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St. Bruno (1030-1101) was born to a noble and prominent family in Cologne, Germany. He was well educated and excelled in his studies, and became a priest around the year 1055. He went on to direct and teach at the episcopal school at Reims for many years, earning a reputation as a learned scholar. After also serving as the chancellor of his archdiocese, he and a few companions left their positions in the diocese in order to follow a path of greater religious observance.

In 1084 Bruno settled in the Chartreuse Mountains in France with a small group of scholars who, like himself, desired to become contemplative monks. This was the beginning of the Carthusian order founded by St. Bruno, combining the solitary life of hermits with the conventual life of religious observance. These alpine monks embraced a strictly disciplined life of poverty, labor, prayer, and fasting.

After living six years of strict asceticism, St. Bruno was called to Rome by the Pope, who was his former student, to assist with the troubles and controversies rocking the Church. Bruno became a close advisor to the Pope and was allowed to return to monastic life only if he remained nearby within Italy, leading Bruno to establish a second Carthusian monastery there in 1095. St. Bruno wrote many manuscripts and commentaries during his life. His feast day is celebrated on October 6th.

This founder of the Carthusian order of monks was at first not a hermit at all. For eighteen years he was a professor of theology in his own country of France. He tried his best to bring his students closer to God. Then he was given an important position in the diocese of Rheims. He left his native Cologne to study in Rheims, France, as a young man and was ordained a priest around 1055.

Aware of Bruno’s obvious talents, the Bishop of Rheims demanded that the young priest remain in his diocese, where Bruno became the head of Rheims’ most illustrious school for almost two decades and then Chancellor of the diocese. Bruno’s trajectory was, at this point in his life, typical of talented, educated, and well-connected priests of his era.

He was destined to become a good, scholarly, and politically aware medieval bishop, the kind whose graves fill the floors and stuff the side chapels of many Gothic cathedrals. But a bad bishop altered the arc of Bruno’s trajectory. Bruno’s bishop-patron died and was succeeded by a corrupt aristocrat who had bought his office.

This ecclesiastic had little concern for the Church except as a well of money and power from which he could freely drink. Revolt, sharp tensions, recriminations, and violence ensued. Everyone was damaged. Bruno withdrew from the scene, partly to avoid being named a bishop himself and partly to reevaluate what prize he was truly seeking in life.

Bruno and some companions then sought out a well-known hermit in Southern France who, a few years later, would go on to found the Monastery of Citeaux, the mother foundation of the Cistercian Order. Citeaux was the very same monastery which had such an influence on Bruno’s contemporary Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. But Bruno was not meant to be a Cistercian. Still searching, Bruno and six companions approached the Bishop of Grenoble, France.

The Bishop was favorable to their plan and granted them a remote location in the French Alps called Chartreuse. It was 1085. Saint Bruno’s successors reside at the Grande Chartreuse to this day, living the part hermit, part community of prayer, part work, part study, all poor, and all silent existence of Carthusian monks that Bruno envisioned. Though Bruno founded the Grande Chartreuse, he did not remain there for long.

A former pupil of Bruno’s had become Pope, and he needed Bruno’s hand on the rudder to help him navigate the ship of the Church in the rough seas of medieval ecclesiastical politics. So Bruno moved to Rome and lived in a cell amidst the crumbled arches and half walls of the Baths of Diocletian. His every intention of returning to the Grande Chartreuse was frustrated. The Pope compelled Bruno to remain in Italy in case his services were needed, even as the Pope and his court were on the run from determined enemies.

Resigned to his exile, and refusing an appointment as bishop in Southern Italy, in about 1094 Bruno and some followers spawned a mini-Chartreuse in Calabria, Italy, called La Torre, although this second foundation was later to be absorbed into the Cistercian Order. Bruno died there, living in silence as a monk. He was never formally canonized and left no rule for his Order, leaving that task to a successor. Saint Bruno had a burning love for the Holy Eucharist and for the Virgin Mary.

Silence was also his muse. God speaks beautifully through His creation, but one must “hear“ God’s silence to understand Him. Silence is a powerful form of speech, a negative word which God, as the Father of a large family, often uses to communicate. The internal word is not less of a word because it remains unspoken. A word is an internal mental tool for organizing thought before it is a means of communication. God’s own internal Word was so powerful that it became flesh and blood, a living Word more powerful than mere spoken language.

Words are a form of action, but they can also limit meaning. God speaks most deeply in the action of creation, through His Son and in silence. As lovers know, a glance, a touch, a smile, a thought is sufficient. Words may add to these things, but they can also subtract from them. It has been said that even if a marble statue of Saint Bruno could stretch open its mouth, he would still keep his vow and remain silent, for “When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Prv 10:19). Saint Bruno’s feast is celebrated on 6th October.


Saint Bruno, you wished to dedicate and consecrate your entire life to active and committed service to the Church but God had other plans for you, and you chose the better portion of seeking God in silence, poverty, study, and prayer.

Help all of us, mortal beings, to emulate your quiet dedication, focus, forbearance and patient endurance. Amen

Saint Bruno, pray for us all.

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