Friday, February 8, 2008

Always Talking with God: St. Bruno

Studying medieval literature, it's difficult to enter into the mindset of the committed, the vowed, the pledged. Thinking of my own childhood faith vs. my adult existentialism, I wonder how those hermits endured without plumbing, with rotting teeth, without vitamins, with lassitude, for so many decades in such unforgiving climes. It's difficult to imagine monks as like us, with our post-modern angst and distrust in dogma, with our jittery need for caffeine and diversion, fortifying themselves for interior battle amidst exterior difficulties. Yet, a thousand years after this saint's example, a few continue this lifelong struggle at Charterhouses. After watching "Die Grosse Stille," (["Into Great Silence," the 2005 documentary by Philip Groening], I have practically no idea how-- I think I may know why, however. Although I do not share their total belief, I admire their utter perseverence. I imagine fitfully that perhaps their vocation balances my search through my own inscaped wilderness.

About Bruno

Saint Bruno's gift was his uninterrupted
conversation with God.

How did this wonder come to him? Without
Carthusian insights I can only guess:
there must have been at first some seeds of grace
which Bruno planted in his wilderness.
He must have watered them with tears, and kept
his little garden friendly to the sun
till the shoots came and, marvelously, flowers.
(Words were his flowers, to woo the Holy One.)
Bruno had peace, I know, but all the same
I doubt that he perceived if answers came.

And surely there were winters in his heart,
when leaf and blossom died, and the land froze,
and a white silence covered everything.
He offered God this silence, I suppose,
and his cold poverty (which few believe
that God in His warm silence will receive.)

How did this wonder come at last to him?
I would surmise: when Bruno understood
how love that crushed him had no gift for God-
though through all seasons he had sought the good-
he entered his own hut, pulled down the shades,
and sat and grappled with his pain till he
himself became the word, the total need,
the gift, the outcry, the last agony.
And one day God, most ready to discover
the moment that a heart fills to the brim,
burst into Bruno's time, sat down beside him,
and eager with delight gave to his lover
the joy of endless dialogue with Him.

-- Jessica Powers (1984)

Source: Kathe, Barbara A. "'About Bruno': A Poet's Wisdom."
Spiritual Life: A Journal of Contemporary Spirituality
52.3 (Fall 2006): 135-142.
(Poem posted to the IFSB Yahoo Groups list discussing Carthusian spirituality and charism.)

Image: Inside the monastery of La Grande Chartreuse, founded by St Bruno and six companions in 1084. Copyright: Philip Gröning.

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