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§ 83. St. Benedict. St. Nilus. St. Romuald.
Yet even in this dark period there were a few shining lights.
St. Benedict of Aniane (750–821), of a distinguished family in the south of France, after serving at the court of Charlemagne, became disgusted with the world, entered a convent, founded a new one at Aniane after the strict rule of St. Benedict of Nursia, collected a library, exercised charity, especially during a famine, labored for the reform of monasticism, was entrusted by Louis the Pious with the superintendence of all the convents in Western France, and formed them into a “congregation,” by bringing them under one rule. He attended the Synod of Aix-la-Chapelle in 817. Soon after his death (Feb. 12, 821) the fruits of his labors were destroyed, and the disorder became worse than before.378378 The life of B. was written by Ardo. See theActa Sanct. mens. Februar. sub Feb. 12; Mabillon,Acta Sanct. ord. S. Bened.; Nicolai, Der heil. Benedict Gründer von Aniane und Cornelimünster(Köln, 1865); Gfrörer, Kirchengesch. III. 704 sqq.
St. Nilus the younger,379379 To distinguish him from the older Nilus, who was a pupil and friend of Chrysostom, a fertile ascetic writer and monk on Mt. Sinai (d. about 440). There were more than twenty distinguished persons of that name in the Greek church. See Allatius, Diatriba de Nilis et Psellis; Fabricius, Bibl. Gr. X. 3. of Greek descent, born at Rossano in Calabria380380 The place where two German scholars, O. von Gebhardt and Harnack, discovered the Codex Rossanensis of the Greek Matthew and Mark in the library of the archbishop (March, 1879). It dates from the sixth or seventh century, is beautifully written in silver letters on very fine purple-colored vellum, and was published by O. von Gebhardt in 1883. See Schaff’s Companion to the Gr. T., p. 131, and Gregory’s Prolegomena, I. 408. (hence Nilus Rossanensis), enlightened the darkness of the tenth century. He devoted himself, after the death of his wife, about 940, to a solitary life, following the model of St. Anthony and St. Hilarion, and founded several convents in Southern Italy. He was often consulted by dignitaries, and answered, like St. Anthony, without respect of person. He boldly rebuked Pope Gregory V. and Emperor Otho III. for bad treatment of an archbishop. When the emperor afterwards offered him any favor he might ask, Nilus replied: “I ask nothing from you but that you would save your soul; for you must die like every other man, and render an account to God for all your good and evil deeds.” The emperor took the crown from his head, and begged the blessing of the aged monk. When a dissolute nobleman, who comforted himself with the example of Solomon, asked Nilus, whether that wise king was not saved, the monk replied: “We have nothing to do with Solomon’s fate; but to us it is said, ’Every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’ We do not read of Solomon that he ever repented like Manasseh.” To questions of idle curiosity he returned no answer, or he answered the fool according to his folly. So when one wished to know what kind of an apple Adam and Eve ate, to their ruin, he said that it was a crab-apple. In his old age he was driven from Calabria by invaders, and founded a little convent, Crypta Ferrata, near the famous Tusculum of Cicero. There he died peacefully when about ninety-six years old, in 1005.381381 Acta Sanctorum vol. XXVI. Sept 26 (with the Greek text of a biography of the saint by a disciple). Alban Butler,Lives of the Saints, Sept. 26. Neander, III. 420 sqq. (Germ. ed. IV. 307-315). The convent of Crypts Ferrata possesses a valuable library, which was used by distinguished antiquarians as Mabillon, Montfaucon, Angelo Mai, and Dom Pitra. Among its treasures are several MSS. of parts of the Greek Testament, to which Dean Burgon calls attention in The Revision Revised (Lond. 1883), p. 447.
St. Romuald, the founder of the order of Camaldoli, was born early in the tenth century at Ravenna, of a rich and noble family, and entered the neighboring Benedictine convent of Classis, in his twentieth year, in order to atone, by a severe penance of forty days, for a murder which his father had committed against a relative in a dispute about property. He prayed and wept almost without ceasing. He spent three years in this convent, and afterwards led the life of a roaming hermit. He imposed upon himself all manner of self-mortification, to defeat the temptations of the devil. Among his devotions was the daily repetition of the Psalter from memory; a plain hermit, Marinus, near Venice, had taught him this mechanical performance and other ascetic exercises with the aid of blows. Wherever he went, he was followed by admiring disciples. He was believed to be endowed with the gift of prophecy and miracles, yet did not escape calumny. Emperor Otho III. paid him a visit in the year 1000 on an island near Ravenna. Romuald sent missionaries to heathen lands, and went himself to the border of Hungary with a number of pupils, but returned when he was admonished by a severe sickness that he was not destined for missionary life. He died in the convent Valle de Castro in 1027.382382 His death occurred June 19, but his principal feast was appointed by Clement VIII. on the seventh of February. “His body,” says Alban Butler, “was found entire and uncorrupt five years after his death, and again in 1466. But his tomb being sacrilegiously opened and his body stolen in 1480, it fell to dust, in which state it was translated to Fabriano, and there deposited in the great church, all but the remains of one arm, sent to Camaldoli. God has honored his relics with many miracles.”
According to Damiani, who wrote his life fifteen years after his death, Romuald lived one hundred and twenty years, twenty in the world, three in a convent, ninety-seven as a hermit.383383 Vita & Romualdi, c. 69, in Damiani’s Opera II. f. 1006, in Migne’s edition (Patrol. Tom. 145, f. 953-1008). He adds; ”Nunc inter vivos coelestis Hierusalem lapides ineffabiliter rutilat, cum ignitis beatorum spirituum turmis exultat, candidissimi stola immortalitatis induitur, et ab ipso rege regum vibrante in perpetuum diademate coronatur.“
The most famous of Romuald’s monastic retreats is Campo Maldoli, or Camaldoli in the Appennines, near Arezzo in Tuscany, which he founded about 1009. It became, through the influence of Damiani, his eulogist and Hildebrand’s friend, the nucleus of a monastic order, which combined the cenobitic and eremitic life, and was distinguished by great severity. Pope Gregory XVI. belonged to this order.
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