An Infinity of Little Hours Description

An Infinity of Little Hours Description:

This riveting chronicle of a difficult spiritual journey offers an unprecedented look inside a secretive world unchanged since the eleventh century.

In 1960, five young men arrived at the imposing gates of Parkminster, the largest center of the most rigorous and ascetic monastic order in the Western world: the Carthusians. This is the story of their five-year journey into a society that had maintained the same beliefs and lifestyle since St. Bruno initiated the order in 1084.

An Infinity of Little Hours is a uniquely intimate portrait of the customs and practices of a monastic order almost entirely unknown until now. It is also a drama of the men’s struggles as they avoid the 1960s—the decade of hedonism, music, fashion, and amorality—and enter an entirely different era and a spiritual world of their own making. After five years each faces a choice: if he stays to make “solemn profession,” he will never leave. But if he leaves, he must turn his back on his journey to find God in solitude—his life’s ambition.

A remarkable investigative work, the book combines first-hand testimony with unique source material to describe the Carthusian life. And the final chapter recounts a reunion forty years later revealing who succeeds and how the others incorporated their monastic experience as they rejoined the world outside.

Hardcover Details:

  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (02/22/06)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 1-58648-327-7
  • Hardcover, 258 pages, 16-page b/w photos
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.0 inches
  • Category: Biography, History, Religion

Paperback Details:

  • New Edition
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (03/12/07)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN 978-1-58648-432-3
  • Paperback, 272 pages, 16 pp b/w photos
  • Dimensions: 5 1/2 X 8 1/4
  • Category: Biography, History, Religion

Nancy Klein Maguire is the author of numerous publications on the relationship of theatre and politics in the seventeenth century. She also reviews books, most recently for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. She has been a Scholar-in-Residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, since 1985.

An Infinity of Little Hours

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An Infinity of Little Hours

Read Excerpts from the Book:


Carthusians mark time, not by decades, years, hours, or days, but by the liturgical year, the seasons of the Church. Their time is out of time, directed, not by business opportunities, not by social engagements, but by the tolling of the immense church bell. . . . In the microcosm of his cell, the novice observes the changes of the natural year in his garden, secluded from any other view. After the dead of winter, he sees shoots springing up in the garden, and he plants, digs, and weeds. During the few hot spells in summer, he carries buckets of water from the bottom floor of his cell to keep the garden alive. In December, he watches the last rose in his garden fade and crumple. The novice strains to hear the silence. A bird flies overhead, a cricket chirps, he drops a hoe, his boots squeak as he walks around his garden, a pear drops from the espaliered tree, he hears the scurry of a mouse . . .


Chapter 11: Monks off Pitch

As pragmatic as he was, on this night even Dom Philip resonated with Dom Damian’s excitement of being alone in the universe, standing guard while others slept, on duty during the time the devil prowled the earth like a lion. Dom Philip wondered if Dom David was again fretting over Christmas away from his family, without presents, or other observances. He had told Dom Philip that during Night Office, he started to get almost visual flashes and smells of home, jumping right out of the office books. But Dom Philip walked back to his cell, cowl up, holding his lanthorn in his right hand, savoring the cold crispness of this particular Christmas morning. In the midst of all his intense work, Night Office had done its work and produced harmony. God had spoken to him. Quies.


Epilogue: Later

When I last met with Dom Columba, he explained that when he rereads Theresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, he stops to pray: “because she makes you see that God loves you—the whole point of Carthusian life.” Then, from memory, he quoted St. John of the Cross: “what will take place on the other side when all for me will be overturned into eternity; I don’t know. I believe, I believe only that a great love awaits me.” As most old people would say, he commented, “It’s not hard to die when everyone you know is dead.” In his words, he is “so old and coming to an end.” I walked with him from the extern Guest House to the Gatehouse door where forty years earlier five young men had rung the bell; when we parted, he shook my hand and said very factually and non-emotionally, “see you in another place.” 

Look at some of the historical documentation that supports the book here

This page from the first volume of the Annals describes the size of each part of the Charterhouse.

A note Dom Leo wrote to Dom Ignatius when he left the Charterhouse.

"Monks didn’t use new paper, so Dom Philip made the note, in the smallest handwriting he could, on the inside of an envelope sent by his father" (p. 110) With the novice master’s permission, the novices could write notes to each other. Because they were about to take a vow of poverty, to save paper, these notes were always written on very small recycled scraps of paper.

A novice’s copy of the sermon Dom Joseph gave when Doms Cyril and Ignatius were received into the novitiate.

The author taking notes from the Annals in the frigid, damp North Parlor. She is wearing all the clothes she brought with her, as well as those of her husband.

Nancy Klein Maguire


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