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Monastic Family of Bethlehem

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Gabriela

Oh boy. I always get in trouble in MFB threads...

They're not Carthusians or even really like Carthusians. The only thing like Carthusians is that they live in a hermitage and pray the Little Hours in solitude. Aside from that, they're their own thing. And they're not really sure what they are yet.

They're also having visitations from the Vatican right now, so I wouldn't recommend discerning with them at present, cuz I'd bet a whole lotta money their formation process is one of the things under investigation.

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A Yearning Heart

Abit off topic, but since it was raised. I presume that having a visitation is a bad thing? 

How does one find out which groups are having visitations?

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josephine

A visitation is kind of like a formal investigation from the vatican. There have been very serious accusations that there are problems in the order regarding formation, leadership, internal/external forum etc. so it is a good thing that the vatican is taking action.

I was wondering if anyone knew if there is already an outcome of the visitation or how long visitations usually take?

@ Gabriella, could you tell me more about the differences between MFB and carthusians? You are i think the only member on the forum who has stayed with both communities :)

 

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CountrySteve21
12 hours ago, Gabriela said:

Oh boy. I always get in trouble in MFB threads...

They're not Carthusians or even really like Carthusians. The only thing like Carthusians is that they live in a hermitage and pray the Little Hours in solitude. Aside from that, they're their own thing. And they're not really sure what they are yet.

They're also having visitations from the Vatican right now, so I wouldn't recommend discerning with them at present, cuz I'd bet a whole lotta money their formation process is one of the things under investigation.

Thanks, that's a shame  they have problems. 

From the information they have on their website they seem to borrow elements from both the Eastern and Western traditions.  Though I'd imagine they are predominately Western in their outlook.

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graciandelamadrededios
12 hours ago, Gabriela said:

Oh boy. I always get in trouble in MFB threads...

They're not Carthusians or even really like Carthusians. The only thing like Carthusians is that they live in a hermitage and pray the Little Hours in solitude. Aside from that, they're their own thing. And they're not really sure what they are yet.

They're also having visitations from the Vatican right now, so I wouldn't recommend discerning with them at present, cuz I'd bet a whole lotta money their formation process is one of the things under investigation.

Hmmnnn?

What do you mean by, "they're not sure what they are yet?"

 

 

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Gabriela

Oy. I just typed out a really, REALLY long reply and then the phorum ate it.

Put simply: I've laid out how the MFB is totally different from the Carthusians and not even really eremitic in another, older thread on either the MFB or the Carthusians. If you google "phatmass.com:monastic family" and "phatmass.com:carthusians"—no spaces between the colons and the search terms—you'll find all those threads right quick. Feel free to copy and paste from those into here and to ask further questions. But basically, what I have to say is all in those threads already.

As for not knowing who they are: They've changed a ton of stuff. More than is normal or even healthy for a new order. And the things they've changed are suspicious. They're changes that suggest they don't have a clear identity or conception of their charism. @NadaTeTurbe could tell you more about this because she has access to the French documentation online. Even the Carthusians have their doubts about the MFB: Officially, they're supportive and cordial; unofficially, they're skeptical.

In my experience, people drawn to the MFB are drawn either by the liturgy or the eremetic life. To anyone drawn by the liturgy, I suggest looking at Byzantine monasteries. For women, Ohio is more traditional than Pennsylvania. I have no idea about men.

Anyone drawn by the eremetic life should look at the Carthusians, the Minims and Camaldolese in Europe, the Bethlehem laura in New Jersey, and Marymount hermitage in Idaho. I have no experience of any of these aside from the Carthusians, but I can tell you I never received better advice from an SD than to visit the Carthusians before I go back to the MFB. Doing so completely changed my perspective. God rest that SD's soul. :amen:

I will say these things that I think I've never posted before: A lot of Europeans seem very happy in the MFB. They just don't seem appropriate for Americans at all. I asked about that and they said they have 1 or 2 (I can't remember which) Americans in the entire worldwide order. To me, that raises flags. It suggests to me they're more influenced by national culture than they probably ought to be. To open a house in America and still not have a single American in it decades later... something's wrong. They also don't seem to care about this, because they were not willing to accommodate an American's semester schedule even though that makes me available at completely different times of the year than Europeans. To me that said, "We designed our discernment process for Europeans. Sorry, Americans: We don't really care if you can come or not."

Also, it's my impression—drawn partly from reading and partly from experience and partly from talking with Carthusians—that a lot of people who discern the eremitic life do so for a variety of very wrong reasons. It's important to know how you best relate to God, where/how you experience Him best/most, whether your spiritual life thrives in solitude or needs a balance of solitude and human contact or more human contact than solitude or whatever. Lots of people go to the charterhouse thinking solitude is totally what they need, but actually they're running from social insecurities or latent misanthropy or the basic struggles of introversion or a thousand other things that manifest in human interaction. If that's the case for you, you're gonna know right quick in the charterhouse, cuz what they say about the hermit's cell is true: Whatever you've got buried deep in you, it's gonna come out. For some people, that's fear. For others, it's anger. For some, it's deep sadness or depression. Whatever it is, it's on the surface by the end of week 1. And it's raging. There's nowhere to hide it and nothing to do with it. You either face it or leave so you can stuff it again. If nothing surfaces but bliss and joy and calm and peace, lucky you: You might be a Carthusian. But if any of those other things surfaces, you've definitely got some poo you need to work on, so thank your cell for showing you the real reason you wanted to escape the world, then go home and work that poo out.

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genesisweavers

"They're not Carthusians or even really like Carthusians".  This statement is not correct.  The MFB were actually invited to be Carthusians in their early days of forming as a religious congregations.  There are other significant similarities that have been omitted here.  The Bethlehem Congregation have solitude as one of their principle characteristics.  In fact, the monastic Sister returns to her cell after the Thanksgiving in the morning and she remains there until after the noon Angelus.  For some, (what they call the Sisters in Solitude) those Sisters remain in their cells until Vespers.  That is a 'Sister in solitude do everything in their cells except for the Liturgies that are celebrated in the church (this is exacatly the same as the Carthusians.  Other similarities:. The weekly walk together, fasting (bread and water only on Friday), one meal in the refectory (in a week) - that is on Sunday, emphasis on continual prayer, lectio, meditation and working in their private garden.  

To this day the two congregations - the Carthusians and Bethlehem have a close bond.  The Monastic Sisters occupy several Charterhouses that the Carthusians could no long maintain.  

At the beginning of this round of discussions about the MFB Gabriela was singled out as having a person to person relationship with the MFB and the Carthusians.  I would like to know from Gabriela exactly how much time she spent with each community and I would like to know if she ever lived in the enclosure with either of these communities. I think that may frame this discussion a little differently.  

For myself I have know the MFB for about 15 years, I am a finally professed lay associate of the congregation and I lived for four years at the monastery in NY and stayed in a hermitage on the property.  These Sisters are the best people I ever met.  Here is how they describe their vocation:. 

"The glorified Virgin is the model and archetype of their vocation and they have no other responsibility to accomplish in the Church than to anticipate already on earth the life of the loving contemplation of the Virgin Mary dwellling in the most Holy Trinity. "

And I can testify that I have witnessed to the authenticity of this statement and that the Monastic Sisters are exactly what they say they are.  

Your brother -

John McHale

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Gabriela

Here we go again. John, we go through this in every thread! But okay:

Quote

"They're not Carthusians or even really like Carthusians".  This statement is not correct.  The MFB were actually invited to be Carthusians in their early days of forming as a religious congregations. 

Yes, they were, and they did not join them. Instead they devised a different kind of life. So they're not Carthusians.

Quote

There are other significant similarities that have been omitted here.  The Bethlehem Congregation have solitude as one of their principle characteristics.  In fact, the monastic Sister returns to her cell after the Thanksgiving in the morning and she remains there until after the noon Angelus.  For some, (what they call the Sisters in Solitude) those Sisters remain in their cells until Vespers.  That is a 'Sister in solitude do everything in their cells except for the Liturgies that are celebrated in the church (this is exacatly the same as the Carthusians.  Other similarities:. The weekly walk together, fasting (bread and water only on Friday), one meal in the refectory (in a week) - that is on Sunday, emphasis on continual prayer, lectio, meditation and working in their private garden.  

The MFB says it has solitude as one of its principle characteristics, but if you look at how it's lived, you'll find it's not their principle one. Some sisters have more solitude than others, and there's no guarantee of what any sister will have. When I asked whether they have choir and converse sisters, they said no, but that every sister has work assigned to her at varying intervals, and sometimes that work will be outside her cell. That's not a good way to do this—and it's definitely not the Carthusian way—because that means a sister can have her solitude taken from her at any moment, and under obedience she'll just deal with it, even though it's not the life she committed to.

Additionally, at two MFB houses in France, I saw sister after sister after sister socializing out in the yard, working in groups and talking while working, going in and out of the monastery in cars, vans, and on foot... This looks NOTHING like Carthusian life. The whole idea of a "group retreat" is foreign and absurd to the eremetic way of life, but the MFB has a gigantic one in France every year. They'll tell you it's to help you discern their way of life, but they give you practically no solitude at this retreat. In fact, they herd you from one group event to another all day long. Which makes you wonder how much solitude they really have.

So yeah, MFB sisters have their own little hermitage. Does that make them Carthusians? No, it doesn't. Because the fact that they live in slightly larger cells than other sisters does not make them committed to the eremetic life. Commitment to the eremetic life depends on how much a community is willing to sacrifice to guard the solitude of its members. And the MFB is not prepared to sacrifice much. In fact, they regularly order sisters out of solitude. St. Bruno would roll over in his grave.

Quote

To this day the two congregations - the Carthusians and Bethlehem have a close bond.  The Monastic Sisters occupy several Charterhouses that the Carthusians could no long maintain.

It's true that the Carthusians handed over several monasteries to the MFB. The last monastery I stayed in with the MFB in France was a former Carthusian charterhouse. I did say that, officially, they're on good terms. I also said that, unofficially, the Carthusians have their doubts. One of the women in Reillane discerned with the MFB before entering the charterhouse. She had nothing but scorn for the MFB (which was partly down to her own proclivities, but also partly down to the MFB's misleading claims to be Carthusians/Carthusian-esque).

When you've had some off-the-record conversations with Carthusians, let me know what you heard. 

Quote

At the beginning of this round of discussions about the MFB Gabriela was singled out as having a person to person relationship with the MFB and the Carthusians.  I would like to know from Gabriela exactly how much time she spent with each community and I would like to know if she ever lived in the enclosure with either of these communities. I think that may frame this discussion a little differently.

I discerned with the MFB for over 18 months. I discerned with them at Livingston Manor and two houses in France. I went on their "discernment (aka giant group) retreat" in August in France. I exchanged letters with Livingston Manor the entire time I discerned with them. Ultimately, the whole reason I stopped discerning with them was because, despite telling me again and again that I would have a live-in experience in one of their monasteries, they kept refusing to let me inside the enclosure. Finally, at the last monastery in France, a sister told me they don't do live-ins. It'd have been nice if someone had told me that 18 months earlier, but nobody was listening to me (or, apparently, reading what I wrote to them), so I just kept getting strung along. For a community to not have live-ins today is pretty much unheard of. Even the Carthusians have live-ins.

I spent three weeks inside the charterhouse in Reillane, France. I wrote to them 3 or 4 times by letter (which then got emailed) before arriving for the live-in. They were very straightforward and open to a live-in right from the beginning. I told them about me in a couple of questionnaires they sent, had my SD send them a letter, scheduled the visit, and went. It was a world of—transparent—difference from the MFB. I would highly recommend discerning with Reillane.

But this, too, is a conversation we've already had. You're a man. You've lived outside the MFB enclosure for years. You've never discerned with them. You don't know what this process is like. We understand you don't like to hear bad things said about the MFB, but please understand that (1) this is not a reflection on any individual member of the MFB, but on the order's organizational problems, and (2) I'm not going to stand silently by while other women waste their time discerning with them like I did. They're having visitations. Let them have them. When the Vatican withdraws, after whatever necessary changes are made, I'll be happy to re-examine the case. But in the meantime, there's a world of warning signs coming from the MFB, and you ought to have some concern for discerners as a result. Let other people's experiences be spoken without busting in to cast doubt on their credibility every time they speak. Okay, John?

Quote

And I can testify that I have witnessed to the authenticity of this statement and that the Monastic Sisters are exactly what they say they are.  

When you have spent some time inside a Charterhouse, you will be able to testify to whether the MFB sisters are exactly what they say they are. I assure you, they're not. They don't need to change their way of life, they just ought to communicate it more clearly and honestly. Or else they should change their way of life to guard the solitude of every member more zealously, in which case, one could then really say they are like the Carthusians.

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mariepaix

I've been in contact with some of the sisters who have left MFB.  Apparently they have formed a group due to their growing number.  It was a shock to learn how many of them have left...some of them having been there 30 or more years, some having been Prioresses....some of them whom I lived with and whom I loved...and some whom I admired greatly because of their fidelity to the life.   And it's not just French sisters who left....there are Italians, Spanish, Polish, etc.  There's something seriously wrong with this order and the list of grievances can be found online but all the information is in French.  It is very disheartening to hear all that has transpired with MFB ...I couldn't and didn't want to see it when I was inside.  But now, after reading the dossier by the former Brother, I understand better.  

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graciandelamadrededios
1 hour ago, Gabriela said:

Here we go again. John, we go through this in every thread! But okay:

Yes, they were, and they did not join them. Instead they devised a different kind of life. So they're not Carthusians.

The MFB says it has solitude as one of its principle characteristics, but if you look at how it's lived, you'll find it's not their principle one. Some sisters have more solitude than others, and there's no guarantee of what any sister will have. When I asked whether they have choir and converse sisters, they said no, but that every sister has work assigned to her at varying intervals, and sometimes that work will be outside her cell. That's not a good way to do this—and it's definitely not the Carthusian way—because that means a sister can have her solitude taken from her at any moment, and under obedience she'll just deal with it, even though it's not the life she committed to.

Additionally, at two MFB houses in France, I saw sister after sister after sister socializing out in the yard, working in groups and talking while working, going in and out of the monastery in cars, vans, and on foot... This looks NOTHING like Carthusian life. The whole idea of a "group retreat" is foreign and absurd to the eremetic way of life, but the MFB has a gigantic one in France every year. They'll tell you it's to help you discern their way of life, but they give you practically no solitude at this retreat. In fact, they herd you from one group event to another all day long. Which makes you wonder how much solitude they really have.

So yeah, MFB sisters have their own little hermitage. Does that make them Carthusians? No, it doesn't. Because the fact that they live in slightly larger cells than other sisters does not make them committed to the eremetic life. Commitment to the eremetic life depends on how much a community is willing to sacrifice to guard the solitude of its members. And the MFB is not prepared to sacrifice much. In fact, they regularly order sisters out of solitude. St. Bruno would roll over in his grave.

It's true that the Carthusians handed over several monasteries to the MFB. The last monastery I stayed in with the MFB in France was a former Carthusian charterhouse. I did say that, officially, they're on good terms. I also said that, unofficially, the Carthusians have their doubts. One of the women in Reillane discerned with the MFB before entering the charterhouse. She had nothing but scorn for the MFB (which was partly down to her own proclivities, but also partly down to the MFB's misleading claims to be Carthusians/Carthusian-esque).

When you've had some off-the-record conversations with Carthusians, let me know what you heard. 

I discerned with the MFB for over 18 months. I discerned with them at Livingston Manor and two houses in France. I went on their "discernment (aka giant group) retreat" in August in France. I exchanged letters with Livingston Manor the entire time I discerned with them. Ultimately, the whole reason I stopped discerning with them was because, despite telling me again and again that I would have a live-in experience in one of their monasteries, they kept refusing to let me inside the enclosure. Finally, at the last monastery in France, a sister told me they don't do live-ins. It'd have been nice if someone had told me that 18 months earlier, but nobody was listening to me (or, apparently, reading what I wrote to them), so I just kept getting strung along. For a community to not have live-ins today is pretty much unheard of. Even the Carthusians have live-ins.

I spent three weeks inside the charterhouse in Reillane, France. I wrote to them 3 or 4 times by letter (which then got emailed) before arriving for the live-in. They were very straightforward and open to a live-in right from the beginning. I told them about me in a couple of questionnaires they sent, had my SD send them a letter, scheduled the visit, and went. It was a world of—transparent—difference from the MFB. I would highly recommend discerning with Reillane.

But this, too, is a conversation we've already had. You're a man. You've lived outside the MFB enclosure for years. You've never discerned with them. You don't know what this process is like. We understand you don't like to hear bad things said about the MFB, but please understand that (1) this is not a reflection on any individual member of the MFB, but on the order's organizational problems, and (2) I'm not going to stand silently by while other women waste their time discerning with them like I did. They're having visitations. Let them have them. When the Vatican withdraws, after whatever necessary changes are made, I'll be happy to re-examine the case. But in the meantime, there's a world of warning signs coming from the MFB, and you ought to have some concern for discerners as a result. Let other people's experiences be spoken without busting in to cast doubt on their credibility every time they speak. Okay, John?

When you have spent some time inside a Charterhouse, you will be able to testify to whether the MFB sisters are exactly what they say they are. I assure you, they're not. They don't need to change their way of life, they just ought to communicate it more clearly and honestly. Or else they should change their way of life to guard the solitude of every member more zealously, in which case, one could then really say they are like the Carthusians.

You are right, being a member of TOCD is entirely different from being a member of Discalced Carmelite Nun's monastery.  One might share the same spirituality but how it is lived, is not the same.

 

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Gabriela
2 hours ago, mariepaix said:

I've been in contact with some of the sisters who have left MFB.  Apparently they have formed a group due to their growing number.  It was a shock to learn how many of them have left...some of them having been there 30 or more years, some having been Prioresses....some of them whom I lived with and whom I loved...and some whom I admired greatly because of their fidelity to the life.   And it's not just French sisters who left....there are Italians, Spanish, Polish, etc.  There's something seriously wrong with this order and the list of grievances can be found online but all the information is in French.  It is very disheartening to hear all that has transpired with MFB ...I couldn't and didn't want to see it when I was inside.  But now, after reading the dossier by the former Brother, I understand better.  

mariepaix, if I understand correctly, you actually entered the MFB and then left, yes? If so, would you be willing to share your experiences? Of course it's understandable if you would rather not. :) 

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genesisweavers

Just for the record there are two American women in formation in the monastery in Livingston Manor.  There is one American Sister in Israel and two American Sisters in French Monasteries.  If I understand this correctly the Carthusians do not have a hard time attracting vocations in this country but they have a hard time keeping them.  In fact just a short time ago there were no solemnly professed American Carthusians. 

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Gabriela
40 minutes ago, genesisweavers said:

Just for the record there are two American women in formation in the monastery in Livingston Manor.  There is one American Sister in Israel and two American Sisters in French Monasteries.  If I understand this correctly the Carthusians do not have a hard time attracting vocations in this country but they have a hard time keeping them.  In fact just a short time ago there were no solemnly professed American Carthusians. 

For a long time the Carthusians thought Americans just couldn't handle the eremetic life. It turns out Equinox just had some "management" problems. I think they're doing fine with Americans now, at least from what I've heard. Some male VSer should really visit there and tell us, though!

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mariepaix
43 minutes ago, genesisweavers said:

Just for the record there are two American women in formation in the monastery in Livingston Manor.  There is one American Sister in Israel and two American Sisters in French Monasteries.  If I understand this correctly the Carthusians do not have a hard time attracting vocations in this country but they have a hard time keeping them.  In fact just a short time ago there were no solemnly professed American Carthusians. 

From what I saw when I was there, MFB does attract some American vocations but not many.  There have been quite a few Americans who have visited, received the habit but have not stayed.  There is only one older US sister, probably the one in Israel, who is finally professed.   It would be interesting to know if the Americans in France are finally professed or not. I rather doubt it.  

5 hours ago, Gabriela said:

I will say these things that I think I've never posted before: A lot of Europeans seem very happy in the MFB. They just don't seem appropriate for Americans at all. I asked about that and they said they have 1 or 2 (I can't remember which) Americans in the entire worldwide order. To me, that raises flags. It suggests to me they're more influenced by national culture than they probably ought to be. To open a house in America and still not have a single American in it decades later... something's wrong. They also don't seem to care about this, because they were not willing to accommodate an American's semester schedule even though that makes me available at completely different times of the year than Europeans. To me that said, "We designed our discernment process for Europeans. Sorry, Americans: We don't really care if you can come or not."

You are not the only one who noticed this.  I know priests who thought the same thing...a monastery in America but no professed Americans living there!.  That's just weird.  Usually when they were preparing for a new monastery in a different country they gathered together sisters of that nationality(who lived together in a monastery in France) who would eventually return to their country.  That's definitely not the case for Livingston Manor.

Honestly, I have to say that more than once I ran into a certain prejudice against Americans and that different sisters as well as brothers were critical about Americans and our way of life, to put it simply.

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Gabriela
1 hour ago, mariepaix said:

From what I saw when I was there, MFB does attract some American vocations but not many.  There have been quite a few Americans who have visited, received the habit but have not stayed.  There is only one older US sister, probably the one in Israel, who is finally professed.   It would be interesting to know if the Americans in France are finally professed or not. I rather doubt it.  

You are not the only one who noticed this.  I know priests who thought the same thing...a monastery in America but no professed Americans living there!.  That's just weird.  Usually when they were preparing for a new monastery in a different country they gathered together sisters of that nationality(who lived together in a monastery in France) who would eventually return to their country.  That's definitely not the case for Livingston Manor.

Honestly, I have to say that more than once I ran into a certain prejudice against Americans and that different sisters as well as brothers were critical about Americans and our way of life, to put it simply.

Yeah, I'm not surprised by this. I half-suspected when I was at Livingston Manor that opening an American house was a business move.

Maybe that's too uncharitable, though... 

In any case, it's obviously not at all cool to open a house in a country where you don't respect the people.

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josephine

@Gabriela

i understand what you mean about the difference now. I remember when i was on a retreat with the MFB and the guest sister told me that before, she was asigned work in total solitude, and now she worked a lot with people, talking, making sure everyone was alright etc. I was quite surprised about that: your solitude in the order is completely depending on what task you get assigned under obedience.

I tried to look into the older threads but i couldn't find a lot of info, but if you like, could you tell us more about what attracked you to both orders and what you learned about their life?

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Gabriela
19 hours ago, josephine said:

@Gabriela

i understand what you mean about the difference now. I remember when i was on a retreat with the MFB and the guest sister told me that before, she was asigned work in total solitude, and now she worked a lot with people, talking, making sure everyone was alright etc. I was quite surprised about that: your solitude in the order is completely depending on what task you get assigned under obedience.

I tried to look into the older threads but i couldn't find a lot of info, but if you like, could you tell us more about what attracked you to both orders and what you learned about their life?

I was attracted by both the solitude and the liturgy. I learned a lot about their life, but most of that is in those previous threads. If you have specific questions feel free to ask them.

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