June 19, 2017

St. Romuald, Abbot, Founder of the Camaldolese Order

Saint Romuald

Optional Memorial - June 19th

Anyone who knew Romuald as a youth might have been surprised at what he would eventually become. Like many of us, however, the good impulses of his heart needed time, and, in the case of Romuald, much discernment to come to full fruition. His life of prayer and penance would become the model for many.

Romuald was born into Italian nobility in the city of Ravenna around the year 950. Like many of his contemporaries who were raised in the faith, Romuald desired holiness, but the allure of the world was too much to overcome. His actions and lifestyle were given over to the pursuit of worldly pleasures, but they would come to an abrupt and unexpected end when he was about 20 years old.

It was then that his father, Sergius, obliged him to be his second in a duel. What is more, the person with whom his father was dueling was a relative, and the dispute was over property. When Romuald witnessed his father kill the other man, he was so horrified that he fled to the monastery of Sant Apollinare, near his home. Though initially intending to stay for 40 days to atone for his father’s sin, Romuald would remain for three years and became a Benedictine monk.

The future saint soon developed a reputation for extreme holiness, which made his fellow monks uncomfortable. He was eased out of Sant'Apollinare and spent the next 30 years wandering in Italy, founding hermitages and monasteries wherever he went. In every place, he sought a life of severe penance and continual prayer. At one point, Romuald greatly desired to be a martyr for the faith. He petitioned for and was granted permission by the pope to preach in Hungary. Each time he attempted to do so, he was struck with a severe illness that prevented him from proceeding. It became clear that God had other plans.

That did not mean that Romuald’s religious vocation was straightforward. At one monastery, he was falsely accused of causing grave scandal, resulting in a severe penance and brief period of excommunication. He endured a prolonged period of spiritual dryness, which was eventually relieved by the words of Psalm 31: “I will give you understanding and I will instruct you.”; an insight that never left him.

The contribution for which Romuald is perhaps best remembered occurred at Camaldoli, in Tuscany. Here, around the year 1012, he founded the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines, which united a monastic, or community, way of life with the eremitical, or solitary, way. His first disciples were Saint Adalbert and Saint Boniface of Russia, and martyrs, Saint John and Saint Benedict of Poland.

According to legend, a man named Maldolus had had a vision of monks dressed in white, ascending into heaven. Acting on this vision, he gave Romuald the land on which was built the first motherhouse of the Camaldolese Order. To this day, Camaldolese monks live lives of austerity and prayer in the spirit of their founder.

Saint Romuald died alone in his monastic cell, as he himself predicted, on June 19, 1027. Pope Gregory XIII canonized him in 1582. Almighty God, who through Saint Romuald renewed the manner of life of hermits in your Church, grant that, denying ourselves and following Christ, we may merit to reach your heavenly realms on high. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns together with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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