From Parish Priest to Diocesan Hermit
May Christ’s peace be with you!
Welcome to the Blog-Site where occasionally I am able to share my thoughts with others. My Name is Dom. Ugo-Maria some call me Fr. Hugh. I’m a contemplative Priest and Hermit, originally from Italy. I attended a Salesian minor seminary school in Castrofilippo Italy and Diocesan Seminary also in Italy and occasionally in Rome. I spent some years as a visitor with the Benedictines in Italy, Ireland and the UK, then with the Cistercians at Mellifont in Ireland in search of my “desert vocation” and eventually spend some time with the Carthusians at Serra San Bruno in Calabria. In 1995 my bishop released me from diocesan duties and I commenced my life as a Priest and contemplative Hermit following the ancient Carthusian Customs (Consuetudines) or Rule written in 1128 (Guigo I, 5th Prior of Order) and continue to use their pre Vatican II liturgy with the consent of my bishop.
St. Mary’s Hermitage is located on the edge of a very tiny village in the Weald of Kent, surrounded by woodland and arable land, and very few people.
This is in fact the second St. Mary’s Hermitage, the first one having burnt to the ground by an arsonist attack a couple of years ago. It has been a difficult as we lost absolutely everything. Only the hermitage animals and I were spared.
The Hermit of Saint Bruno practices an Idiorrhythmic Celtic form of monasticism. Idiorrhythmia was the original form of monastic life in Christianity, as exemplified by St. Anthony of Egypt and which is the opposite of the cenobitic form of monasticism in that instead of communal ownership, the monk lives alone, and in isolation. Philosophically it consists of a total withdrawal from society, normally in the desert, with unceasing mental prayer. The word Idiorrhythmic comes from two Greek words idios, “particular” and ῥυθμός rhuthmós, “rule” meaning “following one’s own devices.” It was first developed by St. Anthony of Egypt (c. 250–355) and today is mainly known to be practised at Mount Athos, Greece, yet has began to expand to other parts of the world.
My monastic life is one in which I seek that divine quietness (ἡσυχία hēsychia) through the contemplation of God in uninterrupted prayer. Such prayer, involving the entire human being—soul, mind, and body—is often called “pure,” or “intellectual,” prayer or the Jesus prayer. St. John Climacus, one of the greatest writers of the Hesychast tradition, wrote, “Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of the hēsychia.” even in the life of this father of monasticism, the desert solitude was gradually modified by the appearance of disciples. I wanted to pursue the monastic life under the guidance of one who was already experienced. A monk seeking a life of solitude would much rather be guided by an experienced hermit than an inexperienced one, no matter how educated the latter may be. So, there were struggles for many years as a solitary, but I initially received help from the people who lived near me and a small Amish community who provided some furniture, food and plants.
A few years have passed now and being nearly fully settled in I began to do some gardening, I learnt from the Carthusians at Calabria how every single monk had his own small cell to live in and to worship God in quiet solitude; there are two gardens one at the front of St. Mary’s Hermitage which at times I wished were smaller and one at rear of the hermitage which is attached to my cell. I have planted a verity of medicinal herbs which I use, (Bay leaf, lemon balm, marjoram, thyme, parsley, oregano, Rosemary, Lavender, valerian, sage and St. John’s wort)flowers which I enjoy especially the Jasmine, wisteria and quite a few fruit bearing trees and bushes, the favourites being all of them really, there are figs, cherries, plums, apples, pears, damsons, there are also blueberries and gooseberries, occasionally strawberries (they were damaged this spring when a lamb took a liking to them) also I brought back some Anguria seeds (Water Melon) from Sicily and they have done surprisingly well.
I started canning, drying and storing the fruits and herbs. I do not to use any chemical pesticides at all and therefore have to be watchful of insects and slugs and snails, white fly, black things green things… its a great learning curb. When I’m in a real panic about a plant I usually contact Buckfast Abbey in Devon and ask for advice.
The rest of my time is spend in lecturing, writing, editing and publishing… but all of these things need to fit in with my Horarium (schedule).
A life of Prayer in the presence of God
“In the sanctuary of our heart, he is there, waiting for us. One look, one second, suffices to meet him in the reciprocity of a simple profound friendship.”
During the day when you read, work, walk to church, etc., a spark of love for the Lord, will en-kindle at times in your heart. It is good to cultivate the spontaneous uplifting of the heart by brief prayers, which, without need for discursive thought, can awaken a deep attitude of the heart and nourish it.”
In a desert land, and where there is no way, and no water: so in the sanctuary have I come before thee, to see thy power and thy glory. Psalm 62:3
contacting St. Mary’s Hermitage
Please note that no reply will be given by the Hermit, who leads a solitary life and is restricted to contact with his immediate family only 4 times a year. Prayer requests will be added the week following your request and may not be acknowledged.