Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Stability in a Changing World

Today, the Church celebrates one of my favorite saints; St. Bruno the Carthusian. The writings of his order have nourished my spirituality since the early 90’s and helped me find silence and solitude amidst a clamorous and bustling world. Most importantly, the Carthusians have taught me how to enter into the divine love affair through Sacred Scripture and what it is supposed to look like.

At this specific time in our history, I believe the Carthusians’ motto is particularly relevant:

Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis

carthusian-motto

The Cross remains firm as the earth turns.

There is much consternation and upheaval in the Church in our time but the Cross and the Gospel, like Our Lord, never change (Heb 13:8). This is especially important to remember during the present Synod on the Family.

Since so few know anything about the Carthusians, I have provided you with ten facts about this saint and his order to hopefully whet your appetite to learn more. Enjoy!

    1. Saint Bruno was never formally canonized. He was not included in the Tridentine Calendar, but in the year 1623 Pope Gregory XV included him in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 6 October.[1]
    2. His real name is Bruno Hartenfaust. He was born in Cologne, Germany about the year AD 1030, Tradition holds that his family was one of the principal families in the city.[2]
    3. Bruno died Sunday, October 6, 1101, of an unknown illness.  He was about 70 years old. An interesting note as that though many of the paintings and depictions of St. Bruno show him as a younger man in a Carthusian habit, in actuality, he was a monk only in his 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.
    4. The seven stars in the Carthusian seal represent the first seven Carthusian monks who founded the order in 1084. Four of the original companions had Holy Orders: Landwin, Stephen of Bourges, Stephen of die and Hugh (Was the chaplain or priest over the group). Two of his companions Andrew and Guerin, were laymen who later became the first lay brothers.
    5. There have been over 270 Carthusian monasteries established since the order began. 219 were established between 1100 and 1500 alone. As of 2013, there are 25 monasteries with 350 monks and 75 nuns worldwide.
    6. The original idea was to have only 13 choir monks per monastery, to represent Christ and the Apostles. Interestingly, when the choir monk becomes a priest he is called “Venerable Father”.
    7. Tcarthusian-monkhe Carthusian habits are supposed to be descended from the sheepherders outfit in the Grenoble mountains. Supposedly, the straps on the side of the habit were to prevent the shepherd’s cowl from flapping around in the mountain valley breezes. Also, they often have two pairs of clothes.  This way they can wear one while the other is being washed.
    8. The Carthusian Divine Office is a unique form of Gregorian chant. It is more than chanting the words.  The books have notes written beside the words so that the monks can follow along, much like a musical sheet, and get the notes right as they sing the words.  They used the old-style original Gregorian pattern of notation with four-line staffs.  The notes are also designated with the old-style square note.
    9. At night office, they often did not need lights but recite the Divine Office by memory in the dark. Of course in the early days, it was a custom for the monks to memorize the psalms.  This made it so that they could sing them in the dark.
    10. It is said that the Carthusian order produces many saints but they don’t publicize them. They have a saying, “Sanctos facere, non patefacere” which means “to make saints, not publicize them”.   In fact, they live in such solitude that no one know would know who the saint is.


[1] “Calendarium Romanum” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 105

[2] Derry, George H. (1913). “St. Bruno (2)“. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

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