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:


Gwerir of Liskeard

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4, 2018 by citydesert

April 4 is the Commemoration of Saint Gwerir of Liskeard, Monk and Hermit.

Gwerir (Guier) was 9th century Monk and Hermit in Liskeard, Cornwall, England, of whom very little is known. King Alfred said to have been cured of a serious illness at Gwerir’s grave. After his death, the Saint‘s monastery cell was next occupied by Saint Neot.



All flesh is grass

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2018 by citydesert

“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” [Isaiah 40:6]

The greatest blessings of the Hermit are, alas, like the flower of the field, precariously transitory.

All flesh is grass

My desire for solitude, silence, and self-sufficiency has been profoundly challenged.

A few months ago, I began to experience slight pain in my right leg between the knee and the hip. The pain gradually increased. Finally, I visited my physician. He referred me for a CT Scan. On the morning that I was due for the scan, the pain was so excruciating that I could not walk. I was taken to hospital by ambulance. Following the CT scan and X-rays, my condition was diagnosed. I had (somehow) serious damaged my spine, which had damaged the nerves to my right leg, resulting in very serious neuropathic damage.

I can now barely walk, and only then with heavy reliance on a walking stick. One evening, while sitting on the front porch in the refreshing evening air, I attempted to stand up. A stab of excruciating pain down my right leg led me to collapse on the ground. Fortunately, a friend was present, and called an ambulance to take me to hospital. The hospital confirmed the earlier diagnosis.

So, now, my silence and solitude and self-dependence are seriously challenged. I have had a series of representatives of federally subsidized agencies visiting to assess and evaluate me. A whole assessment team comes to visit tomorrow to determine whether I am capable of living independently and alone. I should be grateful for the availability of state subsidized services. Somehow, and irrationally, I am not.

I am significantly medicated. The dominant drug, originally developed as a treatment for major epileptic seizures, may or may not have any effect. It has well-identified side effects, including “breast enhancement” (which I have not yet experienced), a lack of coordination in muscle movements (which I am experiencing) and problems with memory or concentration (I regularly can’t recall my carer’s name), and a lack of coordination in muscle movements, disorder of speech, and tremor (all of which I am experiencing).

I have to rely on a “Personal Carer” (the technical term). I cannot do housework, laundry, gardening, shopping – even cooking poses a serious challenge, and even walking to the mail box is only just within my capacity. My “Personal Carer” is a wonderful, compassionate and highly skilled man (and a brilliant trained chef!) who works like the proverbial slave to make my life better.

He began visiting morning and evening, but is now here most of the day, and stays over at night (after my collapse on the front porch) to ensure that I am safe. I cannot shower without him outside the bathroom door in case I fall.

I have every support that I could possibly require. And yet, I am ungrateful.

I want my silence and solitude and self-sufficiency back!

The Hermit and the Dog

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2018 by citydesert

Yesterday, I spent two hours tied to a dog! A young woman driving her birds in a cage to the local vet saw a large black dog in traffic on New Canterbury Road in front of The Hermitage. She rescued the dog and called in here (a Hermitage being the obvious place to go!) to see if I knew the owner, which I did not. She checked houses up and down the street.


She then tracked down the owner via the microchip implanted in the dog – he was recorded as living in Brisbane! She eventually tracked the owner to Sydney where he’d moved. She was a remarkably caring young woman who spent several hours trying to have the dog restored to his owner. Eventually, she had to go to the much-delayed vet appointment – so I was left with the dog on the front porch until she returned. The owner was supposedly coming….after two hours we called the Council, and an hour later the “dog catchers” appeared.

The dog departed, and I was free at last! An hour or so later the owner appeared and was told where he could find his dog.

The interesting life of The Hermit.