The Carthusian Monks are a religious order that are devoted to silence, prayer, and simplicity. Due to this isolation from the world and a solitary devotion to God, they tend not to allow visitors, except on rare occasions. With that said, they recently allowed a visitor to their community in Calabria, Italy. He was an American priest, who chose to remain anonymous, follow their daily regimen, and write a book about it. This book is called Report from Calabria: A Season with the Carthusian Monks.
The book is written in the format of journal entries and letters home to his family and friends. The first letter begins by telling us a little bit about who the Carthusian monks are, his initial impressions of the community, and the three “products” that these monks produce: Divine Worship, Prayer for Oneself and Others, and Contemplative Union with God. He concludes the first letter by giving an outline or schedule of a typical day in the life of a Carthusian monks. Their day starts at 11:30 PM with prayer and ends at 7:30 PM after prayer. Much of their day is spent praying in solitude in their cell, except Sundays or Solemnities. Apart from few meals (usually in silence or in their cell), there is some manual prayer but the bulk of their day is prayer.
The second letter tells about the food. He describes it as simple, but delicious and a generous portion. However, the monks only receive one meal per day. Another letter tells us that presently that there are only six monks present at the community of Serra San Bruno. Some have died. Some have left the community. Others have gone on to set up communities in different countries. Other letters discuss the struggle of the language barrier, miracles, and the strange visitors that come visit this community.
The book concludes with two appendices, one with writings of St. Bruno and the other about the popes and their support of the Carthusian monks. Overall, I found this book to be an interesting read. It gave me some insight on a religious order that I knew very little about and will probably never experience. I appreciated the author’s writing of this book and putting it on a very simple level showing the actual day-to-day grit and grind of this lifestyle. He didn’t try to glamorize it or make it seem like something everyone could or should do, but instead showed us a lifestyle that few are called to and appreciate those who are called to such a lifestyle.
Apart from the writing style, what really made this book stand out was all the photographs that complemented the text. If you would like to learn more about the Carthusian monks, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this book.
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Copyright 2018 Stuart Dunn
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