Today the Church commemorates Saint Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian Order. It is a very small order numerically speaking since there are probably fewer than five hundred Carthusian monks and nuns in the whole world, but it is nearly a thousand years old and one of the most distinguished groups of monastics in Christian history.
Saint Bruno taught theology in schools for about twenty-five years; then, he felt an attraction for a solitary life of silence, prayer, and contemplation. He and a small group of like-minded men received a tract of land in the French Alps and there they built for themselves a monastery in which each monk lives in a separate two-story cell and they spend most of their time in solitude and silence. Because of the austerity of the life, it does not appeal to many, but God does call a few chosen men and women into this form of the purely contemplative life, as it’s called.
We speak of the active clerical and religious life, the contemplative life, and the apostolic life. The active life is that of the diocesan priests and those religious whose principal work is with others as in the case of teaching, caring for the sick, the poor, the needy. The contemplative life is that of the Carthusians, Trappists, and the cloistered nuns like the Carmelites, Poor Clares, and our own Dominican contemplative nuns. And then the apostolic life is that of those who do what Saint Dominic wants us to do: to contemplate and then give to others by preaching the fruits of our contemplation.
I tell you all this just so that you can appreciate the various aspects of clerical and religious life and be aware of the wonderful variety of ministries in the Church of our Divine Lord and its service to humankind. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.