Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Saint Bruno

Today is the Feast of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian order.

I keep the music sheet tucked away
in my Liber Hymnarius.
I know two hermits who have taken the name “Bruno”. One was once a Carthusian monk, but discerning that that was not his vocation, he moved on to become a hermit, and subsequently took a different religious name.  He is now my spiritual director, and some vestiges of his Carthusian journey remain in his current Rule of Life. I think of that when I sing the Te Decet after the Gospel every Sunday at Vigils, in part because the little music sheet I have (which he printed up, and which, actually, I know longer need to look at when I sing the antiphon), notes in the upper right hand corner that it is more Cartusiano – in the manner of the Carthusians.  (I don’t know of any other version of the Te Decet; this is the one I have always sung.)

The other Bruno I know is a hermit in Canada, whose second anniversary of his eremitic vows is today. He has a blog which you can visit here.

The latter hermit sent an email to his friends today which included the following commentary on solitude. I thought it worth sharing here.


Address to Novices at St. Hugh’s Charterhouse, October 6th, 1997
Solitude is one of the ultimate questions for every human being. Finally, we are alone, coming into and leaving life, unknowing and unknown, unloving and unloved? This question is linked to that of purpose: Is there a sense to our existence, a purpose and value?  

Solitude, as an important dimension of a lifestyle such as ours, expresses paradoxically the will to go beyond solitude as aloneness and absence of meaning.

It is striking how preoccupied modern culture is with solitude. The more information is communicated, the bigger and quicker the access to what is happening all over the world, the more are people crushed beneath the perception of themselves as insignificant and alone. The universe is unfolded before us in all its splendor. Instead of adoration, this can cause despair.

In the Middle Ages   people reached out beyond themselves into the world of more or less apocalyptic religious speculation-and a second millennium is upon us- or into the cultural world of imaginative art such as that of Dante. Nowadays, the same need to reach out beyond is expressed more visually in the somewhat crude but innovative efforts of books and films to portray a world beyond our own, beings form other planets and even the reality of cosmic good and evil. Are we alone? Do we matter?

The solitary must first inhabit his solitude. It is there he can enter into his deeper self and find such answers as he may find. He will soon experience the extreme difficulty of seizing the unseizable, of knowing the inexpressible, of reaching out beyond the parameters of scientific knowledge,  hopefully, partially, to another level of being, to a reality beyond all shapes and forms, the real what and finally who that is being in and through itself.

Whatever experience he has will always be subject to another interpretation: illusion, hallucination, subconscious imaginary projection of fear and desire, incapacity to live in the stack of the world of absurdity.

Whatever explanation he gives, whatever words he proffers will never prove anything to those who do not share this experience. He will never have absolute proof of the rightness of his experience either for himself or for others. This does not excludes certitude.

His eyes are the eyes of faith: faith in a Reality that has taken the initiative to communicate with us. We are not alone. Our lives are not without purpose. We are willed to be by an intelligent love called by name to be persons, known and knowing, loved and loving, whose deepest reality will never disappear.  The trace of his presence draw us towards him (for personal he is, and must be, if we are persons). We cannot be but drawn, if we but open our eyes and listen to our hearts.

He speaks to us with the words of our human experience. He assumes in Christ a human face, in order to introduce us into his being and life. Nevertheless we modeled of clay. It is so hard for us, not for an hour, or a month, or a year, but for the whole lifetime with its tasks seasons, to hold ourselves in his serenity. The flesh, the affectivity, the mind often clamor for a food more congenial to them. Our fragile sense of self needs to be bolstered and expressed in activity, affirmation and achievement. We may try to escape too much beauty by deliberately disrupting the harmony. We deform reality by our neurotic needs or flee it altogether in psychotic denial. Sometimes we sin I order to keep God at a safe distance.

But there is nowhere to hide. Christ has walked all our paths, even that of death. He comes to us in his innocence, even in our sin. He can cure our will not to be cured. His love will not be denied. Ultimately, we are not alone. We know it, whatever our words say. Hopefully, in the end, we will yield to the light of truth, accept to be loved and to love totally. Our silence will be the peace of fulfillment and the joy of adoration.

I think that is what St. Bruno meant by his oft-expressed ‘O Bonitas.’   

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Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!   

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