I suppose we all have our little hiding-hole if the truth was known, but as small as it is, the whole world is in it, and bit by bit grows on us again till the day You find us out.
You have two things of value: your monastery and your people. Translate the book for me, and I'll let you keep one. Which will it be?
O cowardly amd tyrannous race of monks, persecutors of the bard, and the gleemen, haters of life and joy! O race that does not draw the sword and tell the truth! O race that melts the bones of the people with cowardice and with deceit! (The Crucifixion Of The Outcast)
There are three qualities that every individual must have to achieve success: a Monk’s patience, a Warrior’s courage, a Child’s imagination.
The usual notion of prayer is so absurd. How can those who know nothing about it, who pray little or not at all, dare speak so frivolously of prayer? A Carthusian, a Trappist will work for years to make of himself a man of prayer, and then any fool who comes along sets himself up as judge of this lifelong effort. If it were really what they suppose, a kind of chatter, the dialogue of a madman with his shadow, or even less—a vain and superstitious sort of petition to be given the good things of this world, how could innumerable people find until their dying day, I won't even say such great 'comfort'—since they put no faith in the solace of the senses—but sheer, robust, vigorous, abundant joy in prayer? Oh, of course—suggestion, say the scientists. Certainly they can never have known old monks, wise, shrewd, unerring in judgement, and yet aglow with passionate insight, so very tender in their humanity. What miracle enables these semi-lunatics, these prisoners of their own dreams, these sleepwalkers, apparently to enter more deeply each day into the pain of others? An odd sort of dream, an unusual opiate which, far from turning him back into himself and isolating him from his fellows, unites the individual with mankind in the spirit of universal charity!This seems a very daring comparison. I apologise for having advanced it, yet perhaps it might satisfy many people who find it hard to think for themselves, unless the thought has first been jolted by some unexpected, surprising image. Could a sane man set himself up as a judge of music because he has sometimes touched a keyboard with the tips of his fingers? And surely if a Bach fugue, a Beethoven symphony leave him cold, if he has to content himself with watching on the face of another listener the reflected pleasure of supreme, inaccessible delight, such a man has only himself to blame.But alas! We take the psychiatrists' word for it. The unanimous testimony of saints is held as of little or no account. They may all affirm that this kind of deepening of the spirit is unlike any other experience, that instead of showing us more and more of our own complexity it ends in sudden total illumination, opening out upon azure light—they can be dismissed with a few shrugs. Yet when has any man of prayer told us that prayer had failed him?
The Offices rerooted me in a tradition where, monk or not, I would always be at home. From long ago I knew the power of their repetition, the incantatory force of the Psalms. But they had an added power now. As a kid, the psalmist (or psalmists) had seemed remote to me, the Psalms long prayers which sometimes rose to great poetry but often had simply to be endured. For a middle-aged man, the psalmists' moods and feelings came alive. One of the voices sounded a lot like a modern New Yorker, me or people I knew: a manic-depressive type A personality sometimes up, more often down, sometimes resigned, more often pissed off, railing about his sneaky enemies and feckless friends, always bitching to the Lord about the rotten hand he'd been dealt. That good old changelessness.
You no longer speak of your old friends, your Council, your home. I fear that you are forgetting them, and forgetting your reason for coming here.”Hunter sighed. “It’s difficult to talk about them, they don’t belong here. Anyway, I thought you wanted me to give up my old life. Congratulations, you’ve won.”The Abate smiled sadly. “Perhaps I did, I wanted you to abandon your violent past and adopt our ways. But I see that you are giving up everything and taking on nothing. What are you afraid of George?
It is well known how the monks wrote silly lives of Catholic Saints over the manuscripts on which the classical works of ancient heathendom had been written.
The night! When the outside world is hiding in darkness, you have to turn on the light within in order to see where you put your steps.
Being a monk was the strangest and most perverted way of life imaginable. Monks spent half their lives putting themselves through pain and discomfort that they could easily avoid, and the other half muttering meaningless mumbo jumbo in empty churches at all hours of the day and night. They deliberately shunned anything good—girls, sports, feasting and family life.
Normally I would have been the first to go in search of cannibal monks, particularly as I had heard of a similar tradition at a nunnery in the Philippines. It's the sort of quest I can't resist.
The monkish vows keep us far from that sink of vice that is the female body, but often they bring us close to other errors. Can I finally hide from myself the fact that even today my old age is still stirred by the noonday demon when my eyes, in choir, happen to linger on the beardless face of a novice, pure and fresh as a maiden's?
But it has often happened that I have found the most seductive depictions of sin in the pages of those very men of incorruptible virtue who condemned their spell and their effects.