A Riff on St. Romuald’s Brief Rule

This is the first of several posts on St. Romuald’s Brief Rule. I found a copy of the Rule hanging above the desk in my hermitage at New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA and it captured my attention for the entirety of my silent retreat. I spent time on my first morning in stillness simply copying the Rule and then later translating it for my own use and holding it in my heart. This series of posts offers reflections upon the Rule, my translation, and the things that bubbled up during my time on the California coast.

The first line of the Rule is: Sit in your cell as in paradise. I chuckled when I first read this, sitting high up the hills above the California coastline, 50 miles south of Carmel. The setting is so beautiful; and so remote! Hwy 1 is famous for its breathtaking views of the ocean and hills and the hermitage sits about halfway between civilization, buffered by about 50 miles of ‘nothing’ both north and south.

The day I began my silent retreat, the weather was gorgeous! The sun was out and sparkling on the water. Birds were gliding on thermals far below me. A covey of quail where strutting around just beyond the porch. I sat in a rocking chair, looking out toward the horizon, and laughed: sit in your cell as in paradise – no kidding! If I was cloistered away on a hill overlooking the Pacific… paradise indeed!

But I don’t spend my days (normally) sitting on the front porch of a hermitage perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a gloriously sunny day. Most days I spend far from the ocean, my ‘cell’ is a red La-z-boy chair in the corner of the basement in my house in the Midwest, and I don’t consider what I do most days as living in ‘paradise’. I needed to translate the Rule in order to appropriate the monastic wisdom and turn it into an invitation for my life. My version of St. Romuald’s Rule reads: Sit in stillness in the Loving Presence.

So now I sit still, each day, for 20 to 30 minutes, and luxuriate in God’s love. I just sit, very still, and allow myself to be loved.