19 June: Feast of Saint Romuald. St. Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy, to a noble family. No one could have imagined that a descendent of the Dukes of Onesti would have left his stately home for the most absolute austerity, entering history as a great reformer of the Benedictine Order and as Founder of the Congregation of Monk Hermits of Camaldolese, an Order that has given the Church two great Pontiffs, Pius VII and Gregory XVI, as well as a whole array of blesseds and saints. Yet from his youth, Romuald had been attracted to the consecrated life. He sought silence and sacrifice. A turning point in Romuald’s life was when his father killed a relative in a duel at which Romuald was forced to be present. He then fled to the monastery of St. Apollinaris and did penance and fasting for forty days, assuming responsibility for the sins of his father and begging for forgiveness. He prayed and wept almost without ceasing. So was the purity of his heart, and sincerity of repentance, that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and his faith deepened. He eventually became a monk at the Abby, later becoming Abbot. Romuald went on to found several monasteries throughout Italy, but he longed for an even more austere life than that of the Benedictines. He founded an order of hermits known as the Camaldolese monks (an Italian branch of the Benedictine Order). Romuald’s was one of the strictest orders for men in the West. Members lived isolated in small huts, observing strict silence and perpetual fasting, constantly praying or doing manual labor. The Life of St Romuald notes that the saint was totally enraptured by silence and solitude with God: “Contemplation of God enraptured him so forcefully that, almost blinded by tears and burning with an indescribable fire of love for God, he would cry out, `Dear Jesus, peace of my heart, ineffable desire, sweetness and gentleness of the angels and saints…’” St. Romuald brought many sinners, particularly those of rank and power, back to God. He died in 1027, having lived a life of prayer and rigorous penance. He had never used a bed and had found countless ways to practice severe penances, such as wearing a shirt of hair and eating only gruel. 15 years later, his pupil, St. Peter Damian, wrote in his biography: “His greatness lies in the rigorous and austere character of his interpretation of monastic life-an approach that was quite singular and unique. In the deepest recesses of his being, Romuald was an ascetic, a monk …He reminds us of the stolid figures inhabiting the Eastern deserts, men who by most rigorous mortification and severest self-inflicted penances gave a wanton world a living example of recollection and contemplation. Their very lives constituted the most powerful sermon.” Saint Romuald’s body was buried at the monastery in Paranzo. Three decades later, his incorrupt body was transferred to Fabriano in 1481. Many miracles have been reported at his tomb in the Cathedral of Fabriano. The Order he founded continues to operate today, with five congregations. The most austere of those, the hermits, continue to live like St. Romuald—strict adherence to silence and prayer for the reparation of the sins of mankind.
“Destroy yourself and live only in God.” – Saint Romuald
Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:
- In honor of the place (Tuscany) where St. Romuald founded an order of hermits, make a Tuscan White Bean & Garlic Soup for dinner tonight (recipe here). Perhaps give up dessert as a small penance, in honor of this saint who is known for living a life full of penance.
- Read more about St. Romuald here.
- Spend some time reading the Psalms in silence like St. Romuald. When we pray, St. Romuald said that our bodies, hearts, souls, and minds should be focused solely on God: “Better to pray one psalm with devotion and compunction than a hundred with distraction.”
- Write or print out your favorite passage from Psalms. Tape it on your bathroom mirror, in your car, or someplace you’ll see it every day to ponder and meditate upon.
(sources: catholicculture.org; excerpts from The Church’s Year of Grace by Pius Parsch)