Monday, October 6, 2008

What Is Lasting

So, our wedding will take place in five days, and today is also the feast of Saint Bruno, whose name only sounds the same as my future in-laws' surname. There is no family connection to the saint, but Bruno families around the world probably consider him to be a patron. He is a good man for the job.

Saint Bruno was born in 1030 in Cologne, and he had a fast rise from promising student to professor to presumptive new bishop of Reims. Bruno lived in tumultuous times. His own diocese was rattled by an abusive prelate and the battle to remove him. In Rome, Emperor Henry IV was resisting the church-wide reform efforts of Pope Gregory VII, going so far as to establish an antipapacy in Ravenna.

In the midst of all this turmoil, Bruno's esteem rose among many parties. The clergy of Reims sought his leadership, and Gregory sought his counsel. Bruno, though, longed for a simple life, attached only to prayer and work, eschewing power and influence. During his years in Gregory's closest confidence, Bruno took care to keep himself always in the background. His mission was to free the church from corruption and politics, not to defeat Henry.

Anyhow, the thing I most want to tell you about him is that Bruno, during his journeys toward and away from centers of power and conflict established two monasteries. The first was at a remote spot in the Alps known as Chartreuse, from which the Carthusian Order grew and gets its name. You may also know the liquor called Chartreuse, which the monks distilled and sold to support the maintenance of their houses, and which today is still sold in support of various charities.

The Carthusians live lives of great simplicity and quiet. They rarely speak except to pray. Each act - including prayer - is undertaken at the slowest practical pace. Their charism is captured by their motto: "Stat crux, dum volvitur orbis," which means, "The cross stands while the world is changing."

An acclaimed film was made about the monastery of Grande Chartreuse. The images literally defy words, which is surely the point:

Can you imagine what Saint Bruno would have thought about our modern wedding rituals? What today's Carthusians think of us - if they even know what we're up to? These ceremonies - ostensibly dedicated to the making permanent of something that is imperiled by human whims - have become binges of frippery. Michael and I are as guilty of it as anyone else - each argument we have had about paper, flowers and wine is venal. What will last after Saturday? Where shall we turn our focus?

We have five days left until our wedding. This week, we are going to approach life with our eyes turned toward what is permanent. Whatever is picayune and vain and worrisome is forbidden. Any thought that provokes me to anger is banished.

Each time the Bruno name is said or seen on Saturday, I will consider it a tiny prayer for the aid of Saint Bruno in keeping calm and quiet, and caring most about what is lasting.


Sweet T said...

five days?! Wow, time's flown by! Remember, I call dibs on blogging your wedding- either on WB or off it ;) In case I don't get to say it sooner-- CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Anonymous said...

indeed :)