St Bruno

Founder of the Carthusian Order (entered heaven this day in 1101)

Dear Bruce,

I am quite exasperated with you.  Your sister (God will bless her for it) has kept me duly informed of your deplorable dissipation in recent weeks.  Why must you tempt Providence with your repeated relapses into dissolute living?  I can only conclude that God has huge plans for you, otherwise the devil wouldn’t spend so much time and energy drawing you into worthless (and potentially harmful) distractions over and over again.  I am convinced that God has such plans, but what does it matter if I am convinced?  You need to be convinced of it; otherwise you’ll continue to be easy demon fodder.  Today especially I will pray for you, and ask St Bruno to aid you with one of his miracles.

Actually, Bruno would be a good patron for you.  He’s one of those spiritual giants that tried his best to keep under the radar screen of fame, but God foiled his efforts.  He was born in central Germany, educated at the famous cathedral school of Rheims, became professor there, and in turn educated a generation of holy priests, bishops, and even a Pope.  After maintaining that famous school for 18 years, the local bishop appointed him diocesan chancellor (kind of like personal secretary for the bishop).  Soon thereafter, Bruno realized that the bishop was living a scandalous life, and confronted him about it, following the proper ecclesiastical channels.  The bishop was resentful, to say the least, and his threats of reprisal sent Bruno and his fellow accusers into hiding.  During the years when he served the Church in an “active” capacity, he had developed a deep yearning to devote himself to God more exclusively, free from the shackles of worldly concerns.  He took advantage of this incident with his scandalous bishop to pursue that desire.

You see, as his reputation for scholarship, holiness, and prudence spread, it became clear that he would eventually be nominated to the archbishopric of Rheims.  But in his heart he knew that God was asking him to pursue a more solitary life.  So he left behind the popularity, comfort, and prestige of his coveted position (bishops played important roles both ecclesiastically and civilly in the Middle Ages), and approached St Hugh (bishop of Grenoble) with a few companions, asking for permission and land to start a community of monks.  St Hugh saw the hand of God in the proposal, and gladly provided him with everything he needed, most especially a harsh mountain plateau called the Chartreuse, where Bruno and his companions built a little chapel and a cluster of cells.  There they took upon themselves the regularity and austerities of a religious community dedicated to prayer (individual and communal), solitude, study, and work (mostly copying books –their lifestyle was poor to the extreme, but their library was rich).  They arranged themselves in little huts separate from each other, and came together periodically for Mass and for parts of the Divine Office.  Thus was born the only ancient religious order that has never been reformed, because it never needed a reform, the Carthusians.

Six years after the foundation of this religious order, God gave Bruno a heavy cross.  One of his former students had become Pope, and asked the saint to leave behind his hermitage and come to Rome, where he could be a papal advisor.  Nothing could have been more distasteful for the holy monk than returning to the “toils and honors” (as he called it) of the world.  But out of love for Christ and his Vicar, he obeyed.  In Rome (and, later, in Calabria, in southern Italy) he advised Church officials, but he also managed to continue a semi-monastic life style, which attracted more disciples.  Soon communities of Carthusians sprang up in Italy as well as France.  Since then, this remarkable religious order has never ceased being one of the most inspiring lights in the large constellation of the Church’s communal charisms.

Perhaps St Bruno will be able to help you decide once and for all to make Christ and his Kingdom your first priority.  Only in that way will you find the peace and joy you keep hoping to get from all those other pursuits of yours.


Uncle Eddy

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