New Diocesan Hermits in Arkansas

From Sister Laurie’s Stillsong Hermitage blog – – following a discussion of the (possible) differential mean of “hermit” and “recluse”, is news of the perpetual profession of two new diocesan Hermits in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA: Judith Weaver of Paris and David Menkhoff of Little Rock.
Little Rock hermit
“Weaver, a member of St. Anthony Church in Ratcliff, first lived as a hermit near Subiaco Abbey in the 1990s for about four years. She had previously discerned a vocation as a contemplative Benedictine nun and even had a successful career in advertising and marketing for many years. After moving to Savannah, Ga., to discern a vocation as a Carmelite and work as a hospital chaplain, Weaver returned to Arkansas eight years ago to renew her commitment to eremitical life.
“I’ve always been inclined to be contemplative,” she said. “I am comfortable in solitude and then what do you do with the solitude. It is really a way of communing with God.”
Weaver was happy to take final vows and be connected in a permanent way to the Diocese of Little Rock at last.
“It is really a mature vocation,” she said. “It hasn’t been a straight path for me, but I realized to really live the hermit life I think you need experience of religious life.”
Weaver, 72, rises at 3 a.m. three times a week for an extended prayer vigil, reading the Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual books, that day’s Gospel reading and Scripture.
“It is the quietest time and there is a sacrifice in it,” she said. “It is also when the whole world is still, or most of the world. You are aware of God, or at least I find that.”
She enjoys walking her Shih Tzu-poodle, Cuddles, at 5 a.m. while most of the town is still sleeping.
“She never barks. She is a better hermit than I am,” she said.
She has a car and telephone, but no computer or television.
“For me they compete and crowd out for attention with God,” she said of electronics. “I am freer without those things.”
She spends time during the week in “shared prayer” with a neighbor, Deacon Mark Shea, who has the Internet and shares the pope’s homily for the day and Catholic news. She cooks meals for several neighbors, which she says fit into her contemplative life.
“I can be Mary all or part of the day and do the Martha part of it by my cooking,” Weaver said, referring to the Gospel story of Mary of Bethany who listened to Jesus while her sister Martha prepared a meal for him.
Daily Mass is not a regular practice for her, but she does attend adoration on Wednesdays.
“I am united very much praying the prayers of the Mass in the morning… For me being quiet and at home is my way,” she said.
Menkhoff, 67, considers himself an “urban hermit,” living in a small apartment in midtown Little Rock and taking a city bus to Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church or the Cathedral of St. Andrew for Mass. At daily or weekend Masses he hands out Divine Mercy prayer cards, a devotion he has followed since he was a child. The rest of the day he spends in prayer, reading the Liturgy of the Hours and communicating with his spiritual director, Father Norbert Rappold of Mountain Home, through a spiritual journal. Using postal mail for his communication is necessary as he doesn’t own a telephone or have an e-mail address.
Menkhoff also doesn’t own a car or television.
Like Weaver, Menkhoff previously discerned a religious life as a Benedictine or Carmelite. A Vietnam veteran and former licensed practical nurse, he has been living the life of a hermit for 20 years. He took private vows before Father Rappold in 2007.
“Norbert and I are like brothers,” he said.
While traveling Little Rock on a city bus, he said he can still maintain his eremitical life. “I live in solitude internally,” he said.”

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily during the profession Mass for two hermits on Septtember 10 and commented:

“One of the hardest tasks of adulthood is to decide what to bind ourselves to in life and today David Menkhoff and Judith Weaver bind themselves to the Lord as vowed hermits for the rest of their lives. And this has been a long time in coming! The word “bind” may give us the impression that David and Judith will now be less free than before. But quite the opposite is true. No one is less free than the person who refuses to be bound to things that give meaning and purpose to life. The unemployed and ignorant are not free — true freedom comes with commitment, living for something bigger than ourselves.”


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