October 5, 2017

Saint Bruno, Founder of the Carthusians

Saint Bruno

Optional Memorial - October 6th

Saint Bruno, (1030 – 1101) the founder of the Carthusian Order, emphasized prayer, meditation and contemplation in loving God. He was born in Cologne about the year 1030. His family belonged to the elite of the city. At a young age, he was sent to the episcopal school at Reims to complete his education. Bruno studied Sacred Scripture and the Fathers and perfected himself in both the human and divine sciences. He returned to Cologne to serve in the canonry.

In 1056, the Bishop of Reims, Bishop Gervais, asked him to lead the episcopal school. Entering religious life, Bruno fulfilled this task from 1057 – 1075. Bruno’s extraordinary teaching ability is evidenced by the fact that many of his former students became great and consequential figures. When in 1075, Bruno was appointed chancellor, the pious Bishop Gervais was succeeded by Manasses de Gournai, a violent and impious man. Due to grievances, Bruno demanded the suspension of Manasses. He in turn expelled Bruno from Reims. Undeterred, Bruno, moved by love of God and eternal goods, vowed to abandon the world.

According to legend, Bruno’s resolve to forsake earthly pleasures resulted from the following: While at Reims, a fellow professor had died. As the Office of the Dead was chanted at his funeral, he suddenly raised himself up from the coffin declaring: "By the just judgment of God, I have been accused, judged, damned." Thereupon Bruno renounced the world. He briefly became a hermit under the Abbot St. Robert of Molesmes. Soon after, he received from Hugo, Bishop of Grenoble, a site called Chartreuse as a place of residence. There, along with six other men, Bruno established a monastery and founded the Carthusian Order (1084). This original charterhouse still exists some nine centuries later.

Despite their regimen of radical denial and sacrifice, the monks at Chartreuse found fulfillment in worshipping God. Then, in 1090, a papal legate reached Bruno with a letter ordering him to Rome. Pope Urban II, Bruno’s former student, was struggling to enact the reforms instituted by Gregory VII. Faced with opposition from antipope Guibert of Ravenna and the Emperor Henry IV, he required competent allies and called his former master to his side. Ever the humble servant, Bruno kept in the background, advising Urban discreetly. Refusing the miter, (Urban offered him the archbishopric of Reggio) Bruno persuaded Urban to let him resume his eremitical duties. Establishing a monastery at St. Mary's at La Torre in Calabria, he remained until his death.

At St. Mary’s, Bruno wrote several commentaries on the psalms and on Saint Paul's epistles. He died on October 6, 1101, at the age of 71. His Order has the distinction of never becoming unfaithful to the spirit of its founder, and never requiring a reform. He was never formally canonized because of the Carthusians' aversion to public honors. His name was placed on the Roman calendar in 1623. He is the patron against diabolic possession. Almighty God, who called Saint Bruno to serve you in humble solitude, grant, through his intercession, that amid the changes of this world we may constantly look to you alone for our salvation.

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