Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy, in or about 951, to the Onesti’s, a noble and wealthy couple. When Romuald was young, he engaged in worldly and sinful pleasures, much like the behavior of St. Augustine of Hippo when he was a youth. When he was 20 years of age, he watched his father, Sergius degli Onesti, participate in a duel, wherein his father killed his opponent and Romuald was absolutely horrified. Accordingly, he fled to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. After reflecting for some time, he became a monk. He desired more of a strict, ascetic life, whereupon he became a hermit on a remote island in that area, with an older monk, Marinus, who was Romuald’s spiritual advisor.
Romuald spent the next 30 years of his life establishing monasteries and hermitages in Italy. He desired to preach the Gospel in Hungary and hopefully become a martyr, wherein the Pope gave him permission to accomplish this daunting challenge. Nevertheless, upon arriving in Hungary, Romuald became extremely ill and every time he tried to begin his preaching in Hungary, he became ill again and the sickness reoccurred. Therefore, Romuald abandoned this goal.
There was a period of time in his life where he experienced a kind of “dark night of the soul,” which is a dryness in spirituality. On a particular day whilst he was praying Psalm 31 (“I will give you understanding I will instruct you”), Romuald received a grace from God, an enlightenment that he had throughout the rest of his life.
At one of the monasteries where he lived, he admonished and rebuked a nobleman because of his sinful life. This nobleman falsely accused Romuald of a scandalous crime, notwithstanding the fact that the fellow monks believed this lie. Consequently, Romuald was given a strict penance, forbidden to offer Mass and excommunicated, an inappropriate sentence that he endured for six months.
The most well-known monastery he established was in Tuscany (Campus Maldoli, name of the owner). There he founded the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines, in which a monastic life was joined with the life of a hermit.
Romuald died on June 19, 1027 at one of the monasteries he founded, the Val di Castro.
The following is the short Rule for Camaldolese monks that can be taken to heart, where we empty ourselves, say nothing, and let the Triune God speak to us, and during times of frustration, keep yourself centered on Our Lord Jesus Christ, to-wit:
Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms – never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.
Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.
Thank you St. Romuald for your loving example and your courage, determination and faith. We need more clerics like you, unafraid to identify evil and chastise it, while championing goodness and the right. Your disciplined life which prioritized the Triune God, reminds us what we must do in our life. Dear St. Romuald, pray for us and help us!
With love and respect,
Source: Vatican website; Franciscan media