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For several years, a book about the Carthusians, the Catholic Church’s best ascetic apostolic order, has sat on my shelf allurement to be read. Last week, I assuredly accomplished the account that traces the lives of bristles adolescent American men who became postulants at Parkminster, the order’s charterhouse in West Sussex, England.
The rigors of active in the order’s 22 monasteries about the apple are so tough, 90 percent of the postulants never accomplish it to austere declared vows bristles years later.
The author, Nancy Klein Maguire, a Capitol Hill resident, affiliated an ex-Carthusian monk. A 17th-century scholar-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library, she begin about no accounting actual on this order. She began tracking bottomward ex-monks to put calm a book application actual no one abroad has unearthed.
The book, “An Infinity of Little Hours,” took her seven years of research. The monks she met gave her abundance of claimed addendum and accord about their lives. One beatific her a 40-page letter.
“It’s as if they’d been cat-and-mouse their absolute lives to allocution with addition about this,” she said.
She chose Parkminster because it’s the better of the English-speaking monasteries. Her descriptions of the 11th-century altitude (the adjustment was founded in 1084) these men lived in is fascinating. Hair shirts are required, they eat no meat and they rarely, if ever, allocution with one another. They can booty one airing a anniversary alfresco abbey grounds. Their mail is monitored. There is no TV, radio or newspapers.
“You accept to accept the isolation,” she told me. “There is a charterhouse in Vermont that has bags of acres.”
Every night from 11 p.m. to about 2 a.m., they recite Matins and Lauds — the aboriginal two official circadian prayers of the Catholic Church — which agency beddy-bye comes in four-hour shifts.
Of the ex-monks she interviewed, best said the abridgement of sleep, not the connected fasting, is what got to them.
“They’ve never adapted to accepting up in the average of night,” she said. “It’s breach sleep. It’s not a beddy-bye you deathwatch up from activity refreshed.
“And the algid gets to you and the damp. The bedding are damp, the blankets are damp, the walls are so blubbery that in the winter, the central becomes like a refrigerator.”
But, “It could be a adequate activity with no assets taxes, no bills to pay. So they accomplish active there hard. The abstraction is to be focused on your abutting activity with God. The alone acumen for accomplishing this is to be affectionate with God in this apple afore they are dead.”
Women accept gotten in the act as well, as there are six charterhouses of nuns worldwide, the best contempo aperture in South Korea. Contempo houses for men accept opened in Argentina and Brazil.
But absorption has waned at Parkminster, which housed 100 monks back it opened in 1863. In 1960, there was a cat-and-mouse account to get in. Today, 20 monks alive there.
The adjustment swung in a added bourgeois administration in 2001 back seven priors were removed for advanced cerebration and innovations such as putting showers, hot baptize and even toilets in the cells. Today, Mrs. Maguire says, a woman would not be accustomed central Parkminster, as she was, to do research.
Of one of the priors who was discharged, she said, “He was alteration what the conservatives anticipation was the attributes of the order: to be uncomfortable. He anticipation that to get recruits in the 21st century, the charterhouse bare to be a abode area bodies of the adolescent bearing could live.”
• Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven cavalcade runs on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]