Book Four, Chapter 31
The Government of the Order
1 To keep our Carthusian ideal continually before us and to maintain it in unchanging vigor, the first Priors of our Order by common consent decreed that a General Chapter would be held in the Grande Chartreuse, and to this Chapter they submitted all their Houses with a view to correction and preservation; and to it they likewise promised obedience both for themselves and for their communities. In this way, strength is given to the bond of perpetual love that exists between the Houses and between all the members of the Order, who are striving eagerly to advance together along Gods path.
2 The General Chapter is held every other year, at which the Priors, and likewise the Rectors, the Procurator General, and the Vicars of nuns, are all to assist. Should someone in charge of a House be unable to go, let him delegate a solemnly professed monk. Should a House be without a Prior, the Reverend Father may invite a solemnly professed monk of that House to come to the General Chapter. Every monk who is present at the Chapter has the rights and functions of a Prior.
3 The Assembly of all those who enjoy the rights of a Prior, and also of those monks who happen to be numbered among the Definitors, is called the General Assembly, over which the Reverend Father presides. This Assembly has the power to regulate all matters pertaining to the Order, apart from those that are reserved to the Definitory. The General Assembly also gives a consultative vote on matters referred to it by the Definitors, who, on this occasion, do not themselves vote.
4 The Definitory, over which the Reverend Father presides, consists of the Reverend Father and eight Definitors elected in the manner discussed elsewhere. Except for the Reverend Father, no one who was a Definitor at the previous Chapter can be elected. In matters relating to individual persons and to the Houses of the Order, the Definitory decides.
At each General Chapter, all the superiors, in accordance with the common obedience promised and due to the General Chapter, ask for mercy so that the Definitory can deliberate upon their removal or confirmation. According to our tradition, the Prior discharges his office as long as the General Chapter deems him fit to exercise his office for the good of the community. Also, the Definitors appoint the Procurator General, who represents the Order at the Holy See.
9 Any ordinance which would cause a substantial change in any point of our observance, even though it might not affect the rigor of the Order, cannot be promulgated unless it receives the assent of at least two-thirds of those who vote. At the following General Chapter, it must be confirmed by a similar vote.
11 The Reverend Father, that is, the Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, is the Father General of the entire Order. He is elected by the community of the Grande Chartreuse, but this election does not have force of law until it is accepted by the assembly of Priors, Prioresses, and Rectors.
15 The Reverend Father, whose task it is, as the Minister General, to preserve the unity of the Order, exercises ordinary jurisdiction over the nuns.
19 All who exercise authority in the Order should always regard the mind and law of the Church as the supreme norm in accordance with which the traditions of the Order are to be interpreted. It is, moreover, supremely fitting that the Priors to whom their subjects owe prompt obedience should themselves give these same subjects good example by humbly submitting to the ordinances of the General Chapter and of the Reverend Father, and by avoiding criticism of them in the presence of others.
In order that the communion of our Order with the Holy Father be better fostered, the Reverend Father sends a brief overview of the state and life of the Order to the Apostolic See every six year.
The Canonical Visitation
1 Moved by urgent concern for peace and love, and faithful observance in the Houses of the Order, the General Chapter decided to send Visitors to each House every two years; these Visitors are to manifest the solicitude of the Order in their regard, and they are to be endowed with the necessary powers to resolve any problems that may arise.
2 At each General Chapter, Priors suitable for this task are designated and their names inscribed in the Carta, so that, in virtue of their ordinary powers, they can visit the Houses of the Province of which their own Houses form a part. A Visitor is also to be named for the nuns, who should visit their Houses, together with the principal Visitor of the Province.
4 The procedure for the Visit is described elsewhere (chap. 40).
Since the community desires that the Visit should receive the Visitors or Commissioners in a spirit of faith, vested as they are with the authority of the General Chapter or the Reverend Father. Everyone should be at pains to help them in the accomplishment of their duty. Hence the Visitors and the monks should do all in their power to establish a climate of mutual trust.
5 The chief duty of the Visitors is to accord everyone a fraternal welcome, and listen to him with the greatest attention. Afterwards, they will make every effort to enable him to give to God and his brothers the best of himself.
6 It is not as judges that they should perform their task, but as brothers, to whom the tempted and the afflicted can open their minds freely and without fear of any breach of confidence; and, in a matter of such importance, let them avoid precipitation and proceed with tranquil calm.
7 All can speak without constraint to the Visitors and put before them any matters, affecting either themselves or the community, that require a decision or advice. They may also make constructive suggestions for the common good.
8 Before speaking of anyone else, we should recollect ourselves in prayer; for if we remain docile to the Holy Spirit we will be all the more certain of doing the truth in love. He who is truly at peace is suspicious of no one. It will often be better to keep silence rather than dwell on matters that are frivolous or cannot be proved, or on defects that are already being corrected.
9 Besides talking to each monk separately, the Visitors also meet the community itself, especially at the opening and closing sessions of the Visit.
In order that by Gods grace, the Visit may produce lasting fruit, they will do all that they can to enable the community to take in hand its own spiritual renewal.
18 Since the progress of our Houses depends greatly on the results of Visitation, the Visitors are to be thorough and zealous; they must never be satisfied with a superficial external fulfillment of their mission, or treat it as a mere matter of form. Let them seek only the good of souls and spare neither time nor effort, that their Visit may increase in all hearts peace and Christs love.
Conversion of Life
1 The more sublime the path that opens before us in the holy way of life handed down to us by our Fathers, the more easily can we fall away from it; not only by obvious transgressions, but also by the drag innate, as it were, in routine. Since, however, God gives his grace to the humble, let us have recourse to him above all and stand fast in the combat, lest the chosen vineyard fall into ruin.
2 For the continuing quality of our life will depend more on the fidelity of each individual than on the multiplication of laws, or the updating of customs, or even the zeal of Priors. It is not, indeed, enough to obey the commands of our superiors and observe faithfully the letter of the Statutes, unless, led by the Spirit, we savor the things of the Spirit. Each monk is placed in solitude from the very beginning of his new form of life and left to his own counsel. Now no longer a child, but a man, let him not be tossed to and fro and carried about with every new wind, but rather let him try to find out what would please God and do it of his own free will, enjoying with sober wisdom that liberty of Gods children, concerning which he will have to render an account before God. Let no one, however, be wise in his own eyes; for it is to be feared that he who neglects to open his heart to an enlightened guide, will lose the quality of discretion and go less quickly than is necessary, or too fast and grow weary, or stop on the way and quite fall asleep.
3 How, then, can we fulfill our role in the People of God of being living sacrifices acceptable to God, if we allow relaxation and immortification of life, distraction of mind and useless conversation, vain cares and trivial occupations, to separate us from the Son of God from him who is life itself and the Supreme Sacrifice; or if a monk in cell is held captive by a miserable anxiety arising from love of self? In simplicity of heart, then, and in purity of mind let us strive with all our power to fix our thoughts and affections continually on God. Let each be forgetful of self and what lies behind, and press on towards the goal to win the prize which is Gods call to the life above, in Christ Jesus.
4 "But he who has no love for the brother he has seen, what love can he have for the God he has not seen?" And since brotherly fellowship between men can never be perfect unless based on mutual esteem, it is certainly fitting in the highest degree that we, who live in the house of God, should bear witness to the love that comes from God by lovingly welcoming our brothers with whom we live, and by making a real effort to understand with heart and mind their characters and temperaments, however different from our own. For the source of hostilities, disagreements, and the like, often lies in contempt of others.
5 Let us carefully avoid anything that could injure the blessing of peace; above all, we should not speak unkindly about one of our brothers. If dissension does arise in the House among the monks or between them and the Prior before referring the matter to the Visitors, or to the Reverend Father, or the General Chapter, we should patiently and humbly explore every possibility of settling the dispute ourselves in a spirit of love. For it is better that the monastic family itself provide for the preservation of peace, through the effort and consent of all. In such a situation the Priors duty is to show himself not as one who dominates, but as a brother; and if he is at fault, let him acknowledge it and correct himself.
6 Since it is most particularly through the Priors that the spirit of the Houses in our Order declines or flourishes, let these strive to do good by their example and practice first what they teach; nor let them ever presume to say anything that Christ himself would not wish to say through them. Dedicated to prayer, silence, and cell, let them earn the confidence of their monks and have with them true communion of brotherly love. Let them keep a kindly and careful watch over their monks life in cell and the state of their souls, in order to be able to withstand their temptations in the early stages, lest these grow in strength and the remedy be applied too late.
7 Finally, in these times, we must be extremely careful not to model ourselves on the behavior of the world around us. For, too eagerly to seek and too readily to accept the comforts of modern life is altogether opposed to our state of life; especially as novelty always calls for more novelty. The resources granted us by divine Providence are not given that we may seek the good things of life; indeed, if the way to God is easy, it is because it is traveled not by loading ourselves with burdens, but by getting rid of them. Let us then, free ourselves from possessions to the point that, having given up everything and having left even self behind, we may share in the way of life of our first Fathers.
The Function of our Order in the Life of the Church
1 What benefit, what divine delight, solitude and the silence of the hermitage bring to those who love them, only those who have experienced them can tell. Yet, in choosing this, the best part, it is not our advantage alone that we have in view; in embracing a hidden life we do not abandon the great family of our fellow men; on the contrary, by devoting ourselves exclusively to God we exercise a special function in the Church, where things seen are ordered to things unseen, exterior activity to contemplation. *
2 If therefore we are truly living in union with God, our minds and hearts, far from becoming shut in on themselves, open up to embrace the whole universe and the mystery of Christ that saves it. Apart from all, to all we are united, so that it is in the name of all that we stand before the living God. This continual effort to be always as far as human frailty permits very close to God, unites us in a special way with the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we are accustomed to call the Mother in particular of all Carthusians.
3 Making him who is, the exclusive center of our lives through our Profession, we testify to a world, excessively absorbed in earthly things, that there is no God but him. Our life clearly shows that something of the joys of heaven is present already here below; it prefigures our risen state and anticipates in a manner the final renewal of the world.
4 By penance, moreover, we have our part in the saving work of Christ, who redeemed the human race from the oppressive bondage of sin, above all by pouring forth prayer to the Father, and by offering himself to him in sacrifice. Thus it comes about that we, too, even though we abstain from exterior activity, exercise nevertheless an apostolate of a very high order, since we strive to follow Christ in this, the inmost heart of his saving task.
5 Wherefore, in praise of God for which the hermit Order of Carthusians was founded in a special way let us dedicate ourselves to the peace and silence of our cells and strive to offer him unceasing worship, so that, sanctified in truth, we may be those true worshippers whom the Father seeks.
The Statutes Themselves
1 These Statutes contain, in renewed and adapted form, the rule of life of our Fathers; to this rule let our hearing be attentive and on it let our meditation be continual: let us not forsake it and it will keep us, let us love it and it will guard us. For it is both the form and the sacrament of that holiness to which each of us has been predestined by God. But it is the Spirit who gives life, and he does not allow us to rest content with the mere letter; for to this alone do these Statutes tend, that, guided by the Gospel, we may walk in the way of God and learn the breadth of love.
3 Matters not mentioned in the Statutes are left to the decision of the Prior, but only on condition that what he decides is not out of harmony with them. Whether on this or any other occasion, we do not wish that the Priors should change too easily the honorable and pious customs of our Houses, although these customs can never prevail against the Statutes.
5 "If your brother sins against you," the Lord says, "go and tell him his fault between you and him alone." Now this requires very great humility and prudence, and if it does not proceed from that pure love, which seeks not its own good, it even does harm. And do not we ourselves wish our corrections to come in humble tone? However, for the most part, it will be wiser to entrust our admonitions to the Prior, or to the Vicar, or to the Procurator, who will pass them on to others in the measure that conscience and prudence suggest.
7 For their part, the monks should give obedience to the Statutes, as responsible persons, not serving in appearance only, as pleasing men, but in simplicity of heart, fearing God. Nor should they be ignorant of the fact that, if obtained without just cause, a dispensation is null. Let them meekly listen to and fulfill the instructions and admonitions of their seniors, especially of the Prior, who acts on Gods behalf. And if, being human, they err at times, let them not be obstinate in refusing to amend, lest they give an opportunity to the devil; but rather to him, from whom man departed by the inertia of disobedience, let them return by the labor of obedience.
8 As we contemplate all the benefits which God has prepared for those he has called into the desert, let us rejoice with our Blessed Father Bruno that we have attained the peaceful haven of a hidden port, in which we are invited to experience, in some sort, the incomparable beauty of the Supreme Good. Let us rejoice in the beatitude, which has become our lot, and in the generous outpouring of Gods grace on us; and let us always give thanks to God the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Amen.