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MAN OF PRAYER

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Saint Romuald

Most of us would be reluctant to exchange the comforts and pleasures of life for a hermit’s cell. How difficult it must have been for Romuald, a young Italian nobleman accustomed to luxury and self-indulgence, but a family tragedy caused him to give up worldly wealth and find spiritual strength in solitude.

Born in 956 and related to the Duke of Ravenna, his childhood was carefree until, aged 20, his father agreed to settle the dispute by a dual and insisted that Romuald be his witness. He was horrified to see his father kill and fled to the nearby Benedictine monastery intending to do forty days' penance for his involvement in the tragedy.

He started prayers and discussions with the monks and found their way of life so attractive that he asked to be allowed to join them. He was so enthusiastic and fervent in his duties that some of his brothers found him to be uncomfortably holy and difficult to live with and, after a number of years, left the monastery and with the abbot's consent moved to a hermitage.

Later he travelled around Italy encouraging men to join him in establishing monasteries and hermitages. The monastic life was hard, involving manual labour, fasting, solitude and above all prayer. The most famous of Romuald's foundations was the monastery at Camaldoli in Tuscany which he opened in 1009: it was here that he formed a branch of the Benedictine Order known as the Camaldolese and near to the monastery, in a peaceful forest, he built an enclosed hermitage for men who felt called to a life of even greater solitude. Romuald himself had a cell there.

It was his wish that he could be a martyr by giving his life to missionary work. He obtained permission from the Pope to preach the Gospel in Hungary but as soon as he arrived there he became ill. Whenever he tried to proceed, the illness recurred, so he realised that it was not God's will for him to be a missionary but to return to his life of prayer.

At one stage in his life Romuald suffered great spiritual dryness but he never ceased to pray. One day he was reading Psalm 31: "I will give you understanding and I will instruct you." From that moment he received spiritual light, the reward of his persistent prayer. He gained a deep understanding of the scriptures and wrote an explanation of the Psalms.

Romuald was about 70 when he died in 1027. He was a saint who experienced dryness in his prayer, but persevered. Prayer is the gauge of our love for God. If we pray, we love Him, but if we don’t pray, we do not love Him. It is as simple as that. Let us ask Saint Romuald to obtain for us the grace of prayer and perseverance in prayer, particularly when we find the going hard.

Saint Romuald, pray for us.