19 June 2010

Feast of Saint Romuald

Reprised from 2008.

Congratulations to all Camaldolese monks, nuns, and oblates this day, the feast day of the founder of the Camaldolese Congregations!

Saint Romuald has a special place in my heart for two reasons. First he went around Italy bringing isolated hermits together or at least under the Rule of Benedict --- something I found personally to resonate with my own need to subsume my personal Rule of Life under a larger more profound and living tradition or Rule, and secondly, he gave us a form of eremitical life which is uniquely suited to the diocesan hermit. St Romuald's unique gift (charism) to the church involved what is called a "threefold good", that is, the blending of the solitary and communal forms of monastic life (the eremitical and the cenobitical), and the third good of evangelization or witness.

So often people understand the eremitical life as antithetical to communal life, and opposed as well to witness or evangelization. Romuald modelled an eremitism which balances the human need for solitude and a commitment to God alone with community and outreach to the world. The vocation is essentially eremitic, but rooted in what we Camaldolese call "The Privilege of Love" and therefore it spills out in witness and has a communal dimension or component to it as well. This seems to me to be particularly well-suited to the vocation of the diocesan hermit since she is called to live for God alone, but in a way which ALSO specifically calls her to give her life in love and generous service to others, particularly her parish and diocese. While this service and gift of self ordinarily takes the form of solitary prayer, it may also involve other ministry within the parish including limited hospitality --- or the outreach of a hermit from her hermitage through the vehicle of a blog!!! So, all good wishes on this feast of Saint Romuald!!

And for those who are not really familiar with Romuald, here is the brief Rule he formulated for monks and oblates. It is the only thing we actually have from his own hand.

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, take every opportunity you
can 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 the chick who tastes and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.