Camaldolese Benedictine and noted author

Brilliant intellect

Camaldolese Benedictine Fr Bruno Barnhart, author and spiritual director, has died in Big Sur, California, aged 84.

Fr Bruno Barnhart OSB, author and spiritual director, 1931-2015

- NCR Online

Camaldolese Benedictine Fr Cyprian Consiglio, prior of the New Camaldoli Hermitage where Barnhart was a member, described Barnhart as "a scintillating intellect, but he also had a deep wisdom. He was a marvellous spiritual director."

"His intellectual gifts were his most outstanding feature," he continued. "You never met a mind like that."

That mind earned a Bachelor of Science and a master's degree in chemistry, and authored books on sapiential Christianity.

Fr Barnhart was born April 10, 1931, in Long Island, New York. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, and a master's degree in chemistry at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Barnhart served two years in the Navy, working in lab tech biochemistry at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, where a lab accident caused him to lose sight in one eye.

While recovering from the accident, Barnhart "had a deep conversion experience," Consiglio said.

Fr Bruno Barnhart visited the Trappists of Spencer, Massachussetts, and Genesee, New York, as well as the Carthusians at Sky Farm in Vermont before contacting the New Camaldoli Hermitage in 1959. He took monastic vows in 1960, was ordained in 1966, and served as prior of New Camaldoli from 1969 to 1987.

Consiglio said Fr Barnhart suffered from macular degeneration in his good eye and it became difficult for him to read and write at the end. "It was really painful for him. His whole life was wrapped around the intellect."

Since 1994, he had been editor of The Golden String, the official publication of the Bede Griffiths Trust. He served as a retreat director and prior at Epiphany Monastery in New Hampshire.

He is the author of several books, including The Good Wine: Reading John from the Centre (1993), Second Simplicity: The Inner Shape of Christianity (1999) and The Future of Wisdom: Toward a Rebirth of Sapiential Christianity (2007).

NCR's Tom Fox spoke with Barnhart in a two-part podcast interview in August 2009 about the hunger for wisdom.

"A lot of people when they write about mysticism, they look at the experience as the end, as the goal of the spiritual life," Barnhart told NCR.

"But I think it's more like the beginning. You go from there. Something is put into you which takes the rest of your life to work it out, to express it, to incarnate it, to make it real in this world."

Photo: faktual.info/NCR Online

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