21 June 2014

Real Hermits Need not Apply! Strange and Funny Day at Stillsong

Well, the day before yesterday was one of those really strange days that happen once in a while here at Stillsong. God is nothing if not a God of surprises! First I discovered that my blog was linked to parish bulletins all over the country. Because it was the feast of St Romuald a service that supplies brief reflections highlighting the day's readings, saint, or in this case, way of life or vocation, had provided content on the diocesan hermit to hundreds of parishes which they then included in their own bulletins. There was a headline, "Are Hermits For Real?" and at the end of the recap of the vocation of the c 603 hermit today the service included an invitation to "meet a modern-day hermit" with a link to this blog. I made the discovery when I noticed that in the space of a few hours the readership of this blog had been multiplied tenfold! (Over the course of the whole day the readership jumped 600% or so!) At first I was afraid someone had hacked it and put up some awful video or something that had itself "gone viral". What a relief to find there was no big problem --- and no hacking!!

The second thing that happened was that several people emailed me with the link to an article in the Irish Times about a job opportunity they thought was right up my alley. It turns out that a town council overseeing a combination cave, cottage, and separate chapel in Switzerland is looking for a hermit to serve as caretaker and sacristan for this historic site. The job requirements besides these? "Must like people!" was the main one. Fair enough! Also, "must . . . have a desire to tend a small garden, to 'dispense wisdom' to anyone that might pass by, and be willing to give courses in meditation three times a week."

Well, that was all well and good. I pulled out a pencil and noted, Check, check, and check on those requirements. (Since conflicting articles made it unclear whether the hermit would live in the cottage or the cave, I added a question mark there. Too, the bit about, "dispensing wisdom" to all and sundry was a little much --- but one source translated that requirement by saying one, "needed to be able to listen to folks' concerns," and that is certainly part of my usual job description! Check! Same with teaching meditation --- more or less. Check!). Why, I even have my own historical hermit garb and cowl so no problem there either -- just in case the village council was looking for authenticity! (Sorry, no beard for me!!)

But there was a definite deal-breaker ---at least for a full-time position! Namely, there are tourists coming to this place all the time! Even the cave-living part is not the deal breaker this actually is. As one friend and novice solitary would say, "That would seriously impact your 'eremitude', Laurel!" Of course, also I am already obligated to a kind of stability in my diocese and I love my parish as well. I don't really want to leave either of these (and would need permission from both Bishops, US and Swiss to make such a change anyway), but what about a temporary sabbatical or "vacation"? Now THAT might be something the town's council would consider!

Okay, let's think "sabbatical" then! But is this for real?? It's more than a little strange to find a job description for a village in search of a hermit! (Even the salary wasn't bad!!) All I could think of at first were those actors the British nobility used to hire to live in a fake "hermitage" at the bottom of their gardens! So I read a little more about this job opportunity. This historical  monument in Switzerland (the Verena Gorge near Solothurn) is (or was) a real hermitage with real chapel and is named after a hermit (Saint Verena) said to have lived in the nearby cave. The last person who lived at the hermitage was the official hermit for 5 years (and the first woman in 600 years); she left because of health issues and "too many people!"

I read one more story on this job opening and discovered that unfortunately, applications are reported to have closed on May 5th; they had almost 120 people who wanted to do this full time! Also, because of the tourist load  the village council says they can't have a REAL hermit coming to take the job. ::sigh:: I put my pencil away. Looks like I won't be moving to Switzerland anytime soon!! No sabbatical either. Bummer!