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Blog - Carthusians - Hugh. T1

Dear Hugh,

Thanks for your email and particularly for the tip-off concerning "Maguire (Nancy) - An Infinity of Little Hours: Five Young Men and Their Trial of Faith in the Western World's Most Austere Monastic Order", which I’ve ordered from Amazon (Amazon: Nancy Maguire - An Infinity of Little Hours ( I must update the blurb for the “private” pages to make it less OTT.

I emailed1 the Parkminster website (Parkminster ( a couple of weeks back, and received the reply that Fr. Bernard is indeed still alive and active, aged 92.

Thanks for the correction re Guy Thackrah – does this information come from the book?

What’s your interest in these things?

Best wishes,

Theo (15th August 2007)

Hugh’s Response2

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 1: (Carthusians - Fr. Bernard)

I have recently found your website (Parkminster (, which I have to say is very well produced. The reason I am writing is that I was briefly a Postulant at Parkminster in 1978, and developed a great affection and admiration for Fr. Bernard O’Donovan, the then Novice Master. We continued a correspondence for a few years thereafter, and I returned for a couple of visits. However, our understandings of the Christian life had diverged somewhat, and I eventually left him peace some time after he took on the responsibilities of Prior. My last letter from him dates from 1982. I can hardly believe that he could still be alive. If I remember correctly, he had been a medical doctor for 10 years, then a Cistercian for 20 years, and finally a Carthusian for 10 years when I first met him. So, he would be in his 90s by now. But Carthusians last a long time, so it is not impossible. Could you let me know his situation, and send him my greetings if that is possible? Yours sincerely in Christ Jesus, Theo Todman (21st July 2007)

Response: Dear Theo, Yes he is still good for his 92 years and says mass each day with a young American priest we have here. He will hardly remember you but I will mention you and say you send your best regards. Yours in Our Lord, Br Simon (23rd July 2007)

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 2: (Carthusians - Hugh. T1H1) (CORRESPONDENT)

Dear Theo,

Good to hear from you. The Guy info is from the book. I hope you'll enjoy "An Infinity", I'd be interested to know what you make of it. Incidentally, in the book Fr Bernard is referred to by a pseudonym, the author was asked to change the names of Carthusians still living. You'll recognise him immediately, I suspect that Parkminster has not known too many ex-Cistercian medical doctors.

In 1984, shortly before I went to university, I discovered Thomas Merton and from there it was a short hop to the Carthusians. Having completed exhaustive researches in the Catholic Encyclopaedia, I decided that the Carthusians were for me. I wrote to Parkminster with what appeared to be my pressing dilemma, do I go up to Cambridge or do I try my vocation as a Carthusian.

Fr Bernard was then Prior and he sent me back a short handwritten note, explaining that twenty was the minimum age for entry and that, in any event, it was better to be a bit older. I never did make it to the charterhouse, but the Carthusians have remained a source of interest to me ever since.

I don't know if you've come across Richard North's book "Fools for God", written in the 80s. At Part V there are a couple of short chapters on the author's visit to Parkminster a few years after you were there. There is an account of his encounter with Fr Bernard who was Prior at the time. You can learn, amongst other things, of Fr Bernard's burgeoning expertise, "on the minimum quantities required by hosiery firms before they will make a consignment of woollen underwear." [the entire book can be downloaded for free at (Link - Defunct)].

The letter from Fr Bernard which you have reproduced strikes me, as far as I can read it, as warm and enthusiastic about his way of life. Is that a fair impression of the man?

There is absolutely no need to change the blurb on your personal pages, far from being OTT it is unstuffy and brought a smile to my face.

All the best,

Hugh (16th August 2007)

Theo’s Response

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

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