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St Romuald was a Benedictine monk known for reforming monasticism and founding the Camaldolese Benedictine Order.

St Romuald’s Life

Romuald was born in 951 in Ravenna in Northern Italy. When he was 20 years old, after having lived a dissolute youth, he witnessed his father killing a relative in a duel over some property. Prompted by God to do penance for his father’s actions, Romuald entered a monastery, which confirmed his calling to the monastic life. He found the monks’ faith to be lukewarm compared with his own strict ascetism, so he left to be trained by the hermit Marinus, eventually being recognised as an ascetic and master of prayer. He subsequently spent thirty years travelling throughout Italy, founding and reforming almost 100 hermitages and monasteries. In 1012 when Romuald arrived in Arrezzo, a man named Maldolus who had a vision of monks in white robes ascending into heaven, gave him some land, known as the Camaldoli. Romuald built five cells for hermits on the land, and two years later built the nearby monastery at Fontebuono, motherhouse of the Camaldolese Order.

By adding elements of severity to the Benedictine rule, Romuald paved the way for both the Carthusians and the Cistercians. The Camaldolese Order still exists for those inclined to radical isolation, prayer, asceticism, and a deep hunger for God which only a hermit’s life can satisfy. The Camaldolese monks emphasise solitude, so is more hermit-based (eremitical), while allowing some community-based (cenobitical) life. Camaldolese monks generally live individually, but pray together corporately. They live lives of simplicity, penance and contemplation, in modern times without phones, the internet or television.

St Romuald’s Teachings

Romuald’s approach to the contemplative life is depicted in these teachings, known as his “Brief Rule.” It reads as follows:

- “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.”

- “Realise 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 nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.”

Archbishop Cosmo Francesco Ruppi noted that, “Interiorisation of the spiritual dimension, the primacy of solitude and contemplation, slow penetration of the Word of God and calm meditation on the Psalms are the pillars of Camaldolese spirituality, which St Romuald gives as the essential core of his Rule.”

Reflection from Franciscan Media:

Christ is a gentle leader, but he calls us to total holiness. Now and then, men and women are raised up to challenge us by the absoluteness of their dedication, the vigor of their spirit, the depth of their conversion. The fact that we cannot duplicate their lives does not change the call to us to be totally open to God in our own particular circumstances.

This page has been researched and curated by Fleur.

Here is another reflection at My Catholic Life.