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St. Romuald, Abbot

June 15, 2018

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St. RomualdSt. Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy, in 950, into the aristocratic Onesti family. When he was twenty, he witnessed his father Sergius kill another man in a duel, and deeply disturbed by what he had seen, fled to the nearby Benedictine monastery of San Apollinare at Classe where he became a monk to make expiation for his father’s sin.

St. Romuald quickly embraced the Benedictine Rule of Life, and he meticulously observed it in every detail with prayer, simplicity, and strict self-discipline. Some of the monks had grown lax in their spiritual lives and were offended when St. Romuald admonished them with his fraternal correction, and their antagonism toward him forced him to leave the monastery.

St. Romuald found a hermit named Marinus near Venice to serve as his spiritual director, and he spent the next ten years in a secluded location in an austere life of solitude, self-denial, prayer, and meditation, and made great headway in virtue and holiness.

St. Romuald’s father was so moved by his son’s example that he decided to enter the monastery of San Severo near Ravenna to atone for his sins. St. Romuald learned that his father was being tempted to leave the monastery and go back to his worldly ways, so he went in haste to attempt to persuade him to remain, and his father persevered as a monk until his death.

Ironically, after having left San Apollinare years earlier, in 998 Emperor Otto III appointed St. Romuald the abbot of the same monastery. He served only two years and then resigned in order to return to his life as a hermit at Pereum. Sometimes his prayer seemed dry, his spiritual energy low, and his outlook dark, and one day when reciting a Psalm he had a mystical experience of a bright light and the presence of God which propelled him for the rest of his life.

Even though St. Romuald was a monk and a hermit, it was also his desire to be a missionary and suffer a martyr’s death. The Pope approved his request to be a missionary to the Magyars in Hungary. As he made the journey northward he became seriously ill, was forced to abandon his plans, and returned to Italy to resume the monastic life.

St. Romuald subsequently moved to the monastery at Monte di Sitrio. During those days he chastised a young local nobleman for his immoral behavior, and in retaliation, the aristocrat falsely accused Romuald of a scandalous crime. Incredibly, the monks believed the false allegation, imposed a severe penance, and excommunicated him. He suffered this terrible hardship in silence for six months, and then, prompted by God in prayer, he broke silence, repudiated the unjust sentence, and resumed his ministry.

St. Romuald spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries and hermitages in northern and central Italy, particularly at Fonte Avellana and Camaldoli near Arezzo in Tuscany. He also founded a religious order, the Camaldolese monks and hermits [O.S.B. Cam.], and wrote a new rule of life based upon the Benedictine Rule. He combined the cenobitic life, a common life in religious community, with the eremitical life, the solitary life of a hermit. The monks assembled each day for Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, and some meals, and spent the remainder of the day in solitude. St. Romuald died alone in his cell at Val di Castro, Italy, on June 19, 1027.

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