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

Seventeen Centuries Of Monastic life.

In 269 a young Egyptian takes the advice that Jesus gives a rich man in the Gospel: “If you want to be perfect, sell everything you have … Then come and follow me” (Matthew 19: 21-22). Antony distributes all his goods to the poor and will live as a hermit in the desert of Thebaid, on the eastern bank of the Nile.

St. Antony retreats into the desert.

In 269 a young Egyptian takes the advice that Jesus gives a rich man in the Gospel: “If you want to be perfect, sell everything you have … Then come and follow me” (Matthew 19: 21-22). Antony distributes all his goods to the poor and will live as a hermit in the desert of Thebaid, on the eastern bank of the Nile.

Athanasius, a bishop of Alexandria, will tell us of his life some time later. It traces the portrait of a solitary recluse, a prayerful prodigy who self-inflicts trials to enable him to resist the temptations of the devil.

St. Anthony incarnates the emergent figure of the hermit in the history of Christianity. He is considered the “father” of the anchorites (from the Greek anakhôrein, “to retire”).

In the partially evangelised East of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, there were already men and women who had chosen to live the radical teachings of the Gospel message, as was the case with “consecrated virgins”, who vowed celibacy and poverty. But these faithful did not leave their communities of origin.

The hermits, on the other hand, are expatriated to dedicate themselves only to God, in isolation and in their despotism. They spread during the second half of the fourth century in Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and above all in Egypt.

This phenomenon is contemporaneous with the change of status of the Christian in the Roman Empire: persecuted during the first three centuries of our era, they are suddenly tolerated in 313, due to the recognition of the religious freedom granted them by the edict of Milan; and in 337 is legitimised through the conversion of the emperor Constantine.

With the end of the persecutions, the spirituality of martyrdom (from the Greek martus, “witness”) no longer means the apogee of Christian witness. He is replaced by a monastic spirituality which presents the monk’s solitary experience as a martyrdom, no longer of blood but spiritual: a battle against evil and a path of evangelical perfection, that is, based on the gospels.

The legitimisation of the Christian religion has two other consequences: on the one hand, the influence of the imperial hierarchical model on the local Churches, which concentrate power in the hands of the bishops; on the other hand, the relaxation of the piety of the faithful, who cease to feel threatened.

Many Christians fond of their inner freedom and taken by the absolute refusal of this lukewarmness they were forced to lived. Therefore they retire to the desert to live continually in prayer and penance. Saint Anthony would be our role model. His charism will attract pilgrims and disciples until his death, at the age of 105.

Pictorial inspiration

The temptations to which St. Anthony was subjected inspired many artists. One of the most remarkable representations is that of the surrealist Salvador Dali (1904-1989). Held in 1946, after World War II, it reflects the mystical period of the author.

“His” Anthony, naked, wields a cross against a gigantic, a horse standing on its hind legs, symbolising a power that has become insane. Behind, in a scene of nuclear apocalypse, elephants with spider legs carry on the backs the temptations of lust and greed.

The Catholic Church memorialises the abbot and Father of all Monks Saint Anthony on January 17.