25 September 2007

Some questions on Eremitic Life, Canonical Status, "Success"!

This week I was interviewed for a local newspaper article --- apparently being a diocesan hermit is a bit of an unusual thing, and people are interested in it (no, this is not REALLY a surprise to me, at least not entirely). One whole area of interest is the question of canonical status versus non-canonical status, though raised in a new way. For instance, the reporter wondered why one would want to become a diocesan hermit if the diocese has no financial obligations toward the hermit. Why, afterall, would one want to become perpetually obligated with a vow of obedience, become "locked into" (not her actual words) the diocesan structure with delegates, Vicars, Bishop, etc, to whom one is answerable, if the diocese does not assume financial responsibility, provide a hermitage, insurance, etc?

I answered the question in terms of freedom and integrity, and I want to try to reprise and elaborate on some of that here --- if only because it is a common question, and one asked by others, including those who are or who desire to be noncanonical hermits. The simple fact is that as a diocesan hermit one acts in the name of the church. One prays in the name of the church, and if one does other ministry, she does so in the name of the church; in a society where contemplative life is a rare commodity anyway, and where there are constant pulls on the hermit of whatever status to join the rest of society in their quest for "success," having the commission to BE A HERMIT in the name of the Church is a freeing and empowering thing.

In my Rule, I described eremitism as an eccentric way of life, and one which I personally found impossible without canonical status. What I did not describe particularly well was the constant pull from society and even the church and religious life to engage in active ministry, to use one's gifts in more usual ways to benefit one's sisters and brothers, to help bring the Kingdom/Reign of God in fact. Of course other Christians are prayerful (no doubt as prayerful as hermits are); and of course contemplative prayer itself is esteemed and understood to some extent. But eremitic life is generally not, and it is a fragile thing, easily compromised, easily lost in activity and other things which are -- of themselves --- also quite positive. Acting in the name of the Church, remaining in one's hermitage when "cabin fever" hits, turning to prayer instead of to some other way of being a Christian in the world, trusting that one lives at the heart of the church and the heart of others' lives even when they are not aware of that, is part of what is empowered by canonical status.

For one given canonical status, and especially for one admitted to perpetual profession, the Church says, you are a hermit: "With the help of Almighty God we confirm you in this charism and choose you for this consecration as a diocesan hermitess." (Allen H Vigneron, Perpetual Profession Liturgy, Sept 2, 2007) All of the theoretical justifications of the eremitical life, all of the talk of the hermit's marginality, the reflections of the benefits and justification of the eremitical contemplative life, the confirmation and mediation of this as a Divine call, and all of the reasons for persevering in it come together in this one sentence. The canonical or diocesan hermit has been confirmed in this vocation from God and given the permission and freedom to live this life in whatever way GOD calls her to do, nevermind what society says or understands to be legitimate, nevermind even what other Christians say or understand to be legitimate. One has been given a context in which this can be accomplished, a context which frees and empowers --- and of course which challenges to consistency and integrity on a continuing basis.

Interestingly, there are actually arguments against canonical status put forward by those who choose not to pursue it. For instance, in the earliest history of the eremitical life hermits were marginalized even from the institutional church. One of the reasons for leaving for the deserts (remember eremites are desert dwellers, from eremos, Gk for desert) was the fact that the Church's own integrity was compromised to some extent by the surrounding culture, and the struggle to be a Christian in the world was no longer as it once was. Not only were Christians not persecuted for their faith, but over time Christianity had become a state religion. Martyrdom simply was not the everyday vocation it had once been, and as a result, everyday faith suffered as well. So, some went off to the deserts to lead a more penitential and integral Christianity. They did so as lay people without the benefit of canonical or other official status --- though they also became highly esteemed, and the vocation sought after. For those who argue that eremitic life should be lived with this particular kind of purity, the idea of canonical status can seem a kind of betrayal.

At the same time, there are those among the institutional church who do not encourage or foster vocations to diocesan eremitism. It is hard to know the number of times I have heard stories from those who either want to try, or believe they are called, to be diocesan hermits who were told by their local Vicar, Bishop, Spiritual Director, or Vicar General, "just go live in solitude; that is all that is necessary." Of course, I understand that in the initial (or other) stages of discernment, a person SHOULD be able to go off and live in solitude --- and in fact, this period of time might last for years! I also understand that simply because one approaches a diocese regarding canonical status and eremitical consecration, this does not mean one should be encouraged in this, much less actually professed and consecrated; the capacity to "just go and live in solitude" is an important one and needs to be gauged. Evenso, the eremitic vocation (and I am thinking especially now of canonical forms of this life) is essentially an ECCLESIAL vocation, and it makes sense that the hermit should ask, "Just going off and living in solitude is all that is necessary for WHAT?" If one wants to live an eremitic life in the heart of the Church, and in service to the church, then the Church should be open to it ---- careful and assiduously discerning, of course, but open to it.

Let me be clear, the ability to go off and live in physical solitude itself is NOT enough for a person to live as a Christian hermit, much less be professed and consecrated as a diocesan hermit, and telling a person that this is all that is required indicates a failure to understand (or at least to communicate!) the essence of the vocation itself. Living in physical solitude is only one aspect of the ecclesial vocation we call eremitism, and the misanthrope or otherwise psychologically wounded can manage this as well as (and sometimes with a good deal less struggle than) the genuine Christian hermit. One must also relate well to the community of the church, manage to balance the demands of the community and those of solitary life (this is true even in reclusion), be genuinely prayerful, hopeful, faithful, and loving (not only of God, but of oneself, one's sisters and brothers, and the whole of creation), and in one's life witness to the triumph of Grace that God manages when the truly humble and poor are empowered by and made to be truly rich in Him! The question, "Just going off alone and living in (physical) solitude is enough for WHAT?" has to be asked of diocesan representatives by hermit candidates precisely because the diocesan hermit represents an ecclesial vocation which is far richer than this flawed advice sometimes given by Vicars for Religious and Consecrated Life, or Vocation Directors itself reflects. The same is true of the non-canonical Christian eremitic vocation, though in somewhat different ways. Evenso, as critical an element of discerning an eremitic vocation as it may be, just going off and living in solitude is especially NOT enough for the diocesan hermit.

There is nothing demeaning in admitting that one cannot live this vocation without the assistance of the church. No, the church does NOT offer financial support or assistance, and this opens a whole other set of questions which some diocesan hermits are legitimately raising at the present time, but the Church DOES validate and mediate God's call to the individual, and she does offer the context which frees the hermit to live her life with integrity and consistency. In a world which seems to have less and less time or inclination for reflection, silence or solitude, prayer or penance, or even a personal orientation to reality which is other-centered, this is a tremendous gift, for it means being given a place to stand where the meaning of life can be discovered and lived out without reference to what one spends, or produces, or exploits, or consumes.

The reporter asked me what success meant in terms of this life. What would success at the end of the day mean? I answered in terms of integrity: A successful day would be one I lived with real integrity. I probably should have spelled that out more directly, and I am sorry I did not. For instance, I should have said that integrity means living a life of prayer, penance, silence and solitude where one's love for God and one's fellow human beings, as well as one's ability to suffer with and for them (compassion) grows, where communion and reconciliation are central values, where one can say at the end of the day, "With the grace of God, I did the best I could do and I was obedient to the will of God in my life today." I know this is not an unusual goal for most Christians (at least I think it is not!), but for the diocesan hermit it is a goal which canonical status makes easier or more approachable --- something that is good not only for the individual hermit, but for the Church herself and the world she touches -- sometimes secretly, and always mysteriously --- as leaven at every point.

20 September 2007

Being Heart Smart

Today everyone tends to be "heart smart." We are concerned with cholesterol, with eating right and getting sufficient exercise to keep our hearts healthy and functioning at peak efficiency. Above all we work to keep the blood flowing through our hearts so that it reaches and nourishes every cell in our bodies. And we know that failure to do this spells death for the whole body as well. Our hearts are wonderfully dynamic organs which pump life throughout the whole. And yet, a single clot can still them forever.

In the New Testament, the word "heart" is a strictly theological term. What I mean by that is it refers specifically to the place within us, "Where God bears witness to himself." (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). God is actually a constitutive part of the human heart. His ongoing love, his continuing and continual pouring forth of himself is part of what makes us human, what makes us to be most ourselves. The place, or perhaps better, the EVENT where this happens in us, is what the Scriptures call "heart". Let me be clear, in Scriptural terms it is not so much that we have hearts and then God comes to dwell within them; rather, it is the case that WHERE God dwells and is active within us summoning us ever anew and afresh by name to be, THERE is what the Scriptures call "heart." (By the way, I think this is part of what Pope Benedict is referring to in his book on Eschatology when he calls the human soul a "dialogical reality". Heart and soul are interchangeable terms in much of Scripture).

Like God himself, our hearts are dialogical or communal in nature, and just like with the physical organs in the center of our chests, it is through them that God's love flows through us and to our world, through us and especially to the rest of the Body of Christ. If that flow is stopped, our hearts die. If we refuse to allow this life to flow through us to others, if we try to hold onto it or refuse to pass it on, it will come to act like a clot in our spiritual lives and death will ensue. So it is that we are called upon to allow God's forgiveness to flow through us to others, his mercy through us to others, his love through us to the rest of his creation. It is actually only to the degree that we hand on what we have been given, only to the degree we allow these things to flow through us to others that we even receive them ourselves. While I believe it is true that God does not give us what we deserve (for we can never deserve Him), but rather what we will receive as gift, I think it is also true that what we receive as gift is what we allow to flow through our hearts to nourish and enliven the rest of the Body of Christ and his creation. This idea allows me to make greater sense of a recent lection from Luke:

[[Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you: a good measure poured out, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. . .]] The ethics of the Christian is not one of quid pro quo, though this text can sound like it is. Christian ethics is a matter of dealing with others as God deals with us; it is a matter of freely letting flow to others what God speaks or pours forth in our hearts. To the degree we do this, the flow will continue with a vastness and generosity beyond all quantifying. To the degree we fail to do this, the very mercy God offers us as gift will stand unreceived as a clot in our own hearts --- whether shaped as fear or ingratitude or false pride, etc --- thus condemning us; the flow of life to our very self will be seriously restricted, and so too, fail to reach the world through us.

There is a second lesson in recent lections related to this dynamic and dialogical notion of the human heart. It involves what the psalmist was getting at when he said "I will walk with blameless heart" or what the author to Colossians was urging when he admonished, "let the peace of Christ control your heart!" Both phrases refer to a kind of integrity which is supposed to possess our lives (or be possessed by them!). Both are concerned above all with what or who is sovereign in (or controls) the human heart.

We know that the Christian life is above all an obediently loving life; that is, it is a life which is attentive and responsive, and while we are certainly called upon to listen and respond to the Word of God that comes to us from outside ourselves, most FUNDAMENTALLY, we are called upon to be attentive and responsive to this Word, to claim and embody the unique name which God speaks on a continuing basis deep within us. When the psalmist says he will walk with a blameless heart, he is referring, I think, to a life which is obedient in this way, a life where our own hearts do not bear witness against us. He is referring to a life where our outer selves and our inner selves are identical or in harmony, where what we are in the world is always an obedient response to the Word God speaks in the core of our being, and so too he is referring to what the author to the Colossians referred to when he said we are to allow the peace of Christ to control our hearts, namely an incarnational integrity born of attentiveness and responsiveness to the God who is part of our very being.

In one of the Gospels this week, a dead man was told by Jesus to "arise", and it is certainly tempting to want God come to us in such dramatic and miraculous ways. But in quiet, subtle, and equally miraculous ways, God calls us to arise out of death and nothingness at every moment. If we can only learn to hearken to this call deep within us, it will not only bring life on the biological level, but it will bring us the abundant life which is Jesus' gift to us. In light of this idea of the human heart, we need never fear that we are too far stuck in sin, too far removed from the living God, too "old" (in whatever way this manifests itself), or without fresh potential. There is quite literally a spring of living water at the core of our being, an ever-newly given identity where moment by moment God calls us by name to be. So long as we live, God dwells within us calling to us to "arise!" Where this really occurs on every level of our being I think we allow the peace of Christ to control our hearts and walk blamelessly in genuine integrity. Where this occurs, I think we are REALLY "heart smart."

Profession pictures

10 September 2007

Eremitism: Call to the Chronically Ill and Disabled

(First published in Review For Religious @ 1986. Reprints available in "Best of the Review #8, Dwelling in the House of the Lord, Catholic Laity and Spiritual Tradition, or through Ravensbread Newsletter for hermits)

While applauding the end of a long period of narcissistic privatism in the church, Thomas Merton in his posthumously published, Contemplation in a World of Action makes an important case for the eremitism (that is, the lifestyle of anchorites and hermits) as a significant monastic lifestyle. Almost twelve years later in the 1983 Revised Code of Canon Law makes room explicitly for the inclusion of "nonmonastic" (that is, not associated with monasteries per se) forms of eremitism through canon 603, which outlines a life "in which Christian faithful withdraw further from the world and devote their lives to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through assiduous prayer and penance." Despite this attention, this little-known and mostly ill-regarded vocation has been ignored for far too long, and it is time to ask what vision Thomas Merton, perhaps the best-known of contemporary hermits, had of the eremitical life, and what vision others have of the nature and significance of this vocation in a contemporary church. In particular, with regard to this latter vision, I would like to explore the idea that the chronically ill and disabled may represent a specific instance of the eremitic life today.

At a time when religious and consecrated persons are described within their communities and the church as Poets, Prophets, and Pragmatists, the solitary vocation has achieved new vigor and significance. In some senses the eremitic vocation has always served to challenge society and the institutional church. Always hermits find themselves on the margin of society. Always they live at extremities which, whether gently or harshly, confront and challenge others in the mainstream of things. Unfortunately, the extreme marginal position has not always been one of marked sanity. Often hermits have justifiably earned and borne the label of lunatic, eccentric, rebel, heretic, or fanatic. But truly, whether the individual hermit functions as a prophet or as poet, the vocation is an eminently pragmatic one marked by sanity and profound sense, and is often possessed of a deep and significant conservatism. In fact, the vocation of the hermit today is seen by some as preeminently a vocation of healing, wholeness, and essential well-being in a society characterized by the sickness and disorder of alienation and disaffection.

Both theoretically and practically Merton has prepared the way for this understanding, while others, mostly in the Anglican confession, have confirmed it in their own living. Contemporary hermits live on the margins of society, but they neither remain on nor belong to its periphery. Instead, through simple and uncomplicated lives of prayer and penance, lives essentially free from the "myths and fixations" (Merton) imposed by and inordinately artificial society, they occupy a central role in calling a fragmented and alienated world back to truly human values and life. Above all, it is eremitism's characteristic and conservative witness to wholeness and spiritual sanity (sanctity) which is so very vital to a contemporary church and society.

Solitude is, after all, the most universal of vocations, and a specifically eremitic vocation to solitude serves to remind us of its basic importance in the life of every person, not only as existential predicament, but, as Christian value, challenge, and call. All of us struggle to maintain an appropriate tension between independence and committedness to others which is characteristic of truly human solitude. At the same time, all of us are, in some way, part of the societal problem of alienation, whether we are members of the affluent who contribute materially to the alienation of the poor even while struggling perhaps to do otherwise, or whether we are members of the impoverished who are consigned to what Merton refers to as "the tragically unnatural solitudes" of city slums and ghettos. It is to the church in and of this society that the hermit speaks as prophetic witness. In fact, it is as prophetic witness that the contemporary hermit is part of the answer to society's problems, and it is to that answer that we now turn.

Two dominant scriptural themes are absolutely central to the eremitic vocation. The first is that of wilderness, and the second, and related motif, is that of pilgrimage or sojourn. Together these make up the desert spirituality that is characteristic of eremitism, and constitute the major elements of the powerful criticism of the world of which it is a part. Additionally, in a world which is truly more characteristically "rite of passage" than anything else, these two themes and the life of religious poverty and consecrated celibacy which they attend provide a deeply apologetic spirituality which is an effective answer to lives marked and marred by the affectation, artificiality, estrangement, futility, and emptiness of our contemporary consumerist society. Perceptively, the church today recognizes that she is made up of a "pilgrim people." Hermits are quite simply individuals who choose to stand on the edge of society as persons with no fixed place and witness to this identity with absolutely no resources but those they find within themselves and those they receive through the grace of God. Further, they attest to the fact that these elements alone are indeed sufficient for a genuinely rich and meaningful life. Above all, in a world whose central value seems to be acquisitiveness, whether of goods, status, or of persons, the hermit lives and affirms the intrinsic wholeness and humanity of a life that says, "God is enough."

Even the hermitage itself testifies to the eminent sanity of the hermit’s vocation. As Merton observed, the first function of the contemporary hermitage is “to relax and heal and to smooth out one’s distortions and inhumanities.” This is so, he contends, because the mission of the solitary in the world is, “first the full recovery of man’s natural and human measure.” He continues, “Not that the solitary merely recalls the rest of men to some impossible Eden. [Rather] he reminds them of what is theirs to use if they can manage to extricate themselves from the web of myths and fixations which a highly artificial society has imposed on them.” Above all, as Merton concludes, “the Christian solitary today should bear witness to the fact that certain basic claims about solitude and peace are in fact true, [for] in doing this, [they] will restore people’s confidence first in their own humanity and beyond that in God’s grace.” The hermitage represents for the individual and society that place where the hermit “can create a new pattern which will fulfill (her) special needs for growth. . .and confront the triple specters of ”boredom, futility, and unfulfillment, which so terrify the modern American.”

One group of people are prepared better than most to assume this prophetic role in our world,and I think may represent a long-disregarded instance of the eremitic call to solitude. These persons are members of the chronically ill and disabled, and in fact the prophetic witness they are prepared to give is far more radical than that already suggested. The idea of a vocation to illness is a relatively new one, stemming as it does from renewed reflection on the meaning of illness and the place of the sacrament of anointing in the life of the church. But in fact the idea that the ill might be called to solitude rather than the cenobium dates back at least to the Council of Vannes (463) in a phrase reading "propter infirmitatis necessitatem." If no more than a suggestion, there is at least a similarity between this older notion and the one I am presenting here. The difference, however, stems from the fact that, far from suggesting a somehow inferior cenobitic religious life which must be accommodated by extraordinary provisions for solitude, I believe the call to chronic illness is itself, at least for some, an eremitic vocation to "being sick within the church" as a solitary whose witness value is potentially more profound because such a person is generally more severely tyrannized by our capitalistic and materialistic world.

In the first place, the chronically ill, whose physical solitude is not so much clearly chosen as it is accepted, testify to the poverty of images of human wellness and wealth that are based upon the productivity of the individual in society. They are able to clearly challenge such images and testify further to the dual truth of the human being's poverty and genuine human possibilities. Humanity possesses not only great richness, but an innate poverty as well, which is both ineluctable and inescapable --- a poverty in the face of which one must either find that God is enough or despair. It is a poverty that cannot be changed by a life of busy productivity or by any infusion of accomplishment, and it is a poverty that points to the essentially paradoxical "unworthwhileness" and simultaneous infinite value of the human life. The chronically ill and disabled live this "poverty of worthwhileness" and yet witness to the fact that their lives are of immeasurable value not because of "who" they are (Status) or what they do, but because God himself regards them as precious.

In the second place, the chronically ill person who accepts his or her illness as a vocation to solitude is capable of proclaiming to the world that human sinfulness (existential brokenness and alienation) can and will be overcome by the powerful and loving grace of God. Once again this is a radical witness to the simple fact of divine sufficiency, and it is a witness that is sharpened by the reintegration achieved in the recontextualization of one's illness.

In this recontextualization, illness assumes its rightful position as rite of passage, which, although difficult, need be neither devastating nor meaningless, and it appears clearly as a liminal (or boundary) experience which testifies to transcendence. In accepting this as a call to solitude, the chronically ill person is freed from the false sense of self provided by society, and, in the wilderness of the hermitage, assumes the identity which God himself individually bestows. And finally, the chronically ill solitary says clearly that every person, at whatever stage in his or her own life, can do the same thing --- a task and challenge which eventually eludes none of us.

Today the church has moved to appropriate more completely a lifestyle that has been part of her life since the 3rd century, and one which is rooted in her Old Testament ancestry. It is my hope that those doing spiritual direction, hospital chaplaincy, and so forth, will familiarize themselves further with the spirituality which undergirds this significant way of life, and, whether dealing with the chronically ill or not, maintain an attitude of openness and even of encouragement to their clients' exploration of eremitism as a possible vocation. This is particularly true with regard to those whose vocation "to be sick within the church" may represent a vocation to eremitical solitude. As Merton concludes, in a society fraught with dishonesty and exploitation of human integrity, the Christian solitary stands on the margin and,

[[in his prayer and silence, explores the existential depths and possibilities of his own life by entering the mystery of Christ's prayer and temptation in the desert, Christ's nights alone on the mountain, Christ's agony in the garden, Christ's Transfiguration and Ascension. This is a dramatic way of saying that the Christian solitary is left alone with God to fight out the question of who he really is, to get rid of the impersonation, if any, that has followed him to the woods.]]

Breaking away from the exorbitant claims and empty promises of contemporary society is crucial for each of us. The solitary, and especially the chronically ill solitary, fulfills this challenge with special vividness.

08 September 2007

Profession Mass -- Part One

Video highlights from my profession Mass.

Profession Mass -- Part Two

The second segment of video highlights from the profession Mass.

Profession Mass -- Part Three

The third segment of video highlights from the profession Mass.

Profession Mass -- Part Four

The fourth segment of video highlights from the profession Mass.

Profession Mass -- Part Five

The final segment of video highlights from the profession Mass.


This is a slide show of the profession Mass. A video will be ready soon.

05 September 2007

E.E. Cummings has the words!!!

Still working on processing all that happened at the Profession Mass. It helps to look at the pictures and reread some of the words: Bishop Vigneron said at the end of Mass: The Mass is ended; we have seen great mysteries;. . . ." and I think he was exctly right. I really don't have words yet (if ever!). However, my pastor, Fr John, reminded me that e.e. cummings DID have words appropriate to the day, when he recited from memory the following:

i thank you God for most this amazing
day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

{i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any --- lifted from the no
of all nothing --- human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

People continue to ask me if I feel different. I had not expected to, but yes, I do. When lying prostrate for those five or six minutes listening to my community call upon the whole church, in heaven and on earth, to attend and participate in what was to happen, it was tremendously profound. And it simply continued that way throughout the profession, granting of the ring and cowl, and kiss of peace. Receiving Communion after all this felt different too, eventhough Christ and I had been linked nuptially before this. So yes, now the ears of my ears awake, and the eyes of my eyes are opened! God has indeed worked great mysteries in the hearts of his people, and most especially, on this day at least, in my own!

04 September 2007

Perpetual Profession Liturgy

I am sure I have only just begun to process all that happened yesterday morning. And while I want to write about it, I know that I will never do justice to the experience or the import of what happened. Perhaps over time, perhaps. Perhaps. Images of so many people, so many friends, so many who have touched me and allowed me to touch them as well --- so many celebrating the years of love and sorrow, of joy and pain, of fulfillment and waiting.

Again, the profession liturgy was AMAZING! It was wonderful for me, of course, but I have heard from a number of parishioners, etc that they were really blown away by something they had never seen before and were unlikely to see again. One friend was reduced to tears by the formal rite of calling forth on behalf of the Church of Oakland and faith community of St Perpetua's and my response, "Here I am Lord. You have called me, and I have come to do your will." Others were expecting a brief statement vowing poverty, chastity, and obedience in the course of an otherwise normal Mass, but were surprised by the examination, the content of the vows, the consecration, etc. Several thought the profession would be inserted into the Mass, but did not realize the entire Mass would be oriented to it from beginning to end. And MANY people who had not had a chance to meet the Bishop face to face, nor even to have seen him celebrate a confirmation, etc, were completely impressed by his warmth towards me, his own profound and personal involvement in the acceptance of my vows, his homily, clear concern and encouragement, etc. It was a wonderful way for the parish to meet a Bishop they had not been able to meet before.

Above all, I think it was a way to demonstrate how the Church esteems consecrated life, and --- I hope --- the gravity and sincerity of such a commitment. The simple fact is, I cannot live this vocation with integrity as fully as I need to without the support of this parish community. The call really was mediated from God through the local Church of Oakland and the faith community of St Perpetua's, and this was why Sister Marietta said precisely this when she formally called me to come forth to even ask for the privilege of admission to perpetual vows as a diocesan hermit. The call of vocation comes to each of us in the stillness of our hearts, yes, but in vocations to consecrated life, the church has always maintained these are eccelsial vocations: not just lived out in the heart of the church and in service to the church, but vocations where God's own call MUST come to the individual THROUGH the mediation of the Church. It is hard to say how influential the parish is in this vocation. There is no doubt, I don't think, that eventhough I journeyed this road for many years before being active in St P's, the parish has stamped the call with a character it would not have had otherwise. I know that my own thought in regard to eremitic life will turn increasingly to the reality of DIOCESAN eremitism, for I sense that it is different in some striking ways to monastic eremitism (that is, eremitism lived in a monastic community), and secular eremitism (perhaps not the best term for this, but noncanonical eremitism) --- even while they all share the same basic fundamentals: silence, solitude, prayer, greater separation from the world, and penance lived in Christ. Theologically I sense this is true --- though I can't yet speak intelligently on the theology of it --- but I also sense it simply from the change that has occured in my own perceptions and explorations of this vocation in the last little while.

So, a few more pictures of people who were active both in and behind the scenes at the Profession (including one of the servers I know would be as happy in the back of the sanctuary and without extra attention), and as time goes on, perhaps I can include even more --- because there is no way to thank everyone adequately or recognize them in this blog, and certainly not in one single entry!!!