Words on the Word

St Bruno

The first companions of St Bruno tell us that this apparently austere, intellectual monk was in fact semper festo uultu: his face was always joyful, like that of a man on his way to a feast. With wonderful regularity we find that joy is an attribute of monastic saints. Let us not confuse joy with mere cheerfulness. To be naturally cheerful is a gift, to be sure, but a natural gift. Joy is supernatural. It is a flowering of grace. That is why Christian joy is not incompatible with hardship, even grief. The Christian’s joy flows from his certainty of Christ’s victorious love. He rejoices even when he has heavy things to bear, knowing that his load is a sharing in the saving Cross of Christ. Christ bears it with him. Nothing more effectively witnesses to faith than this kind of joy. Nothing better encourages others. Even as a brooding, gloomy countenance spreads misery abroad, a countenance bright with joy is a beacon to all. It proclaims more powerfully than any eloquence that God is holy, immortal, and strong, that his love is all-conquering. Very recently, our Abbot General reminded us that joy in Christ’s redemption should be the default setting of the monk. So let us ask ourselves: Am I true to this calling? Is my focus in life on myself or on Jesus? Do people who meet me see that I am disciple of Christ, eternally grateful for his mercy? Do I give joy to others? If we find our store of joy less than full, let us pray, through St Bruno’s intercession, for a change of heart, for a renewed, compelling sense of God’s goodness. It is a prayer the Lord cannot refuse.

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