As a teenager, this essay's subject was considered to have been a typically "thoughtless and vicious" member of Italy's 10th C aristocracy. Romuald of Ravenna, at 20 years-of-age, witnessed his own father kill a man in a duel. The traumatised youth fled into the "wilderness" to seek God.
For the rest of his life (950-1027), Romuald lived as a hermit...sometimes in community; sometimes in total solitude.
He is credited with having planted at least 100 prayer houses in different parts of Italy and France. He discipled and trained men who later went on to become apostolic missionaries to Poland and Russia. He was also a confidant of rulers...both sacred and secular.
In the Tuscan village of Camaldoli (then a barren and neglected place) Romuald built a church and accomodation around and about, for those who wanted to join him to live to pray. The members of the movement he left behind are today called the Camaldolese. They have active and viable houses of prayer in such places as Poland, USA (California www.contemplation.com/ and Ohio), Brazil and Tanzania.
Like Benedict of Nursia, Romuald of Ravenna also wrote a "Rule", or guidebook, for those living in a prayer house. Here it is, in its pithy and economical entirety:
"Sit in your cell (place of prayer) as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.
"The path you must follow is in the Psalms - never leave it. If you have come to the monastery (prayer house) and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
"Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.
"Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God. like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him."