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The Spirituality of the Camaldolese Hermits

A form of semi-eremitical life is practiced in the Camaldolese Hermitage. It consists of a wise balance between the solitary (eremitic) life and community (cenobitic) life.

The eremitism is manifest in the fact that each monk lives in a cell (little house with small garden) separate from the others; he habitually takes his meals alone; he does the “lectio divina” and other personal prayers in cell; he perhaps does manual labor alone; and he spends the time remaining after work and common prayer in cell.

The cenobitism is manifest in this: all are subject to a Rule and to a superior; Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are celebrated in common; dinner is taken together in the refectory on the principal feasts; in carrying out one’s own duties, there are inevitably occasions of encounter with the brethren.

The aim of the eremitic life is contemplation, which is that inward attitude of prayer by which one seeks to keep the heart constantly turned toward God. Note well that prayer is as much for others as for oneself, in the sense that the hermit is not a man shut up in egoism, but one who presents to God, together with the offering of his own life, the needs and sufferings of the entire world.

“For Christians, withdrawal into the desert is equivalent to uniting oneself more deeply with the Passion of Christ and sharing in a particular way in the paschal mystery. The Church, in which there is a diversity of charisms, esteems the life given wholly to prayer and attributes to it a mysterious apostolic fecundity.” (Constitutions n.9 and 15).

The most characteristic fruits of the contemplative life are interior peace and a joyful heart. The life of the Hermitage is not possible without the peace and the joy which proceed from the Spirit of the Lord and which take away from the days of the hermit their natural monotony.

The hermit lives separated from the world. Neither radio nor television is admitted to the Hermitage. A few newspapers or magazines keep the Religious informed concerning principal social or ecclesial events.

One never returns to the homes of one’s own relatives, but these may come to the Hermitage to visit their family member.

The cloister keeps the monk “enclosed” within it; he leaves it only for some necessity, and sometimes during the year the community has a recreation day with a walk outside the hermitage.

Separation from the world, in the form described above, and also the silence of the hermitage, not rigid but habitual, aim at facilitating both the purification of the soul from the spirit of the world and interior recollection, so necessary for the contemplative life.

Investiture for the Novitiate

 Investiture for the Novitiate

For Those Called to the Eremitic Life

What qualities ought one have who feels himself called by the Lord to enter the Camaldolese Congregation of Montecorona?

The best age for a candidate is from 25-35; admission will be more difficult for someone over 45. The candidate passes through a period of vocational testing and discernment (noviceship and temporary vows) that lasts about 6 years, before making perpetual profession. Normal physical health and a good psychic equilibrium are required, but no special studies.

The candidate must be ready to accept all those “hard and rough ways through which we go to God” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chap. 58): generous obedience, which can require even transfer to a distant land; availability to serve the brethren even by manual labor, according to the various needs of the house; the frugality of the food; the nocturnal rising for prayer (at about 4 a.m.); the cloister and the silence. In a word, one must be disposed to follow Christ bearing each day one’s own Cross, with a life of evangelical penance: dedicated, difficult at certain times, but certainly not impossible with the Divine assistance.

But the fundamental quality, which is the root from which all the others sprout, is a genuine faith, which makes one who is called say: “Lord. I wish to give myself to Thee for Thy glory to respond to Thy superabundant love, for my salvation and that of the brethren. I want my offering to be total, until death, in spite of all the difficulties that I will encounter along the path. My trust is not in my own poor powers, but in the power of Thy grace.”

One ought to progressively carryover this faith into an ever-greater availability to do the will of God wherever it may be manifested, especially in obedience to the Rule and “to the legitimate Superiors who represent God when they command according to our Constitutions.” (Const. n. 23).

None are required to already be “saints” in order to enter the hermitage, but only to sincerely wish to seek God (Rule of St. Benedict, Chap. 58) and His will, disposed to let themselves be purified and transformed by the merciful love of the Father, to live as His true sons.

Important Documents:

Constitutions of the Congregation of the
Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona
Click here to download.

Rule of Formation of the Congregation of the
Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona
Click here to download.

Customs of the Congregation of the
Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona
and the Ceremonial for the Divine Office
Bloomingdale, Ohio,  2009
Click here to download.

Holy Family Hermitage: Schedule

A.M.: 3:30 rise
4:00 Matins, Angelus, lectio divina
6:00 Lauds, Mass, thanksgiving, Terce
7:15 breakfast
8:30 work
11:30 end of work
11:50 Sext, Angelus, examen
12:00 dinner, rest
P.M.: 2:00 None, Litany
2:15 cell time
4:00 lectio divina
5:00 Rosary
5:30 Vespers, Angelus
6:15 supper
7:00 Reading, Compline, “De profundis”

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Brief Historical Notes

The Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona comprise a religious institute of contemplative life founded by Blessed Paul Giustiniani in the years 1520-1525.

It is an offshoot of the ancient Camaldolese trunk, for it lives by the eremitic spirit that animated St. Romuald (950-1027) when he founded Camaldoli.

The Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli (Arezzo, Italy) revealed itself over the centuries as the masterpiece of the Holy Abbot, the great work in which he realized his monastic ideal.

Romualdian eremitism, in fact, presents itself as an original and distinctive form of monastic life. Since the hermit does not live entirely in solitude – easy prey to the spiritual dangers and illusions which that sort of life affords – but becomes part of a community with a rule approved by the Church and under the paternal authority of a superior.

Blessed Paul had become a monk at Camaldoli in 1510, when he was 34, but in 1520 he left there (although again designated Prior) because he desired a greater solitude and silence than what was practiced at that time in the hermitage.

In fact, as a result of the various historical factors, the eremitical tranquillity of those monks was no longer the same as in the beginning.

Giustiniani, leaving Camaldoli, started a new congregation that developed rapidly and that some time later took the name “Monte Corona,” borrowing it from the locality of the same name in which the generalate of the order was founded around 1530.

Montecoronese hermitages became very numerous in Italy and Eastern Europe until the greater part of them were arbitrarily suppressed by the civil authorities, who considered monasticism a phenomenon useless to society.

Today, the Congregation counts nine hermitages: three in Italy, two in Poland, and one in Spain, the United States, Colombia, and Venezuela respectively.