Archive for March, 2013

How should Hermits dress? I

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2013 by citydesert

How should Hermits dress? The earliest Hermits seemed to adopt somewhat eccentric and strange practices! As the (on-line) “Coptic Encyclopedia” notes:

In both Jewish and Christian environments, there were several distinctive customs in matters of dress. Women, young girls, or widows who lived in community, took the veil as a sign of modesty and virginity. The polemics surrounding this custom were numerous.
Tertullian even devoted a whole work to it. The Essenes, for their part, chose the white baptismal robe to signify to the world their purity and their “baptism of life.” In the desert, the prophets of all ages clothed themselves in a cloak of camel’s hair and a loincloth of skin. In the course of the fourth and fifth centuries, a new ethic of clothing arose around PALLADIUS, Saint John CASSIAN, and EVAGRIUS PONTICUS, rooted in the prophetic example in the context of the desert and of eremitism.
naked hermit
To the ideal hermit were attributed the melote (mantle of animal skin), symbol of mortification; the skhema (a garment like a scapular marked with a cross, which recalled the cross of Christ); the Koukle (a hood, cowl, or cap), symbol of the grace of God and a witness to the childlike spirit of the follower of Jesus, His simplicity and His innocence; the girdle
(leather belt worn by soldiers), which kept the Christian from impurity and was an attribute of the soldier of Christ; the sleeveless tunic, symbol of renunciation of the world; and sandals, which rather than shoes gave nimbleness for running the spiritual course.

This costume, however, was not worn in any rigorous fashion in the different ascetic centers. Anchorites and cenobites exhibited various and sometimes whimsical forms of dress, at least in early times. They drew upon local forms of dress, adapting them as closely as possible to the basic ideal scheme. Considerations of the level of asceticism, the material resources, and personal preferences were also taken into account. Also it was possible to distinguish one group of monks from another by variations in their dress.
hermit robe
An important evolution toward a more uniform style of dress took place under the influence of the political, economic, social, and religious progress of Egypt. The state had something to say, and popular fashions—Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Syrian, Byzantine, or Arab, to mention only the most important—influenced even the religious. These conditions produced in Egypt a very changing and subtle style of dress, for these fashions were more or less fixed according to the regions, the levels of population, and the zones of immigration. This evolution can be traced through six periods.

Egyptian asceticism in the third century passed through a period of extreme poverty and solitude. Some hermits wore nothing at all and possessed nothing, not even a garment. Without even a loincloth, they covered themselves only with their long hair or their beard if they could grow one. Some used their mats as clothing as well as for sleeping. Others plaited tunics for themselves from the fiber of palm, papyrus, or some other fibrous and coarse plant. Simple long white tunics of linen, without sleeves or decoration, were also used. Some ascetics wore the klaft (cap), which was like the cap of very small children. Some covered themselves in cool weather or on journeys with the balot (cloak of sheepskin or
goatskin), which on occasion served as a pouch if the ends were knotted. Some girded themselves with the mojh (leather cincture characteristic of soldiers), on which was hung a purse for small change. The most valiant ascetics lapped over themselves, front and back, the skhema, or Arabic marcnah (scapular of tanned leather, made of bands passed over the shoulders and attached to the mojh).

Although these garments constituted the basic model of religious dress, the complete costume was practically never worn at this period.
hermit robe 2
Alongside these garments of Egyptian origin, a whole range of clothing brought in from abroad was gradually established with the great periods of immigration. The Greek
Kentonarion was a “patchwork” garment of various fabrics, which gave it a multicolored appearance. Two tunics, the kolobion, from Greece or Syria, and the lebiton, are often confused. The first was of brown wool, the second of white linen and originally worn by the
Levites (hence the name), straight in form and without sleeves or seams. In the same way the plebeian cloaks of Greece and Rome, the lodix and the melote, were found among the monks of Egypt. The lodix was very shaggy, of wool woven with all its fleece, either sheep wool or goat hair; it served both as a greatcoat and as a rug or blanket for covering animals. The Greek melote (mantle) was made of sheepskin or goatskin with its white fleece. It was knotted on the chest, and was akin to the balot. In Rome it was also fastened with a fibula. The melote generally came down to the level of the knees. It is often portrayed in representations of Moses and Elijah.

In Romanized contexts, the analabos replaced the skhema. The analabos was similar to suspenders, shoulder-straps, or bands of woven wool, which, like the skhema, crossed over on the back and on the chest, passing over the shoulders and attaching to the belt. This kind of crossed sash had the immediate advantage of holding the ample tunics in fashion close to the body so as not to hinder movement, especially during work. The ascetics who originated from Syria brought with them the akes, a simple loincloth of linen, wool, or some vegetable fiber crudely worked

A rather important change took place in the fourth century when the first rules for monastic life, including clothing, were enacted, and in a very specific manner, first by ANTONY (toward 310) and then by PACHOMIUS (315). The latter rule, taken up and encouraged by ATHANASIUS I of Alexandria, affected also the secular clergy and liturgical usage. Other rules followed, which we do not always know, since they probably remained in the domain of
oral tradition and are consequently lost. The directives issued by Antony and Pachomius had better fortune, for they were immediately translated and disseminated in the West. It is probable that at this period each monastery of any importance had its own usages, following the basic model more or less strictly. It was thus that the number of the garments worn by the religious grew. In addition to those known in the preceding century we may note the caciton (tunic), of coarse linen, hemp, or jute, made of two pieces of cloth joined at the shoulders and rectangular in form; the pork (Bohairic, phork), (cloak), of dark color and woven of fleecy wool, reserved for divine service; the hook (leather belt or plastron that soldiers also wore); the auleou (loincloth) of horsehair; the hboos (perhaps a liturgical tunic of linen); and finally the rahtou, of tanned goatskin or sheepskin, which was akin to the skhçma but perhaps corresponded to the triangular aprons of the Shenutian monks; found
on the mummies of several monks, it symbolized a very high degree of asceticism.
Other garments, of Greco-Roman origin, made their appearance in the milieus of the Coptic religious. Such were the zone, a belt of leather that gathered the tunic to the body and held in the analabos, and the lention, without any ornament, a symbol of mortification, which could serve as a turban just as well as for linen or loincloth.

For the liturgy, there was a whole array of garments. The principal item was the sticharion , a tunic made of linen and falling to the feet, with sleeves stitched and tapered at the wrists. In early times this tunic was always white. Sometimes it was adorned with clavi or with motifs embroidered on the lower part.

Other vestments included the kamassion, also a tunic of linen for the use of deacons and priests, closely resembling the long liturgical tunic; the epomis, made of two pieces of linen joined at the shoulders and white in color, put on by priests and deacons at the moment of communion; the katanouti, a small cloak for the liturgy, which recalled the woolen pallium of the Romans; the maphorion, which was in origin a woman’s cloak, worn around the neck and shoulders among men, as among the monks in the Christian period, and resembling the
Latin ricinum, a kind of shawl edged with fringes; and the ballin, a long double band of wool passing round the head, then crossing behind the back and fastened in the girdle


The Eremitical Life

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2013 by citydesert

Commentary on the eremitical life from a Roman Catholic Diocesan Hermit at Emmanuel Hermitage –
emmanuel hermitage
Hermits live a simple lifestyle but still have to work to support themselves in their financial needs. To that extent they engage in some kind of manual work, crafts, computer work, writing, or other occupations compatible with the silence of the hermitage and their primary task which is prayer. The hermitage or hermit’s dwelling is the sacred place of communion with God where the hermit prays, works, studies and reflects, plays, rests, and lives in solitude. It may be located in an isolated or remote place but quite often it is in the midst of an urban setting where the eremitical desert is found in the anonymity of the modern city.

The eremitical life is centered on prayer and the search for God, like other forms of contemplative life. There are many forms of and aspects to prayer and here too every hermit has a personal way or emphasis which is expressed in the Rule.

Prayer is constantly nourished by spiritual reading and the sacraments. Hermit priests have the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist in their solitude.

Beside the Eucharist, hermits usually expend significant time with Lectio -the meditative reading and praying of Scripture; the Divine Office or official Liturgy of the Church -which some hermits chant even in solitude; centering prayer or other forms of very simple and contemplative prayer; the Jesus’ Prayer or prayer of the heart -so characteristic of the Eastern Church; and many other expressions and devotions that allow for a frame to a life of prayer which permeates every activity and moment of the day.

They pray wholeheartedly for the intentions entrusted to them; they pray -from the distance- together with those who pray, and they pray as well for those who don’t pray or don’t know how to pray. There is a mystery to prayer that they cannot probe but they pray following an inner urge as well as the gospel invitation and the requests from our contemporary world. And in the process something happens to them as well as to the world. Indeed God’s power is fully present behind the apparent powerlessness of prayer.
The eremitic vocation is a gift, a daring call to live alone with the Al-one. It is a life of faith tested again and again. It is a life of naked spiritual poverty aimed at crafting an empty vessel to hold the unceasing prayer of Christ in us through the Spirit. This is how the hermit serves the Church, the society and the world.

And yet the hermit is not spared any of the challenges of life because they enter into solitude with the same baggage of humanity that everyone has to deal with, which means with the same anxieties and fears of all people. Hermits have to confront these and make peace with them in a relentless process intensified by the eremitic lifestyle and the absence of distractions. True search for the Absolute cannot bypass the inner self and the humanness of the seeker; thus the accompaniment of a spiritual director is a needed blessing in the initial discernment and most beneficial through the life-long process of growth in response to the vocation. Although condensed in the life of the hermit, this intense process is no different from the transformation called forth in every person through life where we all journey towards union with God and identification with Christ. This, I think, makes the eremitical life particularly relevant to our world.

The Hermit Life in the Christian East

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2013 by citydesert

An interesting paper given by His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos: “The Hermit Life in the Christian East” (in “Solitude and Communion, Papers on the Hermit Life given at St. David’s Wales, by Orthodox, Roman, and Anglican Contributors”. ed. A.M. Allchin, Fairacres Publ. no. 66, (SLG Press, Oxford, 1977), pp. 30-47.) from which the following is extracted:

athos hermitage 1
“The body is one and yet has many limbs, and all these limbs, though many, form a single body.” (I Cor. 12:12) The analogy which St Paul applies here to the life of the Church as a whole can also he applied more specifically to the monastic vocation within the Church. All monks and nuns share the same ascetic call and belong to a single, all-embracing order’ or ‘estate’, yet within that One ‘estate’ there is a wide variety of patterns and a constant flexibility. This variety and flexibility must always be kept in view when considering the position, within the Orthodox monastic framework, of the hermit—of the one who, according to a famous definition by Evagrius of Pontus (d. 399), ‘is separated from all and united to all’.
The wide variety of patterns is reduced by St John Climacus (d. circa 649) to three main types. ‘The monastic way of life’, he says, ‘takes three general forms: either to live in ascetic withdrawal and solitude, or to be a hesychast with one or two companions, or to dwell with patient endurance in a coenobium.’ These three forms–the coenobitic, the eremitic, and the middle or semi-eremitic way of the hesychast who dwells with one or two others—are found at the very outset of Christian monasticism in fourth-century Egypt. St Antony provided in his own persona living icon of the hermit ideal; St Pachomius established the coenobitic pattern; St Ammon at Nitria and St Macarius at Scetis mapped out the intermediate path.
The same three forms can be found, sixteen centuries later, side by side in contemporary Athos. The twenty ruling monasteries exemplify the coenobitic discipline, although in some houses the full strictness of this has been modified by the introduction of the idiorrhvthmic system. The semi-eremitic way (it could with equal appropriateness be styled semicoenobitic’) is found in the little monastic cottages known as ‘kalyvai’ or ‘kellia’, with between two and six brethren, or very occasionally with more than six. In some parts of Athos these kellia stand isolated, while elsewhere they are grouped in monastic villages called ‘sketes’, as at Great St Anne’s or Kapsokalyvia. Finally there are the hermits, a few of them closely dependent on a monastery, others loosely grouped together in what resembles a skete (as at Karoulia), others again living in extreme seclusion, almost entirely hidden, with the path to their cell known perhaps to none save the priest who brings them communion.
athos hermitage 2
The coexistence of these three forms of the monastic life means that there is more than one way in which a man may prepare to be a hermit. At least three doors of entry into solitude are found in the practice of contemporary Athos. A monk, after living for some years in a monastery, may go with the abbot’s blessing to a kellion, there to follow the semi-eremitic life; and after that he may withdraw into the life of fully eremitic solitude. In such a case he experiences in succession each of the three main forms of the monastic life. This we may call the ‘classic pattern’ of preparation. But there are two other possibilities. A monk may go out from the coenobium to become a hermit, without first living in a semi-eremitic kellion; or he may at the outset enter a semi-eremitic kellion and so become a hermit, without ever having lived in a coenobium. This last course is by far the most usual way of becoming a hermit on Athos today.
When a man goes directly from the monastery to a hermit’s cell, it is probable that he will maintain some continuing link with his previous community. He may return there regularly for the Liturgy; the monastery may provide his basic food supplies; he may even be recalled by the community to live again, temporarily or permanently, within the monastery walls. The hermit who has lived previously in a skete or an isolated kellion is in a different situation. It is true that he is theoretically dependent on a monastery, since the entire territory of Athos is divided between the twenty ruling monasteries, with the result that every semi-eremitic kellion and every hermit is in principle subject to one of these twenty ruling houses. But in practice the bond is not likely to be close. The hermit may of course choose to visit the monastery to attend services, especially at great feasts, but the monastic community is not under any obligation to support him (although in fact it often gives him food), and it cannot require him against his will to move into the monastery.
Between the hermit and the monk in a coenobium there is a plain and manifest distinction. But the line of demarcation is far less sharply drawn between the hermit and the monk following the semi-eremitic way in kellion. The kelliot may for example find himself left alone through the death of his companions, and so may become de facto a solitary, without any deliberate decision on his part. Again, a man who has lived for some years as a hermit may then be joined by disciples; and so, imperceptibly he moves from the solitary to the middle or semi-eremitic state. Such transitions are easily made in the sketes of contemporary Athos. The degree of physical isolation varies greatly in the case of individual hermits as already emphasized, flexibility is the norm. Some hermits live close tc their neighbours and meet them daily; others, because of distance or from personal choice, have virtually no contact with their fellows. There arc even solitaries on Athos today who follow the same way of life as the boskoi [browsers] in primitive monasticism—dwelling with the animals like Adam in Paradise, not building cells but remaining in caves or in the open air, wearing no clothing and eating no cooked food. Although I have not myself seen any such, I have spoken with monks who know about them.
athos hermitage 3

St Patrick’s “Lorica”

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2013 by citydesert

St Patrick’s “Lorica”, also known as “The Deer’s Cry” and “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” is thought to be authentic.

It is said to have turned St. Patrick and his followers into deer when they were being pursued by the king’s men early one morning–hence the title “The Deer’s Cry.” However, it is also called the Lorica of St. Patrick–a lorica being a type of prayer of protection (lorica is a Latin word literally meaning “body armour” or sometimes “breastplate”), which was popular in Celtic countries. Since then, it has always been used not only as a morning prayer, but as a prayer of protection.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension
Through the strength of his decent for the Judgement of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim
In obedience to the Angels,
In the service of the Archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of Holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendor of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s host to secure me
against snares of devils
against temptations of vices
against inclinations of nature
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.
A summon today all these powers between me and these evils
Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Thrones,
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of Christ
May thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.


The Lorica exists in many versions, including hymns (notably, “St Patrick’s Breastplate” – “I bind unto myself today The strong Name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same The Three in One and One in Three” – by Cecil Alexander (1889)). It is also included in Shaun Davey’s concert work “The Pilgrim” (1983). An inspiring version from “The Pilgrim”, sung by Rita Connolly, and be found at Another beautiful rendition by Rita Connolly can be found at
patrick breastplate
Tim Keyes composed an extraordinarily magnificent Oratorio, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, which can be found in its many movements at, , and and following played by the Tim Keyes Consort live at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, NJ on St. Patrick’s Day 2006. There is also a movie trailer for the feature length film about the Oratorio, ‘St. Patrick’s Breastplate’ performed by Tim Keyes Consort at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark NJ March 15 2009 at

A version of the hymn can be found at with a modern version by John Rutter at

The words of the Anglican hymn can be found at and, in the longer version, at

Saint Patrick

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2013 by citydesert

March 17 is the Feast of Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius; Proto-Irish: Qatrikias; Modern Irish: Pádraig; Welsh: Padrig; c. 387 – 17 March c. 460 or c. 492). He was a Romano-British Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of the island along with Saints Brigid and Columba.
Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church. The holiday commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as Irish heritage and culture in general.

The day generally involves public parades and festivals, céilithe (a traditional Gaelic social gathering, which usually involves playing Gaelic folk music and dancing), and wearing of green attire or shamrocks. Christians also attend church services and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day.


Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2013 by citydesert

Sr Joan Chittister, writing in the National Catholic Reporter on the election of Pope Francis – – reflects on the psychological, emotional and spiritual problem of weariness, both personally and institutionally.
The problem is that weariness is far worse than anger. Far more stultifying than mere indifference. Weariness comes from a soul whose hope has been disappointed one time too many. To be weary is not a condition of the body — that’s tiredness. No, weariness is a condition of the heart that has lost the energy to care anymore.

People are weary of hearing more about the laws of the church than the love of Jesus.

People are weary of seeing whole classes of people — women, gays and even other faith communities again — rejected, labeled, seen as “deficient,” crossed off the list of the acceptable.

They are weary of asking questions that get no answers, no attention whatsoever, except derision.

They suffer from the lassitude that sets in waiting for apologies that do not come.

There’s an ennui that sets in when people get nothing but old answers to new questions.

There’s even worse fatigue that comes from knowing answers to questions for which, as laypersons, they are never even asked.

More false news of a priest shortage drains the energy of the soul when you know that issue could easily be resolved by the numbers of married men and women who are standing in line waiting to serve if for some reason or other, some baptisms weren’t worth less than others.

They get tired watching of Anglican converts and their children take their place at the altar.

It gets spiritually exhausting to go on waiting for a pastor again and instead getting a scolding, reactionary church whose idea of perfection is the century before the last one rather than the century after this one.

They’re weary of seeing contraception being treated as more sinful than the sexual abuse of children.

All in all, they’re weary of being told, “Don’t even think about it.” They’re weary of being treated as if they are bodies and souls without a brain.

It’s weariness, weariness, weariness. It’s not an angry, violent, revolutionary response. It’s much worse than that. It’s a weary one, and weariness is a very dangerous thing. When people are weary, they cease to care; they cease to listen; they cease to wait.
Joan Chittister
A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pa., Joan Chittister is a best-selling author and well-known international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women’s issues and contemporary spirituality in the church and in society. She presently serves as the co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the United Nations, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders, especially in the Middle East. Sister Joan’s most recent books include Following the Path: the search for a life of passion, purpose and joy (Random House) and Monastery of the Heart (BlueBridge); she has won 13 CPA awards for her books. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision, a resource for contemporary spirituality.

Saint Aristobulus of Britannia

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2013 by citydesert

March 15 is the Feast of Saint Aristobulus of Britannia (Full title, in Greek: Aghios Apostolos Aristovoulos, Martyras, kai Protos Episkopos Vretannias; Welsh: Arwystli Hen Episcob Cyntaf Prydain; Latin: Sanctus Aristobulus Senex, Apostolus, Martyr, Episcopus Primus Britanniae; English: Saint Aristibule the Old, Apostle, Martyr, and First Bishop of Britain. Also, Aristobulus, Apostle to Britain). He was named by Hippolytus of Rome as one of the Seventy Disciples, and the first Bishop in Roman Britain. Aristobulus preached and died in Roman Britain. Whereas Orthodox tradition says he “died in peace”, Catholic tradition says that he was martyred.
Orthodox tradition says that St Aristobulus was the brother of the Apostle Barnabas, of Jewish Cypriot origin, and like Barnabas accompanied Saint Paul on his journeys. He was one of the assistants of Saint Andrew, along with Urban of Macedonia, Stachys, Ampliatus, Apelles of Heraklion and Narcissus of Athens. On his missionary journey to Britain, he stopped to preach to the Celtiberians of northern Hispania.

The Greek Martyrologies read: “Aristobulus was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of St. Paul the Apostle, along with whom he preached the Gospel to the whole world, and ministered to him. He was chosen by St. Paul to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very warlike and fierce race. By them he was often scourged, and repeatedly dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he converted many of them to Christianity. He was there martyred, after he had built churches and ordained deacons and priests for the island.”

Haleca, Bishop of Saragossa, attests: “The memory of many martyrs is celebrated by the Britons, especially that of St. Aristobulus, one of the seventy disciples (Halecae Fragments in Martyr.).”

In 303, St. Dorotheus of Tyre in his Acts of the Seventy Apostles wrote, “Aristobulus, who is mentioned by the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans, was made bishop in Britain.”

The Adonis Martyrologia of St. Ado, Archbishop of Vienne in Lotharingia, under March 17 reads, “Natal day of Aristobulus, Bishop of Britain, brother of St. Barnabas the Apostle, by whom he was ordained bishop. He was sent to Britain, where, after preaching the truth of Christ and forming a Church, he received martyrdom.”
aristobulus and others
O Holy Apostle Aristobulus, first Bishop of Britain, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of sins.

Saint Gerald of Mayo

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13, 2013 by citydesert

March 13 is the Feast of Saint Gerald of Mayo. Gerald was the Bishop of Mayo, an English monk, date of birth unknown, who died 13 March, 731.

He followed St. Colman, after the Synod of Whitby (664), to Ireland, and settled in Innisboffin, an island off the coast of Mayo, in 668. Dissensions arose, after a time, between the Irish and the English monks, and St. Colman decided to found a separate monastery for the thirty English brethren. Thus arose the Mayo (Magh Eo, the yew plain), known as “Mayo of the Saxons”, with St. Gerald as the first abbot, in 670. St. Bede writes: “This monastery is to this day (731) occupied by English monks … and contains an exemplary body who gathered there from England, and live by the labour of their own hands (after the manner of the early Fathers), under a rule and canonical abbot, leading chaste and single lives.” Although St. Gerald was a comparatively young man, he proved a wise ruler, and governed Mayo until 697, when, it is said, he resigned in favour of St. Adamnan. Some authors hold that St. Adamnan celebrated the Roman Easter at Mayo, in 703, and then went to Skreen, in Hy Fiachrach, and that after his departure the monks prevailed on St. Gerald to resume the abbacy. St. Gerald continued to govern the Abbey and Diocese of Mayo till his death. He is believed to have founded the abbeys of Elytheria, or Tempul-Gerald in Connaught, as well as Teaghna-Saxon, and a convent that he put under the care of his sister Segretia. He was buried at Mayo, where a church dedicated to God under his patronage remains to this day.

The Conclave: Does It Matter?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2013 by citydesert

From a challenging reflection by Maggie Ross – Voice in the Wilderness: – on the current drama in Rome.

From where I sit, it is much too late to save institutional Christianity, and perhaps it is a mistake to try. The present institutional forms are burdened almost to a standstill by their mad, bad mistakes of the past, which hang around their figurative necks like Marley’s chains studded with a filigree of Ancient Mariner’s albatrosses—and for many of the same reasons in fact that beset those two old reprobates in fiction.

Christianities—as in the early churches—will survive here and there, but institutional forms have always been antithetical to the message of salvation: salvation that originally meant freedom from a debased culture and the persecution of one’s self-conscious mind, so that one might enter into the Christian community, a paradise of mutual support and service overflowing from the wellspring of life made available by the work of silence—or at least that was the ideal for the first nine centuries or so.

What today passes for Christianity—the idolatry of experience and the grandiosity of institutions that are for, by, and of the clergy—may continue to thrive for a while as fashions do, but in the end people will become bored of them and drift away. Much of Christian heritage has already been lost; unless there is a miracle of some sort, this election may cut the moorings that still attach us to the rest.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and The New Monasticism

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2013 by citydesert

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, dissident anti-Nazi and founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and many have labelled his book “The Cost of Discipleship” a modern classic. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and executed by hanging in April 1945 while imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp, just 23 days before the German surrender.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer first used the term “New Monasticism” in a letter written by to his brother Karl-Friedrick on the 14th of January, 1935.

“It may be that in many things I seem to you to be somewhat fanatical and crazy. I myself sometimes have anxiety about this. But I know that, if I were more reasonable, for the sake of honor, I should have to, the next day, give up all my theology. When I first began theology, I imagined it to be somewhat different – perhaps more like an academic affair. Now it has become something completely different from that. And I now believe I know at last that I am at least on the right track – for the first time in my life. And that often makes me very glad. I continue to fear only that I might no longer appreciate the genuine anxiety for meaning of other people, but remain set in my ways. I believe I know that inwardly I shall be really clear and honest only when I have begun to take seriously the Sermon on the Mount. Here is set the only source of power capable of exploding the whole enchantment and specter [Hitler and his rule] so that only a few burnt-out fragments are left remaining from the fireworks. The restoration of the church will surely come from a sort of new monasticism which has in common with the old only the uncompromising attitude of a life lived according to the Sermon on the Mount in the following of Christ. I believe it is now time to call people to this.”

“…I still can’t ever believe that you really consider all these thoughts to be so completely insane. At present there are still some things for which an uncompromising stand is worthwhile. And it seems to me that peace and social justice or Christ himself are such.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from a letter to Karl-Friedrich Bonhoeffer in “A Testament to Freedom” (1990)

“Monastic life thus became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity, against the cheapening of grace….
The expansion of Christianity and the increasing secularization of the church caused the awareness of costly grace to be gradually lost…. But the Roman church did keep a remnant of that original awareness. It was decisive that monasticism did not separate from the church and that the church had the good sense to tolerate monasticism. Here, on the boundary of the church, was the place where the awareness that grace is costly and that grace includes discipleship was preserved…. Monastic life thus became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity, against the cheapening of grace.”

“The Cost of Discipleship” (1948)
“In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality. Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a psychic reality.

Innumerable times a whole community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

“Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community” (1978)