This posting takes a new direction. This news has been public for several months now, but I want to let my blog readers know about it also.
I have been working with Bishop Boyea for several months discerning a vocation to the life of a diocesan hermit. This is a highly unusual vocation for a diocesan priest, but after much prayer and soul searching, Bishop Boyea and I agree that I need to start moving in this direction in my life.
This is an important step for the Diocese of Lansing as she has never consecrated a hermit before. And so three questions come to your mind, I am sure. They are:
- What is a hermit?
- How does a hermit benefit the diocese?
- What does a hermit have to do with me (a member of the faithful)?
What is a hermit? A hermit, to put it simply, is a person who chooses to live a consecrated life much like a monk or nun, but chooses to live this life in solitude with God rather than in community. To say that a hermit is consecrated means that the Church, through the Bishop, sets this person apart from the world. Their life is then dedicated to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. A hermit further dedicates his life to solitude as he lives a life of prayer, work and penance. To understand the benefit of this we look at a quote from Pope Pius XI. He said,
Those in the Church who perform the function of prayer and continual penance, contribute to the growth of the Church and the salvation of the human race to a greater degree than those who cultivate the Lord’s field by their activity; for, if they did not draw down from heaven an abundance of divine grace to irrigate the field, the evangelical workers would certainly receive less fruit from their labors.
How does a hermit benefit the diocese? A diocesan hermit dedicates his life to prayer and penance for the diocese he lives in. He is directly under the bishop who directs his prayer life toward the needs of the diocese. The words of Pope Pius XI ring loud as we hear him say that the prayers of the consecrated contribute to the growth of the Church and the salvation of the human race. The prayers of the consecrated are said to not only help or assist, but also that they are necessary for a greater harvest in the Church.
What does a hermit have to do with me? The hermit is dedicated to praying for your salvation. But I thought the priest already does that? They do and I do. The difference is the consecration. Greater sacrifice means greater graces. The hermit sacrifices more of himself for the good of the Church and you its members.
This is what bishop Boyea and myself feel the Holy Spirit is calling me to for the good of the Diocese of Lansing. I desire to make this fuller sacrifice for you, the diocese and my own salvation. The graces obtained from this life, I willingly and joyfully share with you. I will be more than happy to receive your letters or emails asking for prayers and directing my personal prayers and sacrifices for your needs.
I know that your lives are filled with constant activity and noise. You find it difficult to find a place and time of quiet and solitude with God to pray. I hope to help you in this. In the silence and solitude of my life I will be writing to you through a letter that is called Heroic Virtue. You will be able to come to my web site and download it for free. In this letter, I will give helpful advice on how to get holy, find that time to pray, how to make the little time you have for prayer be most fruitful, What prayers to use, inspirational books to read, and so much more.
A consecrated person is not to be a stranger to work. This is part of the tradition of ora et labora (prayer and work) for those in the religious life. This will be part of my life also. I will work a small 20 acre hobby farm where I will be raising my horse, dog, chickens, pigs and cows. The pigs and cows will be available for meat if people want to buy a side or whole animal. More details on that to come on the website.
Bishop Boyea and myself also find it important that I continue ministering in some official ecclesial ministry. For this reason, I will continue as the chaplain of St. John XXIII community in Lansing. This community is dedicated to providing the Mass and Sacraments according to the 1962 Rites for those who prefer them.
I would like to share two more questions with you:
Am I a hermit yet? I have not been consecrated a hermit at this time. Like the religious monks and nuns, I will have to pass through three stages of discernment. The first is the novitiate stage for two years. The second is to take temporary promises for 5 years and then to take my final promises that are for the rest of my life.
My novitiate is consisting of writing and beginning to live a Rule of Life. This is an official set of rules that govern how I am to live as a hermit. It covers everything from prayer, work, hospitality, time off the property, church matters, evangelical councils, health, hygiene and secular matters to name a few. The Rule of Life is governed and approved by the bishop of the Diocese of Lansing.
Also during my novitiate, I will build up the property to be practical for the life of a hermit and to be a hobby farm. As part of this process, I have come to the understanding that my house is much to big for the humble life of a hermit who will profess poverty. My house is a manufactured home setting on a full walkout basement. I am in the process of selling the manufactured home part and have them remove it from the property. I will put a roof on the walkout basement and build my home there. What I will have then is a home built into the side of a hill. It will then resemble a cave like the hermits of old lived in.
How will I live financially? It is important that people know that the hermit must provide for himself. The Diocese is not responsible for their finances. With this in mind, I will continue to be the chaplain of a small community as mentioned earlier which will generate a wage that will take care of most of my needs. I will also be selling pigs and cows for meat. This will not generate a lot, but will help with the farming costs that provide much of my labor. I do not sell the eggs. They are a perk to my community as I bring the extra eggs to Church on Sunday for them to take. I will be giving a few conferences and retreats each year to raise some funds. I will also be accepting stipends for Mass, having a raffle or two each year and I will have to depend a little on the generosity of the faithful in the form of donations.
For more information on all the other aspects of my becoming a hermit, please see my website getholy.com.
Please pray for me as I am for you.