Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.”
Today’s saint, St. Romuald, fully embraced the philosophy of turning the other cheek. He grew up in a noble Italian family and lived an unexamined life during his youth, indulging in various pleasures and sins. But when Romuald was twenty years old, he watched his father kill a relative in a duel over property. Romuald was traumatized and shaken to the core. He had acted as his father’s second in the duel and felt a deep sense of guilt for his involvement, which led him to spend forty days of penance at church and eventually become a monk. He sought to live under as strict a rule as possible, and he lived the rest of his life devoted entirely to God, founding and reforming several monasteries and developing his own monastic rule.
When the Doge of Venice began to feel remorse for acquiescing to the murder of his predecessor, he turned to Romuald for advice. After conversing with Romuald, the Doge, too, joined the monastery, leaving behind all the power and prestige he had gained for himself in Venice. He was drawn to Romuald’s way of life—a life of humility, discipline, penance, and prayer. He came to understand that there was nothing in this life worth causing harm to another soul, and he surrendered his own wealth to gain peace in relationship with God.
Watching his father be ruled by anger to the point of bloodshed—taking out his own kinsman Alexander Hamilton–style—changed Romuald’s view of the world. It awakened his sensitivity to violence and his awareness of the dignity of the human person. From that moment on, he lived in a way that made others keenly aware of their own humanity and that of others. He helped others recognize their obligation to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Just as Romuald made a choice not to perpetuate the cycle of sin and violence, may we follow his example and respond with empathy whenever we encounter hostility. May we learn not to feed our anger but rather to see each person as God does and turn the other cheek.
1. Fra Angelico, Saint Romuald, fresco / PD-US
2. Fra Angelico, Saint Romuald, tempera on panel / PD-US