Who We Are

One day Philip the Apostle brought Bartholomew or Nathanael, as he was sometimes called, to Our Blessed Lord. As soon as He gazed upon him, and read his soul, He described the future apostle and martyr as follows:

Here comes one who belongs to the true Israel;

There is no falsehood in him. [Jn 1: 47]

Mysterious words these – they harken back to the Old Testament times to Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. If there ever was a schemer, a plotter, one who used his brains to swindle other people out of birthrights and sheep and blessings, it was Jacob or Israel. After Jacob had wrestled with the Lord, and his name changed to Israel, he became a more worthy representative of the Most High.

A sudden transition from the singular to the plural happens when Our Lord says: “You will see heaven opening”; Jacob had seen the heavens opened and angels ascending and descending on the ladder, bringing the things of man to God and the things of God to men. Jesus was now telling Nathanael that he would see even greater things. The implication was that He Himself would henceforth be the Mediator between heaven and earth, God and man; in Him, all the traffic between time and eternity would meet as at a crossroad.

Life of Christ

Now this vision of the ladder on which angels ascended and descended, which was the symbol of the Incarnation uniting God and man, later on becomes a symbol of a summons to a higher form of the Christian life, when Count Maldolus saw the white-robed monks of Saint Romuald, ascending and descending between heaven and earth, bringing God to man and man to God.

Centuries later, the ladder moved to the Camaldolese hermits, as they, through silence, penance and dedication opened the new highway to the mercies of God.

Now the Jacob’s ladder has moved to the United States – one hermitage of Camaldolese in California; the other in Ohio. To the most active of nations has come the most contemplative of monks; to the land where togetherness is prized, the hermits have moved into a desert. In an atmosphere which is pragmatic and measures all things by utility, here are the new ‘angels’ who believe that nothing becomes practical until we are saints.

Their silence will make atonement for vain verbiage where so many talk, but few listen; their lives as hermits will repair for those human alliances where men communize to be anti-God. And for those who always want to be “alone,” these saintly men will prove that the only aloneness is being without God.

Naturally, they are looking for vocations – for men who want to be hermits; men who never again want to have a holiday, but to make every day a holy day; youths who want to return to their childhood when they liked to be playing alone, but in the way that God played with creation, “Ludens in orbe terrarum” [“Playing in the expanse of the earth” (Prv 8:31)]; youths who do not want so much to use time as a preparation for eternity, as to put the Eternal into time; former soldiers who once used to make more noise in order to forget noise, and who now want only that sweet repartee with Divinity in the peace that is called Silence.

The United States has been a land of skyscrapers now the Camaldolese have built a ladder that does not scrape the sky but enters heaven.

Most Reverend Fulton J. Sheen (1960)

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Who are the Camaldolese?

They are the elder of the two ancient, semi eremitical orders of the Western Church, the junior being the Carthusians. Saint Romuald founded the Hermitage of Camaldoli at a place by that name near the center of a wooded mountain chain of Arezzo, Italy, in 1023 or a little later. Saint Bruno (of Cologne) instituted the Carthusians in the French Alps in 1084, two kilometers above where the Grande Chartreuse is now located. There are today two Camaldolese congregations. The Camaldolese Benedictines, who retain Camaldoli, have both monasteries and hermitages, whereas the Camaldolese Hermits of MonteCorona, founded as a reform by Blessed Paul Giustiniani in 1520, have hermitages only. The latter, who are the sponsors of this website, have three houses in Italy, two in Poland, and one each in Spain, the United States, and Colombia, as well as a new foundation in Venezuela. Paul (born Thomas) Giustiniani, never formally beatified, is Blessed only by acclaim.

From the very beginning of the Church, the contemplative life of Mary was present beside the active life of Martha (Lk 10:38 41 and Jn 11:20). There were always some who responded to the Master’s summons to greater perfection through a life of poverty (Mk 10:21), celibacy (Mt 19:11 12), and obedience (Lk 10:16; Heb 13:17). Of these, some imitated more intensely Jesus – going about doing good (Acts 10:38) and others more His persistent withdrawal into the wilderness to pray (Lk 5:16). These were known as virgins and ascetics in the early centuries, and Saint Paul alludes to them in 1 Cor 7. The newly converted Saint Anthony of Egypt, mid-third century, for example, entrusted his little sister to a community of virgins and then lived as an ascetic not far from his house. With the proverbial ebb and flow of “10 persecutions in 250 years,” it took more courage for the disciple of Christ to remain within society than to withdraw.

But at length, toward the beginning of the fourth century and especially after Constantine’s victory in 312, the Church reached a new level of maturity. The Church expanded as persecution and martyrdom abated and it consequently became easier to be a Christian. The growing mustard seed began to put forth great branches, and the seed that had died began to bear much fruit (Mk 4:31-32; Jn 12:24). It was at this point that the Fathers of the Desert withdrew to the wastes of Egypt and started monasticism. As Archbishop Fenelon observed, those ancient Christians were simple, austere, and more fearful of the newfound peace that might soften them than they had been of the cruelty of the pagan tyrants. The hermit life came first, pioneered by Saint Anthony, who became famous throughout the world through a biography by Saint Athanasius which is available even today in several English translations. Later, cenobitical (“common life”) monasticism was organized by Saint Pachomius. Cenobitism was to become more and more preponderant as the centuries passed, and yet eremitism never disappeared.

Monasticism started in the East and “has always been the very soul of the Eastern Churches” (Pope John Paul II, Orientale lumen 9). But it also was adopted in the West in both cenobitical and eremitical forms. And in the West, when the times had reached a certain fullness, the Holy Ghost raised up Saint Romuald (950 or 952-1027) and Blessed Paul (1476-1528).

Dom Jean Leclercq (1911-1993) mentions that Blessed Paul’s first biographer called him a second Romuald. Some points of similarity and contrast between the two men are well worth considering. Both were of noble birth. Romuald was scion to one of the most illustrious ducal lines of Ravenna. Giustiniani translates into English as Justinian. That renowned family had included the first patriarch of Venice, Saint Lawrence Justinian, so admired and imitated by the forty-third patriarch, Blessed John XXIII.

Both of our subjects fell victim to sins of the flesh in youth. Yet there was abundant evidence of good impulses (actual graces) at work in their souls even then. Their conversions came about quite differently. Saint Romuald was suddenly moved to do penance after witnessing a duel in which his father killed a relative. Blessed Paul was drawn gradually to repentance, especially through study.

After their conversions, they both were taken up with the idea of not only living the eremitic life but also propagating it. Saint Romuald traveled on unwearyingly, making new foundations. Blessed Paul often contemplated in his own Rule the possibility of its being observed outside of Camaldoli, which at that time was the only hermitage in the Camaldolese order. The permission he received from Leo X in a brief of February 1515, to leave Camaldoli for the sake of establishing other hermitages, was a dream come true. Saint Romuald and Blessed Paul shared a persistent craving, never to be fulfilled, for martyrdom. The first wanted to go to Eastern Europe to die for Christ; the second felt drawn to travel to the New World in order to establish there the solitary life. These aspirations would be achieved only by their followers.

Giustiniani was a brilliant Christian humanist who left behind voluminous writings, whereas his spiritual forebear, barely able to read when young, wrote little, of which nothing survives. Nevertheless Saint Romuald’s “Brief Rule,” handed down by Saint Bruno of Querfurt, is a masterpiece.

Ecclesia semper reformanda: The Church always stands in need of reform. These two men were given to the Church as reformers during those two eras when, with the quite possible exception of the present, reform was most needed. The first lived in an iron age of all too many worldly popes, and the second alluded to “this miserable time of ours” in the preface to his Rule. Blessed Paul saw the pontificate of Alexander VI who, despite the fact that divine providence worked for good through him, was one of those concerning whom it is commanded: “What they say, do ye, but what they do, do ye not” (Mt 23:3). To say that Alexander and his ill-fated son Cesare Borgia roused the admiration of Machiavelli is enough. A basic problem at that time was that ecclesiastical office had become too bound up with earthly princedom.

Although the reform works of both saint and blessed were confined largely to the eremitical monastic sphere, they sometimes passed beyond it. One thinks of how Saint Romuald combated simony and of the memorial that Blessed Paul and Peter Quirini sent to Pope Leo X in 1513. This Libellus has been hailed by scholars such as Father Hubert Jedin. They see it as not only the boldest and most complete program for the reform of the Church before the Council of Trent, but also as a presage of the Second Vatican Council: It proposed the revision of canon law, missionaries for the developing world, a vernacular Bible and liturgy for the laity, and dialogue for reunion with separated Christians. It is one of the pleasanter ironies of ecclesiastical history that, in the wake of the hardening of the Byzantine schism by the sacrilegious Venetian pillage of Constantinople in 1205 (contrary to the command of Pope Innocent III and to his grief and horror), two patricians of the City Wedded to the Sea should show such zeal for reconciling East and West. But Leo paid the Libellus no heed. If he had, maybe the Lutheran crisis of 1517 would have been averted. Among Giustiniani’s writings are also found proposals for a revised sanctoral calendar and for simplification of the Breviary for the benefit of the diocesan clergy and the laity. He loved simplicity and shunned any hint of Renaissance pomp.

Both Saint Romuald and Blessed Paul suffered persecution and were at times subject to violence, captivity, and danger of death. Yet both, like their Exemplar, were “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Father Aldo Visentin has sketched the scene in which Blessed Paul confronted the rapacious Abbot Basil with much forbearance. Likewise, his letter of January 1518 reprimanding the prior of Florence is so courteous that it scarcely seems to be a reproof, reminding us of Jesus’ calling to account the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:16-18). As for Saint Romuald, we need only remember the kindly wit he used when, as Saint Peter Damian narrates, they brought to him a burglar just caught in the act. Deriding the cruel punishments of the day and sympathizing with the want that may have occasioned the crime, he said,

“I too, brethren, do not know what we should do with so wicked a fellow. Gouge his eyes? But then he would not be able to see. Lop off a hand? But then he would not be able to work and might even end up dying of hunger. If we cut off a foot, he will not be able to walk. At any rate, while we are trying to make up our minds what to do with him, take him inside and give him something to eat.” And so it was that the saint, exulting in the Lord, reproved and admonished the man with mildness and, after he had eaten, sent him on his way in peace.

It was Saint Francis de Sales who perhaps said it best: “A saint who is sad is a sad sort of saint.”

How do our subjects compare as founders? Saint Bruno of Querfurt calls Saint Romuald “the father of the rational hermits”. This signifies that he wanted hermits to live a judiciously regulated way of life, utilizing norms he found in Saint John Cassian and other Fathers of the Desert, whose works were recommended by the Rule of Saint Benedict itself. This is, in fact, identical with Blessed Paul’s own program, so the two were fundamentally in agreement. And yet Saint Romuald did much else that Blessed Paul never did, sending out missionaries in hope of martyrdom and, especially, establishing cenobitical monasteries for men and women. “Renewing the eremitic life” is the only achievement of Saint Romuald mentioned in the collect of the Mass of his feast day (Roman Missal, June 19). But, was the cenobitic life somehow bound up with this, so as to make Giustiniani’s failure to include monasteries in his reform a betrayal of the authentic Romualdian ideal? Some would answer this question affirmatively. Yet we believe that a negative answer is not unreasonable.

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  1. Sacro Eremo Tuscolano
    Via del Tuscolo 45

    Founded in 1607 at Frascati on the Alban Hills, near ancient Tusculum. It is the ordinary residence of the father major (superior general) and the novitiate house for Italy.

    Via Monte Rua 8
    35038 TORREGLIA (PD)

    Founded in 1537 on the summit of one of the Euganean Hills; suppressed in 1810; reopened in 1863. The community now includes a perpetual recluse. In the past, it was the center of various Coronese Hermitages extant in the Republic of Venice.

    Erem OO. Kamedułów (Bielany)
    A1. Konarowa 1
    30-248 KRAKÓW 40

    “Silver Mountain” has been in existence since 1609 without interruption. It is situated on the outskirts of Cracow (Kraków), on a hill above the Vistula, and is the first and principal Coronese foundation in Poland. Visited by Pope John Paul II August 19, 2002.

    Erem OO. Kamedułów (Bieniszew)
    Bieniszew – Klasztor, 1
    62-530 Bieniszew

    The Hermitage of the Five Martyrs was founded in 1663, suppressed in 1819, and reopened in 1937 and 1945 respectively. It was perhaps built on the site where the first Polish saints were killed in 1003. The five were hermits, two of them direct disciples of Saint Romuald. In 1941 the hermitage was suppressed by the Nazis; three hermits died in concentration camps. It is presently the novitiate house for Poland.

    Apdo. 406

    Founded in 1925 on the site of an ancient Cistercian abbey of which there are some remains. It is situated in a solitary valley, not far from the Ebro. It is a novitiate house.

    6. Holy Family Hermitage
    1501 Fairplay Rd
    BLOOMINGDALE, Ohio 43910 – 7971

    Founded September 8, 1959, at McConnelsville, it was transferred in 1966 to its present location at a high point in the same Diocese of Steubenville. The nine solitary cells stand, in original fashion, in a semicircle about the church, the true center of the hermitage. The church’s octagonal shape recalls the eighth day of Christ’s resurrection and of eternity. It is a novitiate house.

    7. Yermo Camaldulense de la Santa Cruz
    SANTA ROSA DE OSOS (Antioquia)

    Founded in 1969 in the vicinity of Medellin, it has occupied its current, more solitary site since 1993. The desire of Blessed Paul to propagate the Romualdian eremitical life in the “Indies” was realized with this foundation. It is a novitiate house.

    8. Yermo Camaldulense Santa Maria de Los Angeles
    Plan de Rubio
    PREGONERO (Táchira)

    Initiated in 1998, with the intention of expressing gratitude to God and participating in the new evangelization on the occasion of the millennial Jubilee. As construction progresses, the local people are extending a cordial welcome that bodes well for the future.

    9. EREMO DI SAN GIROLAMO (Monte Cucco)
    06027 Scheggia e Pascelupo (PG)

    Founded in 1521 by Blessed Paul; closed in 1926; reconstructed, beginning in 1985, and reopened in 1991. It is situated in a charming and quite secluded spot in the Apennines, where a local tradition says Saint Jerome once lived as a hermit. It does not have the separate, solitary cells typical of the other Coronese Hermitages.

Members of the Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona

Candidates for Sainthood (Servants of God)

Father Cherubim Kozik, Er. Cam.


Born Valentine Kozik on February 1, 1906 at Luborzycy, near Cracow, he had very pious parents (mother Katherine Kaczmarek and father Vincent).  He finished public school at his hometown and went to Cracow to continue his education at the junior and senior high schools. He was a very systematic student and a very spiritual boy, engaged in church activities from the beginning as an altar boy.

He joined the Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona on November 1, 1928 at the Hermitage of Silver Mountain near Cracow, pronouncing his solemn vows the 26th of December, 1933.  He was ordained a priest on August 30, 1936, at the Hermitage of Frascati near Rome, were he had continued his theological studies.

After his return from Italy, he was assigned to the newly established second Polish Hermitage of the Five Holy Martyrs at Bieniszew, near Konin.  There he became sacristan and a confessor.

The Second World War broke out in Poland on September 1, 1939, followed by the German and Russian occupation.  The Benieszew Hermitage was under German jurisdiction. The Gestapo arrested all the Fathers of the Hermitage on August 26, 1940, and imprisoned them in Haftanstalt, called Wloclawek in today’s Poland.

Father Cherubim was transported to the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen, to be transferred shortly after to Dachau on December 14, 1940.  He received the number 22737, customarily tattooed on his forearm.

He never complained of the camp’s shocking reality in the few letters that he was able to send to his parents from his captivity.  He was more worried about the fate of the bells of his hometown parish, and about the parish as such. He prayed for their survival.

His confrere from the Camaldolese community and fellow prisoner in Dachau, Father Florian Niedzwiadek, remembered him as a young, vibrant man.  He got an infected finger, and therefore he checked in at the “first aid” station in the camp for two consecutive weeks.  Unfortunately, this put him on the camp’s disabled list.  The members on that list were always transported to “another place.” It was an open secret in the camp that this “other place” is where, eventually, we all have to go.

The night before leaving the camp, he had prayed with another priest from his prison barracks, Father Ladislaw Gawlik, who testifies that they “were getting ready to meet Christ in person, through the hardest death there can be: through martyrdom.”

On August 10, 1942, leaving the compound, Fr. Cherubim had said to Father Ladislaw Gawlik: “We will see each other again — in heaven.”

He was put into the makeshift gas chamber at the Scholss Hartheim factory near Linz, Germany that same day.  His parents got an official death announcement, on which the day is stated as September 25, 1942.

Even though Father Cherubim was crushed by oppression and violent evil, he overcame it through his mystical relationship with the living Christ, to whom he dedicated his entire life as a man, as a priest, as a hermit, and finally as a martyr.

Prayer for Beatification of Fr. Cherubim Kozik, Er. Cam.

Our Almighty and Merciful Father, who saved us through Your Son Jesus Christ, we thank you for the example of courage and love until a martyr’s death you have shown us in your humble servant from the Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona, Father Cherubim Kozik.

We trust that he, being so close a follower of our Saviour Jesus Christ that he was martyred for his Faith, witnessing to your Truth, is among the Blessed, and that we will receive your divine help through his prayers.  We humbly ask you for this, trusting in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father Aloysius Poprawa, Er. Cam.


Born Matthias Poprawa on March 3, 1893 in Kaszowie near Cracow of very pious parents (mother Rose Skucinska, and father Joseph).  He finished Public School at his hometown and went to Cracow to continue his education at the junior high school of St. John Kanty and senior high school of St. Hyacinth, graduating in 1912.

During his senior high school years, he was helped and guided by Father Theophilus Jarynkiewicz, canon of the cathedral of Cracow, who recommended him for his religious and moral qualities.

Matthias Poprawa decided to join the Camaldolese of Montecorona on August 12, 1912 at the Hermitage of Silver Mountain near Cracow.   He made his perpetual profession on May 12, 1918, and on June 9 of the same year, was ordained to the priesthood

One year later, he went to Rome to continue his theological studies at the Benedictines Sant Anselmo, where he stayed for 3 years from 1919 till 1921.  After he had successfully finished his studies, he was sent to the Hermitage of Monte Rua, Torreglia, near Padua, Italy.

For the next seven years, he studied Camaldolese spirituality and history there.  He published a biography of St. Romuald in Italian and in Polish.

Finally, in 1930, he was transferred back to Poland, where he became the novice master of the Hermitage of Silver Mountain. Soon after, he was appointed prior of that community until 1933. He was a very zealous and dedicated novice master and prior, concerned with the spiritual growth of the novices and of the entire community of hermits in his charge, according to documents from the canonical visitation of those days.

The general chapter of 1933 called him to the new duty of serving as visitator general.  He held this position for the next four years, until his appointment as the first prior of the newly opened second Polish Hermitage, Five Holy Martyrs, at Bieniszew, near Konin.

The Second World War broke out in Poland on September 1, 1939, followed by the German and Russian occupation.  The Benieszew Hermitage was under German jurisdiction.

A few months before the arrest of all the Fathers of the community by the Gestapo on August 26, 1940, Father Aloysius had given a very prophetic sermon on the Feast of Christ the King, which has become his spiritual testament:

“We cannot fail, like the apostles did before the Resurrection, because we know already that He has risen and He lives.  The Apostles, when they had learnt that truth, started the whole chain of martyrs for the faith, and that chain is unbroken to this day.  Fear not little flock of Christ’s followers, because He can give you eternal life.  Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but rather of those who can kill the spirit.  Trust in Christ the King, the only Lord we should have, the only King of life and death, the only God and our King. We can not only find protection in Him, but we can even snuggle into His very being, since He revealed to us the secrets of His Sacred Heart.  We are his closest friends.  He called us, and we said ‘Yes’ to that calling; we received the sacred bond of His friendship, and no one can frighten us.  These days, on the eve of a great human tragedy, many are losing faith because of overwhelming fear. They fail, like the apostles before the Resurrection.  We cannot do that, because we know the Truth as His closest friends, His beloved servants.  We are with Him till death, we love Him till death, and so we are unconditionally thankful for His love for us.”

After his initial imprisonment in Haftanstalt, named Wloclawek in today’s Poland, he was transported to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen, to be transferred shortly after to Dachau on December 14, 1940.  He received the number 22577, which was customarily tattooed on his forearm.

According to all the priests and religious who knew him and survived Dachau, Father Aloysius was always very calm, never tense or worried.  He secretly ministered there the sacrament of penance, and he often tried to bring hope to those who were losing it completely, overpowered by the terrible reality of the camp. He kept offering prayers for those in need.

Father Trybaszewski remembers: “We, all religious, admired him, his integrity and his tranquility. He had a formation like only Camaldolese get, but at the same time, he was humble and interiorly quiet, a true saint.”

Father Aloysius had worked very hard his first three months in Dachau. He had been pulling manually a large seeding machine.  He had given that work all that he had, and on top of that, his entire body was swollen from starvation.   He could barely walk on his own.

The German camp administration moved him to the transportation squad, where Rogler, terrible and notorious for his evil deeds, was in charge as “capo.”   Rogler beat and kicked Father Aloysius so badly that he could not move on his own, and his friends from his squad had to drag him back to the barracks. He tried to go to the camp hospital, but he was refused.  Next day he did not go to work, because he could not walk anymore.  Therefore, the barracks chief Zier beat and kicked him until Father Aloysius lost consciousness. He was left there unconscious, and Zier said, “Himmelfahrt”: “Assumption.”

After the evening camp gathering, Father’s friends carried him to the hospital, where he died from his internal injuries and from the deadly injection given him by the camp “nurse.”

It was the eve of the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 14, 1942.

Prayer for Beatification of Fr. Aloysius Poprawa, Er. Cam.

Our Almighty and Merciful Father, who saved us through Your Son Jesus Christ, we thank you for the example of courage and love until a martyr’s death you have shown us in your humble servant from the Camaldolese Hermits of Montecorona, Father Aloysius Poprawa.

We trust that he, being so close a follower of our Saviour Jesus Christ that he was martyred for his Faith, witnessing to your Truth, is among the Blessed, and that we will receive your divine help through his prayers.  We humbly ask you for this, trusting in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Whoever receives help and grace through the heavenly intercession of either Fr. Cherubim Kozik, Er. Cam. or  Fr. Cherubim Kozik, Er. Cam. should please send an account to the postulator:

Postulacja Sługi Bożego Cherubina Kozika.
Erem Ojc’w Kameduł’w

  1. Konarowa 1

30-248 Bielany

tel. 012 429 76 10; tel./fax 012 429 81 80