VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2001 ( Hedonism and consumerism are asphyxiating the generosity of many youths, John Paul II said, in a message to the Carthusians on the ninth centenary of the death of their founder, St. Bruno.

"Our contemporary culture, marked by a strong hedonistic feeling, the desire to possess, and a certain mistaken concept of freedom, does not facilitate the expression of youth´s generosity, who wish to consecrate their life to Christ, hoping to walk on the path of a life of sacrificial love, [and] concrete and generous service," the Pope said.

In his letter, sent to Father Marcellin D. Theewes, prior of La Grande Chartreuse, and minister general of the Carthusians, and to all the members of the order, the Bishop of Rome says that he prays "fervently to the Lord so that he will make resonate in the heart of numerous youths, the call to abandon everything to follow the poor Christ, in the demanding but liberating Carthusian life."

St. Bruno was born around 1035 in Cologne, Germany. Following studies in Paris, he was ordained a priest and taught theology at Reims. Inspired to lead a life of greater penance, austerity and solitude, he founded an eremitical monastery. He went to Italy in response to a call from Pope Urban II, with whom he collaborated in the governance of the Church. He died in Calabria in 1101.

In his message, John Paul II recalled that "the vocation to prayer and contemplation, which characterizes Carthusian life, demonstrates especially that only Christ can give full meaning and joy to human hope."

After emphasizing the "simplicity of life" of the Carthusians, the Holy Father said: "The seeking of God in contemplation cannot be separated from love for brothers, a love that makes us recognize Christ´s face in the poorest among men. The contemplation of Christ lived in fraternal charity is the surest way for the fruitfulness of every life."

The Carthusian family has close to 450 monks and nuns and embraces 24 houses on three continents.

Like other monks, Carthusians consecrate their entire life to prayer, and work for their salvation and that of the whole Church. The contemplative order rests on a combination of solitary and communal life, and Carthusian liturgy.