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Letter of Saint Bruno to his Carthusian Sons

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Written from the hermitage of the Tower in Calabria.

To my brothers whom I love in Christ above all else, greetings from your brother, Bruno.

Now that I have heard from our dear brother Landwin a detailed and moving account of how firm you are in your resolve to follow a path of life so commendable and in accord with right reason and have learned of your ardent love and unflagging zeal for all that pertains to moral rectitude and the fullness of Christian maturity, my spirit rejoices in the Lord. I truly exult and am swept away by my impulse to praise and thanksgiving; yet at the same time I bitterly lament. I rejoice, as is only right, over the ripening fruits of your virtues; but I blush and bemoan my own condition, since I wallow so listless and inactive in the filth of my sins.

Rejoice then my brothers over the lot of overflowing happiness that has fallen to you and for the grace of God that you have received in such abundance. Rejoice that you have succeeded in escaping the countless dangers and shipwrecks of this storm-tossed world and have reached a quiet anchorage in the security of a hidden harbor. Many would like to join you — and many are those who make a considerable effort to do so — but fail in their attempt. What is more, many are shut out after having attained it, since it was not in God's plan to give them this grace.

Therefore, my brothers, count it a certitude proven time and time again: whoever has once experienced so enviable a good and subsequently lost it for whatever reasons will grieve over his loss to the end of his days, if he has any regard or concern for the salvation of his soul.

As regards to you lay monks, brothers so close to my heart, I have only this to say: My soul glorifies the Lord since I can perceive the glories of His mercy toward you from the account of your beloved father and prior who boasts a great deal about you and rejoices over you. I share in this joy since God in His power never ceases to inscribe on your hearts — however little the education you may have — not only love but understanding of His holy law. For by your lives you show what you really know and love, that is to say, when you are careful and zealous to observe a genuine obedience conceived not only as the carrying out of God's commands but as the original key to the spiritual life and its final stamp of authenticity as well, demanding as it does deep humility and outstanding patience, as well as sincere love for the Lord and our brothers — yes, when you do these then it is clear that you are gathering with relish nothing less than the most delectable and life-giving fruits of Holy Scripture.

So, my brothers, abide in that which you have attained and avoid like the plague that baneful crowd of so-called "monks" who, peddling their writings and speaking in hushed tones about things they neither cherish nor understand but rather contradict by the words and actions, are in reality as empty as can be. They are lazy and wander from place to place, slandering all those who are conscientious and dedicated, and imaging themselves worthy of praise if they blacken the name of those who really are worthy. To them anything that even resembles discipline or obedience is loathsome.

As for our brother, Landwin, I had intended to keep him here on account of his rather serious and recurrent illnesses; but he would have none of it, claiming that there could be nothing worthwhile for him, neither health nor joy nor zest for life apart from you. With repeated sighs and a veritable gushing fountain of tears for you he laid before me how much you mean to him and what pure affection he bears for you in the Lord. And so I have not wanted to force the issue lest I cause grief either to him or to you who are so dear to me for your maturity and excellence of spirit. Therefore, my brothers, I am most serious in this request, at once both humble and insistent, that you manifest by your deeds the love you bear in your heart for your prior and beloved father by kindly and attentively providing him with everything he needs for the various requirements of his health. He may be unwilling to agree to what your loving solicitude may dictate, preferring to jeopardize his health and life rather than be found lacking in some point of external observance. This is after all normally not permitted, and he, since he holds the first place among you, might be ashamed to fail in these matters, fearing lest some of you become negligent or lukewarm on his account. Yet I think there is hardly any danger of that, and so I hereby grant you the necessary authority to take my place in this regard and to respectfully compel him to accept whatever you accord him for his health.

As for me, my brothers, I would have you know that the only desire I have, after God, is to come and see you. As soon as I can, God willing, I will do just that.


Carthusian Reflections

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