Archive for April, 2015

Theodore Trichinas, “the Hair-Shirt Wearer”

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19, 2015 by citydesert

April 20 is the Commemoration of Theodore Trichinas, “the Hair-Shirt Wearer”.
Theodore Trichinas icon
“Saint Theodore Trichinas was born in Constantinople, the son of wealthy and pious parents. From childhood St Theodore was inclined toward monasticism, so he left his home, family, and former life in order to enter a monastery in Thrace. There he began his arduous ascetic struggles. He dressed in a hair-shirt, from which he derived the name “Trichinas,” (or Hair-Shirt Wearer”). He even slept on a stone in order avoid bodily comfort, and to prevent himself from sleeping too much.
His life was adorned with miracles, and he had the power to heal the sick. He reposed at the end of the fourth century, or the beginning of the fifth century. A healing myrrh flows from his relics.
The name of St Theodore Trichinas is one of the most revered in the history of Orthodox monasticism. St Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4) has composed a Canon to the saint.”
Theodore Trichinas icon 2
“Saint Theodore Trichinas (“Hair-Shirt Wearer”) was born into a wealthy yet pious family in Constantinople. He denounced all earthly and material riches and dedicated his life to Christ in a monastery in the Imperial City. Having given away all that he had to the poor, and himself not owning anything, he clothed himself not in clothes but a rough hair garment all his life, and hence his name. He reposed at the end of the fourth or early fifth centuries. His memory is celebrated on April 20.”

“A citizen of Constantinople, he was the son of wealthy parents. He left parents, home and riches while still a young man and settled in a remote monastery in Thrace, where he undertook the most rigorous ascetic life. He slept on a stone so that he might have less sleep; he was always bareheaded and dressed in a hair-shirt, from which he was called ‘Trichinas’ or ‘hairy’. Because of his great and self-inflicted sufferings for the sake of his soul’s salvation, God granted him the gift of working miracles, both in his lifetime and after his death, and he died peacefully in about 400. Healing myrrh flowed from his relics.”
From “The Prologue From Ochrid” by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
Theodore Trichinas chapel
A Chapel dedicated to Agios Theodoros Trichinas (St. Theodore the Hair-Shirt Wearer) is located between the ramparts of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Pavlos within the Venetian citadel of Fortezza. It was inaugurated in 1899 by the Russian commander of the occupation forces of Rethymno, but the building was possibly the result of repairs to an older, pre-existing Venetian church.

“The image of God was faithfully preserved in you O Father,
for you took up the Cross and followed Christ
by your actions you taught us took look beyond the flesh for it passes
rather to be concerned about the soul which is immortal
wherefore O holy Theodore your soul rejoices with the angels.”

“As your fiery chariot you did descend on the virtues, O God-bearer,
mounting up under the dwellings of heaven.
And you are an angel living on earth among men,
and a man dancing for joy with the holy angels.
Hence O Theodore, you have proven yourself a holy vessel of awesome wonders and signs.”


Saint John of the Ancient Caves

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19, 2015 by citydesert

April 19 is the Commemoration of Saint John of the Ancient Caves.
John ancient caves
Saint John of the Ancient Caves is so called because he lived during the eighth century in the Lavra of St Chariton. This was called the “Old,” or ancient cave, since it was one the oldest of the Palestinian monasteries. The Lavra was situated not far from Bethlehem, near the Dead Sea.

St John in his early years left the world, went to venerate the holy places of Jerusalem, and settled at the Lavra, where he labored in fasting, vigil, and prayer. He was ordained to the holy priesthood, and glorified by his ascetic life.
lavra chariton
The Greek term lavra was employed from the fifth century on specifically for the semi-eremitical monastic settlements of the Judean desert, where lauras were very numerous. The first lauras of Palestine were founded by St. Chariton (born 3rd century, died ca. 350): the Laura of Pharan (northeast of Jerusalem), the Laura of Douka (northeast of Jericho) and Souka Laura or Old Laura in the area of Tekoa. Saint Euthymius the Great (377-473) founded one of the early Lavras in fifth-century Palestine. The Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (†532), known as Mar Saba, is one of the most ancient and almost continuously functioning monasteries in the Christian world.

Saint Gerold, Tree Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19, 2015 by citydesert

April 19 is the Commemoration of Saint Gerold (d.978), a nobleman who became a hermit in Switzerland. He was born into the Rhaetian family of Saxony counts.
Gerold 2
Becoming a recluse, Gerold gave his lands to Einsiedeln Monastery in Switzerland, where his sons were monks. Gerold then became a hermit, living in an oak tree in a forest near Mitternach in the Waalgu.
Gerold skull
His relics were located in the Priory of Saint Gerold, Grosses Walsertal, Bludenz Bezirk, Vorarlberg, Austria.

Hermits and the Roman Catholic Church

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2015 by citydesert

“After the near-disappearance of visible hermits in the West between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, hermit-priests slowly returned during the early twentieth century, often struggling to obtain diocesan permission to test, then continue living, this difficult vocation.
Desert hermitage
Even into the late twentieth century, the capacity in the Western Churches to understand and to hand on the Antonian eremitic traditions remained variable, whereas in the Orthodox communions the cultural transmission was continuous from the fourth century…

It was the lives and writings of such people that provided sufficient impetus for the issue to be raised at Vatican II; and, in 1983 the enabling ‘Eremitical Life’ canon (603) was legislated in the Code of Canon Law, under ‘Norms Common to All Institutes of Consecrated Life’.
Those of Christ’s faithful who are called to eremitical living are enabled by it to ‘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’.
In “Vita consecrata”, John Paul II wrote:
“It is a source of joy and hope to witness in our time a new flowering of … men and women hermits, belonging to ancient Orders or new Institutes, or being directly dependent on the Bishop, bear[ing] witness to the passing nature of the present age by their inward and outward separation from the world …. Such a life ‘in the desert’ is an invitation to their contemporaries and to the ecclesial community itself never to lose sight of the supreme vocation, which is to be always with the Lord.8
And the 1992 Catechism states:
“Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits ‘devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance’. They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him.”

The newly enacted canon and explanation in the Catechism, together with affirmation in Vatican documents such as “Vita consecrata”, have authorised diocesan bishops to consecrate canonical diocesan hermits and anchorites, whether lay, diocesan priest or former religious—after rigorous testing of the sense of call, long formation and ecclesial approval of each one’s rule of life.
RC hermit 1
Before its disruption by the eremitic call, the former life, formation, work and service of these hermits may have been in any of the life paths of laypeople (single or married), priests or religious. As Jesus taught: ‘The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ (John 3: 8) So it appears with everyone moved by ‘the spontaneous and surprising increase in solitary vocations’.

There are now all kinds of Roman Catholic hermits, some dependent on their bishop, some members of orders or institutes, others living in a parish, usually in ordinary homes, hidden and unnoticed, faithfully living out their intimacy with Christ for Church and world. Discussing how women, in particular, are re-embracing solitude, Bernadette Flanagan notes:
In the expressions of new monasticism … the eremitical strand is well represented … deeply inspired by the life of the third-century desert hermits, since the anonymity that their desert hermitages provided [is] equally available … in the immensity of the modern city.
RC Hermit 2
The testing of an eremitic vocation includes not only discerning the general qualities emergent or existent in the person being tested and formed towards eremitic consecration, but also noticing how life’s former joys fall away, to be replaced with desires for solitude, simplicity, and inner attending and responding to God. This ‘falling away’ is one sign of a
contemplative solitary vocation. The changes in someone’s inner life as it deepens into God, as well as the person’s outer orientation and behaviour, are tested with a priest, spiritual director or religious community…

For religious (including priests), the call to solitude and deeper prayer may be able to be lived within existing vows and obedience, with the agreement of the community leadership and chapter. If their order or institute is unable to accommodate a solitary vocation within the current expression of its founding charism, the situation may lead to exclaustration
(permission to live outside the community, either retaining or relinquishing vows and obedience). Some former religious have been re-received under canon 603. Religious who are being allowed to embrace solitude are following the formation pathway directed by St Benedict in the fifth century: communitarian formation through monastic living followed by
eremitic living, the path of his ‘second kind of monk’.
Into the Silence A new utopia? A distant reality? Forget it. Hermitage might seem a paradox in our self-celebrating society but it is a growing and fascinating phenomenon, instead. Modern hermits don’t indulge in the search for isolation for social or p
For laypeople, discernment may unfold over many years. Their primary formation will have been through secular life; their secondary formation will be into the eremitic vocation, however determined in a diocese. A person with a proven eremitic vocation may ultimately remain in the private domain, with or without vows, or may make simple promises at a
parish Mass. To become a canonical hermit, he or she must be accepted and consecrated at Mass under canon 603 by the local bishop. Or the person may be received, formed and consecrated within the requirements of an ancient or recent religious eremitic order; or, remaining lay, he or she may request and be allowed to live near or in an order or institute,
participating in sacraments and liturgy. Lay hermits and those consecrated under canon 603 invariably have to negotiate and provide their own means of support, shelter and income, however…
RC Hermit 3
The ministries and missions of the worlds’ hermits are rich indeed. The visible signs of hermits’ lives today include the occasional news report about their consecrations, but also web resources and printed materials by and about them. These hermits live as solitaries or in eremitic communities, each in a modern form of Abba/Amma–disciple relationship lived through spiritual accompaniment and direction. They express in their vocation journeys one, usually more, of Anthony’s ‘ways’, not necessarily recognised as such by those inheriting them. We cannot hear the words and the prayer of the hundreds of hidden, silent ones, for few write about prayer and the life of prayer hidden in God….

The consecrated life may experience further changes in its historical forms, but there will be no change in the substance of a choice which finds expression in a radical gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family …. How can we not recall with gratitude to the Spirit the many different forms of consecrated life which he has raised up throughout history and which still exist in the Church today? The choice of total self-giving to God in Christ is in no way incompatible with any human culture or historical situation.
Secular or religious, Catholic or Orthodox, followers of singular syncretism of Eastern religions and apocryphal Christian revelation or even shamans healers: these are the contemporary hermits. They are not so many, but their presence and their witness h
As he has reminded us in this Year of Consecrated Life: ‘Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone.’

From: Carol McDonough “Hermits and the Roman Catholic Church. Recovering an Ancient Vocation” “The Way”, 54/2 (April 2015), 53–69
Available on-line at:


Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2015 by citydesert

“Whenever the emails pile up or the traffic grinds to a crawl, many of us fantasize about leaving it all behind and unplugging from the grid. The people in Antoine Bruy’s ongoing photo series “Scrublands” have actually followed through, disconnecting from the trappings of modern life even when it means jumping into a new lifestyle they know nothing about.
“I wanted to meet them and see how they managed to learn something which they were not used to,” says Bruy, who lives in France. “Most of the people are not from farming families or anything.”
Bruy has been photographing around Europe for the project since 2012, visiting some 15 encampments in his home country as well as in Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and Wales. He’s focused on those who survive as sustenance farmers, by raising livestock, or hunting. Now he’s holding a crowdfunding campaign because he’d like to extend the project to the United States, the country whose history he says inspired many of his subjects.
Scrublands 1
“I still want to meet the people who decided to leave the American society, to hide in places where they could live differently,” he says. “I guess there are many people like this in America.”
Bruy spends weeks living with his subjects, taking part in the day-to-day and engaging in their way of life as he seeks to portray it on film. The portraits show farmers, homesteaders, herders—all of whom seem at once weary and at peace with the toil of making their lives in the wilderness.
Among the beautiful landscapes are the signs of how people use found items or appliances from the “civilized” world and the raw materials of their environments to survive. Along with the homes they’ve built, these details express something more about their identity and aesthetics, in addition to showing how resourceful they have to be in providing for themselves. Of course, “getting away from it all” is a choice, and it isn’t necessarily a romantic notion for everybody.
Scrublands 3
“I think if I’m showing these pictures to someone living in [poverty], they’ll probably say that these guys are pretty crazy,” he says. “It could be seen as they are going back to the stone age or something…There’s people who had resources, and that’s how actually they managed to find a place, to buy the land, and to build houses. But there are other people I met who just couldn’t live in a city.””
Scrublands 2
For Antoine Bruy’s Scrublands, see:

See also: