Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feast of St. Romuald

Saint Romuald (951c. - 1025/27) was the founder of the Camaldolese order and a major figure in the eleventh-century renaissance of eremitical asceticism. The following comes from Richard McBrien's Lives of the Saints (pgs.245-46).

Born of a noble Ravenna family, Romuald Onesti fled to a local Cluniac monastery after his father killed a relative in a duel over property. His austere lifestyle and devotional practices irritated some of the other monks, and after about three years he left the monastery and place himself under the spiritual direction of a hermit near Venice. He lived a solitary life for some ten years and only returned to his home area to assist his father, who had also become a monk after his duel and was having doubts about his vocation. In 998 the emperor Otto III appointed Romuald abbot of San Apollinare in Classe (the very monastery he had originally entered some years earlier), but he resign after only a year or two to live once again as a hermit, this time at Pereum, which became an important center for the training of clergy for the Slavonic missions. He later wandered through northern Italy, setting up hermitages, and obtained a mandate from the pope to carry out a mission to the Magyars in Hungary, desiring a martyr's death. Illness upset his hopes, and he returned to Italy.

After prolonged study of the Desert Fathers, he concluded that the way of salvation was along the path of solitude. He founded a monastery at Fonte Avellana, later refounded by his disciple Peter Damian, and another in Camaldoli, an isolated valley in Tuscany....After Romuald's death, this latter community developed into a separate congregation, known as the Camaldolese order. He did not leave a written rule.

His distinctive contribution to Benedictine monasticism was to provide a place for the eremetical life within the framework of the Rule of St. Benedict...

The charism of his Calmadolese order is to live a eremetical life in community. Camaldolese monasteries, like the one at Big Sur in California, feature separate hermitages in which their monks spend most of their time in prayer, work, and tending a small patch of land. They come together at set times in the day for communal prayer.

Romuald did not write a rule for his monks. But the following is attributed to him and speaks of the fertile soil that is the silence and solitude of the hermitage. It is known as St. Romuald's
Brief Rule.

Sit in your cell as in paradise.

Put the whole world behind you and forget it.

Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman

watching for fish

The path you must follow is in the Psalms;

never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery,

and in spite of your good will

you cannot accomplish what you want,

then take every good opportunity

to sing the psalms in your heart

and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read,

do not give up;

hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence,

and stand there with the attitude of one

who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely

and sit waiting, content with the grace of God,

like a chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing

but what his mother gives him.

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