Last October, I went on retreat with a priest-friend of mine down at the Monastery of Our Lady of Beatitude and St. Bruno and the Carthusian Sisters living there (located just outside of Livingston Manor, nestled in Sullivan County, just outside of our own diocese). There appeared to be about two dozen cloistered sisters—all filled with a radiant joy—who live their lives in near-complete solitude. They live and work in their own individual “cells” (see the picture below, to the right…the little roofs of cells stretching throughout the enclosure), all while praying for so many intentions, including the intentions of retreatants like me. At the end of our week-long retreat, we were happy to hear that there was a sister there, of about 25 years old—Sister Lux Bruna—who would be taking her final, solemn vows that afternoon. The chapel (as well as the whole community) was indeed ready for such a beautiful occasion! When we left, we promised to continue to pray, in gratitude, for the Sisters and their community.
Once Pope Francis proclaimed this to be the Year of Consecrated Life, our parish began to celebrate it with a collection of various items that could be of great use to the Sisters: paper, pens, light bulbs and batteries were our needed items. And, wow, did we respond! With nearly 200 pounds of goods, I called the Sisters last week to ask if I could visit them on Wednesday of Holy Week. A little baffled by my request, they were still very pleased to grant me permission. Yesterday, I made the 5-hour round trip as a way for me to enter more deeply into Holy Week…a kind of “day long” retreat, if you will.
As I drove onto the monastic property I was immediately reminded of the peace and tranquility they offered to me months earlier…and then I hit the snowy tundra leading me up the mountain road! Thank the good Lord I had waited until the Spring, and that I still had my snow tires on the car. After a long struggle up the mountain (and lots of mud, slush and ice in the wheel wells), I finally made it to the entrance of the enclosure (or cloister). I rang the bell and waited. Within a few minutes, I was greeted by the recent, newly-named Guest mistress: yes, Sr. Lux Bruna welcomed me back. It was delightful to see her and to actually be able to talk with her (the cloister is always in complete silence, except for communal prayer). I reminded her of her profession day six months ago and she was thrilled that I recalled it with her.
I told her that I had gifts for them in the car. “Let me help,” she said, only to hear me refuse (it was quite cold, slippery, snowy…and the boxes were heavy). “Nonsense, I must,” she replied, to which I insisted that she stay inside. She replied, “Very well, I will obey.” As I brought in our donations, she was flabbergasted at the quantity of goods, but more importantly of the overwhelming generosity and care that the goods expressed from our parishioners. I explained to her that we wanted to share with them, in this Year of Consecrated Life, our gratitude and support for their witness and intercession. She was so very pleased to hear of our spiritual union, and she promised that the Sisters would very much continue their prayers for all of us.
I visited the Chapel (here, to the right…visitors are allowed to enter an upper loft for prayer) for a simple prayer and was ready to leave. Sister tried to force me to stay and have a salad lunch, but I refused her, “Sister, you already do so much for us; give me this one opportunity to simply do for you, that you may receive rather than give.” I departed from her with her blessing and promise of prayers, as I also did for her.
Thanks to so many generous parishioners who gave me the reason to return to the monastery for a short while: it was wonderful way for me to enter more deeply into Holy Week!