Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Bruno, founder of the Order of Carthusian Monks. Little is known of his childhood, except that he was born in Cologne in 1032. After ordination he became the highly respected Rector of the Cathedral School at Rheims. In 1075 he was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Rheims. In addition to this Pope Urban II, who had been one of his students at the Cathedral school in Rheims, appointed him as his advisor. In 1084 Bruno and six of his companions began to feel the call to the monastic life. For a short time he and his companions lived with Saint Robert and a few others who eventually founded the Cistercian Order, but Bruno and his companions decided instead to found a more austere order. They settled in 1084 at Chartreuse, near Grenoble and followed an ethos inspired by the ideals of the primitive monasticism of the 3rd and 4th centuries of the desert monks in Egypt. Their ethos centered on silence, austerity and total renunciation of the world. Similar to the early desert monasteries Bruno and his companions chose to live in small hermitages within the monastery complex, and came together for prayer and on greater feasts for some of their meals, as Carthusian monks do today. Bruno died on this date in 1101.
Here in our Chapel among the clerestory windows commemorating other founders of monastic communities St. Bruno can be seen in the last window nearest the Altar on the north side of the choir, the left side as you face the altar.
A few years ago some of us saw the movie, “Into the Greater Silence”, a documentary film about the monks at Grand Chartreuse. In spite of there being a different ethos in their lives from ours, one of greater silence, yet we could see many similarities with aspects of our own life that are generally found in monastic communities. We enjoyed seeing some scenes of the monks enjoying recreation after a winter snow storm, laughing and sliding down the hillsides on the snow. We were glad to see that Carthusian Monks are not always absolutely serious.
In our readings for today’s Eucharist I think that Paul’s words in the Letter to the Philippians aptly describes the way in which St. Bruno and his companions followed the call to the monastic life that they received. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13b-14) In the Gospel we can see an example of Jesus insisting on a single minded response from the disciples that he called to follow him. Similarly Bruno and his companions unswervingly followed their call from Jesus to live the monastic life in 11th century France.
All of us here who are professed members of The Society of Saint John the Evangelist have followed our own call from Jesus to follow him in the way of the vowed monastic life, and we trust and hope that all of the rest of you are trying to do your best to find and follow the appropriate way for each of you to serve God in this world.
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