Rites and Acts of Carthusian Life
Rites of Carthusian Life
1 When anyone enters the Carthusian family, after a period of probation, he is received as a novice. By placing his hands between those of the Prior, he expresses his submission, and is received into the fellowship of the Order. All then conduct him to the cell, or, if he is a brother novice, to the church, so as to impress upon him the fact that his life is dedicated primarily to prayer.
Profession (and, in its own way, Donation) is a free, personal commitment which is expressed in the public reading of the formula of either Profession or Donation. Before his first Profession, the one about to make his vows is clothed with the cowl of the professed which symbolizes his conversion of life and his consecration to God; before the irrevocable act of solemn Profession, with special ardor he begs his brothers to help him with their prayers.
Reception of a cloister novice
2 After completing his probation, on an appointed day the postulant is proposed to the community (cf. 8.8). First, he is asked in the presence of all whether he has made Profession in another religious Institute; whether he is free from the bonds of marriage; whether he has any incurable disease; whether he is in a position to go on to Holy Orders; whether he has paid all his debts. He must know that if he conceals anything in responding to these questions, he can be expelled, even after Profession.
3 On another day, with the entire community assembled in Chapter, the postulant, lying prostrate, asks for mercy. Rising at the bidding of the Prior, he then says: "I ask for the love of God, to be received for probation in the monastic habit, as the most humble servant of all, if this should be pleasing to you, Father, and to the community."
Then the Prior presents to him the manner of life he desires to follow.
4 If the postulant replies that, relying solely on the goodness of God and the prayers of his brothers, he will fulfill these obligations insofar as the divine goodness allows, then the Prior tells him that he is free to leave before Profession and that, on the other hand, we have the power and liberty to send him away if, considering the matter before God, we find that he is not suited to our life. When he has given his assent to this, the postulant kneels at the Prior’s feet and places his joined hands between those of the Prior. The Prior then receives him into the fellowship of the Order on the part of God and of the Order, on his part and that of the community. When this has been done, he is received with a kiss of peace by the Prior and all the community.
5 On the same day, if possible, the novice is clothed privately, and is led to the church where he prostrates and prays on the sanctuary steps. The Prior, clothed with the church cowl and white stole, remains in the last stall of the right choir. The monks, kneeling in the stalls, sing the verse Veni, Sancte Spiritus, the choirs facing each other. At the conclusion the Prior inclines on the misericord, and the community likewise. The Prior says the versicle and then adds a Prayer.
After this, the novice is conducted to his cell by all, with hoods up, as they sing the psalms "How lovely is your dwelling place," "O Lord, remember," "Have mercy on me." One or two however may be sufficient. The Prior leads the way, followed by the novice, then the Procurator or the monk who carries the holy water, and then the community, seniors first. On arrival at the cell door the Prior sprinkles first the novice and then the cell, saying "Peace to this house;" then, taking the novice by the hand, he brings him into the cell and leads him to the oratory. The novice kneels and prays. When the community has finished the psalm or psalms, then follow the prayers, as described in the Ritual.
When these are finished the Prior enjoins the novice to keep the cell and all other practices in accordance with the observance and practice of our Order so that he may cling to God alone in silence and solitude, in constant prayer and ready penance. He then commends him to the care of the Novice Master.
Reception of a brother novice
6 After completing his probation, on an appointed day the postulant is proposed to the community (17.9). First he is asked in the presence of all, whether he has made Profession in another religious Institute; whether he is free from the bonds of marriages; whether he has any incurable disease; whether he has paid all his debts. He must know that if he conceals anything in responding to these questions, he can be expelled, even after Profession.
7 On the day of his reception, prostrate before the whole community in Chapter, the postulant asks for mercy. At the bidding of the Prior, who is clothed with the church cowl and the white stole, he rises and asks for the love of God to be received for probation in the monastic habit as the most humble servant of all. Then after an exhortation from the Prior he is told that during the novitiate he is free to leave, while on the other hand we have the power and liberty to send him away if, considering the matter before God, we find that he is not suited to our life. When he has given his assent to this, he kneels at the Prior’s feet and places his joined hands between those of the Prior. The Prior then grants him fellowship in the Order on the part of God and of the Order, on his own part and that of the community. He is then clothed with the cowl and mantle and receives the kiss of peace, first from the Prior and then from the others.
When this has been done, the novice is led from the Chapter House to the church, with the community singing the psalm "How lovely is your dwelling place." The Prior leads the way, followed by the novice and then the fathers and brothers, seniors first. On arrival at the church the Prior, taking the novice by the hand, leads him to the sanctuary steps where he prostrates and prays. Meanwhile the community kneels and sings the verse Veni, Sancte Spiritus. At the conclusion, the Prior inclines on the misericord, and the community likewise. The Prior says the versicle and then adds a Prayer.
When it is finished the novice rises, makes a profound bow and goes to his place in choir.
8 On the day before a novice takes either simple or solemn vows, before Vespers he prostrates in Chapter in the presence of the whole community and asks for mercy. When the Prior says, "Rise," he stands and asks to be received for Profession as the most humble servant of all; he remains standing to listen to the Prior’s sermon.
On the day on which Profession is to be made, some relics of the saints are placed on the altar.
9 When simple Profession is made, at the beginning of the Kyrie eleison of the Conventual Mass the Novice Master or, if he is not available, some other monk puts the new cowl on the forms in front of the one who is to make Profession. After the Gospel, or the Credo, if it is sung, (the Universal Prayer being omitted), the one about to be professed takes the cowl in his hands and goes to the sanctuary steps, where he makes a profound bow and, putting down the cowl, remains standing. The Prior then comes to him and says the following prayers as described in the Ritual. He then blesses the cowl, which has been placed on the step in front of the one about to make Profession, and with hand extended says the appropriate Prayer. After the blessing he sprinkles the cowl with holy water.
When this has been done the candidate for Profession kneels in front of the Prior on the first step of the sanctuary and in a clear voice recites (if there are several, they recite it together) the psalm "Preserve me, God" up to the verse "O Lord, it is you who are my portion" exclusively. Then with the help of the Sacristan, the Prior takes the short cowl and the mantle from off the novice and says: "May the Lord put off from your old self with its past deeds," and exchanges it for the long cowl, saying: "and may he clothe you with the new man, created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth." If there are several being professed he repeats the same words for each one.
After this the novice reads the formula of Profession (10.9 or 18.10) written on paper, which he holds in his hands. If there are several the formula is read by each one separately.
When he has made his vows the professed gives the document to the Prior and, beginning with the verse "O Lord, it is you who are my portion," he continues the psalm up to and including the "Glory to the Father ... Amen." Then, after making a profound bow, he returns to his place.
10 At the Mass of Profession — whether it be simple or solemn vows — the newly professed receives the Body of the Lord from the Prior’s hands, immediately after the deacon, even if he is a priest, and thus he does not concelebrate; but he can celebrate Mass in private that day.
13 For the ceremonies in Chapter and the preparation of the altar see no. 8 above.
At the Mass, which is prioral, after the Gospel, or the Credo if it is sung, (the Universal Prayer being omitted), the one (or those) about to be professed goes to the center of the sanctuary steps, bows profoundly, and sings the verse: "Sustain me, Lord, as you have promised, that I may live; disappoint me not in my hope." The community, facing the altar, replies in the same way and on the same tone. When the verse has been repeated three times by both, the community sings: "Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy." Then the community, inclined on the misericords, prays in silence.
When the "As it was in the beginning" is begun, the professed stands erect and goes down the right choir towards the first stall and, before the monk occupying it, then before each of the other monks of that choir, he kneels and says "Pray for me, brother;" then passing to the left choir, he does the same.
14 After this the community stands with hoods down facing the altar, and the one to be professed stands facing the middle of the altar. All then listen as he clearly and distinctly reads the formula of Profession, written on parchment; after reading it he kisses the altar and places the parchment on it in offering. He then prostrates before the celebrant’s chair, at the feet of the priest, and he receives the blessing while the community inclines on the misericords. The Prior sings the Prayer with his hand extended over the professed. If there are several, he sings the Prayer in the plural. He then sprinkles him with holy water, and the professed returns to his choir stall.
In the Eucharistic Prayer, mention is made of the newly solemn professed, in order that his self-offering may be more intimately joined to that of our divine Redeemer.
16 Temporary Donation is made in Chapter before Vespers, in the presence of the community. The Prior is vested in church cowl and white stole and is seated in front of the altar. The novice prostrates and asks for mercy. Rising at the Prior’s bidding, he says, "I ask for the love of God to be received for temporary Donation as the most humble servant of all, if this should be pleasing to you, Father, and to the community." Then, after hearing an exhortation from the Prior, while the community remains seated with hoods up, the novice goes forward and kneels at the step in front of the altar before the Prior. Then the Prior rises and, helped by the Sacristan and the Procurator, the Prior takes away the mantle and short cowl with the words, "May the Lord put off from you your old self with its past deeds," and clothing him with the long cowl without bands, adds, "And may he clothe you with the new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth." If there are several, he repeats the same words for each one.
The novice then reads the formula of Donation (19.3), written on paper, which he holds in his hand. He gives it to the Prior after he has made his Donation. The Prior accepts his Donation with these words: "And I, dear brother, receive your Donation on the part of God and of the Order, and I promise in my name and in that of my successors to provide for all your needs both of body and soul, with paternal kindness, provided you remain faithful to your promises. And may the blessing of Almighty God, Father, † Son and Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with you for ever. R/. Amen." After the word "promise" he specifies the duration if it is a question of temporary Donation, or says "until the end of your life," if it is perpetual Donation.
Then all go to Vespers in choir.
18 Perpetual Donation is made in the presence of the whole community before Vespers. First of all, the community assembles in Chapter, and the donate prostrates before the Prior, who is vested in church cowl and white stole. He asks for mercy, and at the Prior’s bidding he stands and says: "I ask for the love of God to be received for perpetual Donation as the most humble servant of all, if this should be pleasing to you, Father, and to the community." After the exhortation of the Prior, all go to the church, the donate following immediately after the Prior. The donate kneels on the sanctuary steps, with the Prior standing before him, while the monks stand with their hoods down in their places in choir, facing the altar. Then the donate reads the formula of Donation, and the Prior receives it and blesses him, as described in the previous section (no. 16).
Then, while the donate remains kneeling in the same place, the Prior goes to the last place of the right choir, and the community, kneeling in the stalls, sings the Sub tuum pręsidium. The versicle is sung by the weekly chanter, and the Prior then says a Prayer.
Afterwards, he goes to take off the church cowl in the vestry and then to his place in choir. The donate also goes to his place, and Vespers are intoned.
Election of a Prior
1 When a House of the Order loses its Prior, the Vicar takes a secret vote of those solemnly professed who have the right to elect, to ascertain whether they wish to exercise it. If the General Chapter is being held at the time, the community makes known its response to the Definitory as soon as possible. If the community does not wish to elect, or if, on the second ballot, the votes are still equally divided, then the Vicar is to ask the General Chapter, or the Reverend Father if the General Chapter is not in session, to provide in their prudence for the orphaned House.
3 If the community replies that it wishes to elect, the Vicar must, in the Lord’s name, seriously admonish the electors that the election of a pastor of souls is a very difficult but extremely important matter; since, in large measure, the whole flock will be good or bad, according as the pastor is good or bad: and that therefore, in this undertaking, they must proceed with all uprightness and prudence and fear of God. In electing a Prior, attention should be given in the first place to those qualities necessary for the guidance of souls. Some aptitude for the administration of temporal affairs is also required, but this alone cannot decide the choice; besides, the care of temporal things can be entrusted to others.
4 After the Vicar has put these points before the electors, a fast of three continuous days, unless a solemnity or Sunday intervenes, is prescribed for all.
5 Every day until it has a new Prior, the community sings the hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus with united devotion, as described in the Ritual, after Lauds and Vespers.
6 All have the right, and indeed the obligation, to question those members of the Order who have a better knowledge of the persons involved; religious so consulted must be careful not to put pressure on the electors in any way.
8 Meanwhile, as quickly as conveniently possible, Confirming Officers will be summoned to preside at the election; both should be Priors, deputed by the General Chapter or the Reverend Father, or, if two Priors are not readily available, one a Prior and the other a monk, who may not, however, be a member of the electing community. Unless something prevents it, one of the Confirming Officers should be a Visitor of the Province.
9 Those so called to assist at the election should unite themselves in silence and prayer with the electing community; nor should they interfere in the coming election in any way. For it is not for them to suggest candidates, but only to reply truthfully to any that question them and simply to receive the votes of the electors.
10 On the day of the election, one of the Confirming Officers celebrates, or presides at the concelebration of the Mass of the Holy Spirit in the presence of the entire community. After the Mass, the Vicar assembles the Confirming Officers and the community in Chapter. While all are standing with hoods down, the principal Confirming Officer begins the prayers as described in the Ritual. Then he or his colleague gives a sermon, at the end of which only the electors remain in Chapter with the Confirming Officers, while all the others depart.
11 Then, the principal of the two will warn the electors that they are to elect someone whom they judge, before God and conscience, to be truly fitted and suitable for the office of Prior in that House.
12 Then, at the bidding of the principal Confirming Officer, each will go to the place appointed for filling in the ballots; he will write only the name and surname of his choice, enclose the paper in an envelope, bring it to the table of the Confirming Officers, and place it in the vessel set there for that purpose.
13 If someone who has a vote is unable to assist in person at the election, he can still cast his vote, written on a ballot-paper and enclosed in an envelope like the others; the Confirming Officers themselves will, if necessary, go to his cell to receive it.
14 When all the votes have been cast, the principal Confirming Officer counts and opens them. The future Prior must obtain more than half the votes actually cast, subtracting, that is, the abstentions and the invalid votes. If no one gets this, the Confirming Officers will announce the names of those who received votes, and the number of votes each obtained. The ballot-papers will be burned then and there, and a new vote taken.
15 If, after three ballots, no one is elected, a fourth and last can take place the same day; before this, the monks will be at liberty to discuss the matter outside the Chapter House among themselves, but not with others. If still no one is elected, an account of the whole affair will be sent to the Reverend Father, who, after consulting the Visitors of the Province, will provide the orphaned House with a pastor.
16 If, on the other hand, someone is elected, the principal Confirming Officer will announce in a loud voice, "We have a Prior;" he will then give his name, his House of Profession, any office he may hold, and the number of votes he obtained; after which, all the ballots are to be burned.
17 Upon the public announcement of the name of the Prior, the Vicar, unless he himself has been elected, will ask the Confirming Officers to confirm the elect as Prior. They, however, will assign a time-limit of one or two days, during which objections against either the form of the election or the person elected can be made.
21 Should the Confirming Officers find no impediment they will call all the electors, and them alone, into the Chapter, while the rest wait in the church. They will then confirm the one elected, the principal Confirming Officer saying: "We N. and N. humble Priors of the Houses N. and N. deputed by the General Chapter or the Reverend Father to preside at your election, by the authority of the Statutes, confirm for you as Prior of this House Dom N., professed of N. House, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." To which all present will respond, "Amen." If one of the Confirming Officers dies, is impeded or elected Prior, the other alone confirms the elect. Then, the second Confirming Officer is to read an account of the election, which first the Confirming Officers, and after them all the electors, are to sign.
25 On the day the new Prior assumes office, at a pre-arranged time, the Confirming Officers (or, if they are absent, the Vicar and the Antiquior) escort the new Prior to his predecessor’s place in church, holding his cowl on either side, and with everyone else following. There is a brief Prayer in church, everyone leaning against the forms with hoods down; afterwards, all go to the Chapter House, where the principal Confirming Officer (or Vicar) addresses the new Prior, who then makes the profession of faith required by Canon Law. Then the Vicar comes forward and, kneeling, places his joined hands between those of the Prior, who asks him, "Do you promise obedience?" He replies, "I promise" and after receiving the kiss of peace, he gets up and goes to his place. After the Vicar, the Antiquior and the others in order of seniority do the same.
26 The whole day is given over to rejoicing; we eat together in refectory, and no fast is observed except one which would not be broken even for a solemnity. The Office preceding refectory is sung in church.
The Liturgical Seasons
The Liturgy in our Order
1 End and Source
The Liturgy is at once both the end to which the action of the Church tends and at the same time the source from which flows all her strength. We who have left everything to seek God alone and to possess him more fully, should carry out the liturgical functions with particular reverence. For when we accomplish the Liturgy, especially the Eucharistic celebration, we have access to the Father through his Son, the Word Incarnate who suffered and was glorified, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Thus we achieve communion with the Most Holy Trinity.
2 A Sign of Contemplation
When we celebrate the divine worship in choir, or recite the Office in cell, it is the prayer of the Church which is being offered by our lips; for the prayer of Christ is one, and through the Sacred Liturgy, this one prayer is wholly present in each member. But among solitary monks, liturgical acts manifest in a special way the nature of the Church in which the human is directed and subjected to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation.
3 A Complement to Solitary Prayer
Throughout the centuries, our Fathers have taken care that our rite should remain suited to our eremitical vocation and the smallness of our communities, by being simple and sober and ordered primarily to the union of the soul with God. For we know that Mother Church has always approved of a diversity of liturgical rites by which her catholic and undivided nature is all the more clearly manifested. Thus, through the sacred rites, we are able to express the deeper aspirations of the Spirit, and prayer, springing from the depths of the heart, when it finds an echo in the sacred words of the Liturgy, acquires a new perfection.
4 Liturgy perfected by Solitary Prayer
Again, communal prayer, which we make our own through the liturgical action, is carried over into solitary prayer by which we offer to God an intimate sacrifice of praise, transcending all words. For the solitude of the cell is the place where a soul, enamored of silence, and forgetful of human cares, becomes a sharer in the fullness of the mystery by which Christ crucified, rising from the dead, returns to the bosom of the Father. A monk, therefore, provided he strives continually to cling to God, exemplifies within himself what is signified by the entire Liturgy.
Our Way of Chanting and the Psalmody
1 Our Order recognizes in the Gregorian chant an integral part of its Liturgy. We ought to take part in the Divine Office with vigor and purity so as to stand before the Lord with reverence and a ready will, not lazily nor half asleep, not sparing our voices nor clipping our words, but with virility, as is fitting, letting the Holy Spirit inspire both heart and voice as we sing.
Simplicity and measure should so regulate the chant that its hallmark will be a gravity which will encourage the spirit of devotion, for we should sing and praise the Lord with mind and voice. We sing best when we enter into the sentiments with which the psalms and canticles were written.
2 The psalmody should be neither too long and drawn out nor too quick. It should be rendered with a voice that is full, lively and clear, so that all can sing with devotion and attention, without any shouting, and combining depth of feeling with diligence in execution.
3 We make a substantial pause in the middle of the verse. At the beginning, the middle and the end of the verse we both start and finish together. No one should presume to start before the others nor to sing faster than they do; we should sing together and pause together, always listening to the voices of the others.
4 As far as possible, in every text be it the lessons, the psalms or the chant the accentuation and the interrelationship of the words should not be neglected, for the correct phrasing of the words is of the greatest help for grasping and relishing the meaning.
5 It is of the greatest importance that novices should be properly instructed in the chant, and those are to be praised who, once they have left the novitiate, do not neglect this study.
6 In the Houses of the Order both the night and the day Offices are to be celebrated with chant whenever there are at least six fathers present who are in good health.
12 The Chanters put in charge of the two choirs should be so instructed and experienced that they give others good and timely direction in the psalmody and the chant according to the principles laid down above, but always under the direction and the authority of the Prior. They have further the task of gently correcting those who sing either too slowly or too quickly, or otherwise than is laid down, but it is better that they should do this outside the choir.
13 In their own choir, the Chanters raise or lower the pitch of the psalms and also of the rest of the chant, as seems expedient, so that all can sing without strain.
When the Chanters are present, no one else is to correct the choir except the Prior, or in his absence, the Vicar.
25 Let us observe this manner of chanting, singing in the sight of the most Holy Trinity and the holy angels, penetrated with fear of God and aflame with a deep desire. May the songs we sing raise our minds to the contemplation of eternal realities, and our voices blend into one cry of jubilation before God our Creator.
Ceremonies of the Community during the Divine Office
The Way We Enter Church
1 As soon as the bell is heard for those Hours of the Divine Office which we sing together in church, we leave all other occupations and hasten to church with the greatest reverence and decorum. For nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.
2 As we enter church we take holy water and after making a profound bow to the Blessed Sacrament we go to our place in choir. We also make a profound bow at the sanctuary steps whenever we either go on to or leave the sanctuary and whenever we pass in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
After entering the stalls, we stand facing the altar with our hoods up, preparing ourselves in silence for the Office; when the President gives the signal we either incline or kneel for the silent prayer, according to the time.
We do not enter the church during the period of private prayer which precedes the Office.
Prayer in Silence
6 (...) Such periods of silence allow our personal prayer to be more deeply fused with the Word of God and with the public prayer of the Church.
The Sign of the Cross
22 Out of respect for the divine majesty, we avoid all noise in church. We conduct ourselves with decorum and always keep our hands outside the cowl. Our eyes should be guarded always and everywhere, but most of all in church and refectory.
25 After the singing of the Hours, or of the Mass or of any other Office, the Prior leaves the church first, then the Vicar, then the others follow. No one should remain in church or elsewhere, unless evident necessity excuses him.
Ceremonies for the Office in Cell
10 If sometimes manifest weakness or excessive weariness compels us to sit during the Office, or if we are confined to bed with sickness, nevertheless we try to show as much reverence as possible when we recite the Office.
Everywhere, when we say the Divine Office, we must do so with reverence and decorum since the majesty and divinity of him whom we address and before whom we stand is everywhere the same, both watching over us and listening to us.
Sacraments and Suffrages
1 In the Sacrament of Penance, God, the Father of mercies, through the Paschal Mystery of his Son, reconciles us in the Spirit with himself, with the Church and with ourselves. We encourage all to have frequent recourse to this sacrament; for, by it, that conversion of the heart which is the basic aim of the monk becomes rooted in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ.
2 The Prior must name and appoint several of the more discreet monks to hear the confessions of the others.
Moreover, any member of the Order can, for the peace of his conscience, both validly and licitly confess to any priest who has legitimate faculties.
3 We should avoid, as far as possible, hearing the confessions of those who are not members of our Order, and it is forbidden to hear the confessions of women (cf. 6.13).
Since we are members one of another it is fitting that we take upon ourselves in prayer the burdens of our brothers, and that we pray especially for:
Each Member of the Order
For our Superiors
For our Families and Benefactors
For the Universal Church and for the Order
25 Although we offer many prayers for specific persons, we trust that all our prayers may, by the mercy of God, benefit first of all the universal Church, to the praise of the glory of God.