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Letter of Saint Bruno to Raoul Le Verd

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To my esteemed friend Raoul, dean of the cathedral Chapter at
Rheims, I , Bruno, send my greatings, as all my heartfelt affection
toward you bids me.

The loyalty you have shown during our long and mellowed friendship
is all the more beautifuI and remarkable in that it is only rarely
found. For even though a great distance and many years lie between
us, your kindly sentiments have always been with me.This is
certainly clear enough from your wonderfuI letters, in which you
have professed your friendship over and over again and from the many
other indications you have given of it, including the favours you
have so generously shown, both to me and to my brother Bernard on my
account. For all this I give you my thanks, dear friend, not in a
way which could ever be commensurate with what you deserve of me,
but springing, at least, from the deepest source of sincere love.

I sent a messenger with a letter to you some time ago, one who had
proved reliable on other occasions; but since he has not yet
returned, I thought it best to send you one of the brethren. He can
give you a fuller account of how things are here by word of mouth
than I could ever do with pen and ink.

I assure you, first of all, that my health is good, thinking that
the news wilI not be unwelcome to you. I wish that I could say the
same for my soul. The external situation is as satisfactory as could
be desired, but I stand as a beggar before the mercy of God, praying
that he wilI heal all the infirmities of my soul and fulfill all my
desires with his bounty.

I am living in the wilderness of Calabria far removed from
habitation. There are some brethren with me, some of whom are very
welI educated and they are keeping assiduous watch for their Lord,
so as to open to him at once when he knocks. I could never even
begin to tell you how charming and pleasant it is. The temperatures
are mild, the air is healthful; a broad plain, delightful to behold,
stretches between the mountains along their entire length, bursting
with fragrant meadows and flowery fields. One could hardly describe
the impression made by the gently rolling hills on all sides, with
their cool and shady glens tucked away, and such an abundance of
refreshing springs, brooks and streams. Besides all this, there are
verdant gardens and all sorts of fruit-bearing trees.

Yet why dwell n such things as these? The man of true insight has
other delights, far more useful and attractive, because divine. It
is true, though that our rather feeble nature is renewed and finds
new life in such perspectives, wearied by its spirituaI pursuits and
austere mode of life. It is like a bow, which soon wears out and
runs the risk of becoming useless, if it is kept continually taut.

In any case, what benefits and divine exaltation the silence and
solitude of the desert hold in store for those who love it, only
those who have experienced it can know.

For here men of strong will can enter into themselves and remain
there as much as they like, diligently cultivating the seeds of
virtue and eating the fruits of paradise with joy.

Here they can acquire the eye that wounds the Bridegroom with
love, by the limpidity of its gaze, and whose purity allows them to
see God himself.

Here they can observe a busy leisure and rest in quiet activity.

Here also God crowns his athletes for their stern struggle with
the hoped-for reward: a peace unknown to the world and joy in the
Holy Spirit.

Such a way of life is exemplified by Rachel, who was preferred by
Jacob for her beauty, even though she bore fewer children than Leah,
with her less penetrating eyes. Contemplation, to be sure has fewer
offspring than does action, and yet Joseph and Benjamin were the
favourites of their father. This life is the best part chosen by
Mary, never to be taken away from her. lt is also that extraordinary
beautifuI Shunammite, the only one in IsraŽI to take care of David
and keep him warm in his old age. I could only wish, brother, that
you too, had such an exclusive love for her, so that lost in her
embrace, you burned with divine love. If only a love like this would
take possession of you! Immediately, all the glory in the world
would seem like so much dirt to you, whatever the smooth words and
false attractions she offered to deceive you. Wealth and its
concomitant anxieties you would cast off without a thought, as a
burden to the freedorm of the spirit. You would want no more of
pleasure either, harmfuI as it is to both body and soul.

You know very welI who it is that says to us: "He who loves the
world, and the things of the world, such as the lust oflthe flesh,
the lust of the eyes and ambition, does not have the love of the
Father abiding in him"; also "Friendship with the world is enmity
with God". What could be so eviI and destructive then, so
unfortunate, or so much the mark of a crazed and headstrong spirit,
as to put yourself at odds with the one whose power you cannot
resist and whose righteous vengeance you could never hope to escape?
Surely we are not stronger than he! Surely you do not think he wilI
leave unpunished in the end all the affronts and contempt he
receives, merely because his patient solicitude now incites us to
repentance! For what could be more perverted, more reckless and
contrary to nature and right order, than to love the creature more
than the Creator, what passes away more than what lasts forever, or
to seek rather the goods of earth than those of heaven?

So, what do you think ought to be done, dear friend? What else,
but to trust in the exhortation of God himself and to believe in the
truth which cannot deceive? For he calls out to everyone,
saying: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I wilI
give you rest". Is it not, after all, a most ridiculous and
fruitless labour to be swollen with lust, continually to be tortured
with anxiety and worry, fear and sorrow, for the objects of your
passion? Is there any heavier burden than to have one's spirit thus
cast down into the abyss from the sublime peak of its naturaI
dignity - the veritable quintessence of right order gone awry? Flee,
my brother, from these unending miseries and disturbances. Leave the
raging storms of this world for the secure and quiet harbour of the

For you know very well what wisdom in person has to say to
us: "Whoever does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my

Who cannot perceive what a beautiful thing it is, how beneficial
and how delightful besides, to remain in the schooI of Christ under
the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there to learn that divine
philosophy which alone shows the way to true happiness?

So, you must consider the facts very honestly: if the love of God
does not succeed in attracting you, nor considerations of self-
interest spur you on in the face of such enor- mous rewards, at
least dire necessity and the fear of chastisement ought to compel
you to move in this direction. For you know the promise that binds
you and to whom it was made. It is none other than the omnipotent
and awesome one to whom you consecrated yourself as a pleasing and
wholly acceptable offering. To him it is not permissible to lie, nor
would it do any good, besides; for he does not let himself be mocked
with impunity.

You remember, after all, the time you and I and Fulk One-Eye, were
together in the little garden adjoining Adam's house, where I was
staying at the time. We had been discussing for some while, as I
recall, the false attractions and ephemeral riches of this present
life and comparing them with the joys of etemal glory. As a result,
we were inflamed with divine love and we promised, determined and
vowed to abandon the fleeting shadows of this world at the earliest
opportunity, and lay hold of the etemal by taking the monastic
habit. We would indeed have done so forthwith; but Fulk went off to
Rome and we postponed our resolution in the expectation of his
return. He was delayed however and other things got in the way as
well, so that in the end, fervour vanished and resolve grew cold.

So, what is left, dear friend, but to absolve yourself as quickly
as possible from the obligations of such a debt? Otherwise, you run
the risk of incurring the wrath of the All-PowerfŁI for such serious
and long-standing deception, not to mention the frightfuI torments
that are its consequence. What potentate, after all, of this world
would ever leave himself unavenged if he were cheated by any of his
subjects of a promised gift, especially If he considered it to be of
outstanding value? So, never mind me, simply listen to the psalmist,
or rather to the Holy Spirit who declares: "Make your vows to the
Lord your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to
him who is to be feared, who cuts offthe spirit of princes, who is
terrible to the kings of the earth". It is the voice of the Lord you
hear - the voice of your God, the one who is feared, who cuts of
fthe spirit of princes, who is terrible to the kings of the earth!
For what reason does the Spirit of God make such a point of this, if
not to prod you into acquitting yourself of your vow? Why do you
find it burdensome since it entalls no sacrifice or reduction of
your goods and heaps up benefits rather for yourself than for the
one who receives what you pay?

Do not let the deceptive lure of riches hold you back, since they
cannot remedy the reaI poverty of our soul; not let your position
detain you, since you cannot occupy it without notable jeopardy to
the spirituaI life.

For it would be repugnant and wicked indeed, if I may say so, to
convert to your own use the goods of another, since you are, in
fact, their steward and not their proprietor. In addition, if you
should become desirous of vaunting your wealth in empty show and
keep a large retinue for this purpose, wilI it not be necessary, in
some way, to snatch from one person what you bestow with great
largesse on someone else? Your own resources, after all, would not
suffice. Yet such a procedure would be neither generous nor to good
effect, for nothing can be considered generous which is not at the
same time just.

You must also be carefuI not to be allured away from the
exigencies of divine love in your attention to the needs of the
Archbishop. He has great confidence in your counseI and relies
heavily upon it; but it is not always an easy matter to give advice
that is both useful and just. It is rather divine love which proves
itself the more useful, precisely to the extent that it is more in
accord with right reason. For what could be beneficial and right, so
fitting and connatural to human nature as to love the good? Yet what
other good can compare with God? Indeed, what other good is there
besides God? Whence it cormes that the souI that has attained some
degree of holiness and has experienced in some smalI measure the
incomparable loveliness, beauty and splendeur of this good, is set
on fire with love and cries out: "My soul is thirsting for God, the
God of my life; when shalI I enter and see the face of God?"

My sincere hope, brother, is that you wilI not spurn the counseI
of a friend, nor turn a deaf ear to the words the Holy Spirit
speaks. As my very close friend, I hope you will grant these desires
of mine and put an end to my long vigil in your regard. Otherwise, I
will continue to be tortured with solicitude, anxiety and fear for
you. God forbid that you should die before acquitting yourself of
your vow. For in that case, you would leave me pining away with
unremitting sorrow, without ever any hope of consolation. My
request, therefore, is that you wilI agree to go on pilgrimage to
St.Nicholas and from there make your way to us. Thus you will be
able to see the one who loves you as no one else, and we wilI be
able to speak face to face about our religions life, and how things
are going, and whatever else might be a matter of common interest. I
trust in the Lord, that you wilI not regret any trouble involved in
such a joumey.

This letter is not as succinct as it ordinarily ought to be, but
that is because I do not have the joy of your presence. As a result,
I desired to prolong our conversation at least in writing, and thus
have the pleasure of your company.

So, brother, stay in good health. Accept my ardent wish, that you
wilI take my words very much to heart.


P.S. Would you send us the life of St.Remigius? It is impossible to
obtain it here. Farewell.

Carthusian Reflections

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