Two Different Ways

“Our supreme quest and goal is to find God in solitude and silence” (Rule 4,1). Towards this single purpose Carthusians aspire in two different forms of life: as fathers (cloister monks) or as brothers (lay monks). For a better understanding between these two, see Father or Brother?.

Solitude of the Brothers

The brothers live an authentic solitary life, although their solitude is less bound to the cell. By their work they provide for the material needs of the house which have been entrusted to them in a special way (i.e. laundry, wardrobe, kitchen, vegetable garden, various maintenance work etc.). They thus enable the fathers to devote their time more freely to the silence of the cell. The brothers devote themselves more to manual labor than the fathers, though not more than seven hours a day, and their work is organized so that each one – whenever possible – works alone in silence. “Interior recollection during work will lead a brother to contemplation ... The aim of the brother’s life is, above all else, that, united with Christ, he may abide in his love; hence, whether in solitude of cell, or in the midst of his work, aided by the grace of his vocation, he should strive whole-heartedly to have at all times his mind on God” (Rule 15,10.18). Brothers live in a special part of the monastery in two-room cells with bathroom. As to the daily schedule, see Daily schedule.

Food and Fast

The food is abundant and well prepared. Meat – except fish – is never eaten. Once a week – normally on Friday – those brothers who wish, have “abstinence”, when they take only bread and water. During Advent and Lent they have only one meal a day and refrain from dairy products. On days when work is more strenuous they are permitted breakfast. Due to their more physical labor, the fast of the brothers is less demanding then that of the fathers. Novices accustom themselves to the fast gradually, under the direction of the Novice-Master.

Converses and Donates

The first brothers, called “converse” (converted) in the course of time were joined by others, called “donates” (donated), who, while not taking vows, out of love of Christ give themselves to the Order in a mutually binding pledge; since they lead a monastic life, they too are called “monks”. The life of donates is in essential ways (solitude, separation from the world) similar to the life of converses, while the form of their prayer and fast can be more freely adapted to their needs and abilities. They give the house very useful help, sometimes doing tasks that would hinder the converse brothers in their observances.

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