Camaldolese History

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Camaldolese History Class. Conference #5 (Jan 12, 1984) & Conference #6 (Jan 18, 1983)


#set-camaldolese-history-1983-84, #monastic-class-series


I saw on the other tape it has a long lead-in, so I have to wait a second or two before it
reaches the recordable tape.
This is our fifth talk and we're tracing the life of St. Romuald and we're asking ourselves
in a special way what kind of education St. Romuald had, the education of St. Romuald,
his formation in the monastic life, in the Christian life.
We saw on the one hand how the mosaics of Ravenna, how his visual environment formed
a certain attitude towards the faith, a certain mentality, with its emphasis on the resurrection,
on the transfiguration, two great themes suggested in the mosaics of his own monastery of Santa
Pollinare in Classe, and also the theme of martyrdom, martyr as the intercessor, the
mediator, and as also the fruit of the resurrection and the transfiguration, the saint as the
transfigured one.
This is what inspired Romuald to become a monk in the first place and this is what he
was always looking for.
And yet he knew that he would find an authentic path, authentic life, only through communion
with the heritage, the tradition that had been most vital in the early days of monasticism.
So he's always eager to learn exactly what was the life of the early monks, the sense
of return to the sources is very important for him.
But he was not alone in this and that's important.
There was a lot happening in the 10th century, monastically speaking, and what was happening
was very important and Romuald connects with it, Romuald connects with it.
He does not go off on his own, as it were, seeking to reform monasticism single-handed.
His attitude was not, everyone's doing it all wrong and now I have to set it right.
But rather he noticed, he perceived that there were many currents of reform which could be
found active, many streams were flowing at that time and he connected with them.
He connected with this abbot, Garii, or Guarinus in Latin, maybe you've seen it written Guarinus
in dictionaries or encyclopedias, it's often Guarinus, but he was Catalonian and most historians
use the current local spelling, Garii.
He was never canonized, but Saint Peter Damian calls him Venerabilis, so Venerable Garii,
we may call him also.
Do you remember the opening lines of Thomas Merton's Seven Story Mountain, his autobiography?
Anyway, he begins with these words, on the last day of January 1915, under the sign of
the water-bearer, in a year of great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains
on the borders of Spain, I came into this world, end quote.
Now, in a time before nation-states, this place was neither France nor Spain, and the
mountains marked no border.
The area was a province of Catalonia and was subject to the Count of Barcelona.
Let me continue with another paragraph of Merton, on page six.
There were many ruined monasteries in these mountains.
My mind goes back with great reverence to the thought of those clean, ancient stone
cloisters, those low and mighty rounded arches hewn and set in place by monks who perhaps
prayed me where I am now.
Saint Martin and Saint Michael the Archangel, the great patron of monks, had churches in
those mountains.
Saint Martin du Canigou, Saint Michel de Cuixart, Saint Michael of Cuixart.
Is it any wonder I should have a friendly feeling about these places?
One of them, stone by stone, followed me across the Atlantic a score of years later and got
itself set up within convenient reach of me when I most needed to see what a cloister
looked like and what kind of place a man might live in to live according to his rational
nature and not like a stray dog.
Saint Michel de Cuixart is all fixed up in a special and considerably tidy little museum
in an uptown park in New York, overlooking the Hudson River.
In such a way, you don't recall what kind of city you are in.
It is called the Cloisters.
Synthetic as it is, it still preserves enough of its own reality to be a reproach to everything
else around it except the trees and the palisades, end quote.
Here is old, negative, early murder, always down on the world.
But we can pardon his negativity and enjoy his romanticism, knowing that he himself outgrew
But who has seen the Cloisters?
Who has visited the Cloisters?
Nobody has visited the Cloisters, not even you, you're from New South Wales.
It's like it usually happens.
People live in New York and they never see the Empire State Building, that sort of thing.
It's interesting.
It's a hodgepodge.
And of course, if you've lived in a real cloister, a real ancient cloister, you've lived in
Camaldoli or Fonte de la Lana even, not the most famous places, but just good old cloisters,
you see how phony it is.
But on the other hand, I enjoyed it the couple years I was there, visiting it every so often.
It's really a hodgepodge.
It's a jumble of, how many?
Well, three main cloisters.
There's the Cuxa Cloister, there's the Bonnefonte Cloister, and the, what else, a very elegant,
delicate little Gothic cloister, very filly marble work.
In fact, they have it covered over with a skylight so it doesn't get rained on.
But Cuxa is outside.
Now what are these?
These are actually the capitals.
You know what a capital is, the top piece of a column, and other pieces.
In other words, it was very fragmentary.
Only one side of the, and this is the 12th century cloister.
So this isn't the cloister that St. Romuald saw.
This isn't the cloister Garry built.
One side is still left there where it belongs in Cuxa.
There are Cistercian monks who live there and pray and work, thanks be to God.
But the other pieces and bits were picked up by the Rockefellers and brought over and
set up there.
And it's very lovely, very elegant.
They have a fountain in the center, and then they have gardens around it.
And then they have a piece from a French monastery, I mean a French northern part of France,
which is a chapter room with three big arches open to the open-air walkway.
The relationship between Cloister Garth, you know, the colonnade, and the chapter hall
is very authentic, exactly what would have been at that time.
When you see Camaldoli, you will see that there's that same relationship between the big hall
with three arches and the cloister there, the ancient one, 11th century cloister called
the Cloister of Maldon.
And then you have museum exhibits of tapestry and so forth.
But you can almost imagine as you're sitting there in the Cluster Cloister that it is a
real monastery.
And it seems to affect people, most secular people, they just feel kind of at home.
Why shouldn't one feel at home?
They might chat with one another, but usually in a very peaceful way.
Maybe somebody is even praying, who knows?
Even that can happen every so often.
I tried to pray when I went there, but then I'd get distracted.
I'd say, well, this isn't a monastery.
But there is one column, one little column from the 10th century cloister, which is standing
up in a corner there.
And it's one of those things with these awful gargoyles leering at you, you know, showing
their teeth and twisting themselves into some kind of acrobatic or yogic position.
The medievals, especially in this kind of rustic Romanesque style, enjoyed giving a
little chuckle, expressing their fantasy.
So each column was different and you don't find this Cistercian symmetry, this Cistercian
Cistercian architecture is all cleaned up and it's all by the ruler and by the carpenter's
But not back then.
This monastery of Greek self, the time of Abygade, we have to understand how it fits
in to the monastic reform movements of the 10th century.
We have to go back to Cluny.
Now it was not a Cluniac monastery.
There was a time when historians said, they're all Cluniac.
What they called pan-Clunism or pan-Cluniacism.
And now, of course, all the historians are saying, whoa, wait a minute, unless it is
very definitely under the jurisdiction of the abbot of Cluny, we won't call it Cluniac.
But Cluny was a great center for the diffusion of the reforms of monastic life, and especially
the return to the rule of Saint Benedict, which was fostered by Benedict of Aniens.
We're talking there about the 9th century.
So you can see a process of stages going by centuries.
817, Benedict of Aniens, as it were, reminds people, look at this rule of Saint Benedict.
This is the Roman rule.
And we should all follow this rule because this is really the best, the greatest discretion.
The other rules are useful too.
And so he collected them all together.
And then he gave a certain structure, declarations, constitutions, comments, additions to the
rule of Saint Benedict to put it into practice in the times for which he was writing, especially
in view of the program of Charlemagne and this Carolingian Empire.
Charlemagne died in 814, three years before Benedict of Aniens published his work.
If we move about 90 years ahead, we come to 910, and we have the foundation of Cluny.
It was founded by Count William of Aquitaine and was placed directly under the Holy See.
The count nominated a monk named Bernal as abbot.
Placed directly under the Holy See.
Guess who was the patron saint of Cluny?
Saint Peter.
Saint Peter.
And it became a kind of place of pilgrimage.
I don't know whether they had from the very first some relic of Saint Peter.
I'm sure they got one.
If they didn't, weren't able to get one, they'd made one.
But anyway, it was dedicated to Saint Peter, and it was dedicated to a special sense of
communion with the Holy See, with the Pope.
And it obtained something that we take for granted, but it obtained the privilege of
This is very important, because monasteries usually were under the bishop.
Now Comaldoli, when it was first founded, was placed under the bishop.
It was his land.
He dedicated the church.
Monks were under his jurisdiction.
It may have been that the first five hermits of Comaldoli were diocesan priests.
Maybe they were incarnated in the diocese of Arezzo, so it was quite appropriate for
Romuald to leave them under the bishop's jurisdiction.
At all events, Romuald was not founding a congregation.
He was not setting up even necessarily a permanent structure.
He was much less concerned with structure than with the reality of living.
But here, although there is a great attention to the reality of monastic living, you must
understand Cluny not in terms of what it became later.
This greatest church of Christendom, I think it was a little bigger than St. Peter's.
I mean, St. Peter's as it is today.
Huge church, magnificent with this Cluny, with this great army of monks, and with their
marvelous liturgical practice, which was so solemn, a lot of Byzantine influence.
We'll get to that in a while, maybe another two talks we'll get to the Byzantine question
in relation to Romuald, but in relation to the whole monastic reform.
Just keep that under your hat.
Byzantine influence on Cluny.
In the liturgy even.
People didn't mind borrowing and mixing together bits and pieces from other liturgies.
But at this time, when it was founded, there was a great emphasis on poverty, great emphasis
on interior life, on physical solitude as a community.
But it was out in the country, out in the wilds, separation from the world, taken very seriously.
And Cluny was singularly blessed insofar as it did not really ever in the first two centuries
lose this initial thrust, this initial spirit, even though it grew into a very large community.
And even after the first two hundred years, it still continued at a high level of monastic
observance and monastic feeling, but as a big community, and a big community has its
advantages and disadvantages, but it was a very good monastery, blessed by God with four
great holy abbots, four canonized saints in a row, not all successors one of another,
there were a couple other very good, very holy abbots in between, a couple of them,
but not canonized.
The first abbot, Berno, was not canonized.
Berno was followed by Odo, Odo was followed by Mayur, Mayur was followed by Odilo, and
Odilo was followed by Hugh.
Hugh lived at the time of Saint Peter David.
Together, Hugh was the successor of Odilo.
Odilo started as abbot just before the beginning of the 11th century, 994 if I'm not correct,
not mistaken, and then Hugh succeeded him in the middle of the century and Hugh died
in 1009, two abbots and they covered the whole 11th century.
Maybe that can be a disadvantage, if the abbot isn't a saint, to have him around for an awful
long time can be a terrible drag, but in those times when people lived short lives and when
the succession of emperors or the succession of kings or the succession of abbots or of
popes was a moment always of considerable crisis at all levels, it was a great blessing
on this abbey to have long-lived abbots who had the grace both of longevity and of personal
Cluny, I can say this a little later, the influence of Cluny on Italy.
But first I want to say where Cruciat comes into the picture and where Garry comes into
the picture.
Garry was the abbot of a monastery called Les Arts, which is near Toulouse, and we're
talking about southern France.
Now, I was hoping to make photocopies of kind of a monastic map here, but the copy machine
is away.
So let me see, here we are.
This is the monastic map, a little incomplete, from a big coffee table book by Christopher
It's also very scholarly.
It's a very good book, called The Monastic World, 1000-1300, published by Random House.
And here you see there are no mountains, no borders, but this will help you get an
idea of where these places were.
Cluny is up here, so rather south-ish.
You see, they even put in Taizé in parentheses up above it, just to remind us that Taizé
is just, well, it would have been on the farm.
It would have been part of the monastic enclosure of Cluny at its biggest expansion.
Yeah, right, real close.
I think even on the map it's not marked too well.
They look too far apart.
Here's Toulouse, here's Les Arts.
You see, Les Arts is in the Pyrenees.
Here are the Pyrenees, the mountains here that run east and west, between Spain and
France, modern-day Spain.
But you see, this territory was under the authority of the Counts of Barcelona.
Here's Montserrat.
You notice Montserrat here, and Barcelona is on the coast.
Les Arts, Cuxa.
Here's San Martín de Canigó, or Sant Martín de Canigó, whatever it is, Martín de Canigó,
in Catalonian, and then Ripoll, and then Montserrat.
So you have kind of a line here, three monasteries real close together, Cuxa, Canigó, and Ripoll,
and then Montserrat, a little farther south, right near Barcelona.
And these were the beginnings of a Catalonian congregation.
Les Arts was founded in, here's Toulouse and Les Arts.
Okay, Les Arts was founded in 940.
The patrons, you see here the aristocracy, are founding monasteries.
They must have their reasons.
I'm sure they have very good economic and political reasons to found a monastery, also
religious reasons, be that as it may.
Whatever the intentions of the patrons were, the interest among the best souls of the time
was the quality of the monastic life lived within those walls that whoever it was built.
The patrons asked Abbot Saint Odo of Cluny to take personal charge of the new abbey,
along with other recent foundations in that area.
Madame Cuxa, Odo named one of his trusted monastic associates, Adagius, as administrator
of these houses, and the monk Daniel, as abbot, co-editor of Les Arts.
Here you do find a kind of Cluniac authority or jurisdiction over these monasteries.
It was a personal authority.
You didn't have a general council.
You didn't have a general chapter that would meet, and so you didn't have a monastic congregation
in the modern sense of the word.
But you did have a personal authority of the holy abbot, through his nominees, upon these
new foundations to get them going in the right direction, under the rule of Saint Benedict,
and following the usages suggested by Benedict of Anion.
Now, a few years after Odo's death, the abbey obtained a bull of exemption from Pope Agapitus
This was in 949, and a year later, this is, I'm sorry, I didn't make clear the connection.
The abbey of Cuxa obtained a bull of exemption from Pope Agapitus II.
This was in 949, and a year later, the monks of Cuxa, oh, what am I doing here?
No, that was Les Arts.
Let me start this paragraph again.
I can't read my own writing.
A few years after Odo's death, the abbey of Les Arts obtained exemption.
Then, this was 949, then a year later, 950, the monks of Cuxa requested and obtained
the same privilege.
These abbeys were thus under the direct protection of the Holy See, as was Cluny itself.
They were hence not Cluniac monasteries.
They obtained their independence after the reform of Cluny had been established securely
But rather, they were new foundations which followed the same ideals as Cluny.
This was a frequent model.
You either had, on the one hand, monasteries that requested help from Cluny, or perhaps
the patron, or perhaps the bishop, or the pope, or someone said to the abbot of Cluny,
look into this case here.
See what you can do about reforming this monastery.
Or else Cluny would found houses.
But then they would obtain their independence.
Shortly after this, Cluny's influence under its new abbot, Saint Mayol, began to extend
into Italy, reaching, among others, the abbey of Clase, Santa Polinaria in Clase.
Now Santa Polinaria in Clase was not a Cluniac monastery, in the sense of being under the
jurisdiction of an abbot general in a monastic congregation.
But there was an effort on the part certainly of the policy, probably the emperor, the abbot
of Cluny, and perhaps, and I would suggest most probably, part at least of the community
of Santa Polinaria.
They absorbed some of the values, some of the reform values that were being propagated
by Cluny.
But it wasn't really dependent on Cluny.
Perhaps what the reform movement brought to Saint Romuald's monastery was a new insistence
on the rule of Saint Benedict, and on the full celebration of the liturgical offices
in choir.
Now these are things we would take for granted, but we have to remember that in the first
place a lot of European monasteries followed, yes, the rule of Saint Benedict, but a lot
of other rules too.
They drew on a number of monastic sources.
They had their own customaries and constitutions.
Santa Polinaria actually had been a Greek monastery, and so the rules of Saint Basil
would have been very important for them.
Now, the exact process of transition from being a Greek monastery under the Greek exarchate,
the old days of Ravenna before the Lombards came, the transition from being a Greek monastery
to being a Latin monastery, we don't know how that took place.
It certainly did, but we don't know how.
And perhaps because of this political transformation of Ravenna, there arose a certain confusion
about the nature of the monastic life there in the abbey.
At all events, even though Saint Romuald breaks away from this community, even though he finds
many of the monks lax, we notice that Saint Peter Damian said that Romuald took the rule
and said, look at what it says here.
Now whether that is a historical description of something that actually took place or the
thought of what is the meaning of Saint Romuald's difficulty with Santa Polinaria, it is clear
that Saint Peter Damian here is talking about the rule of Saint Benedict, and it's very
likely that Saint Romuald arriving there, very fervent in his first fervor as a novice, would
say, aha, so this is the rule that you want to observe, but are you doing this?
Are you living according to this?
So the insistence on the rule of Saint Benedict as the rule, and also on the full celebration
of the liturgical offices and choir.
We all know about how liturgical Cluny was.
We also have to remember that Saint Romuald was rather liturgical too.
He talks about him and Marino singing all those psalms.
The verb means to sing, it doesn't mean anything else.
He talks about him later when he's living as a hermit after his stay near the Abbey
of Cuixart, coming back, and it says one evening while he was singing Compline, the devil came
and started hacking away at him.
I don't know, I think he was singing too well, actually, he probably had a very fine voice
and the devil didn't like all those beautiful, beautiful psalms.
Anyway, there were other aspects of Cluniac spirituality which it seems had not taken
root at Santa Polinare in Classe when Romuald entered.
And here I quote a passage from an article in a very good book, which I'm reading and
which I've referred to a number of times, called Cluniac Monasticism in the Central
Middle Ages, edited by Noreen Hunt.
She is an historian who specializes in Cluniac, and it has articles by various authors, including
our history professor from San Anselmo, the great lover of lists of popes, Dom Cassius
But the first article in the book, Monastic Reform in Cluniac Spirituality, is by Raffaello
Morgan, an Italian monk, and he says this, and I quote,
It is not possible to appreciate fully the significance of the nature of the monastic
revival in the 10th century if, in the final analysis, one fails to realize that the monastic
movement also represented the vigorous reaction of the highest circles of monastic and secular
spirituality to a certain type of religiosity which had been establishing itself towards
the end of the first millennium, and which, nourished and fostered by a mixture of worldly
and spiritual values, fruits of the temporal power acquired by the Church, had brought
both to the threshold of the Iron Age.
Now, what is he saying in this long sentence?
When it's in a book it's easier to read, but when I have to read it to you, you can tell
it doesn't make much sense.
What he is insisting on is that there had been a kind of a degeneration of religiosity,
which had taken place at the end, toward the end of the first millennium, a kind of religiosity
nourished and fostered by a mixture of worldly and spiritual values, fruits of the temporal
power acquired by the Church.
This temporal power as being a burden, a weight upon the Church as a spiritual body, as a sacramental
And so you have a reaction here among the highest circles of monastic and secular spirituality
against this degeneration.
The most obvious and disconcerting signs of this degeneration of religiosity were a materialist
and almost magical religiosity in which spiritual values were reduced to terms of hierarchy
and worldly power.
Interiority was not appreciated and even the investiture of charismatic power was almost
entirely based on procedural and juridical criteria of validity.
On the one hand, materialist and magical religiosity in which spiritual values were reduced to
terms of hierarchy and worldly power.
What is the practical consequence of this, to a great extent?
A sign or consequence, simile, the exchange of money in order to obtain ordination or other
spiritual goods.
And the great reformers, especially as you get into the 11th century, Peter Damian, before
him St. John Walbert of Vallumbrosa, and of course Gregory VII, Pope Hilton, did battle
without quarter against simile, but there was something behind simile, and this is what
the author of the article is talking about.
Now this spiritual crisis was common to the entire Christian world and the reforming work
of the holy abbots of Pliny, of Abbot Gary, of Quixot, and of Romuald himself, is a concerted
effort to overcome the crisis.
So we see Romuald as part of the spiritual renewal that was taking place.
Pliny, Quixot, then Romuald would be the bearer of this into Italy, because he comes from a
number of years, maybe ten years, most likely ten years, at Quixot, an experience from which
he profited greatly.
He was ordained a priest so that he could come back to Italy with authority, with the
spiritual strength that he had gained from his own deep experience, and bring help to
Italy in overcoming this crisis.
Now, I would like to add to these names from the Christian West, the holy abbots of Pliny,
Abbot Gary, and Romuald, I would like to add the name of St. Simeon the New Theologian.
He was born about three years before St. Romuald, and died about five years before St. Romuald
died, 949 to 1022.
His dates are certain, because they're written down.
St. Simeon the New Theologian also reacted against much the same sort of materialist
and almost magical religiosity, which was content with procedural and juridical criteria
of validity, which was the problem there in his own milieu at Constantinople.
So you find, even in the Eastern Church, similar problems, and you find a saint very similar
in many ways to St. Romuald, although Simeon wrote books and Romuald didn't.
A saint, and Simeon stayed put, and Romuald wandered.
But aside from these differences, they were both, had at heart, the same problems of domestic
In order to understand the ideal that Gary, that inspired Gary, it's simply a matter of
seeing what was the spiritual ideal of Cluny?
What was their spiritual life?
Not the externals.
What was the deepest motivation of their being there, their being monks?
In the same book edited by Noreen Hunt, Cluniac, Gnosticism, and Central Religious, here's
the article by Fr. Hollinger, our professor in Rome.
I'll just tick off the titles of the paragraphs that he has under the section, The Monastic
Ideal of St. Odo's Day.
St. Odo wrote a beautiful meditation in 924, so quite a bit before Romuald, but you might
say this is kind of a documentation of the fervor of Cluny at its inception.
The book is called Occupatio, and it's a mental occupation.
It's meditation on monastic ideals.
First of all, to be a monk is to make present the Pentecostal Church.
That came up in our discussion of the chapter on Sunday.
The ideal of the early community of Jerusalem after Pentecost.
They were all of one heart.
They had all things in common.
They gathered for prayer, the breaking of bread, and the teaching of the Apostles.
St. Peter presiding over this early community.
So naturally, this is the deep inspiration of Cluny.
We might think, perhaps because of our own view of things, perhaps because of our own
culture and our own problems, that there would be some contradiction between a formal, institutional
monastic life and the Pentecostal ideal.
That's our problem.
It's not the problem of St. Odo or of the holy abbots of Cluny or the monks of Cluny.
They believed that by building their monastery, by enhancing their monastic life, even in
the format of it all, Pentecost was taking place.
They were reliving the fervor of the community of the Apostles, of Our Lady, St. Peter, the
early disciples, the early convents in Jerusalem.
Second point, to be a monk is to transcend the world.
The great inspirer on this theme is St. Gregory the Great, to transcend the world.
We find in these medieval authors, we find even in St. Odo, almost a tendency to suggest
that outside of the monastery there is no salvation, kind of twisting the famous maxim
extra ecclesiam nulla salus, outside of the church there's no salvation.
You would almost say outside of the monastery there's no salvation.
Some people actually did think this, but this isn't what they mean.
Because their life, with all its activity, even in its connection with the people of
the world and with the things of the world and with the growing of crops and dealing in
goods, reaches beyond this world.
Deep sense of the presence of the beyond, the presence of heaven on earth.
Third point, to be a monk is to return to the state of innocence, another very important
theme here, the return to paradise, the reconstitution of our humanity, fallen in Adam and Eve.
St. Peter Damien has this crazy idea that if God wants to, he can even declare undone
what has been done, even against the logical principle of non-contradiction.
Does anyone study logic anymore?
Can you make any statement?
Can you use your intellect, your mind, without implying the principle of non-contradiction?
In other words, as long as A is A, it is not non-A, it is not B.
Insofar as it is A and as long as it is A, it is not B.
It can't be and not be at the same time.
St. Peter Damien goes to this crazy idea, and then he doesn't really believe it, but
if he did, I mean, it would be terribly dangerous.
But he says, even if you're not a virgin, God can make you a virgin again.
But, of course, spiritually speaking, it's the second virginity, and which is necessary
also even for those who have preserved their first, that is, purely physical virginity.
But what is important here is the spiritual theme, the return to paradise, the return
to the state of innocence, the return to the Adamic condition.
Next point.
To be a monk is to anticipate the life to come.
It's already heaven.
The celebration of the liturgy takes place among the angels.
The eschaton, the last things, are realized here and now.
Realized eschatology, driven perhaps to extremes, because we also need to affirm a certain tension
in order to live in hope.
We do not see God face to face in this world.
And yet they were deeply convinced of the fact that they were living heaven, living
their heaven now.
Next point.
To be a monk is to attain eternal peace.
You've all seen this kind of motto identified with the Benedictine line, Pax.
And that is very true.
The theme of peace meant also peace among peoples, among nations, because there were
wars in the Middle Ages, even as there are today.
A monk is a witness to peace and a maker of peace.
Next point.
To be a monk is to anticipate the silence of eternity.
What can we say about that?
To be a monk is to take part in the eternal feast.
You see all of this kind of developing by kind of a circular reasoning, a spiral development.
The basic themes of heaven on earth return to paradise.
To be a monk is to take part in the eternal feast.
Monasticism is an angelic life.
We always identify the angelic virtue.
What does it always mean?
It means chastity.
If you think about it a bit, I mean, if angels don't have bodies, they obviously cannot
practice chastity.
So it's not the angelic virtue.
It's the human virtue, or one of the human virtues.
But the angelic virtue in the great spirituality, both of Scripture and of the Fathers and of
the monastics of the Middle Ages, is the virtue of praise, which of course involves the witness
of chastity.
A monk has his place in the choir of angels because he has renounced marriage and shares
in eternal praise.
It is in a monk's special intimacy with Christ that anticipation of the future is fully realized,
the whole theme of the mystical marriage.
So very strong, in certain monastic currents, became very strong.
St. Bernard, let us not even mention St. Simeon the New Theologian, almost goes overboard
with that sort of thing.
But they really believed it.
Monasticism then, final point, means unending intimacy with Christ.
Personalism of their spirituality.
Do you all remember that chapter?
We used to sing the phrases of St. Ron Holt when Peter Damian talks about his mysticism,
his experience, mystical experience through the reading of Scripture.
He would overflow in prayer and say,
Care Jesu, benigne Jesu, melmeum dulce, desiderium ineffabile, and so forth.
All these, speaking in tongues.
Dear Jesus, merciful Jesus, my sweet honey, we can't say it in English, we can't translate
it that way, melmeum dulce.
But he really felt this intimacy with Christ, this personal intimacy.
You already have the movement towards the devotion to the humanity of Jesus.
St. Bernard didn't invent it.
St. Francis of Assisi certainly didn't invent it.
He invented the crib.
You know, the little figurines set up, you know, and making an actual crib.
But the devotion to the humanity of Jesus, you might say the devotion to the Sacred Heart,
what became later the devotion to the Sacred Heart, has its origins here.
In these great currents of monastic spirituality in the 10th and 11th centuries.
So this gives an outline of the spirituality of Cluny.
How was it practiced?
What was the way of life?
Perhaps it might be good later, if you wish, you know, there's another article in here
about what a monastery looked like.
And they dug up a book which talks about the measurements and the arrangement of buildings
in a monastery that was dependent upon Cluny and which reflects very much the structure of Cluny.
So the author very nicely paraphrases it and calls it a tour of the monastery.
That might be interesting.
We could just kind of read through that, summarize it, to give an idea of the physical environment
of a medieval monastery.
One of the aspects of Cluniac life which has been talked about a great deal but perhaps
not understood very well is this aspect of ritualism.
I think I pointed out before that medieval life was ritualistic, very formalistic.
We can't conceive of how formalistic it was.
We don't even know good manners anymore.
Everything was a ritual.
Everything was specified.
It was a way of being secure.
You knew your place.
You knew what to say to whom and when.
Everything was a kind of a liturgy.
Things were much more formalistic and yet perhaps, I also suggest, life was basically
rather relaxed.
You had these boundaries that are very clearly set up.
As long as you were within the fence, you could just be very relaxed and very much at home.
But ritual liturgy is, of course, very important to them because of their concept of angelic
life as praise.
For us, this creates problems.
Not for them.
We have television.
We have beta bags.
We have other distractions.
They didn't.
So, for people in general, even for ancient peoples in other cultures, a ritual celebration
was a great joy, great pleasure, great satisfaction.
They invested a great deal of energy into it.
But Father Hollinger makes a very important point here that I would like to quote a few
phrases from.
He says,
The ritualism of primitive pluny—primitive, let's say including the reign of St. Hugh—
never excluded an aliturgical approach.
Translation from German probably could be stated better.
We can already recognize the first traces of individualistic affective devotion.
This almost sounds as if he's putting down St. Odo.
I don't think he is.
The point he's making here is that the strong emphasis on liturgy, on praise, and on the
glorious nature of the celebration—of course, there were also ordinary days, and they didn't
always put on their best planner.
They didn't always light all those candles and swing all those thuribles.
This was for major feasts.
And then they had low days in which they didn't do too much ceremonially.
But it never excluded an approach to God, to Christ, outside of the liturgy.
And we already have an emphasis on the spontaneous prayer, kind of charismatic type of prayer
in St. Odo himself.
Odo certainly manifests profound reverence for liturgical worship, but it is significant
that he himself obviously prefers private prayer, which, as he says, is all the sweeter
for being hidden.
So we are picking up where we left off the last time, speaking about Cluny as a great
center of monastic spirituality, of monastic form.
It might be interesting to know that St. Peter Damian, to whom we are indebted for the life
of St. Romuald, also wrote the life of another saint, almost exactly contemporary with St.
And guess who that was?
Does anyone know?
St. Peter Damian's life of St. Odilo of Cluny, the abbot of Cluny, who lived around
the same time as St. Romuald.
St. Odilo became abbot of Cluny, successor of St. Maillol, in 994, which is four years
before Romuald was forced to become abbot by the emperor, abbot of Place, of his own
monastery, Santa Polinaria in Place.
So St. Peter Damian wrote the life of St. Odilo.
St. Peter Damian also was of Cluny.
He corresponded with St. Hugh and the monks.
St. Hugh was abbot from 1049, and also for half a century.
Here are a few words taken from a couple of the letters of St. Peter Damian to Cluny.
It's interesting to see, it's a very florid language, but how he speaks of the monastery
of Cluny.
He says,
The monastery of Cluny is well known everywhere, or almost everywhere in the world, for the
splendor of its worship, the severity of its rule, the great number of its brethren, and
its fidelity to the whole monastic tradition.
It is for each and all the refuge of sinners.
How many blows it inflicts upon hell!
How many souls it wins for Christ!
In its sanctuary we have seen innumerable multitudes come to lay down the too heavy burdens of
this world, and to take upon their shoulders the easy yoke of Christ.
My yoke is easy, my burden is light, it says in the Gospel.
Men of every profession, of every class and status, have exchanged the pomp and luxury
of this world for the poor and humble life of monks.
Here the soldiers of Christ ceaselessly make war against the spiritual enemy, and earn
every day the palms of victory.
The theme of the spiritual martyrdom in the life of the monk.
Truly for them to live is Christ, to die is gain.
From all these spiritual troops a fragrance rises, which fills the house, that is, the
whole world, with an odor of nard.
For the fervor of the monastic state, which in our days had grown cold, has been revived
by the monks of Pluny.
The proof of this can be seen in France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy, and finally all of
Europe bear witness to it.
Everywhere the monks of Pluny are founding new monasteries and reviving ancient ones.
This procession of monks, ranked like heavenly armies, stands before God in admirable order.
Among all spiritual exercises, they have a great zeal for the praise of God day and night,
so that the prophet seems to have been speaking of them when he said,
Happy are those who dwell in your house, they will praise you forever.
I mentioned that in another passage of one of his letters.
As Peter Damian remarks on the fact that with the intense liturgical life of Pluny,
a monk hardly has half an hour to spend talking with his brothers, to spend doing what he
wishes to.
He says this not quite critically.
He says this objectively, and then he goes on to explain to himself, to the monks themselves,
to the monks of Pluny, that out of consideration for the weakness of human nature, it is important
to have this intense life of liturgical prayer, especially for those who perhaps are not prepared
for a more mystical, more directly contemplative experience of God.
He doesn't say this is wrong.
He says this is in view of their needs.
And he said this is a great thing, that there is this monastery that does respond to this
kind of need for monasticism on the part of even people who are somewhat less heroic than
a type like St. Peter Damian, or shall we say, St. Ronald.
The monastery is the refuge of sinners.
This was very important in the monastic theology of St. Hugh.
It was reaffirmed by Peter the Venerable in his ongoing debate with St. Bernard.
It was also very important to St. Aurelio Rivo.
Everyone could come to the monastery and find a place there.
This often made it rather difficult to form the people, to discipline them, to keep them
within a certain range of order.
And yet, all things considered, Cluny was a great success for at least two centuries.
A success in spiritual terms, in its formation of people in an intense spiritual life according
to their individual capacities.
So you had the great intellectuals, you had professors, and you had noble people, noble
men joining the monastery and bringing with them all of their great gifts.
And then you found peasants, and you found soldiers, and you found sinners, and all sorts
of people also joining the monastery.
There was something for everyone.
Because the monastery is a refuge of sinners.
It is the sanctuary of Christ.
A few other phrases of St. Peter Damian.
At Cluny I have seen paradise, watered by the four rivers of the Holy Gospels, flooded
by streams of holy virtues.
I have seen the garden of delights, fertile with roses and lilies of the most varied colors,
sweetly fragrant with the most delicate perfumes and ungrace.
What shall I call this monastery?
The Monastery of Cluny.
It is the Lord's fertile field, the rich harvest which renders unto heaven a hundredfold, gathering
into one sheaf all the monks who live in love.
So this is some of what St. Peter Damian has to say about Cluny.
Of course we're moving ahead of our story.
We're here somewhere around 1065 when St. Peter Damian as Cardinal Leggett, Cardinal
of Ostia, goes to Cluny in order to defend the rights of the monks.
They have this right, this privilege of papal exemption, which I explained last time.
It's very important.
Defend their rights against the demands or pretenses of the Bishop of Mâcon in whose
diocese Cluny is located.
There's always this tug of war between the monastery, the Abbey of Cluny, and the local
We of course speak about Cluny as a center of monastic reform.
However, it was not founded as a reforming agency.
Originally, Cluniac monasticism drew its inspiration from the rule of St. Benedict and the legislation
of Benedict of Aignan.
Benedict of Aignan lived in the ninth century, beginning of the ninth century, connected
with the court of Charlemagne, Carolingian monasticism.
But it is really only with Cluny that we find this growing tendency to regard the rule of
St. Benedict as the rule for our excellence.
And so it was at Santa Polinare, sometimes perhaps observed in the breach of the rule
as a reproach against the life of the community.
We find this in what Peter Damian says about Romuald the Novice at Santa Polinare, which
was not dependent upon Cluny, but which had absorbed, had received the customs of Cluny
and had adopted some of the Cluniac reforms.
So it's considered part of the general monastic world of Cluny.
He points to the rule and says, here, you are not observing this.
You're not doing what the rule says you must.
You might say that Romuald the Novice there complains that they're not properly Cluniac.
Certainly, he is complaining that they're not properly Benedictine.
But Cluny was not founded with the purpose of reforming other monasteries.
It was founded simply to be, simply to be a strictly observant, profoundly contemplative
monastic community.
And everything that went into the development and building of that monastery was in view
of nurturing the contemplative life in a large community to which just about everyone was admitted.
Every class and quality of preceding life, with, of course, the demand placed upon them
that they reform their lives, conversatio, mora, conversio, continual conversion as the
really central issue of being a monk.
And it was only later this fragrance of sanctity began to spread its odor throughout the church,
throughout the monastic church.
St. Mayul was abbot from 948.
It was before St. Romuald was born.
St. Mayul was instrumental in bringing the Cluniac observance into,
of course, Odo had already done so, brought the Cluniac observance to St. Paul's in Rome
and a couple other Roman monasteries.
But St. Mayul continued this contact with Italy.
Any questions at this point?
I would like, if you could say once more, you have said it a couple of times,
but I can't get it off.
What really was the basis that made it possible for Trini to become the Great Reformed Monastery?
It wasn't, you said, originally founded to be a Reformed monastery.
That's not the intention.
But it became that.
And if I understand correctly, one of the elements was that they accepted everybody
if you can, and then the monastery did.
One of the elements was that they did accept.
They did accept everyone.
In other words, it was not a kind of a class-conscious monastery.
The concept of an elite, perhaps, was something that they did not regard.
But, of course, that was true of St. Benedict himself.
The spirit of the role of St. Benedict in the life of St. Benedict,
attributed to St. Gregory the Great.
This indicates that the spirit of early monasticism,
from which the Benedictine tradition is born, regards this as a principle.
But I think this is less important than simply the fact that the monastic life there succeeded
in forming this heterogeneous group of men into, if not all saints,
at least men dedicated to living a wholesome, good, deeply spiritual,
deeply contemplative monastic life.
We have to recognize that as the real reason why Trini was called upon then,
often by the secular authorities and also by the Holy See,
since it was directly under the Pope,
called upon to interest itself in reforming other monasteries, existing monasteries.
This is also why existing monasteries or other founders,
whether lay lords or bishops or other church leaders,
these founders looked to Cluny as a kind of model,
adopted the customs and practices of Cluny very often.
This was the case, of course, of the monasteries in the Pyrenees and down towards Barcelona.
You see this congregation of Quixot, which was born and developed around Abbot Gary.
It was not Cluniac in the sense of being a dependent house,
but it was Cluniac in its adoption of much of the Cluniac spirit and observance.
So you might say the emphasis on the practice of the rule of Saint Benedict,
the spiritual successfulness of its way of life,
in other words, it produced the fruit of holiness, a certain level of holiness.
Other forms that produced other forms of holiness.
But it was successful in that regard, and because it was a holy community,
it was called upon then by others to interest itself,
to expand its influence upon other monasteries.
And how important do you think was it for this success of becoming a good monastery
that they had, first of all, they had four good abbots, one after the other,
who all lived very long. That was a providential thing here.
Exactly, that was providential.
They were directly on their own and didn't have this interference of the absentee abbots
and some other things that happened at the time.
Yes, yes, those were certainly contributing factors.
The fact of holy abbots, no one can doubt that this is an extremely important factor.
During the lifetime of Saint Romuald, there were two abbots of Cluny,
and there were 19 popes, and there were four emperors.
So, just to give you an idea of the times.
Let's see now, these popes, I counted them.
I think it comes to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.
Maybe I'm missing a couple. I think I didn't write down all of those popes
that lasted maybe two or three months, you know, the elect.
In old age, someone would poison them as things went, you see.
There were two abbots of Cluny, Mayol and Odilo.
Gary also was long-lived. He became abbot of Cuixa in 965.
At that time, let us say, he was between 35 and 40.
He died in 998, a significant date for dating some other events
in the life of Romuald and his followers.
So, he was abbot there of Cuixa for 33 years,
which makes him in his early 70s, at least, when he died.
So, supposing he was 40, he would have been 75 or something like that when he died.
But he had a long and fruitful life, rather active life.
He was a wanderer, too, in a way, as St. Romuald was.
But he often went to the Holy Land.
I might mention also one other fact, that there was a relatively peaceful period there
in the Eastern Mediterranean, which made it possible for people like Gary,
people like the future abbot John III of Monte Cassino,
to go to the Near East, whether Mount Athos, Sinai, or Jerusalem,
and even spend time there, live there.
Of course, this was under Mount Sinai, and both Mount Sinai and Jerusalem
were under Muslim domination, but the government at that time was rather weak.
This was before the Seljuk Turks in the early 11th century came in
and kind of closed the doors to frequent and easy pilgrimage from Western Europe.
But the contacts were much easier in those days than we might suppose.
Four holy abbots, plus the founding abbot of Cuny, who is a blessed,
revered as blessed, not canonized, but often holy.
There was only one of the abbots in the first 200 years who was not a blessed or a saint.
He might have been a saint.
This is Abbot Emach, who reigned only for six years.
He didn't live long enough to get himself canonized.
You were talking about the liturgical life.
What happens if this liturgical life is ended by a spiritual war?
Yes, it's a question about what is the, if I can rephrase it very briefly,
where do you find the balance between liturgical life, liturgical prayer, work?
Yeah, maybe just uncut the cord there.
The balance between liturgical life, manual labor, and interior prayer
connected with lecture and study and so forth.
The balance, of course, was often a matter of local discipline.
We perhaps have gotten the idea that the hermetical life must of necessity be anti-liturgical.
This doesn't seem to be the case with St. Rongo.
I don't know, but I really don't think from what we have in the life of St. Peter Damian
that it can be said that when Romuald left the Abbey of Classe,
he was running away from choir.
He couldn't stand to sing all those songs.
Because wherever we find Romuald and Marino there in Venice,
and then later Romuald by himself praying the divine office,
the verb is either cantare or canere, which in Latin only means to sing with a modulated voice.
There's the other verb, dicere, which can be translated either to sing or to say.
But then again, people didn't say.
They didn't use the speaking voice in reading prayer, the psalms, and so forth.
The way we spontaneously do our rather unmusical culture is not that of St. Romuald's time.
It's all a question of balance, and the balance will depend upon many different factors.
There's a wide range of possibilities within the basic needs of the spiritual life which can be assumed.
Certainly, Cluny tended in the direction of emphasizing a great deal the liturgical life of prayer.
And it can be said, it can be objected that it comes to the point of overemphasizing it at the expense
both of manual labor and of study, spiritual reading, Lectio Divina.
Certainly, Peter Damian was very concerned that a certain balance be maintained.
The liturgical life affirmed by him consciously, and yet he also insisted that it be only what was prescribed
by the rule of St. Benedict and not additional sermons.
Not that he despised this, but he recorded these as perhaps preparatory to another kind of prayer
which he wanted to be nurtured in his hermitages.
Romuald doesn't give us any theory about it all.
There is, at the end of the life of the five brothers, this little rule of St. Romuald, which someday we will talk about,
which is a rule for hesychasts, a rule for prayer when you're sitting in your cell,
a rule for mental prayer and spiritual interior discipline, spiritual practice.
This, of course, doesn't exclude the liturgical life.
But in fact, his last foundation commodity involved the building also of a church.
And the monks, at least those closest to the church, always went and celebrated the hours of the Divine Office
and the Holy Eucharist every day, according to the rule of St. Benedict, with nothing extra.
But they did do that.
Manual labor. We will see, perhaps next time, the importance that Romuald gives to manual labor
and this is something where, perhaps, Cluny might be faulted.
Yes, in fact, there was something of this sort.
Because when there was extra work to be done, of course, the records that we have, the Cluniac liturgy,
usually have to do with the feast day liturgies.
So, naturally, it's going to take up a lot of your day.
Well, at Mount Athos, don't they do the same thing?
They start in the evening and they end in the evening, the next evening.
They just don't stop. They just keep going.
They didn't have TV. They didn't have the Betamax.
So, they needed that.
And, however, on burial days, there were work days.
There were times of the year the harvest had to be brought in.
So, things were shortened.
Perhaps a part of the community was dispensed from certain activities.
Certain offices in the monastic community were given permission to be absent from the common offices and choir.
Well, in the same tenancy or something, the same office had to work.
Exactly. Yes. And they did do that. They did do that.
There was a great deal more flexibility than we might suppose at Cluny.
There is a chapter here in a very good book.
It's called The Monastic World by Christopher Brooke.
I've mentioned it before.
Full of pictures of beautiful monastic Gothic buildings.
And so, you can feel very romantic about monastic life when you read this book.
And he also has some good information.
What he says about Kamaldoli is very incomplete and doesn't really...
Because, really, his writing was always with a greater attention upon the monastic history of Great Britain.
And, of course, also France, Germany.
Less attention to the Italian and Katholian monastic history, which is what interests us.
I could kind of go through some of the points here.
A few sentences here and there.
Where he does describe the daily round of the Pluniac monk.
This might be helpful.
There is another little book, a little booklet, called The Monks of Durham.
About an English monastery in the 14th century, which describes their daily life.
And, really, in a way, I could just simply describe the daily life that we lived here when I came as a novice.
We were still doing a lot of things the way they did them in the Middle Ages.
A certain rhythm of life.
And it's only been, of course, recently that we have been renewing and modifying the structure even of the office and so many other things.
And that is very good.
It's very much convinced that we're doing the right thing.
But it does mean, you know, that we represent a monastic transition.
And where we will go from here is something that we will discover as we go.
But anyway, if you'd be interested in kind of getting an idea of what the kind of life was.
In other words, what did Romule find at Santa Polinari Classic?
More or less.
Perhaps, as I say, honored in the breach rather than in the full, committed observance.
But at least the theory was this.
And then the monastery, of course, of Gary at Pitsa, an observant monastery, must have had much the same way of life.
Well, so Cluny wasn't effectively there as long as there were no hermits and they didn't provide the reliefs, much like St. Paul.
No, there was not an attempt to organize any kind of a hermitage as such, which would be a kind of an autonomous community.
But there were hermits attached to all observant monastic houses in the Middle Ages.
The hermitical life was an existing reality into which St. Romule flowed because it was there already.
Well, Marino was a hermit.
He was a kind of a, however, an eccentric without very much monastic training, as St. Peter Damian says.
But what we find at Cuxa is exactly this.
A small monastic skeet, a kind of hermitical or semi-hermitical colony a few minutes walk away from the abbey.
And that was a very typical model to which Romule himself adhered in many cases.
The monastic life was understood according to the rule of St. Benedict.
St. Benedict simply says that from the experience of the common life and of the training in the monastery,
the hermitical life will be born as a natural consequence for those who are strong enough to face the devil on their own.
This was always accepted.
There was never any sense of rivalry, perhaps of holy competition.
But this might exist between any two monasteries of any kind of lifestyle.
Never was there a sense that the cenobium threatened the solitary or the hermit was a threat to the cenobitical life.
It simply was not.
They didn't imagine that this could possibly be.
Where the hermitical life was lived to the full, it was always a source of satisfaction for holy abbots like those of Cluny.
And in fact, we find in the life of St. Hugh the case of a certain hermit, Anastasius, who lives near the monastery.
And Abbot Hugh asks Anastasius repeatedly to come and encourage the monks and communicate some of his spiritual fervor and wisdom to them.
But Anastasius is a simple man and doesn't feel up to preaching except by the example of his life.
But Hugh loved him.
In the same way, Abbot Gary was deeply impressed with Romulus and with Marino and wanted them there with him as a natural adjunct to his monastic community.
The ease with which Abbot Gary gives permission to Peter Orseolo and the other two Venetians who were there with him to go and live with Romulus and Marino in the little skete,
in the little semi-hermitical colony, indicates that Abbot Gary was very much in favor of the hermitical life and encouraged it as part of the whole monastic experience.
Under the rule of St. Benedict.
And in the line of this monastic reform movement, of which Cluny is in many ways the center.
Do we have any documents about the relationship between the synovium and the hermitage?
Particularly about the point, how did anybody get permission to go from the synovium into the hermitage?
Who decided? And so forth.
That would be very important for our time and for any reform in our time.
There is, of course, the writing by St. Peter Damian on the reception of monks, even those whose habit is unknown to the superior of the hermitage,
the reception of any monks into the hermitage who show the qualities required for the hermitical life.
He strongly affirms that this is right and just.
But perhaps our own preoccupations are not those of the 10th and 11th century.
Certainly at the time of St. Romuald, I think the question was not particularly juridical, but was handled pastorally,
which perhaps is the best way to handle it anyway.
It is said, of course, in speaking of Romuald's departure from Casa, his monastery of Santa Polinare, to Venice to live with Marino as a hermit,
that the abbot in the chapter grants him permission, viventissime, very willingly, it says.
St. Peter Damian says that.
Similarly, the life of the five brothers, speaking of John Gradenigo, at this time he speaks of him,
he has transferred himself to a semi-hermitical skete near Monte Cassino, where the former abbot of Monte Cassino had transferred himself.
John Gradenigo, it says, had obtained permission from the abbot of Pisa very easily,
because of his having virtue, immediately after his novitiate, to retire to the hermitage.
Probably a gradual process, and the abbot was a superior find to all of these hermits.
Down there, I was a hermit.
And that's something that takes place even today.
In fact, the last reclusive commodity was down in the monastery.
Of course, he had emphysema, and that is a reason for not living up at the holy hermitage, just the climate itself.
But he had his own room, which was not really as big as one of our cells, in which he lived and prayed and said mass.
And there was one, an oblate brother, who would take care of his needs and come and give him food and serve his mass.
I am speaking of what I have observed in different monasteries,
in which, theoretically nowadays, the possibility of hermits exists again,
and making allowance for the fact that there will always be monks who are very good and holy monks
and have no inclination to go into the hermitage.
And also, understanding that I am not talking about somebody gradually becoming more and more a hermit,
and then remaining a hermit, but I am talking about the hermitage is one way of living a monastic life,
for a time, and then again a synodium, and then again a hermitage, or whatever.
It's not a one line in which one eventually becomes a hermit forever.
Making allowance for all these things.
Still, it exactly means that if there is a person who would like to go into the hermitage,
most of the time you find that if they are very good monks, they are told that they are needed in the monastery.
And if they are not very good monks, they are told that they are not good enough to go into the hermitage.
And that leaves no one to go into the hermitage, theoretically.
But isn't that true?
It's all times.
It doesn't seem though that at the time of St. Romuald there was so much of this difficulty.
It doesn't seem.
I am not saying there wasn't, but it does seem that there was a much greater ease or facility
because of existing mores or existing monastic structure for the individual to go off in a certain direction.
Including pilgrimage.
In other words, it's not, as you say, it's not a one line thing where you have only one model of your first trinity or synobium.
You make your novitiate and then you go into, you know, it gets narrower and narrower and narrower.
And you start, you know, bringing in, tightening up, bringing in the parameters and the perimeters of your life
until there you are, you're walled up in your cell and you don't come out anymore and you don't speak to anyone except God.
That is a possibility which God rarely brings into actuality.
And that must be verified, I believe, by the very strictest attention, pastoral attention,
because of the extreme danger of self-deception.
And there is only one example that perhaps, well, that I could name, that is of our own sister Nazarena,
who is an American, you know, and has been a recluse for over 30 years in our monastery of San Antonio Abate,
the monastery of the Comaldolese nuns in Rome.
And that's her life.
And it's asceticism there, heroic asceticism.
She went to two or three convents and finally, well, the Lord opened the doors for her
and she met Father Anselmo Giabbani, who was then Procurator General, he is now Procurator General,
this was before he became Prior General.
He was at San Gregorio and she came to Rome.
Her spiritual director happened to be a Capuchin,
and a Capuchin naturally knows that somewhere in church history there are Comaldolese hermits
and therefore, well, miss, why don't you go and speak to the Procurator General of the Comaldolese monks,
monk hermits of Comaldolese and see what he has to say.
Kind of, maybe I can get rid of her this way.
Anyway, it so happened that Father Anselmo said, maybe this might work.
And so he encouraged the Mother Abbess at that time in San Antonio to accept her,
let her try, let her try.
And this was just before, well, no, it was several years,
because she was in Rome right at the end of the Second World War.
And exactly the year she entered the convent, I don't know,
it might have been before the end of the war, it might have been in 1944 or something like that.
She was there at the end of the war and actually helped the American troops in translating
and sort of saying something I don't know about.
But she did get this permission to experiment with this life.
No one else had ever tried it there.
And it worked. It was God's seal of approval from a long, long experience.
There are other things I might mention about her,
but we're not, of course, talking about the history of Sister Nazarene.
And this, of course, is only one model.
This is only one, but of course there are no models, are there?
If we're talking about the hermit life, it has to be indefinable to a certain extent,
because if we want a clear and distinct idea of something that of its nature is a charism,
then I think we're confusing two different orders.
It might also be mentioned that there was no real clear distinction
between the life of the pilgrim and the life of the hermit.
A wanderer was also kind of a solitaire.
There, of course, there is extreme danger of self-deception.
And Saint Benedict tells us about it.
But, of course, he got that all from the Rule of the Master,
which goes to great length in talking about the evils of the gyruvites.
And yet, Saint Bramgold, knowing that well, was a wanderer.
And Abbot Gary was also, in his way, a wanderer.
He would get the itch to go out to Jerusalem every so often, and he did.
And that was because he was a man of prayer.
Of course, all of this in the hagiography of the Middle Ages is excused,
and they say, orazioni scausa, for the sake of prayer.
So the future abbot of Monte Cassino, when they get a worldly abbot there,
unfortunately, in 986, after a very wholly reforming abbot restored the abbey,
his successor is rather princely.
Not worldly in the sense of corrupt, but just hoity-toity.
A prince abbot.
And so there are a couple of his monks.
I mean, a lot of the community are really disappointed in this,
and a few of them just can't stand it, and they go off.
And one of them goes off to the Holy Land, or two of them, three of them,
something like that, several of them, go off to the Holy Land.
One of them spends six years at Mount Sinai,
and then some time on Mount Athos, and finally comes back.
And he's elected abbot of Monte Cassino.
Now, this is in 997, the year before John Guadalnigo goes there.
But in between the prince abbot and the real strict man from his Eastern experience,
you had another, an old man in there for a year,
and then he resigned very quickly, but he was also, and he resigned to be a hermit.
And he established, with John Guadalnigo, the Cypress Ring Monk, and with others,
the little hermitical colony on the slopes of Monte Cassino, under this Byzantine influence.
Another thing that we have to bring in, of course, is this,
perhaps what is more important than our categories,
which always tend to kind of degenerate into manichaeism.
I think this is perhaps a disease which the West always is afflicted with.
In Western culture, we tend to see everything in pairs, in opposite poles, in dialectic.
It's either thesis or it's the antithesis.
And then maybe a synthesis, but that begins another process of dialectic and opposition,
and conflict, perhaps.
Whereas there is really less of that the farther back we go.
And there was also, at this time, this great receptiveness to the experience of the Christian East,
which touched Cluny a great deal.
It touched, I'm sure, the Abbey of Cuixas.
It touched the abbey, above all, of St. Boniface and St. Alexius on the Aventine Hill in Rome,
just a block away from where the sisters are, where our Cavalli's nuns are.
The monastery, where St. Bruno Purford and Tom Moe,
the other German soldier from the court of Otto III, made their novitiate,
before they joined Romwell as hermits and went off to Ravenna.
And Romwell was there, too.
And that was another important center,
especially because there was a bi-ritual community there, Greek monks and Latin monks living side by side.
I mentioned that before.
We want to touch also on the Greek Eastern influence.
But what came from the East was not only the emphasis on the value of the hermitical life
as something permanent and autonomous, in itself fully monastic,
but also on poverty and manual labor,
which was perhaps less emphasized in the monasteries of the West,
and especially within the Cluniac perspective, it came to be less emphasized.
We cannot say that it is certainly true
that the rule of St. Benedict gives us a theology of work.
There are, I'm quoting more or less the words of Christopher Brooke here,
there are three possible approaches to work.
We may view it simply as the job to be done, like washing up or cooking,
something essential for the life of any household, but not necessarily anything more.
You're always going to have that.
Someone's got to pick up the kids.
We may view it as a way of passing time for the prevention of boredom or idleness.
That seems to be what St. Benedict is interested in, as far as work is concerned.
Or we may view it as a sacred thing, the dedication of hand and brain to a lofty purpose.
This third possibility is often presented as the typically Benedictine attitude towards work.
I think it is in the long view of the history.
You think of the great German abbeys of St. Boniface.
You think even of the Komodolese heritage,
where work was something of value in and of itself,
not only as a prevention of idleness, not only as an ascetical exercise or a pure necessity.
Work that would involve creativity, artistic, craft work, or intellectual work,
the writing of books or the copying of books.
St. Peter Damon was very much in favor of this.
So this third type, this third alternative, seems to have prevailed in the course of history.
But St. Benedict does not really say,
when we sometimes imagine, he does not really say that the monks have to be self-sufficient,
that everything has to be done in the monastery.
Well, everything essential has to be done in the monastery,
but he also talks about buying the cloth for the abbots.
It doesn't mean that they had to weave it all and had to make the shoes and everything.
But it may be, of course, that a great deal of things can be accomplished within a monastery,
especially if it is of a certain size.
Certainly that is not the case today.
Yeah, there we go.
That whole 10th and 11th century scene in Europe, there was amasticism.
To get a feel for what it must have been like,
I think you can catch a glimpse of that spirit in actually the Russian amasticism,
almost right up to our time.
I mean, it's not that far away from the 19th century.
We have a great deal of validity of forms,
and the whole thing of Pustiniki, and the pilgrims,
and the escape life to giant monasteries with hundreds of monks,
giant urban monastic centers,
St. Alexander, Petrograd.
And monks would go from monastery to monastery.
Bishop Ignatius Vyachanov went to four different monasteries as part of his training.
I mean, you have that thing that would kind of...
I don't know what happened to us in the last six, seven centuries,
but somehow we monasticists in the long,
it just flourishes like the woods.
There's all kinds of forms of plant life that are there.