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

 

The Trinity and Worship

Trinity 3

IT is proverbial that we are sometimes blindest of all to the most familiar things: the old house, the cherished walk, the parks and gardens where we are accustomed to while away the hours.  Like good friends they do not need the reassurance of a long and searching scrutiny. We are at home with them and can find our way about them. Anything more is for the visitor, the dilettante, the tourist. 

This is especially so regarding religious matters.  We have staked our claim here, and have wandered in and out since childhood. Here most of all we have our home. It is almost inevitable as a consequence that here we can be blindest of all. 

Let us take the most sacred moment in our daily worship and describe it as though to a stranger. 

‘The bell rings for the consecration’, as we say. The priest bows down upon the altar as though he were trying to seclude himself from the people and their concerns.  The congregation stops its coughing, and feet-scrapings and bead-rattlings, and each member of it gradually becomes a little pool of silence.  For each of them is waiting, waiting alone and solitary, so it seems.  But for what?  For something to adore.  After the first bell all the eyes are raised, eyes like those of children about to look upon their parents’ gift until now hidden from them.  This is what they were waiting for, the Host, the white Wafer under which their God lies hid. The priest has done his work unfailingly as he always does, and the object of adoration is presented to those reverent eyes.  So many lips murmur softly to themselves the words that confess the Lord’s divinity and his real presence, ‘My Lord and my God’. For many the main part is over.  They have seen their Lord.  They have gained their indulgence.  The chalice contains and yet hides the Precious Blood.  They look at it when raised, for that is what some missals direct them to do. ‘Look at the chalice’, they are told, ‘and then bow down to adore the Blood of Christ.’  But the Blood moves the people less for the simple reason that they cannot see It. 

The coughing checked in masterly fashion for the few moments of the adoration returns harsher than ever for a little while, but then gentler, more reverent. So it is with the shuffling feet and the dangling beads. The congregation is now in the presence of God. What better sign of his presence could the Lord have given to his elect than this Host, white and pure and radiant, even its shape — circular, and so without beginning and end—betokening divinity? 

No reader, I suppose, would either query the general accuracy of this description or fail to be somewhat saddened at the deficiencies in the appreciation of the Mystery that it betrays. 

Our people, in the main, give little more than notional assent to the Eucharist as a sacrifice.  The Mass is thought of sometimes as Benediction with rather different rubrics. We must admit that our laity often do not know what it means when they are told that they should be offering with the priest. 

I want to suggest that the real reason for this lack of comprehension is that there is no practical understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.  Because many people’s whole spirituality is directed to Christ as God it is seriously lacking in many respects. Christian prayer is not only prayer in which our Lord figures but in which he figures as Mediator.  Our people are praying with great piety and zeal, so much so that we are inclined to forget that it is not always according to knowledge.  For they do not know practically that ‘through him (Christ) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father’. 

They do not offer, then, with the priest because the priest is offering to the Father and they are unaccustomed to thinking of prayer as directed to the Father.  When the priest raises his hands at the altar they take it for granted that he is just giving them a view of the Host so they can adore It.  After all, the priest used to have his back to them and had to raise the Host high for them to see.  They cannot—and perhaps with every justification cannot — recognise this elevation as a sacrificial attitude because the priest does not raise his hands in any case until the words of consecration are completed.  No wonder they think the priest’s task is wholly separate from, and antecedent to, their own. The habit they have acquired of bowing down accentuates their seeming exclusion from the sacrifice.  For no outside observer would think this ostrich-like behaviour symbolic of an attitude of sacrifice. Hands raised high to heaven, yes, that would be fitting, hands outstretched, eyes held aloft, that would indeed be a sign of an oblation to the heavenly Father.  This general collapse over the benches certainly is not. 

As for the Host Itself on which they concentrate in affection almost entirely, it would be something if they could recognise It as bread.  As it is, It may satisfy their aesthetic sense but It is scarcely calculated to remind them that they are hungry.  They feel the proper attitude is, as before, adoration, so that Communion as a habit appears to some to be rather overdoing the familiarity.  We should emphasise to them that the Eucharistic bread is not a symbol of Christ’s divinity but of his flesh and we were meant to hunger after it: the very condition of salvation is feeding on that flesh in faith and in the Eucharist. When our people do not know this effectively, they are quite content with their adoration. The Family’s bread remains undistributed, and nobody seems to be hungry . . . 

To offer the doctrine of the Trinity as a remedy to much of this is not like offering any kind of cheap panacea.  We were baptised into the Trinity.  The Trinity lives in each of us.  Each Person is personally united to each of us.  It is the Trinity that is the home of all our wanderings.  It must be obvious that our life of worship should be centred on the Trinity as Trinity. 

We cannot go on with the pastoral neglect of this doctrine without, unconsciously at least, erecting many barriers to true devotion. To be able to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus is the very meaning of the Incarnation. For Christ is our Mediator with the Father. It is through him that we have access to the Father in the Spirit. 

The ordinary Catholic, if asked, might fail to see what all the commotion is about.  He only knows that there are three Persons in God and that God the Son became man and suffered and died for us. In worshipping Christ we are worshipping God.  Isn’t that enough? 

Naturally, we know it isn’t.  Not only is it not enough but it is a dangerous dilution of the revealed word of God.  But the mistake is easily made, for their priests and teachers do not, for the most part, present them with any richer Trinitarian doctrine. 

The objection of the layman comes down to asking this fundamental question: ‘Does it really mean very much to say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and yet the Father is not the Son?’  If it means nothing at all we would be justified in addressing our prayer, as many do, uniquely to the Son.  It is because that question is meaningful — in fact, is in the deepest sense of all meaningful — that it is not sufficient to pray to ‘Jesus because he is God’.  And it is not sufficient simply because he is not the Father.  Christianity is not the creed in which God is seen to be our Father, but in which God the Father is seen to be our Father.  We are not just sons of God, therefore, but sons in the Son.  The whole of our Christian life is a share in the Sonship of the Son, a participation, on our own level, of that eternal relationship of Son to Father. 

To say, ‘Isn’t it enough to pray to Christ as God?’ turns out to be as curious a question as asking, ‘Wasn’t Christ praying to himself since he was praying to God his Father and he himself was God?’  We might ask with equal impropriety, ‘Didn’t God the Father become man, since the Son did so and he was God?’ 

Too often our people pray as if it were not the Son who came in our flesh, as if he had never revealed the Father to us or sent us his Spirit. 

The divinity of our Lord is central to Christian belief; and yet its over-emphasis, that is, the emphasis on it to the distortion of the context in which we were meant to see it in God’s plan, has obstructed our insight into the divine economy.  It has made us forget that the temporal economy of salvation mirrors forth the eternal relations, that through the Incarnation, Passion and Glorification of the Son we, too, were meant to be caught up with him, parcelled up in him, share his Sonship, and so pass with him into the full condition of being God’s sons. 

The strange thing is that praying to Christ almost exclusively has made us even forget the role of Incarnation.  For the Word was made flesh to be our Mediator with the Father — not just an intermediary between God and men.  For ‘he is the Mediator of the New Testament: that by means of his death … they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance, in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Hebrews 9:14-15). 

To pray to the Father is necessarily to keep Christ ever in our minds for it is only in him that we can approach the Father at all.  The Word was made flesh that suffering and dying for us he might bring us in himself to the Father.  He accomplished this in his Spirit.  The Spirit who is the mutual Love of Father and Son is given to us as a Gift.  The Spirit is not a substitute or a replacement for Christ since Christ’s gift of the Spirit is also his own return.  ‘And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever. …  I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.’ (John 14: 16,18).  So the Spirit’s task is to make Christ’s spiritual presence and power — for Christ by his Resurrection has become a living spirit — effectual in the world.  The Spirit’s task is to make effective Christ’s mediation, so that through Christ we may be reconciled to the Father, and in Christ glorify the Father. 

In our almost exclusive approach to Christ as God, then, we tend to lose the whole force of Incarnation for we are treating the Son as though he were the Father. We let slip from view the role of Christ’s humanity and move away automatically from a sacramental conception of our faith which is the correct one.  Moreover, there is scarcely room for the Spirit at all.  If the Father is dimly there in the background of our prayer (as one to whom Christ is to lead us after our deaths!), the Spirit simply does not seem to fit in comfortably anywhere.  In our odd moments when the thought strikes us we realise very forcibly that the Spirit is also God, and address a few unintegrated invocations to him, hoping that this will make up for our long bouts of unaccountable neglect. 

The remedy for all these difficulties is simple.  It is to obey the injunction of Christ: ‘When you pray, say, our Father’.  To address the Father is to know in an experimental way that we can only approach through the merits of the Son, and in the Spirit who makes Christ’s redemptive work operative in us.  All our prayers become summaries of our Christian faith. They become ‘homely’ for Father, Son and Spirit come to us and make their abode with us.  The very word ‘Father’ has about it all those proper resonances that should belong to it. 

The attitude at Mass which was outlined above is only the symptom of a deep disquietude, and of a far – reaching maladjustment, in our worship, to Trinitarian doctrine.  The effects are there in our secret prayer to God as well. 

Praying to the Father does not mean that we must never pray directly to the Spirit or to Jesus.  This would be contrary to the teaching of the Church and to her experience of God as expressed in many parts of the liturgy.  We have been talking about an emphasis. Prayer to the Father which Pius XII called the ‘normal’ procedure helps to remind us that we do not and cannot pray alone.  It is always through Christ and with Christ that we speak to God.  Jesus is our Mediator, so that prayer is a chorus, an ensemble, a community affair. And the habit of speaking exclusively to Christ as God makes us feel unbearably the lack of a Mediator.  We experience a kind of loneliness of approach that should be quite alien to the Christian spirit. 

Jesus becoming the end of our supplications, we find ourselves alone, without merits, and we look around for mediators to help us. We choose our Lady above all for this role.  Now I do not deny that in a most genuine and special sense our Lady is our intercessor.  But she is not the ‘Mediator of the New Testament’.  In practice the neglect of Trinitarian doctrine and the almost unique direction of prayer to Christ as God has tended to make us put our Lady in place of Christ in our approach to God.  This should not be so.  Protestants are very wrong in thinking that for Catholics it must be so.  Let us just admit in all honesty that for too many Catholics it simply is so. 

No Catholic would dream of attributing divinity to our Lady. Newman was clearly correct in thinking that anybody who makes such an accusation betrays his own Arianism.  It means that he does not know what divinity is, if he thinks that the honours paid to Mary are divine honours which ought to be reserved for Christ. 

Might it not be, however, that often what Protestants are really getting at and yet expressing so badly is that the practice of many Catholics in fact is opposed, by reason of the role given to Mary, to the apostolic injunction, namely, to pray to the Father through Christ. Devotion to our Lady must fit into the latter scheme and not supplant it.  When a true harmony is achieved there is a resultant warmth about traditionally Catholic worship which is lacking in Protestantism as such.  But it does no harm and will perhaps do much good to admit that sometimes Protestants have a much deeper sensitivity to the structural aspects of Christian doctrine than have many Catholics. 

Lastly, on the subject of our secret prayer to God, we see that we can only become humble when our prayer is Trinitarian, for it is in Christ that we are led to the Father.  If God were to take our present mode of prayer seriously one wonders if we should be heard at all, for we are speaking to Christ as God unaided.  We are praying, that is, as if failure or success were uniquely dependent on us.  But to pray through the merits of Christ is always to be heard because it becomes the prayer of the well-beloved Son who is always heard for his reverence.  ‘Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name. Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full.’ (John 16:24). When we experience darkness and desolation in prayer, therefore, it is not as if our voices cannot pierce the heavens.  For our supplications are simultaneously on the lips of Christ in whom we are incorporated, and who has already passed beyond the heavens. Not only is all liturgy heavenly liturgy, but all prayer is heavenly prayer. All this is a source of consolation. 

The central action of the Mass, that most familiar of familiar things, has revealed to us by our description of it a crucial neglect of the doctrine of the Trinity.  This neglect has led insensibly to mistaken emphases in many other areas of faith. And it is difficult to see how it could have been otherwise. 

“Father, help us to pray as your Son taught us to pray and grant us even now to live in humble and loving obedience to your will. Through the merits of the same Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Spirit for ever and ever.  Amen.”

trinity_ilustr

BOOK REVIEW: “HOW THE ANCIENT ROMAN RITE HAS CHANGED” BY REV. P. PIETRO LEONE

The latest book by The Reverend Father Don Pietro Leone, academic, Lecturer in Doctrine and Traditional Ritual, is directed at Pope Francis, although the topic is not dear to the heart of the recipient: Mass in Vetus Ordo. The author of Come è Cambiato il Rito Romano Antico, published by Solfanelli, has set himself the objective of evaluating the two rites, the new and the ancient in a scientific manner, by comparing them in light of their respective sacramental theologies.

The decree of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, published in July 2007 to liberalise the ancient Roman Rite, aroused a variety of reactions: some welcomed it with joy, in the hope that it would be applied as widely as possible; while others have labeled it as “something for the nostalgic”.   In this context, the Book aims to evaluate the two rites with scientific discipline: more precisely, to compare them in light of their respective sacramental theologies.  The book further aims to offer the reader a synthetic vision on the topic, concerning both the ordinary (or “common”) of the Mass, that is the parts that are common to all Masses, those parts that are proper to one Mass or another.  The first part of the essay analyses the common of the Mass, the second part analyses inter-alia the differences of each Mass.  This comparison of the two rites will allow us to evaluate them in the correct manner.


Available from our: Hermitage Bookshop:


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The latest book by The Reverend Father Don Pietro Leone, academic, Lecturer in Doctrine and Traditional Ritual, is directed at Pope Francis, although the topic is not dear to the heart of the recipient: Mass in Vetus Ordo. The author of Come è Cambiato il Rito Romano Antico, published by Solfanelli, has set himself the objective of evaluating the two rites, the new and the ancient in a scientific manner, by comparing them in light of their respective sacramental theologies.

This resulted in a text that does not seek controversy and, free from all hypocrisy or duplicity, highlights the objectivity and the truth of the facts. The sources, on the other hand, are of unquestionable theological and historical value. It is essentially a compendium, a summary on the two rites accessible to all more or less on the subject prepared readers. A close examination of each one emerges, as it is written in the preface, “that they are so different that we cannot accurately speak of two forms of the Roman rite, nor to two Roman Rituals; but rather of two distinct rites, the first Roman and the second non-Roman: it will show us that in creating the New Rite the ancient Rite was destroyed”.

Father Leone has no reservations and no fear in highlighting the Protestant character of the new rite, so, he rigorously proposes a confrontation that leaves avenue for open to deception or for sugar-coating the subject: “In fact, all that was suppressed was almost everything that was part of the true essence of the Mass, that is, its sacrificial nature.  It is therefore in this perspective that we will compare the theology of the two rites in the following subsections: §1 on the offertory, relating to the anticipation of the sacrifice; §2 on the canon, relating to making the presence of the sacrifice; §3 on the real Presence, relating to its object, that is Jesus Christ himself; §4 on the sacrificial priesthood, relating to the minister who has received the power to make the sacrifice, §5 on the purpose of the Mass, relating to the finality of the sacrifice; §6 on Latin, relating to the language that is suitable; §7 on the orientation of the celebrant, relating to the appropriate orientation; §8 on the altar and table relating to the altar of sacrifice; and §9 on intelligibility and participation, concerning their principal objective, that is, the sacrifice itself” (p.27).

One could not then miss the correct interpretation of the sacramental priesthood. Priests are presbyters and not the laity, while, with the new rite, the priests are aligned with the lay priesthood of the Protestants.

So we see the change very clearly: in the modern Mass all the verbal distinctions in the offertory and in the canon between the priest and the laity have been removed, with the exception of the “pray brothers” (or “Orate Frates”).

The double Confiteor and the double Communion have been replaced with a single Confiteor and a single Communion, where no clear distinction exists between the priests and the faithful (a term that has been substituted with “assembly” or “people”), while the formula of absolution has been removed, as it was removed by the Protestants in the sixteenth century.

The Council of Trent replied very sternly to Luther and to all the Protestants for the heresy that arose from this with On The Sacrifice of the Mass: Canon I. — “If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema.” (pp. 49-50)..

Therefore the purpose of the Mass is not simply for praise or adoration and thanksgiving, but it is also an expiation and supplication.  This statement is as true as it is eternal and is the answer not only to the Protestant repudiation that the Mass is a sacrifice and, as such, atoning appealing in nature, but also a response to the new Mass endorsed by Paolo VI and Annibale Bugnini, who as early as the pontificate of Pio XII, began to, with his collaborators in the Liturgical Commission to meet with the separated brethren.

Too bad that those brothers with their errors have affected the revolutionaries within the Church, poisoning a rite that has become directed more at mankind rather than a worship directed toward God.

However, the Vetus Ordo, thanks to the Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI of 7 July 2007, continues to reaffirm a response to the growing interest for both the priests who apply it, and for the faithful who assist him and where the young are of great importance.

The author’s supernatural vision, which is expressed when he asserts that God has allowed so much liturgical degradation as a possible “severe punishment to the Church for the harm with the most extreme severity” (p. 131) with an appropriate similarity between the punishments to mankind as suffered during the twentieth century and foretold by Our Lady of Fatima, it does nothing but add value to this work of nonfiction, having value of a spiritual character.

Related to this book of great interest and usefulness, is the release of an analysis by Abbé Claude Barthe, theologian, defender and populariser of the “genius” of the traditional Roman liturgy, entitled Storia del Messale Tridentino, translated from French into Italian by Carlotta Anna Pallottino Luyt and published again by Solfanelli. [I have been unable to find a translation in English at this time]

The text is intended for all those who wish to understand how the product which is studied by a few, or rather that the Novus ordo, is nothing more than a consequence of a matured mentality, over a period of four centuries (ie from the promulgation of the Missal of the Council of Trent, which took place July 14, 1570, to the first edition of the missal of Vatican Council II, published March 26, 1970), during which the enemies of the Church operated with an invasive and systematic strategy.

The liturgical work carried out by the Council of Trent sanctioned the results of the medieval stabilisation of the Roman cult.  The reception of this Council, during these four hundred years, has been accompanied by an evolution of Catholicism, and the evolution that demarcated it – thanks to the burrowing actions of the opponents of Catholicism – in an increasingly incisive and firm way from Tradition, until we reach our chaotic and heretical times.

The liturgy of this Catholicism of the Counter-Reformation was celebrated from Pius V to John XXIII, up to the explosive threshold of a contemporary crisis.  I have chosen to focus the study in a particular way on this period, since in it there has been an assimilation of all the anterior liturgical stratifications, essentially following the Carolingian romanisation and the centralisation process realised by the Gregorian reform.  This retrospective is characterised by the fatal tendency to favour the author’s French point of view, which can indeed find an objective justification because of the important role that the Churches of France have participate in over this period in history of the Roman cult” (pp. 5-6).

Scrutinising the history of the Roman Missal is to understand the doctrinal, theological, liturgical and sacred a heritage that has been built, brick by brick, until we reach the formation of the Tridentine Missal.

Not, therefore, a handful of revolutionary men who idealised an alternative, as happened with the Novus Ordo, but a Pope, St. Pius V, who regularised and unified the Catholic liturgy in the world.  Commencing in the High Middle Ages, it has acquired a relevance, not equal to that of the Bible, but, on closer inspection, comparable and complementary, such as to give sacred character to the missal and vice versa.  To this we must add an intrinsic osmosis of the liturgical texts and ceremonies with the teachings of the magisterium.  Osmosis much greater than that, however still very strong, of the rights of the Church with the same teachings”(p.5).

So as to understand better lets give an example: the Carolingians accentuated the Romanisation of the liturgy of Gaul with a view of political and religious unification of their territories, but also to ensure the spread of Roman Catholicism in defence of religious orthodoxy.

The increasing use of the Roman liturgy as it was celebrated in Rome, as did the Franciscans of the thirteenth century, was achieved through the dissemination of the liturgical books of the Roman Curia and adopted by them.  The importance of the Missal and the Breviary, but also the pontifical of the Roman Curia, augmented by the invention of the printing press and the Counter-Reformation.

Thus the, violent Protestant attacks against the “papist” Masses and on the other hand, the doctrinal work of the Council of Trent (particularly in sessions XIII and XXII) have conferred on the Mass of the Curia added a truly Roman value.  It becomes, more evidently, a beacon of the Catholic Profession of faith as conveyed by tradition”.  A tradition that is so betrayed today, violated with inconceivable and sacrilegious abuses, abuses that find their matrix in the Lutheran denial of transubstantiation.

The Mass at St. Mary’s Hermitage Chapel open to the laity at 07:00 hrs. on 6 Nov. 17

The Mass at St. Mary’s Hermitage open to the laity at 07:00 hrs. on 6 November 2017

Officiant: The Ven. Fr. Dom. Ugo Maria Ginex E.S.B.

Server:  Brother Augustus E.S.B.

Numbers attended:

Laity – 32  Religious – 4

A collection was made  for: Catholic Refugees and Immigrants Services and a cheque for the sum of £92.35 will be sent to them at the end of the month.

[06.11.17] Sexta die infra Octavam Omnium Sanctorum~Feria major

The Mass at St. Mary’s Hermitage open to the laity at 07:00 hrs. on 6 November 2017

Officiant: The Ven. Fr. Dom. Ugo Maria Ginex E.S.B.

Server:  Brother Augustus E.S.B.

Numbers attended:

Laity – 32  Religious – 4

A collection was made  for: Catholic Refugees and Immigrants Services and a cheque for the sum of £92.35 will be sent to them at the end of the month.