St Romuald d. 1027, monk and reformer
Romuald was a leading figure in eremitic life in central and northern Italy at the dawn of the second millennium. The story of his life, which is unusual from both a human and a spiritual perspective, is told in the Life of Five Brothers, written by Romuald’s friend Bruno of Querfurt, and even more memorably in the Vita Beata Romualdi, written several years after Romuald’s death by Peter Damian.
Romuald was born into a noble family in Ravenna, Italy in the middle of the tenth century. After three years of Benedictine life in the monastery of Sant’Apollinaire in Classe, he left Ravenna with the desire to return to the solitude and rigor of Egyptian monasticism as he had heard it described in the Lives of the desert fathers and Cassian’s Conferences. Several friends joined him, and taking these texts as their inspiration, the group sought to put into practice the principles of a more organized asceticism compared to that practiced by the solitaries of their time. Their way of life was based on manual work, total detachment from the world, stability in the cell, familiarity with Scripture, vigils, and fasting.
A man of tears and prayer, Romuald was rigorous in his teaching but had a passionate spirit and was capable of deep human warmth and affection. He lived for about ten years near the monastery of St. Michael of Cuxa in the Pyrenees, and established a colony of hermits in that area. After his return to Italy, he was called upon to reform monastic life and to found many hermitages, encountering incomprehension and hostility as he did so.
Of his many foundations, two have survived the vicissitudes of history and still exist today: Camaldoli and Fonte Avellana.
On June 19, 1027 Romuald died in the silence of the monastery of Val di Castro, alone with God, whom he had always desired and sought from one adventure to another.
St Bruno of Querfurt 974-1009, monk and martyr
On the same day, the Roman Martyrology commemorates Bruno of Querfurt, Romuald’s friend and first biographer.
Bruno, born in 974 into an aristocratic family of Saxony, was still young when he became a close friend of the emperor Otto III.
After he met Romuald, he disengaged himself from the emperor’s expectations and turned all of his interest to the eremitic experiment that was taking shape under Romuald’s guidance. Romuald chose a spiritual director for him, but Bruno, who in the meantime had taken the name of Boniface, soon found that he felt called to the missionary life. After Otto III’s death, he began to preach in Eastern Germany, and he later travelled as far as Moravia, Hungary, Russia, and the Balkans. Everywhere he went, he encouraged peace and reconciliation. His approach to evangelization was faithful to the letter of the Gospel. Barefoot, poor, and desirous of martyrdom, Bruno died for his faith together with eighteen companions on March 9, 1009. A short time before, his mission had been approved by the Pope of Rome, who had named him “archbishop of the nations.”