St. Bruno, Founder of the Carthusian Order
Bruno, the celebrated founder of the Carthusian Order, was born at Cologne on the Rhine, of noble and virtuous parents, and was by them very piously educated. He was sent in his youth to Paris, where he progressed so much in all branches of learning, that he was made Doctor of Divinity, and was soon after raised to the dignity of canon at Rheims. A most horrible event took place at Paris before he left the city. A Doctor, who had always been considered very learned and at the same time very pious, died. His death seemed a very happy one, as it followed soon after his having received the holy Sacraments. But when the corpse was brought to the church, for the funeral ceremonies and the usual prayers, behold! the dead man arose during the Office of the Dead, to the great horror of all present, and cried, with a terrible voice: ” The Justice of God has accused me! ” On the second day, when the clergy had reached the same lesson in the Office, the body again moved, and cried in the same fearful tones: ” The Justice of God has rejected me!” On the third day, the same happened : the dead sitting up, cried with a still more awful voice: “The Justice of God has condemned me!” The feelings of all present may easily be imagined. There was not one among them who did not turn pale, and all left the Church in fear and trembling.
Bruno, with six of his friends, was present at this sad event, and his heart was deeply touched by divine grace. He was so much affected by this terrible judgment of the Almighty, that he resolved, from that hour, to retire from the world and work most earnestly at the salvation of his soul, that he might one day be able to justify himself before the throne of God. He informed his friends of this, and persuaded them, by the earnestness of his words, to make the same resolution. They delayed not in carrying out their intention; but immediately sold all they possessed, gave it to the poor, and taking leave of their acquaintances, they went, clad in the poor garb of pilgrims, from Paris to Grenoble. They related to St. Hugh, the holy bishop of that city, all that had happened, and acquainted him with their plans, and begged him to assign them a place in his diocese, where they might dwell in solitude, and by a pious life, merit the favor of the Divine Judge. Hugh had dreamed the night before, that seven bright stars had dropped at his feet; and when he saw these seven men, so humble and so filled with holy zeal, he doubted not that God, being pleased with their resolution, had, by this dream, foreshadowed their coming. Hence he received them very kindly, strengthened them in their resolution and brought them to a desert called the Chartreuse. Closed in by high mountains, this wilderness was so stony and barren, that it seemed hardly a fit dwelling for wild animals, much less for cultivated men. To St. Bruno, however, it appeared to be exactly the piace for his purpose.
He erected a small church there in honor of St. John the Baptist, and several poor huts, all separated from each other. This was the beginning of the Carthusian Order, which has since become so celebrated, and whose members have never abated from the fervor that distinguished the early founders. St. Bruno and his companions led a very austere life. The principal points which he observed and desired that they should observe, were: To live separated from all communication with men; to observe a continual silence, except when assembled at church to sing the praises of the Most High; always to wear hair-cloth, to abstain from meat and to fast daily; to occupy their time in prayer, singing the praises of God, reading devout books and manual labor. The holy Founder chose the Divine Mother as patroness of the Order, and St. John Baptist as its special protector, as his life might serve as a most perfect example to the hermits. The Evil One aroused many enemies to persecute the holy man and his companions; but St. Bruno continued undisturbed in the practice of what he had commenced out of love to God and for the salvation of his soul.
Having lived in this desert most austerely during six years, he was requested by Pope Urban II., who had known him well in former times, to come to Rome on account of some important affairs. The holy man was not less sorry than his disciples at this news; but he was obliged to obey the Pontiff. The Saint remained six years in Rome, as the Pope needed his counsel and knowledge for the benefit of the holy church. The Pope intended, as a recompense for his faithful services, to raise him to the dignity of Archbishop of Reggio in Calabria, a see which was at that time vacant. The humble servant of God refused with many tears to accept it, saying that he had already enough account to render for his own soul and could not become responsible for the many souls which so high an office would place under his charge. The Pope was touched, and not only desisted from his intention, but also allowed St. Bruno to leave the papal court, as he desired, and reside in a solitary spot in Calabria, where, as in the Chartreuse, he could serve God in peace and quiet.
The Saint, accompanied by several who were of the same mind with him, wandered through Calabria, until he found, in the diocese of Squillaci, a desert which suited his intentions. He soon had everything arranged in the same manner as at the Chartreuse, and instituted the same rules in regard to the life and occupation of the hermits. It was there that St. Bruno passed the remainder of his days in great holiness. A certain Count of Calabria, named Roger, whilst hunting in the forest, one day came upon the huts of the monks. He was astonished no less than edified at the austerity of their life, and made St. Bruno a gift of some land which was in the neighborhood. He also had a church built for these holy men, which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The Almighty soon richly rewarded the liberality of the Count; for when he besieged Capua, and one of his subjects was plotting to betray him into the hands of the enemy, St. Bruno, who was far away in his solitude, appeared to the Count during the night, and apprised him of his danger.
Not long after this, the Almighty sent a dangerous sickness to the Saint as a messenger of approaching death. He received the holy Sacraments with great devotion, but first made a public confession of his faith, against the heresy which was just then making inroads on the holy Church, and admonished all present, to remain constant in the service of God. At last, clothed in his penitential garments, he took the Crucifix, and while he most devoutly kissed it, the Almighty released his soul from its earthly fetters, in the year 1101. A most miraculous spring gushed out near his tomb, the water of which cured the blind, the lame, the deaf and those who were afflicted with other infirmities.
I. A great and celebrated Doctor, who, to all appearance, had lived piously, died after receiving the holy Sacraments; but was condemned. Truly a terrible event! He had either received the holy Sacraments unworthily, or had afterwards committed a mortal sin and died in it. Those who have received the sacraments do not always die happy. Not all who confess and partake of the blessed Eucharist before their end, save their souls. Many confess and receive holy Communion on their death-bed and yet are condemned. Among them are, first, those who, when in health have often received the holy Sacraments unworthily, either by wilfully concealing a mortal sin in confession, or by not repenting of their misdeeds, or by not having the firm purpose, not only of avoiding all sin but also all occasion of sin; and who, in this state, dare to partake of holy Communion. The shame which keeps them from rightly confessing their sins in health, is with many, much greater at the hour of death than it was before. The Evil One makes them believe that their sickness is not dangerous, and that they will be better able to confess this sin when they are well again; or that it is impossible to repeat all their former unworthy confessions.
Hence it happens, that as, in health, they made bad confessions and unworthy communions, so in sickness, they do the same. Secondly, those who have lived a long time in great hatred, not forgiving their enemies. Thirdly, those who were addicted to the vice of unchastity, and did not endeavor to reform while they had health. These have every reason to fear that, although they receive the holy Sacraments worthily on their death-bed, they may after wards fall again into the old sin, die in it, and thus go to eternal perdition; because the Evil One returns to the attack after they have received the Sacraments, and most vividly represents to them the wrong done them, and renews their hatred or the sensual delight in which they formerly indulged, and makes them sin by complacency and desire. As they have been accustomed to yield to the temptations of the devil, they will then very easily be again overcome; and should they die without another, confession, or if this is impossible, without perfect contrition, they will most surely be condemned. Oh! that the three classes of menabove mentioned would rightly consider the terrible danger of their situation. If you would avoid it, confess and receive holy Communion as you ought. Do not harbor any hatred in your heart, and be not a slave to the sin of impurity, or, if unhappily it has taken hold of you, tear yourself away from it. Accustom yourself always to fight bravely against the temptations of Satan.
II. St. Bruno was filled with a wholesome terror by the miserable end of the celebrated Doctor, and resolved to live in great austerity, in order to be able to justify himself before the judgment-seat of the Almighty and to escape hell. You hear and read so many awful examples of persons dying without time for repentance. Why then do you not determine to do penance and reform? I fear you do not consider as earnestly as St. Bruno did, what it is to appear before the judgmentseat of a just and omniscient Judge, or what it is to be eternally lost. For your own salvation, I exhort and beseech you to think in future frequently on the judgment of God. Think often of hell. “Think of the divine judgment,” says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, “and neither impurity nor any other vice will gain power over you. As soon as you forget God and His judgment, you will think of sin and you will commit it.” “I Beseech you,” says St. Chrysostom, “think of hell. The Evil One leaves nothing undone to make you forget hell. By thinking earnestly of hell, we prevent our falling into it.”
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.