Saint of the Day – St. Romuald, Abbot – June 19
St. Romuald the Abbot was born around 950 into a powerful, wealthy family. He entered a Benedictine monastery at the age of 20. He had lived the life of a powerful, wealthy young man until the day he had to serve as his father’s “second” in a duel with a relative over a piece of land. His father killed the opponent, but Romuald was so horrified by the experience that he turned away from the life he had been living.
Once in the monastery, he found that he was attracted by the life of a hermit, more than to the communal life of the monastery as he was experiencing it at Sant’ Apollinare in Classe. He spent most of his life moving back and forth between monastic life and the life of the hermit, traveling from monastery to monastery and leading reforms. He eventually founded a new community who combined those two forms of religious life, the Camaldolese order.
St. Romuald developed a “Brief Rule” of how to live in openness to God.
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, then take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them in 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 nothing and eats nothing but what his mother gives him.
St. Romuald’s rule may seem like it has no relationship whatsoever to the lives of most of us – those called to life as men and women, married and single, in the contemporary world – earning our living, raising our families, trying to do our little bit to make the world a better place for everyone. Yet there are elements of his rule that are applicable to all of our lives. We’re called both to a relationship with God and to engagement with the world.
A challenge many of us face is finding a place where we won’t be observed or disturbed by anyone. I remember the amusement of a group of my parents’ friends who discovered a Bible in the bathroom of mutual friends. It was the only place in that home where a parent could have a few minutes of privacy to read the word of God. I remember the religious magazines and books kept for reading in the same room in the homes of my grandparents and other relatives. These people knew that time for the Lord is precious and is to be snatched wherever possible.
Today, we have so many means of communication and response is expected so quickly, that even walking by the beach without having a telephone along can be seen as selfish and/or anti-social. We forget that paradise begins here when we open to the Lord. Our alone place may have to be the bathroom. It may be standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. It may be driving home from work. The essential thing is to find a few quiet moments somewhere each day.
St. Romuald recommends praying with the Psalms. That’s really good advice and easier than it might seem. Many of the songs we use in liturgy are taken directly from the Psalms. Let the songs from Church run through your head during the day. There are songs/Psalms for all occasions. Then as now, they help turn our focus to the Lord.
“Realize above all that you are in God’s presence…” There’s not much to add to that. The trick is to remember and be open to see and experience that reality. Then all we need will be provided, just as the chick who receives food from its mother. We still have to work. But the work we do takes on a bigger, broader meaning when it is tied to God’s presence in the world and to our call to make that presence visible through our lives.
May peace and joy be yours.