Archive for April, 2018


Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2018 by citydesert

Susan Creighton  DeepLight: A Memoir of the Soul Wipf and Stock, 2018:

 Deeplight cover

DeepLight: A Memoir of the Soul is a rich narrative of a contemporary woman’s spiritual quest. Within the context of her extensive study of religious and mystical traditions, and her experiences as a woman, a monastic, and an Episcopal priest, Susan Creighton weaves a spiral tapestry of memories, journal entries, and poetry. Her search for an authentic practice of contemplative prayer led across cultural, historical, and religious boundaries, but is most significantly shaped and enriched by the teachings of mystics like St. John of the Cross and the ancient tradition of Orthodox ascetical theology and spiritual practice. Now living under vows as an anchorite, her memoir shares with the reader ways in which the Jesus Prayer and other spiritual practices lead to deeper contemplative prayer as well as helping us develop greater discrimination and compassion for ourselves and others.”

Susan Creighton is an anchorite in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. Ordained a priest in 1981, she has served in monastic, parish, and campus settings. She now fulfills her vocation under vows of silence, solitude, and simplicity, focusing her prayer and study around the ascetical and mystical teachings of the Prayer of the Heart. Her blog may be found at, and she lives in Bellingham, Washington.

“My ecclesiastical ‘family of origin’ is that of the Episcopal Church (Anglican). She has baptized me, confirmed me, and ordained me a priest. I have served her in a variety of ministries, including within a religious order, as a parish priest, in campus ministry, and as a teacher, retreat leader, and spiritual director.

My liturgical life has been profoundly shaped by the Book of Common Prayer, the monastic tradition of psalms, canticles, prayers and, of course, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

My contemplative prayer life began by sitting in the dark with a candle, an icon, and the cross. Over the years, my soul was nourished by the mystical traditions represented by The Cloud of Unknowing and St. John of the Cross, among others. In the last decade, I have returned to the depth of the mystical traditions, focusing particularly on the (Eastern) Orthodox tradition of the Prayer of the Heart, utilizing the Jesus Prayer, and the ascetical tradition of The Philokalia.

I attempt to keep my theology firmly rooted in the eternal truths as expressed in the creeds and liturgy of the ancient church, but most particularly in the teachings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and in the writings of the Church Fathers, including Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius of Pontus, Hesychios, Maximus the Confessor, Dionysius the Areopagite, and others.

All these have prepared me for the fullest and truest expression of my vocation and life in God as I now live it as an Anchorite, under solemn vows of Silence, Solitude, and Simplicity.”

Susan Creighton’s Rule for Life for an Anchorite can be found on-line at:

An English Baptist Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2018 by citydesert

The Revd Sister Margaret Jarman CPP BD (1932-2018) was the first known – and possibly only – English Baptist Hermit.

Margaret Jarman

Sister Margaret was born on 18 June 1932 and grew up in the Hall Green area of Birmingham, being educated at Hall Green Council School then Solihull High School for Girls.

In 1953 she began training as a Baptist Deaconess at Struan doing practical work with Frank Fitzsimmonds in New Malden and then in West End, Hammersmith….Leaving college, she settled at the Pontesbury group of churches in Shropshire and in 1959 was recognised as an Accredited Deaconess at the Baptist Assembly…

She attended the 1958 European Baptist Federation Congress in Berlin as part of the group of Deaconesses and afterwards stayed with the German Baptist Deaconesses in Berlin and Hamburg.

Throughout this time Margaret worked on gaining admission to the London external BD course, learning Hebrew with A S Herbert at Selly Oak Colleges. In 1961 she spent time at Spurgeon’s College to complete her London BD. She was the first woman student at Spurgeon’s, though was not technically counted as a ministerial student…

In 1963, having completed her BD and time at Spurgeon’s she was asked to serve at Baptist Church House in London as Organising Secretary for the Deaconess Department, and later took on responsibility for the BU Diploma.

Following the decision of the Baptist Union Council to close down the vocation of deaconess and ordain existing Deaconesses as Ministers she was ordained on 6 September 1967 at Holmesdale Baptist Church, where she was a member…

Margaret had felt a particular vocation to the life of prayer and in 1983 became a Novice, then Oblate of the Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage, where Sister Margaret Magdalen (Margaret Evening) a former BMS Missionary was a community member…

Another first for Margaret was becoming the first female Baptist minister to assume the Vice Presidency (1986) and then the Presidency of the Baptist Union. Her Presidential address and theme (Bradford, 1987) on Prayer and Action was a stimulus for the forming the Baptist Union Retreat Group…
Margaret was approached by Evelyn Pritty who felt a call to live in community. Margaret herself had begun to feel a call to the life of a hermit. However, after much thought and prayer the Community of the Prince of Peace was established at Carterton with Margaret and Evelyn being received as Postulants at a service in Burford Priory in April 1997, presided over by the Prior and with myself as preacher. Their first profession was in March 1999. The Community, having received another postulant, moved to Riddings in Derbyshire in May 1999.

The small community never grew and though there were many good aspects to it – the first Baptist community in England engaged in communal living – Margaret still felt the call to a hermit life. In April 2001 Prior Stuart and myself reviewed the community and it began to become clear that the Community either needed to grow or change.

In December 2001 Sister Margaret was consecrated as a hermit – another English Baptist first – and her hermitage dedicated. By August 2002 the Monastery at Riddings was sold and Evelyn withdrew from the Community. In March 2003 Margaret made her final profession as a religious at Burford Priory and more fully immersed herself in the life of a hermit, seeking guidance from other hermits living on the Lyn Peninsula.

Over the following years Sister Margaret continued her vocation undaunted by her ill-health, though moving from Derbyshire to Devon and eventually to Yatton in Somerset. She died in a nursing home there on Easter Day evening, 1 April, 2018.

Keith G Jones
Easter Day
April 1 2018.

Full text available at:

Sacred North

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2018 by citydesert

“If anyone desires to come after me,” Christ exhorts, “let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

One man who has borne his cross further than most is Cumbria’s only Orthodox priest, Fr John Musther, defying Parkinson’s disease to follow in the footsteps of the saints across the wilds of northern Britain.

Sacred North 3

As if this were not challenge enough, Fr John Musther, who is 77, has also written a 300-page, lavishly illustrated book, Sacred North, about his pilgrimage.

Fr John’s research for Sacred North has taken him tens of thousands of miles by boat, plane, camper van, and on foot, from the Outer Hebrides to the northernmost part of the Shetland archipelago, as well as to holy sites across Durham, Northumberland, and Cumbria. His gruelling mission took him to some of the most isolated and inhospitable places in Britain…

Sacred North 1

St Fillan’s Cave, Pittenweem. Most of St Fillan’s life was spent as a hermit in this fishing village, which was named after him (Pittenweem means “place of the cave”). Tradition says that he was able to pray and write thanks to a light that emanated from his arm.

The main contention of Sacred North is that some of the Desert Fathers — early Christian hermits who lived mainly in Egypt — followed trade routes northwards to found early monasteries, spread the gospel, and search for suitable places to practise their rather extreme brand of asceticism here in Britain.

“All my life, I have been fascinated by the question of who these men were, what they were doing, and where did they go?” Fr John explains. “We were familiar with the great sea highway around the coasts of Ireland and Scotland, which was used by the earliest of monks; we followed them, first, up through the west of Scotland, then up the east coast all the way to Shetland. We made a third journey going south into northern Britain.

“We found well over a hundred inspiring and often hidden little-known sacred sites on Arran, Bute, Mull, Skye, Loch Shiel, Raasay, Islay, Colonsay, Eigg, the Outer Hebrides, Barra, St Kilda, Orkney, Shetland, as well as more well-known holy sites such as Iona, Lindisfarne, Jarrow, and Durham. We began our journey in Ardwall and finished in Shetland.

“We discovered the same life, the same solitude, the same prayer, and the same holiness in place after place in between. Their journey and ours became slowly entwined.”

For these early hermits, taking up the cross was not only a solemn instruction to bear life’s burdens with faith in the face of persecution and even death: it was also a call to accept the “new martyrdom” — that of dying to the world and crucifying the flesh through the rigours of the monastic life. They were prepared to go to the ends of the earth to seek a fuller union with Christ, to live on the very edge of what was possible.

“Some of these places were extremely dangerous and exposed, particularly in Shetland,” Fr John observes. “Some were just inaccessible. There were steep and crumbling paths with hundred-foot drops below.

Sacred North 2

St Moluagh’s, Raasay, Isle of Skye. It is believed that there has been a place of Christian worship on this site since the latter half of the 500s. The chapel was built in the 1200s.

“These hermits had gone to expose themselves to the worst the weather could throw at them, to hardships, winds, and huge seas rolling in. At times, we really were risking life and limb following in their footsteps. But the sense of discovery is enormous. We found some of these places only after years of research.”….

“People are often surprised to discover that the living tradition of the saints has been followed in the British Isles and Ireland since the second century after Christ,” he says. “This book gives a view of the spiritual landscape they would have known. It ran for hundreds of years. Then it was steadily pushed aside. Now we live in another world, an almost totally different one.

“But not quite. There are still Desert Fathers living today.”


Sacred North 4

Sacred North, published by Culture & Democracy Press, complements Fr John’s previous works, including The Living Tradition of the Saints in the East and West, representing almost half a century of research, study and prayer, and Springs of Living Water [Createspace Independent Pub; 2 edition, 2017], about Cumbria’s holy wells.


The sections of The Living Tradition of the Saints in the East and West are available on-line, see, for example:

Living Tradition

For Fr John, see also:

How Silence Makes Life Less Superficial

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2018 by citydesert

Recapturing this quality in our daily lives takes practice, but the benefits are immense.

“In our society, everyone speaks, but few really listen. We live in a deluge of empty words, overwhelmed by millions of words, noises, and images that reach us everywhere and that pursue us into our few remaining spaces of intimacy.

Anxiety and message saturation generate a great disregard, a permanent distraction that prevents us from really listening. We get used to hearing words that do not tell us anything, empty words without weight in our lives. We find ourselves in a world full of monologues that has a nostalgia for dialogue, a nostalgia for listening, a nostalgia for silence.

The invasion of excessive information overwhelms people, and the transience of the news makes authentic reflection very difficult — if not impossible. Bombarded by messages of all kinds and by different media, we are in everything and in nothing at the same time, remaining indifferent and closed to all authentic listening. All the topics are reported, but little is really assimilated and reflected, causing our thoughts also to become ephemeral and fleeting.

The words of the Danish philosopher, Sören Kierkegaard, seem to be fulfilled: “There will come a time when communication will be instantaneous, but people will have nothing to say.”


Silence opens us to life

The great philosophical and spiritual traditions have always recognized the need for silence for an authentic spiritual life, for the cultivation of one’s interiority and the development of thought.

Silence makes authentic listening and dialogue possible, opening us to encounter the other. Silence is the language of love and depth in relationships.

But unfortunately, today silence is something strange, and it tends rather to escape us. Now, all possible silence is occupied with a bombardment of noises. It is as if we had been expelled from interiority to live on the surface of external stimuli, and our life suffers when we forget the importance of silence.

Today, thanks to technology, we have ways of avoiding silence all day, giving us a flattened perspective on life. And it is not unusual to find that the spiritual quests of our times involve craving places of silence. But it is also true that when silence comes, many do not know what to do in it.

There are studies that show the relationship between lack of silence and cardiovascular diseases, and we should take more into account that silence is healthy and noise by its very nature is harmful.

Silence 3

We need silence!

There is in our cities, in our homes, a nostalgia for silence and we could even say, a demand for greater silence. There are homes where music or the television is just a “background noise,” there just to get rid of the silence, making conversations more superficial.

When we want to talk seriously or think in depth, we need to turn everything off, to silence all other voices, to make room for the words that matter to us. We need to be silent so we can listen.

The so-called “crisis of the word” is due to the forgetting of silence, because the crisis of human relationships, misunderstanding, and lack of dialogue have to do with this loss of silence. Learning to speak from silence gives the word back its weight and strength, as Heidegger wrote: “A resounding of the authentic word can arise only from silence.”

Only from silence can a sensible, luminous, penetrating and profound word come forth. Keeping silence means availability; it is openness and enables authentic dialogue.

Silence is also a way of living our relationship with self and with others; it is a way of being in life. To be silent is not to be quiet, but to create a space, a place within oneself to fall back on, where we can rest and where we can listen to ourselves and receive others.

Silence is like a room available in our interior, because above all, silence is listening. Recapturing this forgotten dimension of human life makes us healthier and humanizes our relationships.

Silence 2

The dialogue born of silence

True dialogue requires openness to the other, the will to receive the other and really listen to him, leaving aside our interest and our anxiety. Authentic dialogue involves exposing one’s own heart to the other’s word. It means really receiving it, giving it a place in our interior. There is no authentic dialogue, no true listening, without the renunciation of self-centeredness that prevents us from giving priority to the other.

And for this it is extremely important to overcome our prejudices. To recover silence is to recover an invaluable treasure of human life: the possibility of really growing in our interiority and in our ability to love and authentically dialogue with others.

Silence prepares us to live differently, to have a deeper look at life. The Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “In the heart of silence is a wonderful power of observation, clarification, concentration on essential things.”

The Christian spiritual tradition has practiced silence and has become a true school of spiritual life, fruitful and luminous. Silence in the spiritual life unifies the heart and expands interiority, opening us to a relationship with God in a deeper and radical way, transforming all of life and enabling us to listen attentively to the Word of God.

Silence 4

Those who live from silence before God discover others, the world, life, things, and their entire existence in a new light. Their gaze becomes deeper and they do not stop at anecdotes and superficialities. The gaze that emerges from silence is amazed by the everyday and transmits peace and hope, because it knows how to wait and has broadened its vital horizon.

To recover silence is to recover authentic communication with oneself and with others. To recover it is to live a more human life.”

This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.

From: Miguel Pastorino  “How silence makes life less superficial” at

Controlling Negative Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2018 by citydesert

“The Desert Fathers, Christians who took shelter in the deserts of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine between the III and VII century, lived as hermits in huts, caves, in trees, or even on top of a stone pillar. They searched for a life of solitude, manual labor, contemplation, and silence, with the goal of growing spiritually. Convinced of the intimate union between the body, soul, and spirit, the Desert Fathers—who we could also say were the first therapists—developed recommendations to heal the “sicknesses of the soul.” Among these recommendations was that of controlling our thoughts, achieved thanks to one method in particular: guarding the heart. Jean-Guilhem Xerri, a psychoanalyst and medical biologist, has developed this practice, showing just how relevant it is in today’s society.


Why should we control our thoughts?

According to the Desert Fathers, uncontrolled thoughts are the origins of some of the sicknesses of the soul. They identified eight non-psychological sicknesses of a spiritual origin, classified by the monk Evagrius as: greed of any sort, a pathological relationship to sex, a pathological relationship to money, sadness, aggressiveness, acedia (an illness of the soul expressed by listlessness, boredom, laziness – a precursor to slothfulness) vanity, and pride. These eight generic diseases have a pathological source: narcissism, which the Fathers called philautia, excessive self-love.

One of the causes for these thoughts, which were considered as troubling, was the imagination. If an imagination is left uncontrolled it elicits visions which sometimes crowd our minds to the point of taking over. With worst-case scenarios stemming from pornographic images, undeserved accolades… “The imagination leads us to make up stories in our heads that are not always correct or pacifying,” sums up Xerri. Where it is in our power to control them: “Whether the thoughts trouble us or not is something beyond our doing. But whether they dwell within us or not, that they stir up passions or not, is something which is within our power,” wrote one of the Desert Fathers, John Damascene, in his A Speech Useful for the Soul. We will always be a theater of sensations and thoughts: the question is, what do we do with it? “Faced with such a thought,” Xerri reminds us, “man has various possibilities: to acquiesce or not, to feed it or resist it.”

John Damascene

For these ancient monks the objective of gaining control of their thoughts was to reach Hesychasm; a state characterized by peace, calm, rest, silence, and deep inner solitude; necessary for the spiritual contemplation of things and beings, and the understanding of God.  The Desert Fathers prescribed many methods to achieve this: “guarding the heart”, sobriety, hospitality and practicing meditation.

What is “Guarding the Heart”?

Guarding the heart, in Greek nepsis (vigilance), is being attentive to everything that happens in our heart. It is a spiritual method which aims to free man of bad or passionate thoughts. It invites us to observe the thoughts which penetrate our soul, and to discern between the good and the bad. Evagrius said: “Take care of yourself, be the gatekeeper to your heart and don’t let any thought enter without questioning it.” As Xerri points out: “The elders noticed that holy thoughts led to a peaceful state, the others to a troubled state.”

Evagrius CD

The indispensable means of guarding the heart is paying close attention to thoughts and discerning between those which are good and healing, and those which are a source of distraction or obsession. The aim is to gain freedom, and to reach indifference, the ability to not be dominated by our thoughts.

Was guarding the heart the ancestor of mediation?

Today cognitive sciences are in agreement with the diagnosis established by the Desert Fathers concerning the illnesses of the soul, which are growing rapidly today, along with the therapies which they had already recommended nearly 2000 years ago. It is recognized that today we are all suffering from countless and continuous demands no our attention, and that this trend disturbs our interiority. Xerri lists a variety of areas in which we are over-stimulated, thanks especially to digital media: food, material goods, sex, leisure, self-image, superficiality, criticism…

Permanently in demand and needing to be available immediately, we have on average between three or four decisions to take each second, according to Xerri. Therefore, it is fanciful to expect to be able to voluntary control our decisions in all consciousness, it’s simply impossible. “We are victims of a real hold-up of our attentional abilities,” laments Xerri, “Yet our attention determines our relationship with the world.”

The patristic tradition and the neurosciences agree: taking back control of our attention is a fundamental challenge for our mental health. The Desert Fathers recommended guarding the heart; the fashion today is mindful meditation. Both these therapies practice the observation of what is going on in and around us. Meditation, in the contemporary and non-religious sense, means opening oneself to present experience, with attention given to what we are going through. Like guarding the heart, it invites us to change our way of being in the world, and to make it a habit to pay attention to our thoughts which infiltrate our soul.

A little prayer to help guard your heart

In their bid to find Hesychasm, the Desert Fathers would often empty their minds and recite the very simple Prayer of the Heart, or Jesus Prayer. So if you want a little help from our Orthodox forefathers in being able to control the thoughts that cross our minds, try and find time in the morning to say this prayer before the demands of the day really kick in: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Although “a sinner” was added over the years.)”

Translated from French by Cerith Gardiner.

From: Mathilde De Robien “A technique from the Desert Fathers to control our negative thoughts” at thoughts/?utm_source=FB_InstantArticles&utm_campaign=Evergreen&utm_term=PaidMedia&utm_content=ad_6

A Hermit-Nun

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2018 by citydesert

Sr. Miriam of the Cross belongs to the community of nuns in the Carmelite Convent of Merciful Love in the Polish city of Szczecin, but she did not want to be an “ordinary” nun and thus chose the life of a hermit.


How can we understand her choice in a world that is so allergic to silence?

This woman leads an incredible life, some might say an unnatural life. It is unnatural in that we are created as social beings, to be in relationship with others. Without relationships, life could result in a mental illness. But Miriam of the Cross, with 16 years of silence, can tell us a lot.

What is her message? We can read it in her publications and learn about it from those who have met her.

For her fellow-nuns in the Szczecin convent she is the one who supports them with her silent prayer and testifies to the value of silence, offering a chance for a profound encounter with God. For the people around her, she is a question mark and sometimes an exclamation point.

Her hermitage is a small hut separated by the enclosure wall from the Carmelite convent. Contrary to what we might expect, it is not located in the depth of some woods or in a far-flung corner of a remote village, in an inaccessible place. Nothing of this sort.

The Carmelite Convent of Merciful Love, where Miriam’s hermitage is located, is a hallmark of the Szczecin district of Golęcin. Right outside its walls we can find a primary school, an oncology clinic, a retreat house, a parish office and a presbytery, as well as an outpatient clinic and a night shelter run by Caritas, the biggest Polish charity run by the Church. It is, then, a place surrounded by the hustle and bustle of daily life. And it is here that we can encounter the only woman in Poland who has taken the vow of perpetual silence.

Miriam the hermit – a vocation within a vocation

This is what she herself writes about her experience:

It is extremely difficult to express in words how happy your life in friendship with Our Lord and in incessant contact with Him is. Oh, what a faithful, generous, tender, gracious, humorous, ingenious, and loving Friend He is! This is a friendship that satisfies all the desires of the human heart, one that heals all wounds and liberates you from all limitations. He takes pity on our weaknesses and shows unsurpassable generosity.

Sister Miriam entered the Carmelite Convent in Częstochowa. She arrived in Szczecin 35 years ago, in 1983, entrusted with a mission to establish a new community. After some time, she came to the realisation that God was inviting her to do greater things.

And she followed her call, crazy as the idea seemed. Since the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life expressed an opinion that it was impossible to lead the life of a hermit within the Carmelite spirituality, Miriam was released from her vows in the Carmelite Order and on February 28, 1988, took the vows of a hermit before Bishop Kazimierz Majdański. In 2001 she took her vows of perpetual silence.

“Her face is like the sun”

The nun, who has for the past 30 years lived in the hermitage of the Most Holy Heart of Jesus, is really amazing. Iga, who often used to visit the Szczecin convent, observes as follows: “Her face is really like the sun! I met her on the feast of her patron saint, where she could be approached with best wishes. If one can read the state of the heart in someone by the look of their face, I can say that she is truly peaceful at heart. This was a short but memorable encounter. I would be responding to the questions she … was not asking. I had the impression that this was a dialogue during which she was asking what my name was, what I was doing for a living, and I was just answering those tacit questions. Miriam has a profound, gracious, passionate, and dynamic gaze.”

In the early 1990s Sister Miriam was entrusted with one more mission, similar to the one that had brought her to Szczecin. For three years, at the request of the local bishop, she supported a newly established congregation of the Sisters Disciples of the Cross. She became the head of the board of the congregation and made an indelible imprint on its spirituality. That was her last “external mission.”

A few years ago, in 2013, Miriam donned a hermit’s robe, a kind of scapular, symbolic of a voluntary adoption of humiliation and suffering for the glory of Jesus and the salvation of other people.

This marked the third, highest level of the monastic profession, originating in the Orthodox tradition, signifying an entry into a state close to that of angels and adopted on very rare occasions.

Why am I silent?

What does the life of the hermit look like today? The sister mainly prays, fasts, takes part in Holy Mass in the convent chapel, and paints icons. They can be found not only in the Carmelite convent chapel, but in many different locations. These are veritable works of art, a beauty born out of a profound silence.

In a letter titled “Why I am silent,” published in Więź monthly (11/2006), Sr. Miriam observed that she is certain about a close relation between silence and speech.

Is not the vow of silence against human nature? I pose this question to myself, too. Without a doubt, silence is so hard for our nature, also for me. However, human social life is possible thanks to a certain dialectic of silence and speaking, contemplation and engagement, breaking free from worldly desires and enjoying the world, etc. Therefore, the role of silence in interpersonal communication, in relationships, seems crucial and actually necessary for obtaining some harmony. It is communication that takes place within the human spirit, where mindfulness, gentleness, attentiveness to the other, warmth, and respect originate. There is a close correlation between silence and speaking, as all is born out of silence.”

Her life, although it seems unimaginably difficult, is also a magnificent message about the existence of Mystery, which cannot be fathomed.

From: Anna Malec “This hermit-nun hasn’t spoken for 16 years. But here’s what she tells us” at


Brother Rex, Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2018 by citydesert

“The word ‘hermit’ might conjure up some strange images, a la John the Baptist living reclusively in the desert, wearing a hair shirt and eating locusts and honey.

The word itself comes from the Greek ‘eremos’, meaning wilderness or an isolated place. The vocation of a hermit became most popular among early Christians, who, inspired by Old Testament saints such as Elijah and John the Baptist, desired to live a life set apart and therefore withdrew into the desert in order to live lives of prayer and penance.

But the vocation is still a recognized calling in the Church today, and is about so much more than seemingly-odd ascetic practices and isolation.

In the interview below, Brother Rex, a hermit at Little Portion Hermitage in the Diocese of Portland, told Catholic News Agency what it is like to live the eremitic life in the 21st century.

What does it mean to be a hermit?

According to the Church’s latest Code of Canon Law the canonical definition of a hermit is as follows:

Can. 603 §1. In addition to institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance. \

2. A hermit is recognized by law as one dedicated to God in consecrated life if he or she publicly professes in the hands of the diocesan bishop the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, and observes a proper program of living under his direction.

A shorthand and non-canonical definition that I use is to say that a hermit is a woman or man who lives alone expressly for the glory of God, the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. Some hermits are consecrated by the Church per Canon 603 above and live their vocation in the name of the Church; some hermits live out their calling without publicly professing their commitment in the hands of the diocesan bishop. I am hermit of the former kind, i.e. according to Canon 603.

Brother rex

How did you find out about this way of life, and what drew you to it?

Grace drew me to this life. The example of the Desert Fathers and Mothers drew me to this life. The example of many of the great saints throughout history – Francis of Assisi, just to name one well-known saint who lived as hermit for a time before he was called to found a religious fraternity of Brother – drew me to this life. Through all and with all and in all of this it was God’s grace calling me to this particular way of discipleship.

How does one become a hermit? Was there someone you followed or learned from? How is the formation process different than that of a religious in community?

If a person wishes to discern a vocation to the eremitic life according to Canon 603, that person will want to contact the chancery of the diocese in which they live to determine whether or not the Ordinary of the diocese is open to the possibility of having a hermit under his canonical jurisdiction. If he is, the Ordinary or his representative in conversation with the would-be hermit will determine how the discernment process is to proceed.

What does a day in the life of a hermit look like?

Each hermit has his or her own schedule. My schedule looks like this:

My day begins around 4:00 a.m. I make a daily Holy Hour from 5:00-6:00 a.m. during which I pray the Morning Office. I attend daily Mass at a local parish at 7:00 a.m. After returning from Mass I have breakfast and spend the rest of the morning engaged in spiritual reading, Lectio Divina, and meeting occasionally with any person who has made an appointment to see me for spiritual direction. After Noonday Prayer and lunch, the afternoon (approximately 1-5 p.m.) consists of a work period during which I respond to email, and take prayer requests via email or regular mail. I pray the Evening Office at 5:00 p.m., my evening meal is at 5:30pm, Night Prayer is at 7 p.m., and lights out by 8 p.m. most nights.

This schedule is rigid enough to provide stability for my vocation in the silence of solitude, yet flexible enough to accommodate running errands, doctor’s appointments, accomplishing tasks around the hermitage and so forth.

How isolated are hermits, in practice? How often or in what context do you encounter other people?

It varies. Some hermits rarely venture out of their hermitage. Some hermits venture out a couple of days a week to some form of work to provide financial support. The amount of time a hermit spends outside the hermitage or otherwise encounters other people is determined to a large degree by the interpretation of Canon 603 in dialogue with their Ordinary or his representative, and the hermit’s Rule or Plan of Life.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about this way of life that you have encountered?

The biggest misconception I have encountered is that people seem to think that hermits are misanthropes who dislike other people and so hide away from them; that our life is not so because we love God, but because we can’t get along with other people (at best) or dislike humans altogether (at worst).

I remember one person telling me I couldn’t possibly be a hermit because I am too outgoing and friendly toward others! That being said, I would argue that eremitic life and misanthropy are two very different things. Eremitic life is a calling from God and includes a love of others. Misanthropy on the other hand is a psychologically maladaptive response to the world. This is not to say that all hermits are friendly and outgoing – being friendly and outgoing are a matter of temperament – but it is to say that hermits in a healthy and Christian sense do not, indeed cannot, “dislike humankind” which is the very definition of misanthropy.

What are some of the most joyful aspects of the life of a hermit?

One of the most joyful aspect of my life as a hermit is the opportunity God has given me to spend long periods in the silence of solitude to practice being present to God and to my neighbor through prayer. Paradoxically perhaps, another joyful aspect of my vocation is the part I am blessed to play in the lives of other people as they invite me to join them on their life journey through the ministry of intercessory prayer. Thus, in a particular way i am able to fulfill Our Lord’s command to love God and neighbor.

Are there other hermits in the U.S. that you know of, or have met? Is there a hermit network of sorts?

I’m sure someone somewhere keeps an official tally of the total number of consecrated hermits in the Church throughout world, but I don’t know who or where. In the diocese where I live there are five or six other hermits listed in the official Diocesan Directory. I am also aware of hermits, both male and female, in other dioceses in the U.S. and abroad. As for a ‘hermit network,’ I know of nothing official, but some of us do keep in touch via an occasional email, or letter or phone call. As I said, we not misanthropes. Not most of us, anyway!

Is there anything that you wish other Catholics, Christians or society at large knew about being a hermit?

What I pray for other Catholics, non-Catholic Christians and society at large is that they, like me, come to experience the freedom, happiness and joy that comes from submitting one’s will and life to the loving lordship of Jesus Christ in whatever state of life they find themselves.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Assure your readers that I live my vocation as a prayer for them. Ask them to please pray for me, a sinner.”

From: Mary Rezac “The life of a hermit: A glimpse inside the little-known state of life”


Learning How Not To Be A Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2018 by citydesert

After more than six years living as a Hermit, I am now having to learn how not to be a Hermit – temporarily, I hope.

Some months ago, I began to experience mild pain in my right leg. Over time the pain increased, and basic pain medication gave no relief. I began to find walking difficult and painful. An old friend assisted me to visit my physician, who prescribed strong pain relief, and referred me for x-rays and CT scans.

Before that could be done, I awoke one morning with excruciating pain in my leg, and unable to walk. My friend called an ambulance, and I spent the best part of a day in the emergency unit of the local hospital. X-rays showed that I had, somehow, and I have no recollection of how, severely damaged my spine, causing damage to the nerves that go to my right leg. Subsequent CT scans confirmed that diagnosis.

A potent drug for neuropathic pain was prescribed. It can take a long time to begin to be effective. Amongst the drug’s many undesirable side-effects are “light-headedness”, drowsiness, muscle spasms, and short-term memory loss! It has, alas, had a limited positive effect on my damaged nerves, but there is currently no alternative medication. It remains unknown as to whether my condition will improve or deteriorate, or will, or can, be cured.

I am now barely able to walk even a short distance with a stick, and have to use a wheelchair for anything further. Walking – or placing any pressure on my leg – causes extreme pain. So – shopping, laundry, meal preparation, housework, gardening…all no longer possible.

I began with a Personal Carer for a few hours a day. I now require a full time Personal Carer, after several collapses which necessitated ambulance trips at night to the local emergency unit.

I am waiting for an appointment with a specialist neurologists, and with the specialist pain clinic at the local hospital. I am told that there is a waiting period of 4-6 months.

Solitude, silence, self-sufficiency…and many other characteristics of the eremitical life have been lost.

Having had to learn how to be a  Hermit, I am having to learn how not to be a Hermit – temporarily, I hope.



Pascha – Πάσχα

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2018 by citydesert

Today we celebrate and rejoice in the Glorious and Life-giving Resurrection of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

“…all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” [Romans 6:3-5]

Resurrection Nesdtervo

Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov (1862-1942) “Воскресение” c.1892


Resurrecting Easter

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2018 by citydesert

John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision HarperOne, 2018

Resurrecting Easter cover

“One of the great tragedies of Christianity is the continued divide between the Eastern and Western churches. Popes and patriarchs often meet to discuss the dissolution of this partition, but there is still parochialism, suspicion and feelings of theological superiority on both sides that deprive us of the richer faith that could be found in our shared love of Christ.

Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision, brings the East and West a step closer together. The authors, John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan, do this by showing us visual theological expressions of our mutual Christian past. They share with us specific elements of image and Scripture that can lead to a fuller understanding of what Christ’s resurrection means to all of humanity.

The book is a mix of travelogue, art history, church history and theology, as the authors examine ancient images of Christ’s resurrection in both the East and the West.

The Crossans are helpful tour guides who offer the reader magnificent images and thought-provoking commentary. Sarah is a veteran photographer and visual artist. John is author of more than 20 books, a professor emeritus at DePaul University and a noted biblical scholar whose portrayals of the historical Jesus have often been controversial.

This project developed out of the Crossans’ curiosity about an engaging image of the Resurrection in an 11th-century Cappadocian church. Unlike the lone figure of the triumphant Christ generally seen in Western churches, this icon in Turkey showed Christ surrounded by others. This led them to question why Western Christianity depicts an individual resurrection of Jesus, whereas Eastern Church icons show a universal resurrection for Jesus and all humanity together.

This question set off a quest that ranged along Byzantium’s Greek Tiber, the Syriac Tigris, the Russian Neva and the Coptic Nile. The duo made 20 research trips over the course of 15 years to document images and collect information about extant versions of Christ’s resurrection, although the authors prefer to use the Greek word anastasis, which literally means “up-rising.”

According to John’s commentary, “These images are quite simply visual theology, and they challenge verbal theology to explain them — if it can.”

In his own efforts to explain these images, Crossan asks evocative questions about the nature of Christ, the purpose of his death and resurrection and what those things ultimately mean for human existence and salvation. He explains that the book’s emphasis on universal over individual iconography for Christ’s resurrection is “remedial education for us Western Christians.””

The full review can be found at: