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Saints for Today: Saint Romuald Abbot (951-1027)

Feast Day: June 19th

Born to an aristocratic family in Ravenna, Italy, Romuald chose the religious life after his father was killed by another man in a duel. Romuald was so affected by the death of his father that he retired to a Benedictine monastery. He remained there for three years, but he was so observant of the rule that he arouse the animosity of the lax monks, especially when he tried to give them fraternal correction. With the abbot’s permission, he moved to the vicinity of Venice and placed himself under the direction of a hermit.

For the next thirty years Romuald travelled extensively throughout Italy, founding monasteries and hermitages. He also suffered a prolonged period of spiritual dryness, and when it ended he obtained permission to join a group that was to going to Hungary as missionaries. He tried several times to carry out his plan, but each time he entered Hungary he immediately became seriously ill. He took that as a sign it was not God’s will hat he engage in that apostolate.

He reversed the general trend in medieval Europe toward the integration of monastic communities with the wider world. Instead he established the Camaldolese Order, which demanded what almost amounted to a return to hermit-like observance on the part of its members. He admonished his monks to follow an extreme form of contemplation and went on to found a series of other monasteries in Italy, all enjoined to follow the same strict rule of prayer, stricter than the Benedictine, yet away from the distractions of the world.

The Opening Prayer to Mass refers to Saint Romuald’s mission in the Church, namely, to renew the life of solitude and prayer. He adapted the Rule of Saint Benedict so that in addition to liturgical prayer and manual labor, the monks could devote themselves to solitude and private personal prayer. According to his plan, there were two classes of monks: the hermits and the recluses. The first lived in separate cells but prayed the Liturgy of the Hours in common at designated times; the recluses, however, did not leave their hermitages for any reason whatever. They even had their own private altars for the celebration of the Eucharist. The austerity of Camaldolese life was somewhat mitigated by the time the Constitutions were approved by Pope Alexander II in 1072.

Although a hermit by temperament and lifestyle, Romuald was also aware of the problems of the Church in his day. He responded to the request of the emperor to have his monks go forth to evangelize Poland, Bohemia and Russia, but without much success. Saint Romuald, an outstanding reformer of the monastic life in his day, serves as an exemplary reminder to monks of today to be faithful to the observances of the monastic life. And by the silence of his tongue and the eloquence of his life, he led many souls along the way of salvation.

Saint Romuald is depicted with a long beard, wearing the white cloak of the reformed Benedictines. His attributes are the Bible, the tempting devil, and a ladder he saw in a dream on which monks climbed into the sky.

Giorgi, Rosa. “Saints: A Year in Faith and Art.” New York, NY: Abrams Books, 2005.
Heritage, Andrew, ed. “The Book of Saints: A Day-By Illustrated Encyclopedia.” San Francisco: Weldonowen, 2012.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar.” New York: Alba House, 1992.

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