Heading into the Mountains

Catching a glimpse of the choir chapel at the monastery, with a solitary nun in prayer.

Catching a glimpse of the choir chapel at the monastery, with a solitary nun in prayer.

This past Sunday, the Nuncio generously invited me and another intern to come along on a short trip up into the mountains, about an hour east into France. He was making the journey to say Mass that morning at a Carthusian monastery, Le Monastère de Notre-Dame de la Gloire-Dieu – Les Montvoirons. With the session of the Human Rights Council beginning this week in Geneva, and much other work to be done at the Mission, it was a nice blessing to be able to escape for a few hours.

The setting was truly magnificent. Although formed in the 1960s, relatively new as monasteries go, walking onto the monastery grounds and into the church nevertheless conveyed a sense of being transported out of the modern world. On a clear day, which alas was not this day, there is a breathtaking view of the Alps, particularly Mont Blanc. To make up for my failings as a photographer, I suggest visiting the website of the monastery for a better view of the place.

Apart from daily prayer together, and some time on Sundays, the nuns at this monastery live a life of solitude and silence, hallmarks of their order. They live a highly contemplative and only slightly less ascetic life than that of the monks of Grande Chartreuse seen in the 2005 documentary film Into Great Silence. There was a particularly glorious moment for me when, during the “sharing of the peace” in Mass, two of the sisters went to each and every visitor gathered in the congregation (there were many) to share “la paix du Christ”. It was a stirring moment to see the joy on the sister’s face and the depth of peace in her eyes. A remarkable place, one which I am already hoping to find a reason to return for another visit.

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