The Hermit of Saint Bruno practices complete detachment from the world and idiorrhythmic monasticism, idiorrhythmia is one form of monastic life within Christianity. Retracing the spiritual journey of the first Carthusians, “under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and learning from experience”, the Hermit of Saint Bruno remain faithful to the charism of Saint Bruno. Idiorrhythmia was the original form of monastic life in Christianity, as exemplified by St. Anthony of Egypt and is the opposite of cenobitic monasticism in that instead of communal ownership, the monk lives alone, often in isolation. Philosophically it consists of a total withdrawal from society, normally in the desert, and the constant practice of mental prayer. The word Idiorrhythmic comes from two Greek words idios, “particular” and ῥυθμός rhuthmós, “rule” meaning “following one’s own devices.” It was first developed by St. Anthony of Egypt (c. 250–355) and today is only known to be practised in Mount Athos, Greece, and at other locations throughout the world.
“A voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
The Hermit of Saint Bruno seeks divine quietness (ἡσυχία hēsychia) through the contemplation of God in uninterrupted prayer. Such prayer, involving the entire human being — soul, mind, and body —is often called “pure,” or “intellectual,” prayer or the Jesus prayer. St. John Climacus, one of the greatest writers of the Hesychast tradition, wrote, “Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of the hēsychia.” It is generally accepted that monasticism began in Egypt towards the end of the Third Century, though its origins may have been older. Indeed, some form of monasticism may have existed almost from the birth of the Church. As the word monastic implies in Greek monos- alone, the Monk was one who went into the desert to live alone with God, were also called hermits or anchorites, which also means solitaries. The first recorded hermitic Orthodox Christian literature was St. Paul of Thebes ( 341) who lived over sixty years in a cave in the Egyptian desert. But the greatest of these hermits, often called the Father of Monasticism, was St. Anthony the Great ( 356). Yet, even in the life of this father of monasticism, the desert solitude was gradually modified by the appearance of disciples. These men wished to pursue the monastic life under the guidance of one who was already experienced. A soldier marching into battle would much rather be commanded by an experienced officer than an inexperienced one, no matter how educated the latter may be. Nor, if he himself is inexperienced, would he wish to enter the battle alone. Thus, after struggling many years as a solitary, St. Anthony gathered to himself a community of Monks who lived in separate huts, each working out his own salvation in his own particular way, but under Anthony’s supervision, guided by his great experience in spiritual life.
Charism and what the Hermit of Saint Bruno devotes his time to?
In the Church there are religious orders that are dedicated to preaching, to missions, to teaching youth, to healing the sick, etc. These are the most common and best-known forms of religious life.
The Hermit of Saint Bruno on the contrary, is monk-priest who does not normally leave his Hermitage and dedicate his whole life to praising God and presenting the needs of humanity to the Lord. A Hermit understands that the usefulness of his life does not depend on his activity within the Church or in the world, but that his usefulness is solely dependant on the extent of his union with Christ, and his endeavours toward attaining holiness. The Church Father, St. Jerome used the term “white martyrdom” — for those such as “desert hermits who aspired to the condition of martyrdom through strict asceticism.”
The life of the Hermit of Saint a Bruno, is a daily wandering through the desert; one characteristic of a Hermit is making himself poor as a person who lives an austere life, that is, he does not expect anything other than God in his life. For this reason, eremitic life is a silent testimony to the world that God is not an unfriendly and vague idea but someone alive and vibrant, adept at infusing the hearts of humanity with hope and joy.
The Hermit of Saint Bruno is dedicated to what traditionally is called “contemplative life”, highly appreciated by the Church. Pope Paul VI, in the closing address of the Second Vatican Council, referred to our life in these terms:
“… the effort to look on Him [our Creator], and to centre our heart in Him which we call contemplation, is the highest, the most perfect act of the spirit, the act which even today can and must be at the apex of all human activity.”
The Hermit lives a solitary life, spending the majority of his day in his hermitage cell, which he only leaves for Mass, Vespers at mid-afternoon and Matins and Lauds which are recited in the small chapel within the hermitage at midnight.
Within the hermitage he prays, studies, works, eats and sleeps. The hermits cell is completely separated from the rest of the building. Next to the cell door of the hermitage there is a small window in which his meals are deposited.
Upon entering the Cell you’ll enter a small hallway, called the “Ave Maria” because whenever the hermit enters this area enters he prays a Hail Mary. There is also a workshop where the hermit can labour in woodcraft, sculpt and create things that he may need or that may be useful for others. The hermitage is entirely on the ground floor and has a small enclosed garden where he grows his flowers, fruits and vegetables, and also serves as a place of relaxation. Within the cell there is the oratory, a small room that serves as a study, the bedroom and it is all very plain.
Sundays and festivals dominate a hermits life, since all the liturgical offices are recited in the chapel. On Mondays there is also a walk of about one hours in the countryside, outside of the Hermitage.
The Hermits of Saint Bruno’s life has to thread things within which he finds balance.
A normal day and the Horarium
The Hermit of Saint Bruno goes to bed very early, at approximately 19:20 hrs in the early evening. Three hours and 40 minutes later, at 23:00 hrs at night, he gets up and begins his day.
Having risen from his short sleep at 23:00 hrs, the hermitage prayer bell having reminded the hermit of the night prayer in the chapel. These are Matins of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) with some meditation at 23:10 hrs; Matins & Lauds — and the Angelus at 23:45 hrs, composed of psalms, readings of Holy Scripture and of the Holy Fathers, prayers and supplications for the needs of the world and for the Church ending with an Angelus. This long liturgical office whilst of the night whilst tiring is highly esteemed by the hermit, as the silence of the night invites a far more fervent prayer. These last until 02.00 hrs when Lauds of the BVM are recited before retiring back to bed at 02:15 hrs at night.
Back to his cell the hermit makes a brief prayer to the Virgin Mary in his oratory and goes to bed without delay. At 05:50 hrs he again raises and dedicates those first hours to prayer. 06:00 hrs Primes†; 06:30 Angelus and meditation, 07:15 Litany of Saints and prayers of supplication. At 08:00 hrs he returns to the chapel for Terce, Private Mass and takes Communion. 09:00 hrs for Terce (BVM) followed by some private time for relaxation. At 09:30 hrs He commences his Theological Studies until 10:15 hrs when he undertakes his Labora or manual work until 11:00 hrs when the hermit recites Terce before receiving the Lunch which was prepared for him earlier and then some welcomed recreation in private such as reading a book in the garden attached to his cell.
The mornings then, within St. Mary’s Hermitage are passed by a dedication to prayer, study, the meditated readings of Holy Scripture, and manual labor. The hermit of Saint Bruno also recites the Rosary throughout the day when not occupied with other tasks.
Midday — 12:00 hrs the hermit again commences Spiritual Readings and Theological Studies until 13:30 hrs when the Angelus & Nones are recited; 14:00 hrs Spiritual Readings until 14:30 hrs for Vespers of the BVM; 14:45 hrs Vespers in Chapel; 15:15 hrs Study, 16:30 hrs Manual Work; 17:15 hrs Examination of Conscience and personal prayers. At 18:00 hrs (in the summer) he receives his Supper followed by some private recreation such as gardening, cleaning his cell, personal admin, reading a book or simply sitting in his private garden contemplating God’s wondrous creation. At 19:00 hrs the Angelus is again recited followed by Compline. After such a busy and compact day the Hermit of Saint Bruno returns to bed at 19:20 hrs.
Eucharist, for the forgiveness of sins
The Eucharist has always been a sacrament that purifies one’s sins. From the very moment that it is offered for the remission of sins, it transforms into a most noble sacrifice, efficacious for the atonement and remission of all sins.
With this outlook what could be more noble than offering ourselves for expiation for our sins to the Father our Arbiter and Savior, who offered himself as a sacrifice?
In this Eucharistic Sacrifice, the oblation offered is none other than that which our divine Savior instituted at the Last Supper; an authority He bestow to the Apostles and then offered up as a sacrifice on the Cross for the sins of all mankind.
From the very moment you desire to be freed from your all of your sins and the punitive retribution due to them, this eucharistic bread (sacrificial victim) is offered on your behalf, that is, the blood shed from the wounds of our Savior, His Blood, the blows He received, His sorrow, his suffering and his death. Ask him for the merit of this offering to forgive your guilt and forgive you the penalty for it. (…)
Lanspergio († 1539)
Commitment to Unceasing prayer
Over the years we have read many texts and opinions on prayer which claim to be Catholic but are more akin to some new age type of religion, some are quite bewildering whilst others quite inane.
On the subject of Unceasing Prayer we defer to the wisdom of the Carthusian Order who give the following guidance:
No complicated techniques are required. Take the rosary and pray with great humility, confidence and perseverance.
Sooner or later you will feel the unceasing prayer of the Spirit being born within your heart. Then you will understand the words of Jesus and His parable of the persistent widow: “to pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18:1).
This is not something that someone can easily elucidate, it is something that has to be experienced by oneself. Our inclination toward simplicity and humility within prayer are many a time more important than the actual prayer itself.
Putting this simply: if you want to have an understanding of God, then study theology. If on the other hand you’d rather want to experience God, then pray.