Tag Archives: St Bruno

St Bruno

Today we liturgically recall great monastic founder and reformer, St Bruno. What we admire and are grateful for in the mission of Bruno is his accent on silence and contemplation in the daily search for the face of God. Pope Benedict offers us a few ideas for meditation. Of course, Benedict few ideas help us to seek the face of the saints in turn who show us the face of God. There is much in Benedict’s meditation for our own journey in the spiritual life and the scope of good, reliable and reason theology.

Redemptoris Mater Chapel, Apostolic Palace
Friday, 6 October 2006, Feast of Saint Bruno

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have not prepared a real Homily, only a few ideas for meditation.

As clearly appears, the mission of St Bruno, today’s saint, is, we might say, interpreted in the prayer for this day, which reminds us, despite being somewhat different in the Italian text, that his mission was silence and contemplation.

But silence and contemplation have a purpose: they serve, in the distractions of daily life, to preserve permanent union with God. This is their purpose: that union with God may always be present in our souls and may transform our entire being.

Silence and contemplation, characteristic of St Bruno, help us find this profound, continuous union with God in the distractions of every day. Silence and contemplation: speaking is the beautiful vocation of the theologian. This is his mission: in the loquacity of our day and of other times, in the plethora of words, to make the essential words heard. Through words, it means making present the Word, the Word who comes from God, the Word who is God.

Yet, since we are part of this world with all its words, how can we make the Word present in words other than through a process of purification of our thoughts, which in addition must be above all a process of purification of our words?

How can we open the world, and first of all ourselves, to the Word without entering into the silence of God from which his Word proceeds? For the purification of our words, hence, also for the purification of the words of the world, we need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God’s silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born.

St Thomas Aquinas, with a long tradition, says that in theology God is not the object of which we speak. This is our own normal conception.

God, in reality, is not the object but the subject of theology. The one who speaks through theology, the speaking subject, must be God himself. And our speech and thoughts must always serve to ensure that what God says, the Word of God, is listened to and finds room in the world.

Thus, once again we find ourselves invited to this process of forfeiting our own words, this process of purification so that our words may be nothing but the instrument through which God can speak, and hence, that he may truly be the subject and not the object of theology.

In this context, a beautiful phrase from the First Letter of St Peter springs to my mind. It is from verse 22 of the first chapter. The Latin goes like this: “Castificantes animas nostras in oboedentia veritatis”. Obedience to the truth must “purify” our souls and thus guide us to upright speech and upright action.

In other words, speaking in the hope of being applauded, governed by what people want to hear out of obedience to the dictatorship of current opinion, is considered to be a sort of prostitution: of words and of the soul.

The “purity” to which the Apostle Peter is referring means not submitting to these standards, not seeking applause, but rather, seeking obedience to the truth.

And I think that this is the fundamental virtue for the theologian, this discipline of obedience to the truth, which makes us, although it may be hard, collaborators of the truth, mouthpieces of truth, for it is not we who speak in today’s river of words, but it is the truth which speaks in us, who are really purified and made chaste by obedience to the truth. So it is that we can truly be harbingers of the truth.

This reminds me of St Ignatius of Antioch and something beautiful he said: “Those who have understood the Lord’s words understand his silence, for the Lord should be recognized in his silence”. The analysis of Jesus’ words reaches a certain point but lives on in our thoughts.

Only when we attain that silence of the Lord, his being with the Father from which words come, can we truly begin to grasp the depth of these words.

Jesus’ words are born in his silence on the Mountain, as Scripture tells us, in his being with the Father.

Words are born from this silence of communion with the Father, from being immersed in the Father, and only on reaching this point, on starting from this point, do we arrive at the real depth of the Word and can ourselves be authentic interpreters of the Word. The Lord invites us verbally to climb the Mountain with him and thus, in his silence, to learn anew the true meaning of words.

In saying this, we have arrived at today’s two Readings. Job had cried out to God and had even argued with God in the face of the glaring injustice with which God was treating him. He is now confronted with God’s greatness. And he understands that before the true greatness of God all our speech is nothing but poverty and we come nowhere near the greatness of his being; so he says: “I have spoken… twice, but I will proceed no further” [Jb 40: 5].

We are silent before the grandeur of God, for it dwarfs our words. This makes me think of the last weeks of St Thomas’ life. In these last weeks, he no longer wrote, he no longer spoke. His friends asked him: “Teacher, why are you no longer speaking? Why are you not writing?”. And he said: “Before what I have seen now all my words appear to me as straw”.

Fr Jean-Pierre Torrel, the great expert on St Thomas, tells us not to misconstrue these words. Straw is not nothing. Straw bears grains of wheat and this is the great value of straw. It bears the ear of wheat. And even the straw of words continues to be worthwhile since it produces wheat.

For us, however, I would say that this is a relativization of our work; yet, at the same time, it is an appreciation of our work. It is also an indication in order that our way of working, our straw, may truly bear the wheat of God’s Word.

The Gospel ends with the words: “He who hears you, hears me”. What an admonition! What an examination of conscience those words are! Is it true that those who hear me are really listening to the Lord? Let us work and pray so that it may be ever more true that those who hear us hear Christ. Amen!

Saint Bruno

Monastic Family of BethlehemThe Statutes of the Carthusian Order begin with, “Blessed is the glory of the Lord, The Christ, Word of the Father, for all times men were chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead a life of solitude and to unite them in an intimate love. Answering this calling, Master Bruno, year of our Lord 1084, entered the desert of Chartreuse with six companions and began life there.” The life is wholly devoted to the Lord in solitude from the world, rarely having interaction with others.

But the person of Bruno is one that we are keen to know. Very briefly, the Liturgy tells us that he was man who was intent on rejecting the distractions of the world that would take him away from his only love, God. A witness from one of Bruno’s brothers in Calabria :

“Bruno deserves to be praised for many a thing, but especially in this matter: he was always a man of even temper, that was his specialty. His face was always joyful, and he was modest of tongue; he led with the authority of a father and the tenderness of a mother. No one found him too proud, but gentle like a lamb.”

930 years later, people still follow Saint Bruno into the solitude of the cloister. In the USA, there is one monastery of monks in Vermont, and there is a group of nuns who follow the spirituality of Bruno in a relatively new order founded called the Monastic Family of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, NY.

May Saint Bruno teach how to love God alone.

Saint Bruno


St Bruno in prayer.jpgO God, who called Saint Bruno to serve you in
solitude, grant, through his intercession that amid the changes of this world
we may constantly look to you alone.


In the USA, there is only one monastery for men that lives under the Rule of Saint Bruno. The Charterhouse of the Holy Transfiguration (Arlington, VT). A friend recently began his novitiate there, so let’s pray for Father Ignatius as he transitions into his new vocation.

But there is another group in the USA, of women, who follow the Rule of Saint Bruno but are not aggregated to the Carthusian Order, called The Monastic Family of Bethlehem and of the Assumption of the Virgin (Livingston Manor, NY). Founded in 1950, the Order has had tremendous growth.

Pope Benedict throws light on the value of the monastic life


Pope and Carthusians 2011.jpgIn speaking at a Charterhouse on October 9, Pope
Benedict contrasted modern life and the monastic life saying that society
“throws light on the specific charism of the Carthusian monastery as a
precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift which contains a
profound message for our lives and for all humanity. I would summarise it in
these terms: by withdrawing in silence and solitude man, so to speak, ‘exposes’
himself to the truth of his nakedness, he exposes himself to that apparent
‘void’ I mentioned earlier. But in doing so he experiences fullness, the
presence of God, of the most real Reality that exists. … Monks, by leaving
everything, … expose themselves to solitude and silence so as to live only
from what is essential; and precisely in living from the essential they
discover a profound communion with their brothers and sisters, with all
mankind”.


Pope and Carthusian Prior 2011.jpg

This vocation, the Pope went on, “finds its response in a
journey, a lifelong search. … Becoming a monk requires time, exercise,
patience. … The beauty of each vocation in the Church lies in giving time to
God to work with His Spirit, and in giving time to one’s own humanity to form,
to grow in a particular state of life according to the measure of maturity in
Christ. In Christ there is everything, fullness. However we need time to
possess one of the dimensions of His mystery. … At times, in the eyes of the
world, it seems impossible that someone should spend his entire life in a
monastery, but in reality a lifetime is hardly sufficient to enter into this
union with God, into the essential and profound Reality which is Jesus
Christ”.

“The Church needs you and you need the Church”, the
Holy Father told the monks at the end of his homily. “You, who live in
voluntary isolation, are in fact at the heart of the Church; you ensure that
the pure blood of contemplation and of God’s love flows in her veins”.

Monastic Family of Bethlehem and of the Assumption of the Virgin, Livingston Manor, NY

Livingston Manor BVM greeting.jpg

Back in February I received two extraordinary gifts from Brother John Paul, CFR: a weekend spent in a hermitage used by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Brother John Paul’s introduction to a groups of cloistered nuns who live not far away, The Monastic Family of Bethlehem, Livingston Manor, NY. I had for several years appreciated the artwork of the nuns and this was a prime opportunity to meet Bethlehem, as it were, and to experience the sacred Liturgy and to drink in, for a very short time, the beautiful monastic atmosphere.

 

The nuns in Livingston Manor, New York, call themselves officially, “The Monastic Family of Bethlehem and of the Assumption of the Virgin” founded on November 1, 1950, at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The inspiration of French pilgrims was described in this way:

Livingston Manor nuns' hermitages2.jpg

That throughout the world there may exist religious communities devoted to silent adoration, striving to live in continual reference to what the Virgin Mary lives in heaven where she has been taken up with her soul and her body, into the glory of the Three Divine Persons, hidden for ever with Christ in God.

 

The monks and nuns of the Bethlehem communities, live the scriptural exhortation to seek the face of Christ by living in the school of Mary. From the Mary, the Mother of God, we learn not to set limits on our love of God and neighbor. This seeking of Christ’s face is discerned in the daily work of community living alone and together, in fraternal and liturgical love, and in the sacred Scriptures. In his letter approving the Monastic Family of Bethlehem, Eduardo Cardinal Martinez Somalo said: “The devote themselves to listening assiduously to the Word of God and to prayer of the heart in a life of solitude, silence liturgical and fraternal communion and humble manual work. In order to be faith to this vocation they receive the twofold monastic tradition of East and West. They are disciples of Saint Bruno, receiving his spiritual fatherhood and wisdom of life. With him they are trained in the school of “Divine Philosophy,” which is Jesus Himself, the eternal Wisdom of the Father. They keep a holy watch awaiting the return of their Lord. Their life, then, is entirely ordered to divine contemplation and the greatest possible love for the Divine Persons and for all human persons.” The point, therefore, is to be progressively likened unto Christ Himself.

Livingston Manor enclosure.jpg

Seeking that pearl of great price the monks and nuns of this order seek to live with all their heart the evangelical life, though hidden from the world. Life in the Bethlehem Family is life in an eremitical monastery, meaning each nun (or monk depending on the monastery) lives in a hermitage and the hermitages are connected by a cloister leading the to church, the sign of fraternal and liturgical communion. This vocation, from my one experience of being present at the monastery in New York, is lived intently as it is drawn from what Saint Luke observed in his Gospel “and Jesus withdrew to the mountains and prayed” (5:16). The Monasteries of Bethlehem take Saint Bruno’s Rule and his wisdom of life but they are not Carthusians but are affiliated to them in a bond of charity.

Livingston Manor chapel3.jpg

The first community of sisters began in 1951 and the monks’ community was founded in 1976, in the Massif of Chartreuse. In 2007, the Bethlehem Family consisted in 650 members from 33 monasteries through out the world.

 

Work is essential in this life. You quickly learn that the monastic life -or any other style of life for that matter–is not meant for those who want to rest and relax while supervising the work of others. Each nun or monk is expected to contribute to the shared life. For example, when a new monastery is founded the nuns and monks first build their oratory where the Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated and the Divine Office is sung. Daily bread is earned, not an entitlement that one sees in other orders. Similar to the average working class family in the world today, the monks and nuns work to sustain their life and glorify God. From something to be avoided or disdained, nuns and monks engage their entire being into the work assigned so that the love of God might be expressed, a sign of trust in the “God the creator of heaven and earth.” Here in New York, the Sisters of Bethlehem earn their living by working with their hands. Through their artwork, they seek to convey something of God’s beauty and truth. Their work itself is accomplished in prayer, praise to the Creator of all things and intercession for all those to whom these items are destined.

Livingston Manor nuns in prayer after Mass.jpg

The Monastic Sisters arrived in Livingston Manor, New York, in May 1987. The monastery is about 2.5 to 3 hours north of New York City. In this monastery, they earn their living by making medallions, icons and chinaware. They also sell dolomite statues, crèches, crucifixes, and bas reliefs made in the monastery of Mougeres France.

 

My brothers keep a holy and persevering watch awaiting the return of their Master in order to open to Him at once when he knocks, said Saint Bruno.

 

As Saint Isaac of Nineve said, “When the Spirit makes his dwelling in someone, this person cannot stop praying, for the Spirit does not cease to pray within him.”

Livingston Manor Christ the King.jpg

In the solitude of the cell, the monk and nun of Bethlehem has this schedule each day:

1 hour of the liturgical hours

45 min of lectio divina (Bible reading)

1.5 hours of personal prayer

1.5 hours of biblical and theological study

c. 2 hours for 2 daily meals and free time

4-5 hours of work

8 hours of sleep

 

In the church

1.5 hours for Matins and Lauds

1 hour for Mass

30 min of Eucharistic thanksgiving

45 min for Vespers

Monday is a day of complete solitude and on Sunday there is a meal together with a gathering for a chapter meeting and spiritual conversation.

The nuns can be contacted at:
 
Monastery of Our Lady in Beatitude
393 Our Lady of Lourdes Road
Livingston Manor, NY 12758 USA
 
tel: 845-439-4300

or

Monastère Sainte Marie Reine des Cœurs
3095, chemin Marie Reine des Cœurs
Chertsey, Québec, J0K 3K0 Canada

or

Monastère Notre Dame de Mongères
F-34720 Caux France

Tel: 33-04-67-98-4486

The motherhouse:
Monastère de l’Assomption Notre-Dame
Currière-en-Chartreuse
F-38380 Saint Laurent du Pont France

Monks tel: 33-04-76-1497
Nuns tel: 33-04-76-4055

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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