints, he fled the society of men as something dangerous and chose the security of desert solitude: and, in actual fact, as long as he dwelt alone in the desert, he knew neither danger nor death. Moreover the virtue and merit he attained there are amply attested by his unique call to baptize Christ, and by his acceptance of death for the sake of justice. For, schooled in sanctity in solitude, he, alone of all men, became worthy to wash Christ — Christ who washes all things clean — and worthy, too, to undergo prison bonds and death itself in the cause of truth.
  9. Jesus himself, God and Lord, whose virtue was above both the assistance of solitude and the hindrance of social contact, wished, nevertheless, to teach us by his example; so, before beginning to preach or work miracles, he was, as it were, proved by a period of fasting and temptation in the solitude of the desert; similarly, Scripture speaks of him leaving his disciples and ascending the mountain alone to pray. Then there was that striking example of the value of solitude as a help to prayer, when Christ, just as his Passion was approaching, left even his Apostles to pray alone — a clear indication that solitude is to be preferred for prayer even to the company of Apostles.
  10. We cannot here pass over in silence a mystery that merits our deepest consideration; the fact that this same Lord and Savior of mankind deigned to live as the first exemplar of our Carthusian life, when he retired alone to the desert and gave himself to prayer and the interior life; treating his body hard with fasting, vigils and other penances; and conquering the devil and his temptations with spiritual arms.
  11. And now, dear reader, ponder and reflect on the great spiritual benefits derived from solitude by the holy and venerable Fathers, Paul, Anthony, Hilarion, Benedict, and others beyond number, and you will readily agree that for tasting the spiritual savor of psalmody; for penetrating the message of the written page; for kindling the fire of fervent prayer; for engaging in profound meditation; for losing oneself in mystic contemplation; for obtaining the heavenly dew of purifying tears — nothing is more helpful than solitude.
  12. The reader should not rest content with the above examples in praise of our vocation; let him gather together many more, either from present experience or from the pages of Sacred Scripture.
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