Sunday, June 18, 2006
June 19: Feast of St. Romuald
Pictured, St. Romuald, in the white habit of the Camaldolese, by Fra Angelico.
St. Romuald (952-1027) entered the Benedictines in atonement for his father's sin of murder - he killed a relative. Seeking to live a more solitary life as a hermit, he left the cenobitic life of the Benedictine abbey to search for an appropriate refuge. He eventually founded monastic communities throughout northern and southern Italy. He reformed the monastic life of his time, which had become rather decadent. St. Romuald's most famous hermitage is in Camaldoli, near Arezzo in Italy. In the United States we have two Camaldolese foundations, both different congregations with different expressions of the eremetic life. One is in Big Sur, California, the other in Bloomingdale, Ohio.
Shortly after my conversion and return to the Church (thirty some years ago now) I wanted to leave everything and enter the strictest monastery possible. I really believe it was much more than first fervor driving me, but I quit my job and took to the road, never realizing that this was the begining of my pilgrimage of prayer in life. I found myself at Steubenville and moved on to Holy Family Hermitage, the more strictly enclosed and eremetical of the two Congregations of Camaldolese in the U.S. - at least they were then.
St. Conrad of Parzham
The Prior sent a lay brother to the gate to send me away. (The Prior evidently was having some psychological problems as well as being frustrated that 'charismatic' students were just showing up unanounced at the hermitage, hoping to pray with the hermits.) The lay brother was older and looked a little bit like St. Conrad of Parzham. He was so kind to me and did his best to explain why the Prior refused to see me. He took me on a secret tour of the enclosure and prayed with me in the chapel, but in the end he had to send me on my way. He gave me the bread he was to eat that day to take with me. I often wonder if he continued to pray for me. Because of his age, I expect that he is now dead, I hope he still remembers me in heaven.