All are called to holiness, to be holy as God is holy, that is our human dignity and grace. But some few are called to follow a less frequented path to achieve it. Not because of any merit on their part, but to fulfil a particular function in the Church; in the case of the solitary, to witness visibly, in his life, to the absolute priority of God to any created thing.
Christ looks at someone, loves him and invites him to leave everything he has and to follow him in his radical surrender to God and in his mission for the salvation of mankind.
By penance, 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. (Statutes, 34.4) This is the essential priesthood of the Carthusian: the cloister monks also exercise a more ministerial role within the cloister.
Our monks come from many different countries and backgrounds, and follow very different paths. The essential is the call, however it comes, and its discernment in the practical living of the Carthusian life. It is a question of letting ones self be guided by the Spirit into the secret of God, into His infinite abounding love; of being engendered as a son of God and becoming a person really in Christ. This is the Good News Jesus brought to us, the gift of God that he offers to our faith.
There are various stages: postulancy (3 to 12 months); novitiate (2 years); temporary profession (5 years), before the monk makes a final commitment by perpetual vows. It takes time to grow to maturity, to arrive at the unshackled liberty to give oneself, to love as we are loved.
Little by little this comes about by letting in the light of the Spirit, through discernment, conversion, sin and repentance, purification of the heart, spiritual combat, laughter and tears, fraternity and aloneness, a listening to the Word of God, entry into the life of prayer, learning to live with God, oneself and ones neighbour, profound transformation in Christ and, with the help of God, perseverance.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Cor 3:17-18)
Many will drop out along the demanding desert road of solitude. They may find that they are now called to live their faith in another way of life. Others, poorer perhaps in many ways but finding their grace in their poverty and trusting in God alone will go on to the gift of self in Christ in solemn profession.
The monk, already by baptism dead to sin and consecrated to God, is by Profession still more totally dedicated to the Father and set free from the world, in order to be able to strive more directly towards perfect love; linked with the Lord in firm and stable pact, he shares in the mystery of the Churchs indissoluble union with Christ, and bears witness to the world of that new life won for us by Christs redemption.
Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.
Amen. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.