The other day Jules and I had the rare privilege of getting to spend some hours visiting with three of the Carthusian monks at the Charter House of the Transfiguration in Vermont. They are the only Carthusians in North America. They had invited Alice von HIldebrand, who asked us to bring her. (I so regret not taking a picture! I will see if I can record the beautiful story of her connection to the monastery later today.)
To be with them was to be renewed in faith and hope for the Church. Their serenity was palpable. It was impossible not to feel how attuned they are to God and to humanity, despite their almost unthinkable physical isolation.
One of the three, Fr. Philip, a Norwegian, who has been at the monastery since its founding in 1970, spoke of his joy over the recent conversion of his brother. He had been praying for him for 50 years.
The Abbot, a Filipino name Fr. Lorenzo Maria, said something that I've been mulling since. He spoke of one of the monks who had died there. He said that while outwardly, even up to the end, this monk had retained some difficult traits (probaby for his humiliy), he, as his Abbot, was able to recognize and attest that, inwardly, he had achieved a high degree of holiness.
I find this a remarkably beautiful and consoling insight. "Don't judge a person by appearances," apparently doesn't refer only to looks, but even to a kind of "first level" of behavior! Apparently it's possible for a person to achieve holiness inwardly, even though he isn't able to overcome all his real faults.
It reminds me of something I read about in the life of Catherine Doherty, foundress of the Madonna House. One of the house members complained to her spiritual director about Catherine's irritability. She couldn't understand how it could be compatible with her vaunted Christianity. The priest said the woman complaining, "You have to understand: She has no skin." She was undergoing such intense interior trials that her whole being was rendered raw. The slightest touch was painful to her.
We have to be very careful in judging—ourselves as well as others—don't we?