Archive for January, 2014

Father Proclus, Carpathian Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2014 by citydesert

“Age eighty-four, the respected Romanian elder, Fr. Proclus (Niceu) is a hermit on the outskirts of a remote Carpathian village, where mobile phones do not work. He receives people in a small shed, in which there are two long benches, a table to match them, a hefty barrel containing treats for guests, and a wall completely covered with icons. Appearing most often amongst them is the image of St. Seraphim of Sarov, and those who know and love the elder often compare him to that saint. He really is that joyful and loving, and the cap that kept sliding over his forehead is very similar to the one you’ll see in Diveyevo amongst the personal items of a saint so dear to every Orthodox Christian. Fr. Proclus is happy to see every soul who comes to visit him. He can speak with them for hours, and the love that he emanates makes you forget within ten minutes about the minus 12 degree centigrade temperature in the cell (it was just as cold outside).
fr proclus
Under the communists, when Romania was ruled by Ceausescu’s predecessor, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Fr. Proclus was called to military service. At the recruitment office, he was told that if he joins the army he would be given 1,000 lei up front, and a high paying job after service. They asked him how many years he had been in the monastery. Fr. Proclus answered, seven. Then they had him stand on the table, called in the other recruits, and asked him to tell them that there is no God. Fr. Proclus addressed those gathered around him with the words, “I was asked to tell you that there is no God. But that is not so: there is a God!” He had barely managed to say it when he found himself lying on the floor; he was severely beaten for his confession.
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When they began to expel monks from their monasteries in Romania, the communists came to Slatina and passed out forms to the brothers for them to fill out. One line stated, “I want to leave the monastery.” They tried to force Fr. Proclus to sign this form, but he answered that he was scandalized over these leaders; he thought that only simple people of the baser sort are capable of deceiving, but now it turns out that people in higher positions can, also. Then they ordered his beard shorn. The communists tried to cheer Fr. Proclus, saying that he should not grieve, but rather rejoice that he lost his beard and not his head. The communists advised Fr. Proclus to “keep a lock on his mouth, so that it would not send him to another place.” To make this insult more sensitive, they obligated the beardless Fr. Proclus to leave the monastery everyday over the following two weeks to check in at the police station in the city.
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One day, three men came to Fr. Proclus. He understood right away that they were educated men, and since he considered himself uneducated, he was not the first to begin a conversation. Wishing to test him with questions, the men waited to see how he would greet them. Thus, the elder and his inquirers looked at each other in silence. After what turned out to be a long time had passed, Fr. Proclus spoke first. “When I die, the demon will take me to hell, because if a man does not like how he lives, then neither will God.” Then one of the visitors said, “If the demon will take you to hell, then what can be said of us?!” In reply, Fr. Proclus advised them to find a spiritual father, and gave them instructions on spiritual life.

One day, Fr. Proclus left Slatina Monastery for the hills of Neamts, in order to live there as an anchorite. This was his first attempt to depart into stillness. None of the brothers knew whether he had a blessing for this from his spiritual father. Fr. Cleopa said that perhaps there was such a blessing, but if not, then Fr. Proclus will quickly return. That is just what happened. After three days, Fr. Proclus returned and related how he had only just built himself a hut on the edge of one forest meadow when a herd of fierce wild boar ran up to him. Out of his youth and inexperience, Fr. Proclus did not immediately perceive that demons were hiding under the appearance of boars. He grabbed a stick in order to beat them off as he ran. Then eight boars surrounded him, and, understanding that they were demons because of their vile appearance, Fr. Proclus began to scream at them out of fear. The boar-demons began to scream at him, and Fr. Proclus could not pray—he just stood with his mouth hanging open in surprise. Then one she-boar leapt at him and bit off his finger. Fr. Proclus could only think to himself that if the Lord saves him from these boars, then he will return to the monastery without fail. No sooner had he thought it than the boars left him, and Fr. Proclus heard a voice that asked him why he didn’t want to endure this attack and be torn to pieces by the demon, why didn’t he have obedience, and why did he leave the monastery? When he returned to the monastery, he showed everyone the bitten off finger, and told them what a lesson he had received.

One day, a certain monk came to Fr. Proclus and asked for a word of instruction for the abbot of his monastery. Fr. Proclus said, “If I preserve my mind, then they will call me Monk Proclus, but if not, they will call me pork.”

One day in Bucharest, Fr. Proclus was walking to church together with some of the faithful at whose home he had spent the previous night. The monk was dressed in secular clothing, and his friends even put a cap on his head. Their path took them through a crowded square, where there was a market. There they encountered a gypsy woman all smeared with pitch, from Yasi. She shouted at him, “Eh, you, bumpkin from Moldova! Why did you come to Bucharest? Why did you deck yourself up in a cap? Fall over right here!” The entire square gathered to watch this scandal.
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In Yasi, the Securitate was hunting down monks whom they had not managed to arrest after the closing of the monasteries. The special services were even able to infiltrate the clergy. They wanted to send Fr. Proclus to prison also. An elder of one of the monasteries, who they had not arrested due to his old age, protected the monk, saying to those who came for him, “Who do you want to imprison?! Proclus? When he sits in a train he doesn’t know what direction it will go!””

Igor Zybin

Brother Aidan: Orthodox Hermit and Iconographer

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2014 by citydesert

“A cold coming we had of it and just the most unexpected time of year for such a journey. Spring had already begun, yet here we were floundering knee-deep in snow, the photographer looking decidedly sore-footed and refractory, miles up a farm track in the most desolate part of Shropshire. It was just the sort of place one would expect to find a hermit.
Fortunately, Brother Aidan is the kind of hermit who has a telephone and a four-wheel-drive. “You look like Russian pilgrims,” he said, striding through the drifts to our rescue. “I like it, though. I must say I don’t feel like a proper monk until I’m snowed in.”
I first met Brother Aidan, who is a Greek Orthodox monk in his early forties, about a year ago on Mount Athos, the remote peninsula in northern Greece that is the spiritual centre of the Orthodox Church. He had returned to spend Easter at the monastery at which he had done his training, but told me that otherwise he lived alone in a hermitage high up on the Welsh border.

I knew that there had been a strong tradition of the eremitic life within the church since the time of the Desert Fathers and that, in past centuries, Athonite monks had spent decades living on their own in caves, but I was curious as to how such a way of life could be fitted into the modern world and at the motives that lay behind such a decision. Now, with a bump up and over the buried track, here I was at the Hermitage of SS Cuthbert and Anthony….

His future home was a dilapidated barn that had once housed hay upstairs and cattle in what is now his living-room. But his monastic apprenticeship, in which he took turns in the kitchen and the fields, has made him an accomplished all-round handyman. The former byre is now a snug den, the walls lime-washed in ochre, the floor set with a pebble mosaic. Much of the simple wooden furniture he made himself; the stout front door is fashioned from coffin oak.
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But it is the transformation that he has wreaked on a barn next door that sets him apart from any other bachelor buried deep in the countryside. Skirting round the back of what was once a pigsty, I came to a large wooden door. Beyond it was the most breathtaking sight – a small, but gorgeously frescoed, Orthodox chapel. Lined up along the walls like some heavenly football team were icons of a dozen saints, while from the ceiling Christ gazed down. “I like to think of Him as the conductor,” said Brother Aidan, who is one of only a handful of iconographers at work in Britain….
gatten church
Orthodox monks often make good plantsmen and, refreshed by a cup of jasmine tea, Brother Aidan was eager to show me his garden. The hermitage sits some 1,500ft up in the middle of what is destined to become a wild-flower meadow. The ground dips and swells away from it and rises again to meet Wales. Aside from a few farm buildings, the landscape is empty as far as the eye can see.

“I’m very interested in the hermitage using the land in an ecological way,” said Brother Aidan, plunging off down the hill. “My teacher, Father Barnabas, used to tell me that, if you wish to know God, then you must also know the earth of which you are made.” He has planted some 5,000 trees, mainly native hardwoods, around the house and has also dug a large pond to promote water life. “Gradually, I want to have more shrines around the place,” he said, “so that it is not just nature by itself, but nature directing us to God.”
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Nothing exemplifies better this close connection between the natural and the divine than the small retreat he has built on stilts over a stream. He bounded off towards it, heedless of the snow, as I stumbled along in his wake, feeling a little like Roo to his Tigger. “Only children – or adults who feel like children – are allowed here,” he shouted back at me, a great smile on his face. At once, I saw what it is that he has rediscovered in this place – the ability to take uncomplicated delight, even joy, in the simplest experience.

Brother Aidan was born in Surrey, but grew up in New Zealand, where he was originally a teacher and then a sculptor. As we thawed out by the stove back at the hermitage, he told me that it was art that had originally drawn him to Orthodoxy. “I was a Christian,” he said, “and I was trying to find a way of marrying heaven and earth, spirit and flesh, inner and outer, in my work.

“Then a friend told me that he thought icons managed to do this. After a week studying them in a monastery, I realised that they were not just an artistic exercise, but that behind them lay this whole spiritual life. I learnt that the aim of human existence is what we call deification, that is, to be united with God. To be a Christian wasn’t just to follow Christ or to follow certain rules and obligations, but to have a nuptial union with him.” At the time, he had a girlfriend – “we would probably have got married” – and I would judge that he is gregarious. “But deep down in me, I realised that I had this great eros – this intense longing – for union with God,” he said, “and that the best way to fulfil this was to become a monk.”
He made it sound like the most natural thing in the world and, by contrast with his extrovert nature outdoors, spoke with almost preternatural calm, holding each question up to the light, examining it with steady eyes. He does not pretend he is a sage, but it is clear that he has searched himself deeply and found truth there.
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Having become an Orthodox monk, he became a hermit almost by chance. “It’s just the way Providence worked,” he insisted. “I had expected to be in a monastic community, but the ones in Britain were full and, since it seemed best to my spiritual father and myself that I stay in this country, I eventually came to live here.

“I think there was a danger that I would have pushed myself in a self-willed way to become a hermit anyway, so I’m glad it happened this way instead, by God’s providence. For reasons unknown to me, this is the best way for me to be purified, to get closer to God.”

His daily routine is simple and unvarying. He wakes at 3.30 in the morning and prays in the chapel until seven. Then he might read or write until nine, before starting work on an icon in his small studio. He makes the paints himself from natural pigments, working on top of the traditional base of 20 layers of gesso – a mix of chalk powder and rabbit-skin glue.
Icons are becoming more frequent in churches. He has made one for Lichfield Cathedral and is currently hard at work on a set for a Ukrainian priest. Towards the end of June, he will be helping to organise several exhibitions of icons in Shrewsbury – one at Rowley’s House museum – to mark the millennium.
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He works until it gets dark and then, after another service, retires early to bed. Sometimes, he drives into Shrewsbury to do his shopping or to attend church, but otherwise, while not a recluse, he keeps to himself. I asked him if he ever got lonely….

“We are all made in God’s image,” he said, “so a hermit who has seen no one for 30 years still longs for company. Therefore, he seeks the company of God and the angels.
“Once, when I came out of a service, it was pitch black and the stars were out. I looked at them and thought: ‘The stars are always there, but in the daytime the sun shines so I’m aware only of that.’ A hermit is a bit like someone who doesn’t have the sun – the bright company of people – to distract him, so he notices instead the more distant suns, the stars – the saints and the angels.”

We paused for lunch. I had brought him a present of a cheese, but because it was Lent, he was on a vegan fast and it would have to wait until after Easter. We settled instead for a meal of rice, tomatoes and digestive biscuits. Aside from cooking, he has few other distractions. He does not listen to the news or buy newspapers, and I asked him what he now made of society from his vantage point outside it….
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I asked what benefits he draws from such silence. “It’s taught me three things,” he said. “First, compassion. Second, the beauty of the heart. And third, how to play. Father Simeon, a Peruvian hermit, once told me that a monk must learn how to play like a child. He must learn to be entirely in God’s hands, not to worry about things all the time.”

His peace is nevertheless frequently disturbed by visitors, both those curious about Orthodoxy and others with social problems. Although he certainly does not want to be regarded as a curio and still less as a guru, I am sure he has wise and warm advice to offer, yet he remains slightly perplexed that people should seek him out. “I’m here to repent of my own sins,” he said. “I don’t feel I’m a monk to be a teacher, so it surprises me in a way. People come and think you’re a doctor, but I tell them I’m a patient in the hospital, too. I’m aware that I’m just a postman; I’ve got nothing to give – what people want is God.”

That his advice should seem worth taking, however, is a reminder that hermits are not misanthropes. Rather, they are more aware than most of our common humanity. The American hermit Thomas Merton wrote earlier this century: “The solitary is one who is aware of solitude in himself as a basic and inevitable human reality, not just as something that affects him.
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“Hence, his solitude is the foundation of a deep, pure and gentle sympathy with all other men . . . and the doorway by which he enters into the mystery of God and brings others into that mystery.” As Brother Aidan put it, in the words of a saying he likes: “Trees being motionless, birds come to them.”

We pack up our things to go, stopping only for a snowball fight in the garden before we say our farewells. “I think God has made the seasons the length they are,” he said, looking at the snow, “so that it’s just long enough for you to forget what summer is like when it finally arrives.” With that, the sun comes out and he slings his donkey-hair bag over his shoulder before setting off down the track to collect his post. I wave and leave him there, high on his hill, alone and in love with God.

From Electronic Telegraph: The hermit next door Posted on April 22, 2000 in Features Published by The Electronic Telegraph, April 22, 2000 “The hermit next door” By James Owen

The Monastery of St Antony and St Cuthbert was originally a hermitage within the Romanian jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church, high up in the South-west Shropshire hills. It is situated in Lower Gittenshay Cottage, an outlier of an abandoned village known as the Paddock, on the eastern flank of the Stiperstones, in the South-west Shropshire hills.
In 1992, Brother Aidan, a solitary monk, supported by what later became the Stiperstones Trust, a registered charity, purchased the house and land and gradually restored the buildings, at the heart of which was a miner’s cottage and outbuildings. One of these became an orthodox church, fully frescoed with iconostasis and three original icons. At 1,273 ft above sea level, this church is one of the highest if not the highest in England.

Brother Hugo, Hermit of Our Lady of the Enclosed Garden

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2014 by citydesert

“The Roman Catholic hermitage of Our Lady of the Enclosed Garden is situated in the former parish church of Warfhuizen, a village in the extreme north of the Netherlands. It is the only Dutch hermitage currently inhabited by a hermit. The name draws upon the traditional epithet for the Virgin Mary (“Our Lady”) of hortus conclusus or enclosed garden, a reference to the Song of Songs that indicates the Virgin’s “perpetual virginity and at the same time her fruitful maternity”.
The hermitage was founded in 2001 as the dwelling of a Roman Catholic consecrated hermit. As is typical of Dutch hermitages, it includes a public chapel that has a distinct role in popular devotions, here to the Virgin Mary, also known as “Our Lady”. It is the northernmost Marian shrine in the Netherlands.
The hermitage in Warfhuizen is a continuation of the tradition of hermits which arose in Limburg and North Brabant following the Counter Reformation. The last brother of that tradition died in 1930 in de Schaelsberg hermitage in Valkenburg aan de Geul. Contrary to most hermitages abroad, these hermitages featured a public chapel which often played a part in local devotions.
After a slow decline since the 1880s the number of Roman Catholic hermits in Europe started to increase again towards the end of the 20th century, although the Netherlands did initially lag in this development. There have always been members of religious orders who lived as hermits, but the ‘true hermits’ became extinct after 1930. The old hermitages were left empty and mostly disappeared. This bothered some of the faithful. In 2001 the empty church of the village of Warfhuizen was acquired by Catholics and a simple hermit’s dwelling was realised in the bay adjacent to the tower, which since then has been inhabited by a hermit (Brother Hugo). The rest of the building serves as a chapel. The hermit is part of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden and has made his religious oaths to the bishop of that diocese.
Since the Second Vatican Council revitalised the hermetic ideal, a small amount of new legislation has been created. The Code of Canon Law (Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 603) requires hermits to be more secluded than was the custom in the Netherlands. As a result, there is an enclosed area in Warfhuizen in which the hermit lives and works. In the chapel this is created by the large rood screen which separates the choir from the nave.”
sorrowful mother
The Sorrowful Mother of Warfhuizen is the name most often used for Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, the statue that is kept in the hermitage of Warfhuizen. Since 2003 it has been drawing many pilgrims to the village in the north of Groningen. It is also popularly called Our Lady of Warfhuizen or Mary of Warfhuizen.

In gratitude – Brother Hugo makes his perpetual vows
November 19, 2012
brother hugo
“Congratulations, prayers, best wishes, but above all gratitude to Brother Hugo, who yesterday made his perpetual vows as a hermit to our bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte.
A very well-attended Mass at the cathedral of St. Joseph in Groningen was the setting for this very unique occasion. Unique, since Brother Hugo is the sole contemplative religious within the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. Invited guests – priests, religious and laity – from both the north and the south of the country, both areas being places where major parts of Brother Hugo’s recent history took place, filled the pews, while the diocesan curia (Bishop de Korte, vicar general Msgr. Peter Wellen, diocesan vicar Fr. Arjen Bultsma and cathedral administrator F. Rolf Wagenaar concelebrated, with many priests attending in choir.

Brother Hugo resides as a hermit in the tiny countryside hamlet of Warfhuizen, where he lives in and maintains the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, housed in the village church. He has done so for the past 11 years.
In Canon 603 of the Code of Canon Law we read the following about hermits:
§1 Besides institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognises the life of hermits or anchorites, in which Christ’s faithful withdraw further from the world and devote their lives to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through the silence of solitude and through constant prayer and penance.
§2 Hermits are recognised by law as dedicated to God in consecrated life if, in the hands of the diocesan Bishop, they publicly profess, by a vow or some other sacred bond, the three evangelical counsels, and then lead their particular form of life under the guidance of the diocesan Bishop .
What’s described in Paragraph 2 is what the Church, through the diocesan bishop, has now done. In essence, Brother Hugo is now fully a part of the assets of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, not only because he lives his life of prayer and penance under the direction of the diocesan bishop, but also because his prayer and life as a hermit is specifically geared towards the benefit of the diocese and the Church in the entire Netherlands.
And as such, we can be nothing but grateful. Grateful that Brother Hugo has been willing and able to answer God’s call so radically, and for us as members of the Church in the north of the Netherlands.
Postbus 70116    9704  AC  Groningen telefoon:  050-4032204 mobiel  06-22234558 e-mail:
Broeder Hugo, Netherlands hermit
Brother (Broeder) Hugo is a Dutch Catholic hermit, born in Drendts, Netherlands, in 1976, a convert. He lives in the vault of an old church in Warfhuizen, in northeastern Netherlands. The church itself is open to the public, attracted by Broeder Hugo’s Marian devotion. His growing popularity is due in part to his embrace of social media (using a web site, Facebook page, and Twitter) for spiritual counseling, his practical advice and recommended readings, and his youthful and friendly manner.
The website (titled “Kluizenarij OLV van de Besloten Tuin” or Hermit of Our Lady’s Enclosed Garden”) is all in Dutch. Includes a video (“Kluizenaar de Film” – “The Hermit on Film”) that follows Broeder Hugo on a typical day.

More info:

A Russian Experimental Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2014 by citydesert

“A Russian man is taking the chance to escape the rat race to the extreme – by living like a 10th century hermit in the snow-covered forests of Russia.
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Pavel Sapozhnikov, 24, from Moscow will spend a total of eight months living like his ancestors did on a replica of an ancient farm as part of a social experiment.
He is only allowed to leave the fenced-off area of the farm to hunt and gather food, is banned from any kind of communication, and can only use authentic tools from ancient Russia.
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The farm is situated in a forest clearing around 50 miles north of the Russian capital.
It features a house, a well, hayloft and smokehouse, plus a separate toilet, and bread oven. Sapozhnikov additionally has pens for chickens and goats.
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The experiment is part of a project called ‘Hero’ and was set up by events manager Alexei Ovcharenko from agency Ratobor.

The theory behind the experiment is ‘to trace the social and psychological changes in personality and learn how important the support of others is to modern humans.’
With help from expert archaeologist, Alexander Fetisov, the farm was built using only materials and techniques that would have been used by ancient Russians.

Sapozhnikov must also furnish his home in the same way. This includes fire lights that burn on linseed oil, wooden beds, animal fur clothes and bedding and a calendar scratched into the wall of the house. Construction on the farm began at the start of 2012, and Sapozhnikov moved in at the start of September 2013; the project is expected to run until May. During this time, temperatures in the region can drop as low as minus 30°C and this time period was deliberately chosen to highlight exactly how difficult Russian ancestors would have found living and hunting in the conditions.

Ovcharenko added that eight months is long enough for the experiment to yield results, but not too long that it will ‘pathologically endanger’ Sapozhnikov. At the start of the project, Sapozhnikov was given the chance to document a day in the life on the farm, using a camera and notepad, and this was posted on the project’s blog.
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According to this blog, Sapozhnikov spends the morning milking his goats, preparing his chickens, collecting eggs and eating breakfast, he then chops wood for the fire and collects water from the well. The rest of the day is spent either hunting for food, or carrying out manual labour on the farm. This includes insulating the house with manure. As part of the project, Sapozhnikov is only allowed to leave the fenced off area to hunt and gather food.
He was given a small amount of harvested food at the beginning of the project, but this supply was not designed to last the length of the experiment.

Sapozhnikov is banned from any form of communication, except during open days, once a month, when a medical expert and project leader visit him and check on his progress.
Even when hunting, Sapozhnikov is forbidden from communicating with anyone he encounters. The only way Sapozhnikov can abandon the project is if his mental or physical health is at serious risk, or his life is under threat.

However, if he contracts a common illness, such as a cold, or other diseases, such as a lung infection, Sapozhnikov will be required to carry on – as his ancestors would have done.
Sapozhnikov became a festival volunteer with Ratobor in 2010 and from May to September that year, he lived in a reconstruction of an ancient settlement, dubbed ‘beta’ for the current experiment.

He is single and was previously a student at Moscow University. To prepare for the mission, Sapozhnikov spent months learning how to prepare animals, including chickens.
He also became skilled in using ancient tools and familiarised himself with ancient fire-building and washing techniques. For example, to produce hot water, Sapozhnikov places stones in his fire stove until they are glowing, before putting these stones into a bucket of cold water. He then uses this water to wash his clothes, cooking utensils, his home, and his body – although because water is scarce, clothes and body washing is carried out ‘infrequently.’
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Ratobor was set up in 2006 and has completed similar events based on historical experiences.”

Read more:

See also [in Russian]

The Order of Watchers

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30, 2014 by citydesert

watchers symbol
The Third Order of Watchers (“Ordre des Veilleurs” in French) is a community of hermits of the French Protestant tradition founded in 1923 by theologian William Frédéric Monod better known as Wilfred Monod (1867-1943).
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The current head of the Order (Prioress) is a pastor of the Reformed Church of France , Caux-Claude Berthoud (since March 2012).
Three words sum up the spirit of the Fraternity of the Vigil: Joy-Simplicity-Mercy. Watchmen supporting each other more closely follow Jesus Christ in the spirit of the Beatitudes .
Each hermit of the order lives his or her own form of solitude within the local Church community to which they are closest in spirit and faith practice. The hermits of the community follow a schedule of prayer three times daily in accordance with their calling to be alone with God. Living out the Christian practice of love for one’s neighbour, the hermit is always available to others in need, much like the poustinik of the Russian Christian tradition.
After a long decline Brotherhood knows recent growth: 200 members in 2005, 300 in 2007, mainly from Protestant churches but also Orthodox and Catholics. It has its center in Abeillères to Saint-Jean-du-Gard , in the Cévennes and adheres to the Protestant Federation of France . and

See “A Protestant Hermit in Search of Inner Unity”,
by Pierre Léderrey at
Daniel Bourguet
“Daniel Bourguet has been prior of the Ordre des Veilleurs (Order of Watchers) for ten years. The Fraternity was founded in 1923 by the Reform theologian Wilfred Monod, inspired by his son, the celebrated naturalist Theodore Monod. Without tangible organization or legal status, the Order is an “invisible monastery” that helps each member deepen his or her spiritual life. About two hundred people, most but not all Protestant, are connected through daily prayer across the French-speaking world.
Bourguet: “Our rule is very simple. It consists mainly in consecrating three moments of the day to meditation.” No liturgy is imposed, the intent being to allow each Watcher to remain within the biblical tradition he or she finds most comfortable. Indeed, belonging to a community is one of the principles of the movement, which does not want to appear to be a new Church. “The majority of us are very active in the life of our parish,” notes Bourguet.
The prior estimates that the Fraternity’s impact on French Protestantism is growing. “In France, as elsewhere, theological reflection has moved the Reform away from the spiritual life a bit. After some years, we are rediscovering this aspect of the faith, and many are calling on the Watchers, especially to enrich their retreats.””

Summary of The Rule of the Fraternity
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“The Watchers are a Protestant spiritual brotherhood founded in 1923 under the leadership of Pastor Wilfred Monod. They grouped Christians of all ages and from all walks of men and women, clergy and laity who want to support each other more closely follow Jesus Christ in the spirit of the Beatitudes: Joy – Simplicity – Mercy. This spirit is inseparable from love of God and love of men. It is the essence of Christianity….

To allow Christ to reign on his daily life, the Watcher unites prayer and work, contemplation and action, always in the spirit of the Beatitudes.

Three times essentially
The morning at sunrise preference: Pray, pondering the Bible, praise and prayer.
At midday: Rise in communion with the Watchers and members of other communities in the recitation – aloud if possible – of the Beatitudes, the charter of life that Jesus gave us.
Evening: Perspectives on the day requested and received, forgiveness, thanksgiving, praise.
Community Vigil is composed of Protestant Christians of all shades. There are even Catholic and Orthodox members. Any particular office or any liturgy are therefore used.

Tribute Friday
In tribute to the Crucified and Risen, evoke the Vigil every Friday in meditation, the Cross of Calvary, supreme gift of God to mankind for its salvation. …Some watchers even observe a partial or total fasting.

Sunday Joy
The Watcher welcomes Sunday, because it is the “Lord’s Day”, the day of resurrection and when the Spirit descended upon the disciples to be witnesses of the Risen Lord, Glorified. Unless there is a real impediment, he will therefore join his brothers to participate with them in public worship. (When the watchman cannot go to a place of worship, radio and television offer him some opportunity for community worship.)

Quarterly meetings
Four times a year, the Watchers who can meet locally to put together before the call that God has sent them back and so aware of their Christian vocation. When a minister is chairing the meeting, it will end with the Last Supper…Not compulsory (some Watchers can never attend), these meetings are strongly recommended. They are announced in the bulletin or notice.

Renewed commitment
The Watchman annually receives a new card in December. By signing in early January, he enlisted again for the coming year. The January meeting has the reiteration of the principles of community and confirmation of commitments which it has been incorporated into the Church.”

See further:

Alex Soth: Photographs of Modern Hermits

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30, 2014 by citydesert

“For the past four years Alec Soth has been taking photographs of men who, frustrated with societal constraints, flee civilization to inhabit the natural landscape. Soth’s subjects simultaneously emanate anger, mystery and deep-seated vulnerability. In a previous interview with The Guardian, Soth explains his technique, saying, “I use an 8in-by-10 in view camera and I put a dark cloth over my head, so it’s a very slow process, and people have to be still.” He continues, “I like this because I prefer the subject to be quiet and move inside themselves, so they are in a reflective state.”
portrait of Alec Soth
What is the inner life of a hermit like, you ask? There is something unsettling about the men in Soth’s images; they quietly address the interior struggle between savagery and civilization, between masculinity and sensitivity. It is clear that the men place great trust in Soth; the natural urges for both bold masculinity and sensitivity lurk in the shadows of their honest faces. Their haunted, faraway expressions create equally haunting imagery, the wilds of the woods mirroring the recesses of the mind.
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Born Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1969 Studied Sarah Lawrence College, New York Career high Going into a library and seeing my book on the shelf Career low The summer I assisted a born-again product photographer Inspirations My work is often compared to the colour photographers who emerged in the 1970s. They’re an obvious infl uence, but I’m equally inspired by a wide range of photographers. My answer for today is Josef Koudelka Pet hate Fish-eye lenses Ambition To produce a great book of photographs Dream subject Hermits, Scarlett Johansson, happy people, the Amazon, unusually tall people, Welsh countryside, and on and on . . .
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His newest collection of photographs, Broken Manual, is bit different. Soth describes it as a guide for how to disappear in America. His subjects are loners of various kinds, almost all of whom are men who have succeeded at this trick: recluses, runaways, dropouts and shut-ins. They live in cabins and in caves and on houseboats they build themselves, and they sleep between desert boulders and in old school buses parked far from the edge of town. They are survivalists, monks, burn-outs, spiritualists, gun nuts and fugitives. A few of them are famous. The book includes a view from the Unabomber’s cabin and a shot of the parking lot where Eric Rudolph was caught scavenging in the trash after five years on the run. Most, though, are anonymous, and most probably prefer it that way.
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A road book about hermits would seem like a contradiction in terms. But then again, there is a solid precedent for it. Some of the great road photographers themselves became hermits. Think of W. Eugene Smith holed up in his 6th Avenue loft, or of Robert Frank alone in his cabin in Nova Scotia. In Broken Manual, Soth salutes Frank with a re-staging of his great picture of the view of Butte, Montana. In Frank’s photograph, framed by gauzy motel-room curtains, Butte looks like Dashiell Hammett’s Poisonville or a subdivision on the moon. In Soth’s version, the city is blurred by a mesh screen. The emphasis of the picture shifts from the city to the room. It’s the view from a hideout instead of a pit stop, the sort of room where you could spend years waiting for a call that never comes through or a package that never arrives.
Soth has said that he assembles his books as if they were narratives, but his photographs don’t tell stories so much as suggest them. Most of the photographs in Broken Manual come without captions. The few titles that are included don’t give much away, limiting themselves to “Roman, the nocturnal hermit,” or “Sidney’s Tomatoes.” The tension in the collection comes from a collision of materials of unknown provenance and from situations you can’t quite read. There’s a boarded-up house with “KEEP OUT” spray painted over the garage, home to the loneliest man in Missouri; a cave with coat hangers; a monk in the woods; an abandoned disco ball. One of the most beautiful pictures shows an adobe house in the desert with a wire bubble on the roof for meditating or sunbathing or whatever you do on the roof in the desert. Another shows a skinhead standing naked in a spring. Soth makes this anonymous young man look like a peckerwood Adam. It’s one of the few photographs in the collection that’s obviously posed.
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It’s also one of the few pictures in the collection that seems silent. Most photo books have a look. They send you somewhere visually — to a stretch of highway, to a kind of lighting, to other photographers. Broken Manual has a sound. It’s the sound of water trickling over the lip of a gully into a cave, of wind rattling the window panes in a boarded up house. Or it’s the sound of a black and white television playing an endless loop of videotapes about avoiding Armageddon and the coming military takeover before lapsing into static or silence. Although his photographs tend to be direct and plainspoken, Soth’s style is more lyric than documentary. Usually, Soth stands some distance apart from his subjects, finding a balance between them and their environment. Many of his photographs are of habitats: sheds, caves, converted trucks. Some of the portraits are deliberately rough, as if they were taken by surveillance cameras or photocopied from beat-up tintypes. Others just show individual objects, culled from some unnamed depot: a homemade knife, a welder’s mask, a dead spider, a hollowed-out book….
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In fact, Hermit America is bigger and older than the world of anti-government crazies and end-of-dayers. Geographically, it is concentrated in the caves and mountains of Appalachia, and it stretches in all directions, across the prairies through the northern woods. Historically, it stretches back at least to the 18th century. William Wilson, also known as the Pennsylvania hermit, was among its first members.Wilson moved into a cave near Harrisburg out of grief over failing to prevent the hanging of his sister. Told in a popular broadside, his story involves infanticide, charges of bastardry, Benjamin Franklin and a dramatic swim across the frozen Schuylkill River. It ended with nineteen years “spent in the bowers of solitude.” Another early member was discovered living in the Allegheny Mountains by two Virginia worthies shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War. He claimed to be over almost two hundred years old. He washed up on the shore of the wild continent in the days of Good Queen Bess and had lived in the cave ever since. The Virginians plied the unnamed man with rum to learn more, and he told them of his lost loves and of life in Tudor London, but the drink sickened him and he died the same night.
At its root though, Hermit America is the embodiment of a peculiarly American philosophy, in which individualism borders on nihilism. It’s a country that can crop up anywhere. You can find it on the edges of any dream of isolation, independence or escape. It’s in the Idaho of Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and in Constance Rourke’s description of the Crockett family homestead in the wilds of Kentucky, where hunters hid in the cane breaks and panthers crouched in tall sycamores. It’s Julianne Moore’s porcelain igloo in Todd Haynes’s Safe and the cave Lenny says he’ll run away to in Of Mice and Men; Thoreau’s cabin by Walden Pond and the Weaver family compound up on Ruby Ridge. It’s the desire to disappear under a mountain captured in Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s rendition of “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” and it’s the American soul as D.H. Lawrence saw it: “hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.”

Unlike other American seekers, hermits don’t look for perfection or communion. No vision of a better society animates them. They neither conquer nor proselytize, even if they occasionally lash out. Their country is all around us, and it is usually invisible. Alec Soth’s photographs open a door into it, not so much as to reveal everything but enough to suggest the existence of a subterranean world, a secret hiding in plain sight.
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For his series Broken Manual, iconic contemporary photographer Alec Soth traveled across the United States in search of modern hermits. He found monks living in ghost towns, solitary hippies dwelling in the woods, and other anxious ascetics who retreated from society into caves, cabins, and isolated trailers for decades, in preparation for the decline of our civilization. Filmmakers Laure Flammarion and Arnaud Uyttenhove documented his artistic road trip in their new film Somewhere to Disappear, riding in the back of the photographer’s van for 20,000 miles, from state to state, from story to story.
somewhere to disappear
See some striking portraits and derelict landscapes from the series, as well as fascinating black and white portraits of Soth’s subjects’ possessions, their tools for loneliness. (Beware of brief artificial nudity.) Catch the trailer to Somewhere to Disappear at the end of the gallery.
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See also:

Brother Antoine, Hermit of the Rock of Roquebrune-sur-Argens

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30, 2014 by citydesert

“Brother Brother Antoine, Hermit of the Rock of Roquebrune-sur-Argensis a former Cistercian novice who has settled as a hermit in the Var (France) He was born Louis Chauvel in 1923 and is from Mayenne.
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Brother Anthony is a former Cistercian novice who has settled as a hermit in a cave of the Rock of Roquebrune-sur-Argens, in the Var ( France) since 1996. He has travelled many times in India where he supports medical projects for children and blind people. His spirituality, inspired mainly by Christian and Indian Traditions, advocates asceticism, prayers and constant meditation. He has written several books in which humour has an essential place.
His books include: “At the Heart of the Cave, Tales and Stories of a Hermit”, “A Breath of Hermit”; and “The Path of the Rock”.
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“Louis Chauvel was born in 1923 in Cuillé in Mayenne. Brother Antoine is a former Cistercian novice, trained in ancient Greek and Latin. In 1966, he became a hermit in a cave on the Rock located in the towns of Roquebrune and Le Muy in the Var (France) cave where he has lived since. He made many trips to India where he supports medical projects for poor patients.
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His spirituality is inspired by various traditions (Christian, Indian) and ancient philosophies (especially Stoicism ). Advocating asceticism, but a joyful asceticism of life (which he describes as a gymnastics gym which would be the world), and constant meditation, saying that everything is here and now.

“A Breath of Hermit” is the first book (1992). It is written by the hermit between 1966 and 1991. The other texts of the hermit were collected and sorted by Robert Henri and Louis Go Pecetta in a new book entitled “The Cosmomoine”. Then they made a story of their many visits to the hermit in a third book entitled “The Way of the Rock”, which describes the spirituality of Brother Antoine over the days spent at the Grotto.
Brother Anthony is also a draftsman and sculptor, and author, composer and performer of many songs.”

See also

For a documentary (in French) on Brother Antoine, see