Saturday, October 6, 2018

Saint Bruno, Confessor

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Among the diverse religious families, none is held in higher esteem by the Church than the Carthusian; the prescriptions of the corpus juris determine that a person may pass from any other Order into this, without deterioration. And yet it is of all the least given to active works. Is not this a new, and not the least convincing, proof that outward zeal, how praiseworthy soever, is not the only, or the principal thing in God’s sight? The Church, in her fidelity, values all things according to the preferences of her divine Spouse. Now, our Lord esteems His elect not so much by the activity of their works, as by the hidden perfection of their lives; that perfection which is measured by the intensity of the divine life, and of which it is said: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” Again it is said of this divine life: “You are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” The Church, then, considering the solitude and silence of the Carthusian, his abstinence even unto death, his freedom to attend to God through complete disengagement from the senses and from the world—sees therein the guarantee of a perfection which may indeed be met with elsewhere, but here appears to be far more secure. Hence, though the field of labor is ever widening, though the necessity of warfare and struggle grows ever more urgent, she does not hesitate to shield with the protection of her laws, and to encourage with the greatest favors, all who are called by grace to the life of the desert. The reason is not far to seek. In an age, when every effort to arrest the world in its headlong downward career seems vain, has not man greater need than ever to fall back upon God? The enemy is aware of it; and therefore the first law he imposes upon his votaries is, to forbid all access to the way of the counsels, and to stifle all life of adoration, expiation, and prayer. For he well knows that, though a nation may appear to be on the verge of its doom, there is yet hope for it as long as the best of its sons are prostrate before the Majesty of God.

Look at the history of the west in the eleventh century. If there ever was a time when it seemed urgent that the cloister, far from increasing the number of its inmates, should send them forth to the last man, for the active service of the Church; it was surely the epoch when the flesh, victorious over the spirit, posted up its triumphs even in the sanctuary; when, for each other’s sake, Cæsar and satan held the pastors of the people in bondage. Nevertheless, at that very time, not only Cluny became the stronghold of Christianity, but Camaldoli, Vallombrosa, the charterhouse, and finally Citeaux, were founded and grew strong; so great was the demand even in the monastic life itself, for still closer retreat, by souls athirst for immolation and penance. And yet, so far from complaining of being abandoned, the world reckoned amongs its most glorious deliverers Romuald, John Gualbert, Bruno, and Robert of Molesmes. Moreover the century was great in the faith, and in that energy of faith which knew how to apply fire and steel to the festering wounds of humanity; great in the uprightness wherewith it recognized the necessity of expiation for such crying evils. Society, represented by its choicest members before the feet of God, received new life from Him.

This feast, then, is the world’s homage to one of its greatest benefactors. The legend of the breviary is short; but the reader may learn more about our saints by having recourse to his works; his letters, breathing the fragrance of solitude, and written in the beautiful style known to the monks of that heroic age, and his commentaries on St. Paul and on the psalms, which are clear and concise, revealing at once his science and his love of Jesus and of the Church.

According to the custom of the time, the breve depositionis announcing his death was sent round form church to church, and returned covered with testimonies of universal veneration. Nevertheless his disciples were more intent on imitating his holiness, than on having it recognized by the apostolic See. Four centuries after his death, Leo X without any process, on the simple evidence of the cause, authorized the Carthusians to pay public honor to their father. A hundred years later, in 1622, Gregory XV extended his feast to the entire world.

The following is the legend given in the holy liturgy.

Bruno Carthusianæ religionis institutor, Colonæ Agrippinæ natus est. Ab ipsis incunabulis specimen futuræ sanctitatis præferens, morum gravitate puerilia illius ætatis, divina favente gratia, declinans adeo excelluit, ut jam inde monachorum pater vitæque anachoreticæ futurus instaurator agnosceretur. A parentibus genere ac virtute claris Lutetiam Parisiorum missus, tantum ibi in philosophiæ ac theologiæ studiis profecit, ut doctoris ac magistri munus in utraque facultate sit adeptus: nec multo post, ob egregias ipsius virtutes, ecclesiæ Rhemensis canonicatu potitus.

Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian Order, was born at Cologne, and from his very cradle gave great promise of future sanctity. Favored by divine grace, the gravity of his character made him shun all childishness; so that, even at that age, one might have foreseen in him the future father of monks and restorer of the anachoretical life. His parents, who were distinguished for virtue and nobility, sent him to Paris, where he made great progress in philosophy and theology, and took the degrees of doctor and master in both faculties. Soon after this, he was, for his remarkable virtue, appointed to a canonry in the church of Rheims.

Elapsis aliquot annis, cum sex aliis familiaribus mundo renuntians, sanctum Hugonem episcopum Gratianopolitanum adiit. Qui causa eorum adventus cognita, eosdemque intelligens esse, quos eadem nocte veluti septem stellas ad suos pedes corruentes in somnis viderat, montes suæ diœcesis asperrimos quos Cathusianos appellant, illis concessit. Illus Bruno cum sociis, ipso Hugone comitante, secedens, cum per aliquot annos eremiticam vitam egisset, ab Urbano Secundo, qui ejusdem Brunonis discipulus fuerat, Romam accersitur. Ejus consilio ac doctrina Pontifex, in tot illis Ecclesiæ calamitatibus, per aliquot annos usus est, donec Bruno, recusato Rhegiensi archiepiscopatu, discendendi facultatem obtinuit.

After some years, Bruno, with six of his friends, renounced the world, and betook himself to Hugh, bishop of Grenoble. On learning the cause of their coming, the bishop understood that they had been signified by the seven stars he had seen falling at his feet in his dream of the previous night. He therefore made over to them some wild mountains called the Chartreuse, belonging to his diocese, and himself conducted them thither. After having there led an eremitical life for several years, Bruno was summoned to Rome by Urban II who had been his disciple. In the great trials through which the Church was then passing, the Pontiff gladly availed himself of the saint’s prudence and knowledge for some years, until Bruno, refusing the archbishopric of Reggio, obtained leave to retire.

Igitur solitudinis amore eremum quamdam apud Squillacum in Calabriæ finibus petiit. Quo in loco, cum ipsum orantem Rogerius comes Calabriæ inter venandum, latrantibus ad illius speluncam canibus, reperisset, sanctitate viri permotus, illum ac socios fovere ac colere impense cœpit. Nec liberalitas sine præmio fuit. Cum enim idem Rogerius Capuam obsideret, eumque Sergius quidam excubiarum magister prodere statuisset, Bruno adhuc in dicta eremo vivens, in somnis illi omnia aperiens, ab imminenti periculo comitem liberavit. Tandem virtutibus ac meritis plenus, nec sanctitate minus quam doctrinæ fama clarus, obdormivit in Domino, sepultusque est in monasterio sancti Stephani, ab ipso Rogerio constructo, ubi hactenus honorifice colitur.

Attracted by the love of solitude he went to a desert place near Squillace in Calabria. Count Roger of Calabria was one day hunting, when his dogs began to bark round the saint’s cave. The Count entered and found Bruno at his prayers, and was so struck by his holiness, that thenceforward he greatly honored him and his companions and supplied their wants. His generosity met with its reward. A little later, when this same Count Roger was besieging Capua, and Sergius, an officer of his guard, had determined to betray him, Bruno, who was still living in his desert, appeared to the Count in sleep, revealed the whole treason to him, and thus saved him from imminent peril. At length, full of virtues and merits, and as renowned for holiness as for learning, Bruno fell asleep in our Lord, and was buried in the monastery of St. Stephen built by Count Roger, where he is great honored to this day.

Bless, O Bruno, the grateful joy of God’s children. With their whole hearts they acquiesce in the judgment of their mother the Church, when, among the beautiful, rich fruit trees in our Lord’s garden, she hides not her predilection for those whose silent shade attracts the preference of her divine Spouse. “Show me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where Thou liest in the midday, lest I begin to wander after the flocks of Thy companions.” Thus speaks the bride in the sacred Canticle. And hearing the divine answer extolling the better part, thou minglest thy voice with the song of our Lord and the Church, saying: “O solitude and silence of the desert; hidden joy; good things unknown to the multitude, but known to the valiant! There are the young shoots of virtue carefully cultivated: there labor and rest are one and the same, and are nourished with fruits of paradise. There the eye acquires that look, which wounds the Bridegroom’s heart, and that which beholds God. There is Rachel in all her beauty, more loved by Jacob than Lia, although less fruitful; and her sons, Joseph and Benjamin, are their father’s favorites.

Thy sons cherish, in their hereditary peace, this privilege of the perfect even in these days of feverish excitement. Simple as themselves is the history of their Order; full of the supernatural, yet seeming to eschew the marvelous and the miraculous; while the heroism of all is so great, that very few stand out from the rest as remarkable for sanctity. Preserve this thine own spirit in thy children, O Bruno; and make us profit by their example. For their life silently preaches to the world the apostle’s doctrine: “Concerning spiritual things … I show unto you yet a more excellent way. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity … if I should have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains … and if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. Do not become children in sense; but in malice be children, and in sense be perfect.”

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