Archive for July, 2014

A Hermit in Jerusalem

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 by citydesert

JERUSALEM – On June 15, 2014, the Church of the Holy Land celebrated the great feast of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, but it was also the occasion of a rare event in the Church of Jerusalem, the perpetual profession a young Italian in the presence of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal.
Jerusalem hermit 4
The young Italian is Filippo Rossi, a balanced and gentle man of about forty years, from a wealthy family. In a word, someone who has it all! Yet, as a seminarian, Filippo felt that God was calling him to a more “radical” religious life. He chose to dive into the adventure of the eremitical life here in the Holy Land, surrounded by fields of the Trappist Abbey of Latrun, a place that has hosted the eremitical life since the beginnings of Christianity. A local tradition tells how Saint Saba lived in a cave. Archaeologists have also recently found mosaics that show a small church or chapel existed on the site.
The moving celebration took place in the Basilica of Nations, Gethsemane, and was presided over by His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, and concelebrated by the Abbot of the Abbey of Latrun, Dom René Hascoët and the abbot of the French Trappist Abbey of Sept-Fons, Dom Patrick Olive, and 22 priests. Many religious and lay friends of the young hermit participated in the celebration. The Magnificat Choir of the Custody of the Holy Land provided the sacred music for the celebration.
Jerusalem hermit
The call to the eremitical life is closely linked to the Holy Land, and in particular to the area around the Holy City, located near the Judean desert. This way of life was born in Egypt, but soon arrived in the Holy Land with the hermits who wanted to be closer to the same places that reflect the mysteries of the life of Christ, and the place where the early church, called as the Mother Church, the Church of Jerusalem, was born.

Needless to say, Filippo did not invent a new style of life, but he has embraced a lifestyle that the Church has known from the beginning, putting his trust in God first, but in the knowledge and experience of the first hermits, the Desert Fathers, whose tradition has left an entire spiritual wisdom.
Latin Patriarch
During his homily, His Beatitude began with a meditation on the mystery of the Holy Trinity “which is an experience that precedes theory,” and he then expressed his joy and great excitement saying, “With your solemn profession you make a great gift to the Church, the Mother Church, and that keeps alive a tradition that has witnessed major figures such as Saint Hilarion of Gaza and Saint Anthony Abbot, monk of Egypt, who left his native country at a young age to live as a hermit in the desert, along the banks of the Red Sea.”
Jerusalem hermit 3
What prompted this radical desire of Filippo is probably this “experience”, an experience of God that precedes theory, to paraphrase the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Only this experience together with the Gospel can explain the authenticity of this call, and why it does not contradict human nature which has a thirst for infinite love, that is to say, for God Himself.
“Your profession today, dear hermit Filippo, is a fine example of Christian coherence and unity between your faith and life,” said the Patriarch. Still addressing himself to the newly professed, he said: “Dear Filippo, ‘man does not live by bread alone’, we read in Deuteronomy. Having the awareness that there are other needs that go beyond material bread opens a space of freedom, beyond the inevitable suggestions of life.”

According to the Patriarch of the Holy City, the monastic life finds its model in the experience that Jesus made for forty days in the desert. Recalling that the desert “is the place where a person can assert the truth of oneself and understand the relativity of rights and the absoluteness of God (…) the desert experience obliges man to release, to strip unnecessary things and vanity. The desert reduces man to the essential, fundamental things (…) the hermitage reminds us of our hunger and thirst for God.”
Jerusalem hermit 2
Finally, the Patriarch concluded his homily, moved, saying: “Thank you Philip! We will accompany you with our affection, our support and our prayers. The Mother Church will always be close to you. Our Lady Queen of Palestine will protect you. “
After the ceremony, all were invited to a simple but festive buffet, which the hermit and his family planned to celebrate his commitment on the paths of the absolute search for God.

See also:

In Search of The Hermit Within

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6, 2014 by citydesert

I listened this morning to an interesting Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio documentary: “In Search of The Hermit Within” –
bush 1
“Being homeless is rarely a lifestyle choice but for some people freedom from social convention and solitude is all that matters.
Seeking out a life without stresses and artificial noise, a hermit will cast off the shackles of modern society and embed themselves in mother nature’s embrace. They willingly trade a fixed abode for the confines of the elements and they gratefully hand over any attachment to commercialism in exchange for living off the land.
But is being a hermit as romantically ideal as it sounds?
bush 2
‘In search of the hermit within’ explores the dreams and realities of isolation by choice. Using memoir, fiction and interviews writers Stewart Nestel and Peter Davis take us on a journey into the Australian bush to meet real hermits and hear tales of hermits encountered.”
bush 3
The program included readings from “The Wanderer” (1901) by the Australian poet, Christopher Brennan (1870-1932) – see :
“I know I am
the wanderer of the ways of all the worlds,
to whom the sunshine and the rain are one
and one to stay or hasten, because he knows
no ending of the way, no home, no goal,
and phantom night and the grey day alike
withhold the heart where all my dreams and days
might faint in soft fire and delicious death:
and saying this to myself as a simple thing
I feel a peace fall in the heart of the winds
and a clear dusk settle, somewhere, far in me.”

Anything but time alone….

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2014 by citydesert

“We’ve all complained that we would love some time alone – but few people actually enjoy it, researchers have found. Most volunteers who were asked to spend no more than 15 minutes alone in a room doing nothing but sitting and thinking found the task onerous.
In fact, some of the volunteers, men in particular, preferred to administer mild electrical shocks to themselves rather than sit and do nothing.
‘Many people find it difficult to use their own minds to entertain themselves, at least when asked to do it on the spot,’ said University of Virginia psychology professor Timothy Wilson, who led the study appearing in the journal Science.
‘In this modern age, with all the gadgets we have, people seem to fill up every moment with some external activity.’
Nearly 800 people took part in the study. Some experiments involved only college students.
The researchers then broadened the study to include adults who live in the same area.
They went to a church and farmer’s market to recruit people from a variety of backgrounds and ages up to 77.
And they got the same results: most participants regardless of age or gender did not like to be idle and alone with their thoughts.
In some experiments, college volunteers were asked to sit alone in a bare laboratory room and spend six to 15 minutes doing nothing but thinking or daydreaming.
They were not allowed to have a cellphone, music player, reading material or writing implements and were asked to remain in their seats and stay awake.
Most reported they did not enjoy the task and found it hard to concentrate.
Researchers then had adult and college student volunteers do the same thing in their homes, and got the same results.
In addition, a third of volunteers cheated by doing things like using a cellphone or listening to music.
The researchers did an experiment to see if the student volunteers would even do an unpleasant task rather than just sit and think. They gave them a mild shock of the intensity of static electricity. Volunteers were asked whether, if given $5, they would spend some of it to avoid getting shocked again. The ones who said they would be willing to pay to avoid another shock were asked to sit alone and think for 15 minutes but were given the option of giving themselves that same shock by simply pushing a button.
Many did not, especially men: Two-thirds (12 of 18) administered at least one shock.
One did it 190 times. A quarter of the women (six of 24) gave themselves at least one shock.
‘I think they just wanted to shock themselves out of the boredom,’ Wilson said.
‘Sometimes negative stimulation is preferable to no stimulation.’”

Read more:

See also:

Saint Máel Ruain and The Céli Dé

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2014 by citydesert

July 7 is the Commemoration of Saint Máel Ruain.
“Saint Máel Ruain died 792) was founder and abbot-bishop of the monastery of Tallaght (Co. Dublin, Ireland). He is often considered to be a leading figure of the monastic ‘movement’ that has become known to scholarship as the Céli Dé. He is not to be confused with the later namesake Máel Ruain, bishop of Lusca (Co. Dublin).
Little is known of his life. Máel Ruain is not his personal name bestowed at birth or baptism, but his monastic name, composed of Old Irish máel (“one who is tonsured”) and Ruain (“of Rúadán”), which may mean that he was a monk of St. Rúadán’s monastery in Lothra (north Co. Tipperary). Though his background and early career remain obscure, he is commonly credited with the foundation of the monastery of Tallaght, sometimes called “Máel Ruain’s Tallaght”, in the latter half of the 8th century. This may be supported by an entry for 10 August in the Martyrology of Tallaght, which notes that Máel Ruain came to Tallaght carrying with him “relics of the holy martyrs and virgins” (cum suis reliquiis sanctorum martirum et uirginum), apparently with an eye to founding his house. There is at any rate no evidence for a religious establishment at Tallaght prior to Máel Ruain’s arrival and although Tamlachtae, the Old Irish name for Tallaght, refers to a burial ground, it was not yet the rule for cemeteries to be located adjacent to a church. Precise details of the circumstances are unknown. A line in the Book of Leinster has been read as saying that in 774 the monk obtained the land at Tallaght from the Leinster king Cellach mac Dúnchada (d. 776), who came from the Uí Dúnchada sept of the Uí Dúnlainge branch of the Laigin, but there is no contemporary authority from the annals to support the statement. In the Martyrology of Tallaght and the entries for his death in the Irish annals (see below), he is styled a bishop.
The best known disciple of Máel Ruain’s community was Óengus the Culdee, the author of the Félire Óengusso, a versified martyrology or calendar commemorating the feasts of Irish and non-Irish saints, and possibly also of the earlier prose version, the Martyrology of Tallaght. In his epilogue to the Félire Óengusso, written sometime after Máel Ruain’s death, Óengus shows himself much indebted to his “tutor” (aite), whom he remembers elsewhere as “the great sun on Meath’s south plain” (grían már desmaig Midi). In the early ninth century, Tallaght also seems to have produced the so-called Old Irish Penitential.
Maelruain abbey
Although liturgical concerns are evident in the two martyrologies, there is no strictly contemporary evidence for Máel Ruain’s own monastic principles and practices. Evidence for his teachings and their influence comes chiefly by way of a number of 9th-century writings associated with the Tallaght community known collectively as the ‘Tallaght memoir’. One of the principal texts is The Monastery of Tallaght (9th century), which claims to list the precepts and habits of Máel Ruain and some of his associates, apparently as remembered by his follower Máel Díthruib of Terryglass. Much of the text survives in a 15th-century manuscript, RIA MS 1227 (olim MS 3 B 23), and in the 17th century, an Early Modern Irish paraphrase was produced now referred to as The Teaching of Máel Ruain. Of less certain origin is the text known as the Rule of Céli Dé, which is preserved in the Leabhar Breac (15th century) and contains various instructions for the regulation and observance of monastic life, notably in liturgical matters. It is ascribed to both Óengus and Máel Ruain, but the text in its present form is a prose rendering from the original verse, possibly written in the 9th century by one of his community. These works of guidance appear to have been modelled on the sayings of the Desert Fathers of Egypt, in particular the Conferences of John Cassian. Typical concerns in them include the importance of daily recitation of the Psalter, of self-restraint and forbearance from indulgences in bodily desires and of separation from worldly concerns. Against the practices of earlier Irish monastic movements, Máel Ruain is cited as forbidding his monks to go on an overseas pilgrimage, preferring instead to foster communal life in the monastery.
Maelruain and Oengus
Along with his disciple Aengus, Maelruain is regarded as joint author of The Rule of the Céilí Dé.

Máel Ruain’s reputation as a teacher whose influence on the monastic world extended beyond the confines of the cloister walls is further suggested by the later tract Lucht Óentad Máele Ruain (“Folk of the Unity of Máel Ruain”), which enumerates the twelve most prominent associates who embraced his teachings. They are said to include Óengus, Máel Díthruib of Terryglass, Fedelmid mac Crimthainn, king of Cashel, Diarmait ua hÁedo Róin of Castledermot (Co. Kildare) and Dímmán of Araid.
The Annals of Ulster report under the year 792 that Máel Ruain died a peaceful death, calling him a bishop (episcopus) and soldier of Christ (miles Christi). In the Annals of the Four Masters, however, in which he is also styled “bishop”, his death is assigned, probably incorrectly, to the year 787. His feast in the Martyrology of Tallaght and Félire Óengusso is on July 7. He was succeeded as abbot of Tallaght by Airerán.
Maelruain church
Maelruain statue
Late 14th or 15th wooden statue of St. Maelruain preserved at Crossbeg near Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

“St Maelruain was the leader of the Céilí Dé, a reform movement aimed at restoring purity and austerity to Irish monasticism which had become somewhat undisciplined by the 8th century. Maelruain founded a monastery at Tallaght, in south Co Dublin. The image is of the Martyrology of Tallaght (Ms A3), a list of the names of saints and their feasts attributed to St Maelruain and his disciple St Aengus and read at their community Mass. Patrick Duffy explains the context in which Maelruain and the Céilí Dé lived.
A monastery at Tallaght
Little is know of the early life of Maelruain. Probably he was born in the Lorrha neighbourhood of north Tipperary in 720. In 755 he founded a monastery at Tallaght in south Co Dublin on land given by Cellach mac Dunchada, King of Leinster. He is associated with the monastic reform movement begun in the eighth century known as the Céilí Dé or Culdees. In both the Annals of Ulster and the Annals of the Four Masters, Maelruain is referred to as a “bishop”, but this terminology may reflect the Church structure of the later time of writing.
Céilí Dé
Céilí Dé probably means the ‘companions’ or ‘intimates’ of God – by analogy, for example, with bean chéile (‘wife’) or fear céile (‘husband’).
Why a reform movement?
Irish monasteries had become lax by the eighth century, possibly as a result of too much going abroad and an overemphasis on the peregrinatio pro Christo (or ‘pilgrimage for Christ’) movement to the continent begun by Saints Colmcille and Columban in the late sixth century. The fact that many monks felt called to go into wandering exile on the continent may have caused the internal discipline of the monasteries to break down somewhat.
A strong ascetical component
Maelruain’s reform at Tallaght was severe. It put more emphasis on preserving the enclosure and keeping the monks from sin than on the missionary dimension. There was a strong ascetical component, strong spiritual direction, frequent confession, as well as long fasts and harsh penances, such as standing in cold water for long periods to control the flesh.
The Rule of the Céilí Dé
Along with his disciple Aengus, Maelruain is regarded as joint author of The Rule of the Céilí Dé. A copy is preserved in the library of the Royal Irish Academy. The 19th century Celtic scholar Eoghan O’Curry says of this: “It contains a minute series of rules for the regulation of the lives of the Céilí Dé, their prayers, their preachings, their conversations, their confessions, their communions, their ablutions, their fastings, their abstinences, their relaxations, their sleep, their celebrations of the Mass, and so forth”.
Liturgy and manual work
The monks came together for a liturgical cycle of prayer, chanting psalms. There was also devotion to Our Lady and Michael the archangel. Mass was celebrated on Sundays, Thursdays and on great feasts. The monks received the consecrated bread, but not the consecrated wine. A litany of the names of the saints (The Martyrology of Tallaght) was read at every Mass. Intellectual and manual work were also valued as part of the monastery routine.
Spread of the movement
Besides Aengus, another disciple of Maelruain called Moling made a foundation similar to the Céilí Dé on the river Barrow at St Mullins in Co Carlow. Moling also became a figure of influence in the Ferns area. Other monasteries of the Céilí Dé movement were founded at Finglas, Clonenagh, Terryglass and Dairinis near Lismore. The Culdees also spread to Wales and Scotland where they survived into medieval times.”

The Seven Ascetic Saints in Tounar Mount

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2014 by citydesert

July 6 is the Commemoration of the Seven Ascetic Saints in Tounar Mount (Tona)
“On this day, the seven ascetic saints in Tounar Mount (Tona), were martyred. These were: Basadi, Cotolus, Ardama, Moses, Esey, Parkalas (Mikalas), and a monk called Cotolus. The angel of the Lord had appeared to Sts. Basadi and Cotolus and commanded them to confess the name of the Lord Christ. They rose up straightway to go to the governor. They met the five saints embarking a ship going to the governor to also confess the Lord Christ. They all agreed together on receiving the crown of martyrdom. They went to the governor and confessed the Lord Christ. He tortured them excessively, then hung stones from their necks, and shut them up in prison. The Lord appeared to them, comforted, strengthened, and promised them the kingdom. The governor then sent them to Alexandria, where they were tortured severely. He threw them into cauldrons full of sulphur and pitch, and lighted a great fire under them, then he took them out and threw them away. The Lord sent His angel who healed them. They came back to the governor and confessed the Lord Christ before him. One hundred thirty persons witnessed that. They confessed the Lord Christ, were martyred, and they received the crown of martyrdom. The Governor intensified the torture on the seven saints, and finally cut off their heads with the sword, and they received the crown of martyrdom.”
“SEVEN ASCETICS OF TUNAH. This is a classic story concerning martyr hermits. No details are given about their ascetic life except that they lived near Tunah. It seems, moreover, that only five of them were ascetics, and that Anba Psate (or Basidi) and Anba Kutilus, who was a priest, joined the ascetics in their confession of Christ. The governor (it is not said where he resided) tortured and imprisoned them but, achieving nothing, sent them to Alexandria, where they were tortured again. Then, as a last resort, six of them were beheaded when they refused to worship the idol of Apollo. Kutilus (the priest, apparently) was consigned to the flames. These seven martyred ascetics are known only from a brief notice in the recension of the SYNAXARION of the Copts from Lower Egypt. This text presents two problems for the reader. First is the question of the place called “the mountain of Tunah.” It could be the town that disappeared in the floods of Lake al-Manzalah or the mountain called in Middle Egypt Tunah al-Jabal, in the district of Mallawi. E. Amélineau inclines to the second site (1893, pp. 525- 26), but it seems that in fact it is the town of this name that is meant. In fact, if that were the case, it is more natural that the governor should send them to Alexandria. Second, the names of these martyr ascetics are not certain, for the spelling varies greatly from one manuscript to another. What seems certain is that two of them had a foreign name—they are said to have called themselves “Kutilus” (the transcription credited to a Syrian saint “Gawbdalahu” [22 Tut]). It may therefore be that these two ascetics were of Syrian origin. The other names appear to be Egyptian. In any case, they all seem thoroughly “pagan,” and hence guarantee their antiquity. The Ethiopic version of the Synaxarion renders jabal (mountain) as “monastery,” and precedes the name Tunah by the word “town.” It therefore interprets “al-jabal Tunah” as designating “the monastery of the town of Tunah” (without doubt an anachronism), and places it in the Delta rather than in Middle Egypt.”

Les Vies des SS. Pères des déserts d’Occident

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2014 by citydesert

Joseph-François Bourgoing de Villefore “Les Vies des SS. Pères des déserts d’Occident: Avec des figures qui représentent l’austérité de leur vie et leurs principales occupations.” Paris: P.-J. Mariette, 1722
Desert Fathers French book4
1 Early history
2 Development of monastic communities
3 Notable Desert Fathers and Mothers
4 Practices
4.1 Withdrawal from society
4.2 Hesychasm
4.3 Charity and forgiveness
4.4 Recitation of scripture
5 Excerpts from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
6 Essential texts
7 See also
8 Notes
9 References
10 External links
Desert Fathers French book 5
“The Desert Fathers gave a great deal of emphasis to living and practicing the teachings of Christ, much more than mere theoretical knowledge. Their efforts to live the commandments were not seen as being easy—many of the stories from that time recount the struggle to overcome negative emotions such as anger and judgment of others. Helping a brother monk who was ill or struggling was seen as taking priority over any other consideration. Hermits were frequently seen to break a long fast when hosting visitors, as hospitality and kindness were more important than keeping the ascetic practices that were so dominant in the Desert Fathers’ lives.” [p.25]
Desert Fathers French book 3
For Joseph-François Bourgoing de Villefore (1652-1737) see:
Desert Fathers French book 2
The text of the book is available on-line at and

Saint Leo of Dalmatia, Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2014 by citydesert

July 1 is the commemoration of Saint Leo of Dalmatia, Hermit
San Leo
”An imposing town on a massif, San Leo (Rimini Province)[Italy] reigns mid-way over the Valle del Marecchia, a critical spot in terms of the territory’s historic and military events. Before it became Christian, it was a place of pagan worship, but later hosted the hermit Saint Leo of Dalmatia.
Together with his friend St. Marinus, St. Leo contributed to the advent of Christianity in Montefeltro in the 4th Century.”