HOW ONE BECOMES A HERMIT, RECLUSE OR ANCHORITE?

“Now is the time to answer your summons and live your vocation! It is now that you must donate yourself to God and to God alone! You have to become patient as God has no concept of time; You must listen carefully to the guidance of the Holy Spirit;You must love! You must forgive, you must fast and you must praise and thank God for your opportunity to love and pray without ceasing!  No one said it would be easy, the best things in life never are.”


Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; 
for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave.  Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned. Song of Solomon 8:6-7

  1. Your profession is what you prepared for, but your vocation and what you were born for.
  2. Your profession is your career, but your vocation and mission are tasks for your whole life.
  3. Your profession is your skill, but your vocation is a gift.
  4. Your profession does not only depend on you, yet your vocation does not depend on men.
  5. Your profession can be linked to a business, your vocation is not tied to business, homes or offices.
  6. You can be dismissed and lose your appointment, yet you can never be dismissed from your vocation.
  7. You can withdraw from your employment and retire, yet you can never withdraw and retire from your vocation.
  8. A profession is temporary. Your vocation is permanent.
  9. Open your heart to Christ and follow his call. Live your vocation!
  10. Donated yourself to the sacred and united hearts of Jesus and Mary Most Holy.

eremo nel deserto

When St. Basil wanted to confirm the monastic ideal in his friend Gregory, he refers to the fact that “He who loves God abandons everything and retires into solitude with God.” (basilio, Ep. 2, 4; teodoreto, Φιλοΰεος ιστορια (PG 82), cfr. u. ranke-heinemann, op. cit. 18-25)

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide for the way is wide and easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14) is a difficult recommendation within the Scriptures, it becomes our project for life!

Jesus says that narrow gate leads to a “hard” road, one that will take us through hardships and difficult decisions. Following Jesus requires the crucifixion of our flesh (Galatians 2:20; 5:24; Romans 6:2), living by faith (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 10:38), enduring trials with Christlike patience (James 1:2–3, 12; 1 Peter 1:6), and living a lifestyle separate from the world (James 1:27; Romans 12:1–2). When faced with the choice between a narrow, bumpy road and a wide, paved highway, most of us choose the easier road. Human nature gravitates toward comfort and pleasure. When faced with the reality of denying themselves to follow Jesus, most people turn away (John 6:66). Jesus never sweetened the truth, and the truth is that not many people are willing to pay the price to follow Him.

“First and foremost, the monk should own nothing in this world, but he should have as his possessions solitude of the body, modesty of bearing, a modulated tone of voice, and a well-ordered manner of speech. He should be without anxiety as to his food and drink, and should eat in silence.” St. Basil.

We therefore have to persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, “who bore our sins in His own body on the tree,” “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,” yet He endured all things for us, that we might live in Him. That being the case, we must be emulators of His patience; and if we suffer for His name’s sake, let us glorify Him. For He has set us this example Himself, and we believe that such is the case.

WHY GO INTO THE DESERT?

Charles de FoucouldWe must go through the desert and dwell there, to receive the grace of God; it is there that one empties oneself, that one drives away from us all that is not God and that this little house of our soul is completely emptied so as to leave all the space to God alone … The Israelites passed through the desert; Moses lived there before receiving his mission; St. Paul, who came out of Damascus, went to spend three years in Arabia; Saint Jerome and Saint John Chrysostom were prepared in the desert … It is indispensable. And a time of grace. It is a period through which every soul that wants to bear fruit must necessarily pass. You need this silence, this recollection, this oblivion of all creation in the midst of which God puts in it his kingdom and forms in it the inner spirit … The intimate life with God … The conversation of the soul with God in faith, in hope and in charity … Later, the soul will produce fruits exactly to the extent that the inner man will be formed in it. [Thoughts taken from an anthology of the writings of Bl. Fr. Charles Eugène de Foucauld o.c.s.o.]

Sometimes a man of the century offended by and weary of society, which is ordinarily unfaithful, will long for loneliness, and imagines the hermitage as a panacea for his embittered heart, pretending that the desert is a land for the pursuit of leisure for his mind which has been downtrodden by societal expectations. Yet such convictions do not compare with the authentic conditions of solitude, in which the divine anchorites enclosed themselves, nor did these convictions lead them into the desert. [Rho, F.G., 1821. Su costumi degli anacoreti egiziani e siriaci: operetta, Brescia: Foresti e Cristiani.]

There are different situations and experiences that can lead one to embrace an eremitic or anchoritic life. There are priests, monks, nuns and even lay people, who, not finding the right community of spirit, prayer and penance, or not wanting to compromise their faith, and with a desire to serve God in solitude, have gone to the desert and did Father Charles de Foucould and Bro. Carlo Carretto, who wanted to answer the call to fight their imperfections and do penance, it took God three times to call Bro. Carlo who nearly got married. There are others who retired from the world in old age. People who at a young age had not thought about consecrating themselves to God but in old age, remembered His call and the desire within their soul, that the world and its distractions, with all its sin, buried under so much ash and dust. It is never too late to embrace the anchoritic and eremitic life, it is never too late to become a bride of Jesus Christ. It is never too late to better yourself not only physically but spiritually.  God never withdraws His call! Even when man betrays God, God will always remain faithful!

Hasten, dear soul, you still have time, it is not too late to give God’s call a generous YES, and to give yourself completely over to Jesus!

THE CALL

Is Christ calling you?

Is it the desire to stay away from people or is it the simplicity of lifestyle that attracts you? Do you think it may be a passing phase or is it something you’ve been reflecting on for years? Is it a symptom of some problem? Or is it the only possible solution?

It is important to discern and to find out why you would like to withdraw and live as a hermit or an anchorite, which is called living in the desert. In this vocation, it is not aEremita nel deserto matter of going to the desert of a hermitage to escape from problems and painful situations or to live alone without being disturbed and without rules, because without faith in Christ and without prayer you will not succeed.

It is also essential that you have a spiritual guide with whom to observe and advise you on the aspiration that you feel in your heart.  Even if your vocation is a personal thing, you are well advised to consult a good spiritual guide who knows the value of a life of prayer, penance, solitude, silence and adoration. God calls his beloved souls into the desert, and if he does and wants you to be a hermit, he places the longing in your heart to withdraw from the crowd, from the world and all of its noises. Do not withdraw so as to escape, nor because you are afraid of the world, not to abandon the world (its souls) but to help the world (the souls) through prayer, recollection, penance, fasting, giving oneself to God as a sacrifice, as spouses of Christ, and a soul of prayer. This is a method of being of service to the world, of serving our Lord and the Church. The life of a person who embraces this form of life becomes in itself a praise to God. It becomes a psalm that is sung before his throne!

But it does not mean that you remain immobile and kneeling all day just to pray. Day and  night become prayer, especially by performing penance, mortification and completing your daily work. Ora et labora means to pray and work. You will have hear many religious orders using the motto Ora et labora (“Pray and work”), daily life in a Benedictine monastery consists of three elements: liturgical prayer, manual labor and Lectio Divina, a quiet prayerful reading of the Bible.  St. Benedict said: “Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore the brethren should have specified periods of manual labor as well as for prayerful reading [lectio divina].”

The Anchorite and Hermit has times where they devote themselves to work, not only for spiritual reading (formation) but also to manual work such as in the vegetable garden, cleaning the hermitage, the cell, sewing etc. Then there is intellectual work: no physical effort is made in intellectual work, it focuses on our use of reasoning. Correspondence and administration is completed; or you accompany souls on their journey, or translate books and spiritual writings so as to guide others in their discernment or spiritual journeys.

THE SENSE OF LIVING IN THE DESERT IS IN MORTIFYING ONESELF, IN DOING PENANCE ...

“The sense of living in the desert lies in mortifying oneself, in doing penance, in humility, in the whole detachment from material goods, from honours, resisting pleasures, in forgiveness of your enemies, in the sincere love of your neighbours.  This is admired in the solitary Saints; The miser, the arrogant, the shameless, the greedy, the negligent and the vindictive will clearly discover the deformity of their own condition, which by continuing with the thinking of current societal praxis are extremely difficult to detect in oneself.  Sometimes the man of our times offended and weary of Society, ordinarily unfaithful, longs for loneliness, and imagines the hermitage as a balm for his embittered heart, pretending the desert is a distraction to his mind oppressed by social ideals. But the circumstance of solitude are not in harmony with such delusions, in which the divine anchorites were enclosed, nor did such circumstances conduct them to the desert.  They did not hide in the hermitages because they were tired of worldly pleasures, but to deprive themselves of all mundane and useless pleasures!  The solitudes, which welcomed the anchoritic saints into its womb, were already great tracts in a land abandoned by men as too unsustainable for the survival of humankind, in many places the desert is considered more effective as a destroyer of its inhabitants than in sustaining them.” 

“Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth” [1 Samuel 3:9]

“Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth” is a declaration of complete availability, of surrendering to his will, it is the decision to abandon oneself into the arms of God, promising Him not only that you will  always listen and be attentive to his direction, but also of  your absolute obedience to Him.

… God calls us because he loves us, because his invitation is in view of a duty to be carried out, a mission to be undertaken for the salvation and joy of many.

Consider where God calls you, if he calls you to be active or more contemplative, a pilgrim hermit (who is always on pilgrimage, thus giving the whole world a testimony that on earth we are pilgrims and we are only passing through), a hermit with a permanent home “stabilitas” (who lives in a place, in a field, an actual hermitage or with a community), a hermit with a special apostolate, or one who remains alone in recollection and solitude with Christ. Being a hermit does not necessarily mean staying locked up indoors. You can maintain contact with the outside world, if God so wishes it for you. Over half of the hermits live in urban areas. There are a wide variety of eremitic orders, to which do you feel drawn to? What is your heart telling you? What do you feel you are called to?

Or do you feel called to live a completely solitary life, out of sight from cities and people, not communicating with people outside of your hermitage, yet live an austere contemplative life? Do you want to live in a cell? By what means are you able to undertake this kind of life? With vocation and by the will and support of God. What matters is to remain in His intention, to listen to Him and do His will. To be guided by God and by His holy providence, which is our blessing. Feel what God tells you and what your spiritual advisor guides you towards. If you do not want to live alone and separated from your spiritual brothers and sisters, from other Hermits and Anchorites, you could see if God wants you to live close to others and therefore live within a monastic community, although each of you remains faithful to your individual and unique vocation. You could live attached to an Order, which gives you the solitary life you seek, the silence and the solitude necessary, to follow the rule for which you have decided or made a vow to live by doing penance. Some want to live in a Charterhouse, be withdrawn and always in silence, yet in communities like the Carthusians. But most important is what God wants from you. If you do not feel called to live in a Charterhouse, and you do not know where to go, stay where you are until God shows you, it may be subtle or very obvious. Increase your prayer and know that what matters is to remain in the divine will, which also means: remaining in a state of grace and then listening to what Jesus tells you in your heart. This is what matters most and it is the only way to become saints.

If you have not yet found the right place where you can serve God and where you can become a saint, live daily in the union with God through the Sacraments, through prayer, penance and the mortification. You must mortify yourself, you must do penance and ask God for His graces and blessings. Every day we must work toward our sanctification. This work cannot and must not be postponed, it requires: mortification, penances, prayers, vigils and fasting cannot without ceasing. You cannot delay using the excuse of hot yet having found the hermitage in the desert which is the right place “for you”, so get to work. God calls you, so do not make him wait. Give God your FIAT [an authoritative command or order to do something; an effectual decree] with words and deeds! Now we have to work for the kingdom of God, we must work toward our own sanctification now. If you wait for another occasion, another circumstance, another hermitage or another day to become saints, you will never achieve your vocation and become one. 

“Now is the time to answer your summons and live your vocation! It is now that you must donate yourself to God and to God alone! You have to become patient as God has no concept of time; You must listen carefully to the guidance of the Holy Spirit;You must love! You must forgive, you must fast and you must praise and thank God for your opportunity to love and pray without ceasing!  No one said it would be easy, the best things in life never are.”

Do you really feel you have to work for God? Not only to pray (to pray is to work: it is to serve God for the salvation of souls) yet also to be engaged for the greater glory of God? [Ad maiorem Dei gloriam] You could collaborate with the founding of a hermitage, in the village where you will live with God, this is how St. Mary’s Hermitage was founded. It would be a place where hermits and solitaries live withdrawn from each other yet are united spiritually. Initially the cells of the solitaries and hermits were never far from each other. When the desert Fathers built a hermitage never far from a well where they would draw0 the water needed to live. This water well is necessary as the water of life and for us in the same manner that the Sacraments and Daily Mass are necessary for us to live in the full grace of God. Ideal for a Hermit of our times, the hermitage would not be far from a church, in order to attend Mass. But those who have no possibility of attending Mass do not be discouraged. Faith helps you. Many fathers and mothers of the desert had to endure long periods without the Sacraments. We remember that St. Benedict, as a hermit in his cave, did not have Mass daily. We recall St. Francis of Assisi and his brothers received Holy Communion only once a year. Think of the Venerable Mary of Egypt patron of penitents, who endured more than twenty years without attending Mass. Of course, it is not ideal and can be dangerous, it is also a very heavy and painful cross to bare. As monastics we must ensure that we attend Mass daily or as often as possible.

The teachings of the Church tell us that if the next Church where Mass is held is more than one hour away (even on foot, if one does not have the car to get there), one does not sin if Sunday does not you can get there. If we have the opportunity to have Holy Mass often in our desert, in our hermitage, we rejoice, consider it, appreciate it and thank God! But if it does not, we rejoice all the same, and we offer everything. God trusts us, and since Bothe the sweet and the bitter comes from Him, it means, if He were to send it to us, that we are able to endure this Cross too. We have to sacrifice everything! Those who have an Internet connection can follow Holy Mass at Glenstal Benedictine Abbey, in Murrow County Limerick, Éire, online (click here) and make spiritual communion see below, you may also worship God in Eucharistic adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the altar in a live broadcast from The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Kraków  (click here).

St Thomas Aquinas defined Spiritual Communion is an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and in lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him”  but circumstances have impeded them from receiving actual Holy Communion. The impeding circumstances might be a number of things: the person could already have received holy Communion twice that day; or the person could be in detention and unable to attend Mass; or the person might be elderly and housebound watching Mass on the television or listening to it on the radio; whatever the circumstance your intention must be that you wish to be more deeply united to Jesus Christ at that moment.  One of the prayer said at Spiritual Communion is “ At Thy feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer Thee repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in Thy holy presence. I adore Thee in the Sacrament of Thy love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive Thee into the poor dwelling that my heart offers Thee. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess Thee in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I, for my part, am coming to Thee! May Thy love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee. Amen.

God loves us so much and appreciates all of our sacrifices. It is He who gives us the gift of suffering with love. We offer all our suffering to save souls. And we offer to God with the suffrages, the most precious Blood of Jesus Christ, in expiation of our sins, in suffrage of the Holy Souls of purgatory, for the priests and needs of the holy Church.

OR DO YOU FEEL CALLED TO LIVE AS A RECLUSE?

A monk or nun are defined as a recluse when they adopt an extreme form of penitential life, which consists in locking himself up in solitude within a restricted space, either for a limited period of their life or forever (immured). These cells are normally found in a monastery or church, which is why this form of life should not be confused with that of a  monaca carmelitanahermit. Having the “desire” to withdraw and immure oneself as a recluse does not mean vocation. One should be very prudent and carefully discern whether this form of life is the will of God for you. I would strongly recommend, initially discussing the matter with your parish priest or to find a religious order that can help you discern and realise your call, but it will not be easy, because it is an extremely radical life, equally because a call to such a form of life, should be observed for years, and only accepted after a mature age, time of trial and true discernment. To decide to be immured we need a good Spiritual Father to accompany you with great prudence and possibly a Bishop who supports and blesses you to take this step.

WHAT FORM OF EREMITICAL LIFE DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE CALLED TO LIVE?

Choose a holy rule endorsed by the Catholic Church, which will guide you and you will not be alone! The holy rules that have already been approved by the Catholic Church guarantee us of a sure way to reach heaven. You already have a father with you, the Saint who wrote the holy Rule. This Rule can be adapted together with your spiritual guide and approved by your bishop, if he finds that it conforms, you will adapt your rule or your own customs for everyday life in your desert.

If today you took the decision to obey God’s call for you to a life in the desert, one that calls you to an eremitic or anchoritic life, you will begin to live this celestial life now. You can begin to live it now and where you are. God will then guide you to a hermitage suitable for you. Most importantly and what matters most is that you leave everything behind, to shed off your past life and give everything to God. St. Luke the Evangelist tells us that we must decide if we can follow God “Many people were traveling with Jesus. He said to them,“If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—even more than your own life! Whoever will not carry the cross that is given to them when they follow me cannot be my follower.” Luke 14:25-27  So my advice would be not to procrastinate – get on with it. You will therefore begin to live your celestial vocation today, which is important and will prepare you for the road ahead. What’s more, if you follow God it actually becomes a great adventure. And if you have to move often? Take as an example St. Benedict and his life or even of St. Romuald the founder of the Camaldolese Order, although both had to move often and had not received the full plan that God had in mind for them, they lived humbly every day and with every single breath they lived FIAT (from Latin, ‘Thy will be done’) given to God.

DE CONTEMPTU MUNDI

Disciple: Master, how can man completely detach himself from the world?

OFM EremitaMaster: The soul that loves God [finds] its rest in God only. First detach from thyself the outward bonds, then strive to bind thy heart to God. To be detached from matter is prior to being bound to God.  When a child has been weaned, bread is given him as food. And a man who wishes to become excellent in God, has first to wean himself from the world, as a child is weaned from his mother’s breasts. Bodily labours are prior to psychic service, as the creation of the body takes place before that of the soul. For he who does not perform bodily labour, does not perform physical labours either. For the latter are born out of the former as the ears from mere grains. And he who does not perform physical service, is also devoid of spiritual gifts.

Temporary suffering for the sake of the truth is not to be compared with the delight preserved for those who perform labours of excellence. As the weeping of the time of sowing is followed by the joys of harvest followed by joy.  So are the labours for the sake of God, the bread earned with sweat, delights the workman; labours for the sake of righteousness, the heart that has received the knowledge of Christ.  Suffer contempt and humiliation in the thought of excellence, for the: sake of the heart’s familiarity of speech with God. Every time a man suffers a hard word with discernment, save only when it is caused by his own fault, he receives a crown of thorns on his head for the sake of Christ; blessed is he! At other times he is crowned and knows it not.

He who flees from the fame [that rests] on knowledge, will perceive in himself the hope of the world to come.  He who promises to leave the world, yet quarrels with men concerning [worldly things because he is not willing to give up anything of what is agreeable unto him, he is perfectly blind, because he has given up the whole world voluntarily, yet quarrels about a part of it. If anyone flees from what is agreeable [unto him] in this world, his mind will behold the world to come.  He who is master of possessions, is the slave of passions. Do not estimate gold and silver only as possessions, but all things thou possessest for the sake of the desire of thy will.  He who cuts off impediments from fear of affections, he is a wise man indeed.  Without the constant service of excellence true knowledge cannot be found. Not by bodily works alone is the knowledge of life acquired, but by directing our efforts to the cutting off of mental affections.

He who labours without discernment will easily become the victim of the causes of sin when they present themselves to him. Never praise him who labours with his body, but concerning his senses is lax and without constraint, to put it another way, whose ears and mouth are open and whose eyes are prone to wander.  (St. Isaac of Nineveh)

HOW CAN I LIVE THIS FORM OF CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE ON MY OWN?

In today’s world, it is difficult to be completely self-sufficient, but with the grace of God one has all the help that is needed to survive, without having to work in the world.

If God wants otherwise, then it is He who wants and allows us to do some work outside of the hermitage. Hermits and Anchorites are in the sure hands of God. Living by God’s providence, and if one embraces the Benedictine Rule, as a necessity to maintain oneself, even by the work of their own hands.

Do you want to be a hermit in your home, cultivate your own food, and manage your life yourself?  Or do you feel you have to stay in a rented apartment in the city and go to work to support yourself? Both can be modern hermit lifestyles, but this form of life: living in the city and working in the world is not as ideal as it may seem and can cause difficulties for the Hermit.

Personally I would advise people to search for a desert far from urban areas and cities,Fra Carlo  after having tried eremitic life in London, the distractions were constant, the noise, advertising, fights in the streets, drunk people, traffic and on one or two occasions people being lewd in view of everyone.  I also endured an unprovoked attack which hospitalised me for a couple of weeks.  Yet God may as it happens call some soul to live in the desert of the city, as he did with Brother Carlo Carretto of the Little Brothers of the Gospel (link).

In prayer, try to discern what God puts in your heart and what you feel is the right thing to do, always remaining faithful to Jesus. Listen to Jesus who speaks to you in your heart and calls you to live a life that is totally surrendered to him.

The ideal form of life for an anchorite is to live alone. To have his refuge, his cell, his cave. This is the blessed hermitage: the house in the desert is the embrace of Christ. Being away from the noise of the city and of the world with all of its distractions and vanities.

With your spiritual guide see if it would be better to live this call with private vows or if it is not appropriate to make your vows  under an Abbot or a Bishop.  It would be exceptional to find a Bishop who guides you according to your vocation and who consecrates you to God!  Keep in mid though that there are Bishops who do not accept vocations to the eremitic life and some even look upon them with an element of suspicion.  Do your research, has the diocese admitted other hermits, solitaries or anchorites?

Occasionally it occurs that the soul who want to follow the call of God yet they cannot find an amenable bishop, or a hermitage or a suitable convent, and it will make them wonder why God is calling them if there is no established opportunity to live out this call. It took me three years before I found the correct combination of diocese and location for my vocation.  One person informed me that he had heard that in this day and age God does not call anyone, since there are no tangible prospect for realising this vocation and mission. Recalling the past of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which took place in England between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII the Tudor King of England using his First Act of Supremacy in 1534 allowing the crown to confiscate and disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England and Wales and Ireland, misappropriating their income, dispose of their assets. The policy was made to increase the regular income of the Crown, former monastic property were sold off to fund Henry’s military campaigns. For hundreds of years men and women in consecrated life underwent severe persecutions, torture and martyrdom. England was not alone in this form or persecution In the countries of the Habsburg monarchy, under the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II and self proclaimed guardian of Catholicism, struck viciously at the Church and attempted to make the Church a tool of the state, independent of Rome. Religious were deprived of the tithes, ordered to study in government seminaries, bishops had to make a formal oath of loyalty to the crown. He considered himself a man of the Enlightenment and ridiculed the contemplative monastic orders, which he considered useless, frivolous and unproductive. He therefore suppressed over 700 monasteries and reduced the number of monks and nuns from 65,000 to 27,000. He completely prohibited and eliminated eremitic life within his kingdoms.

It did not mean that God stopped calling anyone to to a vocation! It did not mean that Certosinithere were no souls being called to serve him in adoration and prayer or as brides of Christ. On the contrary, it was exactly during these times of persecution that God gave so many penitent souls, hermits, anchorites, and solitaries. Whenever there are attacks against faith, against vocations, against consecrated life, against the adoration of the One Triune God, many vocations are awakened.  Before you were born, God had already chosen you in the womb, and called you by name. He gives one a specific and unique mission. The Holy Spirit breathed into the hearts of many souls the desire to consecrate their lives to God. These souls, precisely because they could not find a faithful or fervent community, because the convents had been closed or destroyed, or because they wanted to live a completely solitary life, they never gave up, the persevered and had already began to live their vocation daily, without waiting for the day “that they would be given their own cell, or hermitage, or the  appurtenant silence”. They naturally continued to search for a suitable place where they could live out their vocation in tranquility. They went to the desert. They withdrew. In times of great persecution there were so many souls who ran into the desert to worship God, in peace and quiet. Yet even during times of no persecutions, when the Catholic religion was accepted and left in peace, as it had been from the time of Constantine the Great, many souls fled to the desert, to do penance because knowing themselves as Christians too much appreciated by the world, they knew that this was not a good portent, since Christ tells us that those who follow him will be despised and persecuted! For sins and the worldliness of many, Christians began to ask God for forgiveness. Instead they chose what we call the “white martyrdom” for Christ, which is penance, solitary and ascetic life in the desert, a life as a hermit or an anchorite.

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SOUL OF ADORATION

When society forgets about God and they stop praising Him, let us gather around God present in the cell of our heart and in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar to adore Him. Our donation, prayer and adoration, are the incense on the altar of God and the hymns of Praise.  You can live the call of a hermit or an anchor, spending several hours a day in front of Jesus in adoration of the Eucharist. If you cannot physically place yourself in front of the most holy, worship Him wherever you are, in Spirit and Truth. Some are blessed with having a little chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed or they live near a church that they can  enter at any time to adore the most Holy Trinity in the Blessed Sacrament at the altar, ever present in the tabernacle of a Catholic Church. This would be the idyll. 

Watch the Holy Hour at Gethsemane (here)!

Gethsemane

Those who cannot go before the Blessed Sacrament, can do so spiritually and remain heart to heart with our Lord in front of the Eucharist.  Jesus loves you and is happy to see you before Him in the Blessed Sacrament and since He knows that many souls are unable to attend Church for various reasons, He has inspired people to film Him perpetually exposed in a chapel that you can visit online.  Believe me, Christ sees you and hears your adoration. You are locked heart to heart with Him the King of hearts!

Know that we pray for your vocational discernment daily.  May our Lord walk at your side always.  Pax

 

Nel grande silenzio con San Bruno il Certosino

Tuttavia, in uno di quei momenti dove la realtà supera la fantasia di cui la nostra Chiesa è piena, il Beato Papa Urbano aveva sentito parlare del grande lavoro che il suo ex maestro, il santo Bruno, stava facendo in Chartreuse e lo convocò a Roma come una sorta di consulente personale. (Il suo ruolo esatto non è stato chiaro). Il guadagno di Roma fu certamente la perdita di Chartreuse: anzi, sembrava impossibile immaginare come questo nascente monastero eremita potesse sopravvivere senza il suo fondatore.

❝Separati da tutti, siamo uniti a tutti, per stare a nome di tutti al cospetto del Dio vivente.❞ Statuti 34.2

Nel pantheon degli ordini religiosi cattolici – Carmelitani, Clarettiani, Camoldoli, Cistercense, Cappuccini e Francescani Conventuali, Cluniacensi, Canonici Regolari, Chierici Regolari (Barnabiti) – I Certosini si distinguono come uno dei più antichi e più austeri ordini millenari.

Stat Crux Dum Voltitus Orbis

I certosini sono, in effetti, così lontani dal “mondo” che non permettono visitatori, ritiranti o oblati. Lavorano e pregano, pregano e lavorano su un modello a due livelli: i monaci del coro pregano come eremiti quasi senza sosta – tutte le ore liturgiche e il Piccolo ufficio della Beata Vergine Maria, la Messa quotidiana e il Rosario – mentre i monaci laici mantengono il monastero (o “certosa”) canticchiando rendendo possibile ai loro fratelli del coro di pregare giorno e notte. Tutti i monaci, i certosini consacrano la loro vita interamente alla preghiera, per lavorare alla propria salvezza e a quella di tutta la Chiesa. Quest’Ordine contemplativo si fonda soprattutto su tre elementi:

+ la solitudine e il silenzio
+ la vita comunitaria come complemento di quella solitaria
+ una liturgia propria

Come la loro stessa letteratura recita: “Chi è chiamato a una vita come questa?” Non molte persone. C’è anche un monastero certosino negli Stati Uniti: la certosa della Trasfigurazione nel Vermont. Oggi l’ordine conta circa 450 monaci e monache e dispone di 24 monasteri in Europa e in America, in ognuno dei quali si vive la stessa vocazione contemplativa. La solitudine, vissuta per Dio solo, implica la separazione dal mondo, realizzata mediante la clausura, che si traduce, tra l’altro, in:

+ una sola uscita settimanale, per il passeggio comune “spaziamento”
+ nessune visite
+ nessun apostolato esercitato all’esterno
+ assenza di radio, televisione e giornali

Se i certosini hanno lasciato il mondo, non per questo sono diventati puro spirito. Devono pertanto sovvenire a tutti i bisogni propri della natura umana, anche se con austerità. Sono i fratelli a farsi carico di gran parte di questi impegni, ma anche i monaci del chiostro assicurano il loro aiuto; d’altronde ciò viene fatto sia per sovvenire alle necessità che per mantenere un certo equilibrio fisico.

Tuttavia, c’è l’attrazione dell’ignoto. Nel 2005 il documentario franco-tedesco “Il Grande Silenzio” è stato rilasciato con grande successo di critica. Porta lo spettatore a La Grande Chartreuse, la casa madre dell’Ordine Certosino situato nella zona più remota della Francia. E a quasi tre ore di lunghezza, dà allo spettatore un assaggio della storia del luogo.

È una lunga storia e una storia ininterrotta. I certosini sono le razze più rare – un ordine religioso pre-Riformato che non ha mai riformato o subito una revisione maggiore o addirittura minore. Come dice il proverbio, “I certosini non sono mai stati riformati perché non sono mai stati deformati”.

Tuttavia, il fatto che siano stati formati è notevole. Bruno, nato a Colonia intorno al 1030, divenne canonico e poi cancelliere diocesano prima di rendersi conto di volere solo una cosa: una vita di perfetta solitudine e contemplazione. Non ci sarebbero mezze misure, non uscire nel mondo, nemmeno per le opere corporali di misericordia. Bruno voleva la purezza non solo della vita, ma della preghiera. In breve, voleva imitare i primi Padri del Deserto.

È qui che il lettore contemporaneo può cadere nella trappola di pensare che Bruno in particolare, e monaci e religiosi di clausura in generale, stiano “scappando dalla realtà” o “in fuga dal mondo”, ma non è proprio vero. Se mai, con tutte le distrazioni rimosse, i Certosini scontrano nella realtà – ed è difficile. È la vita di un eremita, unita a una preghiera comunitaria occasionale (compresa la messa), insieme a una volta al mese “giorni di famiglia”, in cui i monaci parlano tra loro.

Ma perché Bruno ha fatto quello che ha fatto?

Due ragioni: primo, Bruno, ancora a quel tempo canonico e cancelliere diocesano, veniva perseguitato da un arcivescovo simoniaco, Manassès Ier de Gournay Arcivescovo di Reims, la cui vita era uno scandalo aperto. Secondo, e forse apocrifo, Bruno aveva avuto una visione del suo insegnante onorato e defunto, il canonico Raymond Diocrès, che, durante l’ufficio dei morti, sollevò la testa dalla sua bara e con voce tremenda parlò severamente: “Per giusto giudizio di Dio sono stato accusato!” Il cadavere eseguì lo stesso prodigio la mattina dopo, e ancora una volta una terza volta più tardi quel giorno, dicendo quelle terribili parole: “Per giusto giudizio di Dio sono stato giudicato!”

Come gli Irlandesi amano dire, “Questa non potrebbe essere la verità, ma è così che è successo”, e nel caso della formazione di San Bruno, la storia ha una sorta di senso regressivo. Il canone, il cui unico difetto noto era un certo grado di ambizione clericale, sembrava parlare direttamente a Bruno – sebbene secondo la leggenda tutti i presenti udissero la proclamazione del morto e alla fine gettarono il cadavere in una fossa.

San Bruno vide che anche la minima parte della vanità non era solo dannosa per l’anima, ma abbastanza per avere una persona giudicata meritevole almeno per un bel pò di tempo nel purgatorio, se non l’inferno stesso. Come molti santi, Bruno voleva andare direttamente in Paradiso e decise il modo migliore per diventare un monaco.

Si unì ai benedettini di Molesme, ma i compromessi si erano insinuati nella versione originale della Regola di Benedetto. Realizzando che il suo ruolo qui era insostenibile, ottenne il permesso dall’Abate nel 1084 e, insieme a sei compagni, cercò il posto più isolato e desolato che potesse trovare in Francia. Era qualcosa di affine agli originali Padri del Deserto: La Certosa, una combinazione di deserto e montagne intrattabili nella sede di Grenoble.

Il posto era poco invitante, disabitato e quasi inabitabile. L’ordinario locale, Vescovo di Grenoble (in seguito Santo) Ugo di Chateauneuf, sapeva di avere un “super-monaco” sulle sue mani e ha dato il suo pieno sostegno e benedizione all’impresa.

Per non pensare che Bruno stesse facendo tutto da solo, si dovrebbe notare che aveva fatto un convertito per tutta la vita e un amico in Landuino, uno dei sei seguaci originali che in seguito sarebbe diventato il secondo Priore. (Dopo Bruno, i certosini evitano il titolo di “Abate” e decidono invece di adottare l’uso del titolo “Priore”.) L’altra figura importante, dal tempo di Bruno come canonico e insegnante a Colonia, era un Eudes de Châtillon (detto di Lagery), uno studioso eccezionale che la storia conosce meglio come il beato Papa Urbano II.

Certo, Bruno ha rinunciato il suo titolo di Canonico, i suoi benefici, i suoi legami con il mondo di qualsiasi tipo – stava lavando non solo la macchia del peccato dalla sua pelle ma la sua vera pelle: lui e le sue coorti indossavano le camicie cilici e vivevano vite di privazioni indescrivibili. Mentre non seguivano nessuna regola scritta di per sé, i primi certosini presero la regola di Benedetto e la spogliarono fino all’essenziale. La loro vita era una Quaresima perpetua: niente carne, nulla che potesse essere considerato estraneo, per non dire stravagante. “Il pesce e il formaggio venivano assecondati durante le feste popolari”, ha scritto un contemporaneo. In effetti si dice che il loro unico inestimabile possesso era un calice d’argento per la celebrazione della Santa Messa. E così Dom. Alban Butler: “Se il loro monastero era povero, almeno la loro biblioteca era ricca.” Il silenzio veniva mantenuto in ogni momento, tranne le rare preghiere comunali – Mattutini e Vespri e la Messa settimanale.

Stranamente, questo oscuro ordine iniziò a crescere e in poco tempo si era raddoppiato il numero delle anime abbondanti originali che avevano acquistato nel sogno di San Bruno di un deserto Cristiano in Francia.

Tuttavia, in uno di quei momenti dove la realtà supera la fantasia di cui la nostra Chiesa è piena, il Beato Papa Urbano aveva sentito parlare del grande lavoro che il suo ex maestro, il santo Bruno, stava facendo in Chartreuse e lo convocò a Roma come una sorta di consulente personale. (Il suo ruolo esatto non è stato chiaro). Il guadagno di Roma fu certamente la perdita di Chartreuse: anzi, sembrava impossibile immaginare come questo nascente monastero eremita potesse sopravvivere senza il suo fondatore.

Ma è successo. Dopo un pò di difficoltà – compresa una manciata di monaci che seguirono fisicamente Bruno a Roma, e che dovette rimandare in Francia – Landuino prese il sopravvento, e Bruno, attraverso le sue lettere accorate e spezzate incoraggiava, ammoniva ed esortava i suoi amati fratelli dalla sua cella negli ex bagni di Diocleziano. (Più tardi arrivò fino alla Calabria, ma quello era quanto Papa Urbano era disposto a lasciargli andare.)

I certosini erano e si occupano di una cosa: l’imminente ritorno di Gesù Cristo e l’essere pronti ad accoglierLo quando verrà. Questo non è un evento escatologico molto distante e lontano per il monaco certosino, ma piuttosto una sorta di “Io sto qui proprio alla porta e busso”. Si aspettano completamente che Gesù arrivi ADESSO.

È anche un ordine bizzarro. Il loro silenzio si estende alla scrittura e non ci sono quasi scrittori certosini di cui parlare, il che è strano per un ordine che si faceva strada copiando manoscritti. Inoltre, la loro umiltà proibisce la canonizzazione formale dei loro membri, così mentre i monaci certosini vivono vite di santità esigente, pochissimi sono in realtà “santi”. (Lo stesso San Bruno fu incarnato dalla Chiesa circa 500 anni dopo la sua morte 6 ottobre 1101 e fu canonizzato nel 17 Febbraio 1623 da Papa Gregorio XV.) Nonostante bevano solo latte, acqua e un vino molto diluito, i certosini sono famosi per il loro liquore, “Chartreuse” (di che essi stessi non assorbono, ma ironicamente producono per sostenere il loro stile di vita ascetico). E mentre la Grande Certosa ha sopravvissuta a ogni sorta di disastro naturale (soprattutto valanghe), il governo Francese stesso ha sfrattato i monaci nel 1901, solo per riportarli appena in tempo per l’invasione Tedesca del 1940! La certosa stessa era utilizzata come ospedale delle forze alleate, diventando esattamente l’opposto di ciò che San Bruno aveva voluto che fosse: un luogo di pura contemplazione.

Infine, il capolavoro è un documentario epico di quasi tre ore: Il Grande Silenzio del 2005 è la migliore intuizione della vita quotidiana certosina (e una spinta per le vocazioni) o il massimo esaurimento (ci sono voluti i produttori 18 anni prima di ottenere il permesso di filmare all’interno di La Grande Chartreuse). Quindi, dopo quasi 1000 anni di segretezza totale, chiunque può ora vedere all’interno della Casa Madre fondata da San Bruno stesso.

Tuttavia, i Certosini sopravvivono. Che altro si può dire di un Ordine le cui caratteristiche salienti sono il silenzio e la solitudine, e che attendono la seconda venuta del Signore nella penitenza orante? San Bruno può essere orgoglioso della sua realizzazione, ma non sarebbe mai stato accusato di orgoglio.

La Vergine Maria, madre e modello dei certosini Sotto la tua protezione troviamo rifugio, santa madre di Dio: non disprezzare le suppliche di noi che siamo nella prova, e liberaci da ogni pericolo, o Vergine gloriosa e benedetta. (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix, Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus, Sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

Per trovare di più sull’Ordine Certosino visita il loro sito ufficiale a:
Chartreux

A lesson on women ordination to the presbyterate by one who was there in 1998.

There is only one word for women ordination, and that is: Heterodoxy!

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 06.02.28“In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner.  In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behavior, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time”. Mulieris dignitatem.  St. John Paul II


The disruption, confusion, antipathy this subject brings to the Universal Church seems to be unending.  As my mother used to say to my sister “don’t give up until you get exactly what you want and on your own terms.”  As a young lad this used to make me feel as if they both had some kind of an unspoken and secret code.  It also made me feel sorry for my father, who would then either storm off after hours of arguments or relent.  But then my mother bless her soul was Evangelisch-Lutherisch and I honestly feel that she remained so even after her conversion to Catholicism and thus teaching liberal attitudes to my sister.

Writing this gives me no joy at all.  In fact it saddens me greatly.  In this article I share what Christ’s idea for the Church is, what the scriptures say, what the Apostles have already expounded on, what the Church Fathers have discussed, deliberated and taught and written about, what the church has taught and teaches still.  These are not opinions that I have formulated myself, they come from personal experiences and what I have been taught at catholic school, university and seminary. 

Lets get to the point; I was actually part of the ordination team that ordained Mother Frances some years back and I was duly excommunicated (I had been warned) for

IMG_3643
Ordination of Mother Fr. Frances 1998

not listening to the advice of the Apostolic Nuncio’s Office in Dublin who wrote several times in an attempt to desist me.  My cousin in Rome and my family and friends had asked me to rethink seriously.  And the 7th Earl of Longford Francis Pakenham a long time friend through my prison chaplaincy days asked me to reconsider, but to no avail.  Yet my then Diocesan insisted that all would be  well, to relax and not worry.  It’s something new so will attract attention.  So for blind obedience to my Bishop and my sheer unwavering stubbornness I was excommunicated (I even received a lovely certificate from Rome to tell me so) the excommunication lasted until January 2005 (5 years, 1 month, and 21 days).  And I can tell you, though it might seem mediaeval and most people would think nothing of it, to me it made an immense impact that filled me with pain, sorrow and shame.  It was only through the intercession of Cardinal Cathal Daily, the Abbot of Buckfast, the Archbishop, the Vicar General, even a Church of England Bishop very Kindly got involved (he asked me not to identify him) and an extremely lengthy 2 day interview in Rome, 38 letters later that Saint John Paul II saw fit to forgive his wayward sheep and welcome me back into the fold.   I genuinely  regret my actions, I’m still ashamed of my actions today.  I regret them because of the confusion it caused the laity and other clergy, the misrepresentations by the media were terrible, I even read an interview of me in a South American newspaper that I’d never given.  The damaged that was caused not only effected the parish and the  diocese but also the people in Ireland and other places around the world.  My regrets began to surface at the pseudo-ordination itself.  I knew it would not be Sacramentally valid.  I felt that it was wrong.  All I could think was run.  But I could not walk out mid service as I was too much of a coward.

Irenaeus writes as follows:

[The dispensation of God which gives the Holy Spirit] has been entrusted to the Church, as breath was to the first created man, for this purpose, that all the members receiving it may be vivified and the communion with Christ has been distributed throughout it, that is, the Holy Spirit . . .. “For in the Church,” it is said, “God has set apostles, prophets, teachers,” and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour. For where the Church is, here is the Holy Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth.

Scripture does not say that a woman should not be ordained or that she should not be a priest or a bishop. It does say she should be submissive and that she should be silent in the church and should not teach or have authority over a man.  Whether she does these things as the holder of a specific office or not is irrelevant. The questions is whether a woman can serve the whole congregation in the position of priest or bishop without acting in a way which would place her in violation of the scriptural commands which we must obey.

Although the priest is to labor in his congregation with the attitude of a willing servant, it is very clear in Scripture that he is also to be regarded as an authoritative leader of the congregation. “Obey” (πείθεσθε) your leaders and submit to their authority (ὑπείκατε). They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17). “These then are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority” (ἐπιταγῆς) (Titus 2:15). The very nature of the pastoral office is to be an “overseer” (ἐπίστκοπος).

It should be very clear that the principles that man is to be the head, that woman should submit, and that woman is not to have authority over man forbid a woman to exercise the office of pastoral leadership over the whole congregation. However, many of the functions performed by a priest may be performed by women under certain extreme circumstances.

If “ordination” simply meant being installed into the ministry of the church, there would be no theological reason why we could not “ordain” women teachers, who are considered to be members of the ministry of our church. However, such a practice could be very confusing since it would be contrary to the traditional understanding of the term ordination. Although the historical evidence is not completely clear, it seems that in the early church there was a divergence of practice concerning the “ordination” of such women ministers as deaconesses. In some places ordination of women was explicitly denied.  In other places, especially in the East, an “ordination” of sorts (that is, a laying on of hands) was practiced, but it was kept distinct from the ordination to the pastoral ministry.  Women, of course, can share the Word with others privately as part of the priesthood of all believers.  Women can share the Word as called evangelists with other women.  In some cultures, such as many Islamic cultures which practice strict separation of the sexes, it may be necessary for most or all of the catechetical instruction of women to be done by women.  In penetrating a culture with strict separation of the sexes in worship it might be necessary for a time to have a separate women’s service which was conducted entirely by women. Women can, of course, lead the devotions for women’s groups.

Since baptism is normally administered by the deacon or priest, baptism is not  performed by women.

The Sacrament of Mass likewise is normally administered by the priest of a parish or congregation.  Therefore it would not be administered by a woman. It is conceivable that it might be administered by a woman in a congregation which consisted entirely of women, such as a convent, and some parishes do have women as Eucharistic ministers.

Leadership of the worship service will rest in the hands of the priest or in his absence, of another male called by the diocese to lead. Preaching in a congregation certainly is to be authoritative teaching (Titus 2:15) and therefore should not be done by a woman. Such preaching would also conflict with the command of silence set forth in 1 Corinthians 14, where the situation which called forth this application of the principle seems to be parallel to the public preaching in our services.

More difficult questions arise concerning areas of auxiliary service in public worship.

At least in recent times-there has been little question about women singing in church choirs whether in group or solo roles. Choir music is not independent or authoritative teaching at the discretion of the singer. It is (or should be) selected by or in consultation with the parish priest or his curate to advance the theme of the service. Women choir directors have been widely accepted among us, but this issue is not so clear cut. A woman could certainly lead the choir in a way which was domineering or authoritative, but the office could also be understood and practiced as assisting in the musical performance of the congregation much as an organist does. In such circumstances the pastor still has overall responsibility for doctrinal soundness and appropriateness of the music of the service.

Most congregations have traditionally used male ushers for services, but there are no theological reasons why women cannot serve as ushers and greeters since the function of these offices is to assist worshippers, not to exercise any kind of authority.

Most congregations normally have the deacon or priest read the scripture lessons as part of their role of leading the worship service. There is though no consistency in this, in so far as parishes permit children to present portions of Scripture in special services. If we accept this practice and the presentation of musical solos by women, it would be inconsistent to claim that reading Scripture inherently and inevitably involves authoritative teaching. In churches which use lay lectors, the lectors read not only the lessons, but also some of the prayers such as the litany. Although the Catholic Church does not ordain women, many parishes allow women lectors to read the Scriptures and the general prayers.  Reading is seen as a subordinate assisting role which does not involve authoritative teaching. The priest “presides” over the service and normally reads the gospel as an expression of this leadership. 

Nevertheless, many parishes refuse to adopt the practice of having women as lectors. It would be unwise from a practical point of view. It would be a source of confusion and offence, especially since some people have used and are using such roles for women as stepping stones toward the assumption of the presbyteral ministry by women. Such a practice would also be doubtful from a theological point of view. It is difficult to reconcile the role of reading and leading the assembly in prayer with the spirit of the command of silence in 1 Corinthians 14, which excludes women even from asking questions. Furthermore, 1 Timothy 2, specifies that “men (ἄνδρας) everywhere are to lift up holy hands in prayer.” It does this in the same context which says, “God wants all people (ἀνθρώπους) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” and that “a woman should learn in quietness and full submission.”  It is often asserted that 1 Corinthians 11, contradicts this position since it tells women to have their heads covered when they lead in prayer.  However, 1 Corinthians 11 is vague about the specific circumstances involved. It is not clear that leadership of the public congregational worship is involved in the praying and prophesying spoken of in 1 Corinthians 11. Individual personal prayers in a setting somewhat similar to a prayer meeting may be involved, or perhaps the mutual admonition and teaching that is done in joint hymns and prayers (Col 3:16). Since the circumstances of 1 Corinthians 11 are unclear, and the prohibitions in 1 Corinthians 14, and 1 Timothy 2, refer to the leading of the public worship, it is dubious hermeneutics to use 1 Corinthians 11, to overrule 1 Corinthians 14, and 1 Timothy 2.  This leads me to conclude from a theological point of view that the use of women lectors would be doubtful and a danger to many consciences and that from a practical point of view it would be very confusing and offensive under present circumstances.  The practice should therefore be avoided.  

It is clear that the Lord’s Supper should be administered by the priest  who is authorised by the faculties given to the individual by the diocesan to administer the Sacraments under his authority.  But can a distinction be made between administration and distribution? The Church uses a number of lay altar assistants at several stations to speed the distribution of the elements to the entire congregation.  In some parishes women can distribute both the wine and the host. In view of the roles assigned and the need for faculties to be given to perform the Sacraments validly within a diocese and therefore prevent errors and confusion I would argue that the deacon or priest must retain distribution of the bread since it is at this point that the authority to exclude someone from the Lord’s Supper must be exercised, but that women could distribute the wine since admission has already been determined by this point.  If the form of celebrating the Mass among us was such that the distribution of the elements was understood as simply assisting all of the congregation in receiving the elements (sort of the opposite function of gathering the offering) and if some other means of upholding the scriptural principles of closed communion was in place, it would be possible to defend the position that there are no theological grounds for excluding women from assisting with the distribution. For example, in the ancient church women were sometimes permitted to carry the consecrated elements to the sick. This was considered to be a form of distribution of the elements which enabled home-bound members of the parish to participate in the sacrament along with the congregation.  Although there are some precedents for the practice in the history of the church, I do not believe women altar assistants should be in Catholic Churches under present circumstances without causing problems or offence.  In fact in the Archdiocese of Plymouth [and many other UK dioceses) several members of the congregation point blank refused to accept female altar servers and Eucharistic ministers.  The same happened in Italy, Spain and Mexico.

1 Timothy 2, clearly states that a woman should not teach a man in the church.  I see no way of evading the conclusion that a woman should not teach the adult catechetical and bible classes in which men are involved, and that there should be no exceptions.  Biblical teaching is not just leading a discussion in which all the participants throw in their own opinions, and the teacher moderates and throws in an opinion once in awhile. Biblical teaching is an “authoritative proclamation of truths from God’s Word.”

This fact would further raise questions about women counselling men in many areas of scriptural pastoral care, which by definition is not simply a matter of non-directive listening or advising, but which is authoritative teaching which may ultimately result in church discipline.

We consider secondary school students to be minors who are still under the authority of their father and mother, so few questions or problems should arise over this issue at the secondary school level. The question is not so simple at the college level when we consider the students to be men and women with adult responsibilities.  Many catholic colleges therefore avoid placing women in positions which would make them responsible for disciplining adult male students or for determining whether they are qualified to serve in the public ministry of the church.  Care should be taken in such areas as the assignment of supervisors for practice teaching.  The same concerns should apply to giving women teachers, deans, chairmen or department heads supervisory authority over male teachers at any level.  As proof we have many catholic educational institutions that have found themselves in hot water and have faced legal redress in the past.

Our system of church hierarchy is the authoritative governing body of the universal church. Among its more important responsibilities are the calling and removal of priests and teachers, calling the leaders of the diocese, and the acceptance and removal of members.  Participation in this and other governing boards in the church and its organisations should be limited to the hierarchy who are able to properly exercise authority over others.  A few dioceses have attempted to evade this reality by suggesting the board of the diocese become an advisory body.  This I’m afraid is “a cure worse than the disease” since such a redefinition of the nature the churches authority and the role of the parish councils would amount to the establishment of superfluous extra-hierarchical church polity, I am of the opinion that once the hierarchy have made a decision and promulgated that decision then there is no further requirement for further discussion. The same would be true if a Church Council were made anything less than the authoritative governing body of the Church Council.

Participation in governing bodies includes both voting and joining in debate. In most cases, the purpose of voting in and other governing bodies of the Church is not to express personal preferences or needs, but to establish authoritative policy for the Church. In

eugenesutton-heathercook-kjs-9-6-14-redeemerbaltimore-richardschori
Women Bishops?  Not Sacramentally valid.

Christian decision making which aims at best meeting the needs of all of the members of the congregation, including the minority, gathering and assessing the needs and desires of the members is done prior to the decision-making, the church often invited outside periti of both men and women where their opinions are heard and acted upon.  The public domain or the media are not the right forum for such discussions as the media be they of the Church or lay do not have the full grasp of what the concerning topics really are.  They have a tendency to side on the politically correct platform (which always seems to be contrary to Church teachings, or the feminist view “where the tendency leans toward ‘you are denying us our rights” The responsible governing bodies make decisions on the basis of an informed concern for the universal Church, and not merely on the basis of personal preferences. The Congregations often use quite democratic and professional mechanisms such as questionnaires, discussions, or informative meetings to obtain input about the needs and desires of all concerned.  The purpose of debate is to sway opinion, to challenge and refute those in authority against those who hold opposing views. A person cannot truly and freely participate in debate without challenging and contradicting the teachings of the Church and of other parties legitimately involved in the debate. It is very difficult to see how women can do this and yet claim to adhere and be in harmony with Paul’s commands in 1 Corinthians 14; that women are to be silent and not to ask questions in the meeting of the church. There Paul seems to be applying the principle in a situation parallel to the exchange of views which takes place in decision-making processes in Diocesan or meetings.  Debate very often involves only one thing, that is to challenge and assert authoritative viewpoints.  Even questions asked during debate are implied challenges to the authority of the Church.  Submission to headship,  (and this should not be difficult as we do this every day of our lives) not teaching men, being silent and not asking questions are hardly compatible with free participation in debate.

There is no scriptural reason why women cannot be present at Diocesan councils or parish meetings, in fact in the past their presence has been of extreme value, but as a regular practice?  No.  It has been proven that this often causes more problems than it solves.  It happened in the Anglican feminist movement, debating for women to be allowed into the diaconate, then the presbyterate, followed by the episcopate, and what happened? Church attendance declined, a gender neuter God began to appear in the Lutheran church, which is attempting to convince everyone with their very public arguments and teachings that the Blessed Virgin Mary was impregnated by a woman or neuter God and not God the Father.  What utter nonsense.

To be present at such meetings, but to be unable to debate or vote tends to increase frustration and hurt feelings rather than to decrease them. It is therefore not wise to promote this practice as a way of deflecting causing offence and anger on the part of women who feel excluded from the government of the church.  Unfortunately the second Vatican Council flung the doors wide open by not reigning in or correcting the ultra liberal periti that infiltrated the Council.

We seem to have made considerable progress toward reaching agreement among ourselves concerning the biblical principles governing the roles of men and women in the church.  Although this work was completed an hour after reading our Bishop Primus’s posting on facebook, I felt that for once instead of remaining tacit on the subject, that I would use scripture, the Apostles teachings, the Church Fathers, Tradition, my seminary and university training to good use and express what I have been taught, have learned and know and hold to be true.  

At this time in the Church we should be achieving harmony concerning the application of the the churches taught principles, mending the divisions in the church, addressing the

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The fake Pope Joan created by Protestant Reformers.

wrongs that the Church has allowed to continue whilst keeping silent, addressing world poverty, hunger, lack of water, shelter, clothing.  Society has become more and more secular whilst religion has been placed on the back burner.  These are the things that are important today, here and now!  We should therefore not be preparing and arguing about the next woman Bishop, Cardinal or Pope.  Because that would be next on the agenda.

Furthermore a decision was made… several times in fact in answer to this question.  So the point in history during which special attention was given to the question on the ordination of women has come and gone.  

  1. Pope Gelasius I (died 19 November 496) condemned the practice of women officiating at altars; 
  2. There is also the church of Santa Praxedis, where “Theodora Episcopa” — episcopa is the word for “bishop” in the feminine form — appears in an image with two female saints and Mary.  Ecclesiastical tradition explains that Theodora was mother of Pope Paschal I, who built the church in her honour and graced her with the honorary title of Episcopa due to her being the mother of a Pope.  
  3. Pope Zachary also condemned the practice of allowing women to serve at the altar.
  4. In 1976, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood which taught that for doctrinal, theological, and historical reasons, the Church “does not consider herself authorised to admit women to priestly ordination.” The reasons given were the Church’s determination to remain faithful to its constant tradition, its fidelity to Christ’s will, and the iconic value of male representation due to the “sacramental nature” of the priesthood. 
  5. In April 1976, the Pontifical Biblical Commission released a study examining the exclusion of women from the ministerial priesthood from a biblical perspective: “The masculine character of the hierarchical order which has structured the church since its beginning … seems attested to by scripture in an undeniable way.” “As a matter of fact, we see in the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles that the first [Christian] communities were always directed by men exercising the apostolic power.”  
  6. In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared in his letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, stating: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance…I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”  
  7. In 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained that  Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, though “itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church. … This doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church.”  Pope Paul VI, quoted by Pope John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, wrote, “The Church holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”  Pope John Paul II did not mention the question of ordination of women to the diaconate in this document, and reintroducing women to the ordained diaconate was expressly left aside in Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood.
  8. Concerning the “constant practice of the Church“, in antiquity the Church Fathers, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine all wrote that the priestly ordination of women was impossible. 
  9. The Council of Laodicea prohibited ordaining women to the Presbyterate.
  10. In the period between the Reformation and the Second Vatican Council, mainstream theologians continued to oppose the priestly ordination of women.
  11. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued and published on May 29, 2008, in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, a decree signed by Cardinal William Levada, on the existing ban on women priests by asserting that women “priests” and the bishops who ordain them would be automatically excommunicated “latae sententiae“.
  12. Pope Francis said “that door is closed” regarding women’s priestly ordination, affirming the teachings of his two predecessors, Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He expanded on this in a November 2016 informal statement on the return flight from his papal visit to Sweden to commemorate the Reformation,: “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains.” Pope Francis added that women are very important to the Church, specifically from a “Marian dimension. In Catholic ecclesiology there are two dimensions to think about,” he said. “The Petrine dimension, which is from the Apostle Peter, and the Apostolic College, which is the pastoral activity of the bishops, as well as the Marian dimension, which is the feminine dimension of the Church.” The Church is depicted as the bride of Christ, as a woman.  Pope Francis has authorised a commission to see if women could be made deaconesses.

Who am I therefore, to argue against these enlightened people? 

In conclusion: The biblical principles were given in order to be applied. We cannot be satisfied to come to agreement on the principles, but then being negligent or indifferent in applying them. 

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A triumph for feminism? or an Ordination which requires a humble heart?

I ask my sisters who seek the priesthood to carefully and prayerfully consider what they are doing.   Is it a victory for feminism that you are seeking? because the photographs seem to imply just that.  We see that the women being ordained (in the photograph) seem to have more more of a triumphalist attitude than the humbleness required for the office that has just been invalidly bestowed upon them. 

Let me therefore close this lengthy reply by using the Apostle Paul to the Romans 16:1-4; commend — Rather, recommend; unto you — That is, To your love and assistance; Phebe our sister — The bearer of this letter; a servant — Or deaconess, as the Greek word signifies; of the church at Cenchrea — Which was a church distant from that at Corinth.  This place, being situated on the Saronic gulf, was about seventy furlongs, near nine miles, distant from that city; therefore those Christians that lived there could not with convenience, at least generally, assemble with such as resided at Corinth. In the apostolic age, some grave and pious women were appointed deaconesses in every church; and it was their office, not to teach publicly, but  to visit the sick, the women in particular, and to minister to them both in their temporal and spiritual necessities.  The apostle calls Phebe his sister, because she was a true Christian, a genuine believer in our Lord Jesus, and consequently a child and heir of God, and joint heir with Christ. For the appellations of brother and sister, which the disciples gave to one another in the first age, were founded on their being all the children of God by faith, consequently the brethren and sisters of Christ, who acknowledged the relation by publicly declaring, Matthew 12:50, Whosoever shall do the will of my Father, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. That ye receive her — Entertain her, and treat her with affection; in the Lord — For the Lord Christ’s sake, and in regard to her relation to him, our common Saviour; as becometh saints — According to the duty which Christians owe one toward another, and as it is proper they should act who profess to be saints, separated from the world to the honour of Christ’s name; and that ye assist her — With counsel, and every necessary aid; in whatsoever business she hath need of you — This implies, that she had come to Rome on business of importance; perhaps to seek the payment of a debt owing to her by some of the inhabitants of Rome, or to complain of undue exactions by some of the emperor’s officers in the province.  For she hath been a succourer of many — Probably supplying their wants, if not also entertaining them at her house.  The word προστατις properly signifies a patron, a name which the Romans gave to persons who assisted with their advice and interest those who were connected with them as clients.  Therefore, as Phebe had this name given her, it is reasonable to believe that she was a person of considerable wealth and influence.  Or, we may at the very least suppose the name was given her on account of the offices she performed to many as a deaconess.  

The apostle’s direction implies, that all the faithful ought to be particularly attentive in giving assistance and relief to those who have been remarkable for assisting and relieving others. In Romans 16:1-16, Paul recommends Phebe to the Christians at Rome. It becomes Christians to help one another in their affairs, especially strangers; we know not what help we may need ourselves.  Paul asks help for one that had been helpful to many; he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Though the care of all the churches came upon him daily, yet he could remember many persons, and send salutations to each, with particular characters of them, and express concern for them. Lest any should feel themselves hurt, as if Paul had forgotten them, he sends his remembrances to the rest, as brethren and saints, though not named.  He adds, in the close, a general salutation to them all, in the name of the churches of Christ.

I commend – It was common then, as now, to bear letters of introduction to strangers, commending the person thus introduced to the favourable regards and attentions of those to whom the letters were addressed; 2 Corinthians 3:1; Acts 18:27. This Epistle, with the apostle’s commendation, was designed thus to introduce its bearer to the Roman Christians. The mention of Phebe in this manner leaves it beyond a doubt that she was either the bearer of this Epistle, or accompanied those who bore it to Rome.

Our sister – A member of the Christian church.  Which is a servant – Greek, “Who is a deaconess.” It is clear from the New Testament that there was an order of women in the church known as “deaconesses.”  Reference is made to a class of females whose duty it was to “teach” other females, and to take the general superintendence of that part of the church, in various places in the New Testament; and their existence is expressly affirmed in early ecclesiastical history. They appear to have been commonly aged and experienced widows, sustaining fair reputation, and suited to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced; compare 1 Timothy 5:3, 1 Timothy 5:9-11; Titus 2:4. The Apostolical Constitutions, book iii. states, “Ordain a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministries toward the women.”  Pliny in his celebrated letter to Trajan, says, when speaking of the efforts which he made to obtain information respecting the opinions and practices of Christians, “I deemed it necessary to put two maidservants who are called “ministrae” (that is “deaconesses”) to the torture, in order to ascertain what is the truth.” The reasons of their appointment among the Gentiles were these:

    1. The females were usually separate from the men. They were kept secluded, for the most part, and not permitted to mingle in society with men as is the custom now.
    2. It became necessary, therefore, to appoint aged and experienced females to instruct the young, to visit the sick, to provide for them, and to perform for them the services which male deacons performed for the whole church. It is evident, however, that they were confined to these offices, and that they were never regarded as an order of ministers, or suffered “to preach” to congregations1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34.

There is only one word for women ordination, and that is: Heterodoxy!

I am your brother in Christ.

Fr. Ugo-Maria ESB (csr)

Friday, 15 June 2018