Notes from the Hermitage
L’EREMO DEL CAMPO DEI SANTI
Translated from Italian to English, Campo dei Santi means the Field of Saints. It is a little hermitage at the end of the road where God is present in the passage of time, in the changing of seasons, and in the quiet prayers of a Franciscan solitary. It is a small place on the map of the world; and it is a light that burns in the heart of every person. It is a prayer of petition; a point of refuge; a place where light battles darkness for the life of a soul. The hermitage is both within and without; a place of emptiness and understanding; a place of silent suffering and consolation.
From this field of saints, thoughts and prayers are shared by a solitary pilgrim for God’s sake and for the salvation of souls. Over time, readers may find poems and prayers, words wise and whimsical, and links to worthwhile reads and reflections. During these troubled times, we should remember this cry from the heart of Saint Francis of Assisi: “This is our vocation: to heal wounds, to bind what is broken, to bring home those who are lost.” All who read this blog are remembered in the daily prayers of the hermitage. If you have a prayer request, please contact Brother Enoch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art: Winded (Detail) by Nancy T. Baker
18 APRIL 2020
THIRD WEEK OF EASTER
It is hard to believe that it has been five years since we celebrated the Jubilee Year of Mercy with Pope Francis. Whatever the time, whatever the place, and whatever the circumstances, the Risen Lord calls all disciples to show mercy and accept mercy into our hearts, into the core of our being. fIn short, we are called to live the gospel of mercy.
Just last week, in celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis said: “Let us be renewed by the peace, forgiveness, and wounds of the Merciful Jesus. Let us ask for the grace to become witnesses of mercy. Only in this way will our faith be alive and our lives unified. Only in this way will we proclaim the Gospel of God, which is the Gospel of Mercy (4-11-21).”
As we weep for the three million lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic, our longing for God’s mercy, whether we acknowledge it or not, is stronger than ever. This week at the hermitage, we will be present with these words of wisdom offered last weekend by Pope Francis: “Having received mercy, let us now become merciful.” We will continue to pray for God’s mercy, healing, and protection from the coronavirus. And we will pray that each of us, in our own way, willf become instruments of God’s love, peace, and mercy in our sick and suffering world.
Brothers and sisters all,
Psalm 62 – A Hermit’s Prayer
O God, you are my God,
for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name, I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth will praise you with you.
On my bed, I remember you.
On you, I muse through the night
for you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings, I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.
Glory to the Father,
to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
A Prayer for Discernment
Almighty God and Father,
you know that I scarcely know
what is good for me,
but now I am discerning
about a new chapter in my life.
How will I know that this is right way
unless you guide me by your grace?
Lord, show me the way forward,
so that I do not follow my own path,
and come only to grief and tears.
Lead me forth and hold me close,
so that what I choose will be your will.
If this plan is good in your sight,
bless me and bring it to fulfillment.
If it is not, then remove from my heart
all desire and plans for it.
Lord, you know all things.
Nothing is concealed from you.
I am your servant.
Show me the way.
Treat me as you wish,
because I will never have peace
unless I unite myself to your holy will.
Lord, teach me to say at all times:
‘Your will be done, mine.’
For yours is the kingdom
and the power and the glory,
both now and forever. Amen.
Adapted from an Ancient Coptic Prayer
The Eremitic Life
Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits ‘devote their lives to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude, and diligent prayer and penance.’ They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is the particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 920-921
My dear Wormwood,
Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics.
Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people
they have never met serves as an excellent distraction
from advancing in personal virtue, character,
and the things the patient can control.
Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state
of angst, frustration, and general disdain
towards the rest of the human race
in order to avoid any kind of charity
or inner peace from developing.
Ensure the patient continues to believe
that the problem is ‘out there’ in the ‘broken system’
rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.
Keep up the good work,
The Screwtape Letters
Human beings do not live forever…
We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye,
if we measure our lives against eternity.
So it may be asked
what value is there to a human life.
There is so much pain in the world.
What does it mean to have to suffer so much
if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?…
I learned a long time ago…that a blink of an eye is nothing.
But the eye that blinks, that is something.
A span of life is nothing.
But the man who lives that span, he is something.
He can fill that tiny span with meaning,
so its quality is immeasurable
though its quantity may be insignificant.
Do you understand what I am saying?
A man must fill his life with meaning,
meaning is not automatically given to life.
That I do not think you understand yet.
A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest.
I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here.
Do you understand what I am saying?
He is, he sees, he loves:
the eternity of God is his life,
the truth of God is his light,
the goodness of God is his joy.
Should the church be trying to erect
a spiritual reign of terror over people
by threatening earthly and eternal punishment
on its own authority
and commanding everything a person must believe
and do to be saved?
Should the church’s word bring new tyranny
and violent abuse to human souls?
It may be that some people yearn for such servitude.
But could the church ever serve such a longing?
Equally Sacred Lives
Our defense of the innocent unborn
needs to be clear, firm, and passionate,
for at stake is the dignity of a human life,
which is always sacred and demands love
for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development.
Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor,
those already born, the destitute,
the abandoned and the underprivileged,
the vulnerable and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia,
the victims of human trafficking,
new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.
We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness
that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel,
spend with abandon, and live only for the latest consumer goods,
even as others look on from afar,
living their entire lives in abject poverty.
Gaudete et Exsultate (101)
Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose footsteps we follow,
called his betrayer a friend
and willingly handed himself over to his tormenters.
Our friends, then, are all unjustly inflict upon on us
tests and ordeals, shame and injury,
sorrow and torment, martyrdom and death.
These are the ones we must love most,
for what they really inflict upon us is eternal life.
Saint Francis of Assisi
Rule of 1221, Chapter XXII
The Evil Subtlety of the Devil
We must be alert to the evil subtlety of the devil.
His one desire is to keep us
from having a mind and heart
disposed to our Lord and God.
He circles, lusting to snatch away the human heart
by some ruse or gain or assistance,
and to stifle our memory
of the word and teachings of the Lord.
He wants to extinguish the light of the human heart,
and so he moves in
by means of worldly worry and busyness.
Saint Francis of Assisi
Rule of 1221, Chapter XXII
A Franciscan Reading for Pentecost
On Pentecost Sunday, all of the brothers gathered for a chapter near the Church of Saint Mary of the Little Portion. At the chapter, they discussed how to better observe the Rule. The appointed those who would preach to the people throughout the provinces. Francis gave the brothers admonitions, corrections, and principles that he discerned from his consultations in prayer with the Lord.
Everything he said in word, he showed them first in deed with affection and eagerness. He said to them: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have great peace in your hearts, so that no one will be provoked to anger or scandal because of you. Let everyone be drawn to peace and kindness through your gentleness. For this is our vocation: to heal wounds, to bind what is broken, and to bring home the lost.”
Source: The Anonymous of Perugia
A Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian
Lord and Master of my life,
take away from me the spirit of sloth,
despondency, lust for power, and idle talk.
Give your servant instead
a spirit of chastity, humility, forbearance, and love.
My Lord and King,
grant that I may see my own shortcomings
and not judge others.
Blessed are you for all ages.
Glory to the Father, to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be forever. Amen.
Saint Ephrem the Syrian (306-373) was a writer, deacon, and theologian who is venerated a patron of faith leaders and spiritual directors. He is best remembered both for composing hymns and works of practical theology. Among these is a series of teaching hymns that were used to educate believers about the teachings of the Church during times of doubt. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed Saint Ephrem as a Doctor of the Church. Saint Ephrem the Syrian, pray for us!
A Fable About Pride & Humility
A huntsman was fond of stalking the woods and fields for game. One day after he had been climbing up a steep hill for hours tracking his prey, exhausted, he sat down on a big stone to rest. Seeing a flight of birds soaring from one summit to another, he began to think: “Why did not God give me wings so that I could fly?”
Just then a humble hermit passed by, divined the huntsman’s though and said to him: “There you are, sitting and saying to yourself that God has not given you wings; but if you had wings, you would still be discontented and say: ‘My wings are feeble and I cannot fly up to heaven with them, to see what it is like up there.’ And were you then given wings strong enough to lift you to heaven you would still be dissatisfied and say: ‘I do not understand what happens in heaven.’ And were you to be given understanding of this, you would again be discontented and say: ‘Why am I not an angel?’ Were you to be turned into a cherubim you would say: ‘Why doesn’t God let me rule over heaven?’ And if you were given to rule over heaven, you would still be dissatisfied and like another we all know, insolently seek something more.”
“Therefore, I tell you: humble yourself at all times, and be content with the gifts you are given. Then you will be living with God.” The huntsman saw that the hermit spoke the truth and thanked God for sending him a monk to give him understanding and set him on the path of humility.
Source: Notes of Saint Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938)
Have no fear of being thought insignificant or unbalanced, but preach with courage and simplicity. Have faith in the Lord, who has overcome the world. His Spirit speaks in you and through you, calling men and women to turn to him and observe his precepts. You will encounter some who are faithful, meek, and well disposed; they will joyfully receive you and your words. But there will be more who are skeptical, proud, and blasphemous, and who will insult you and resist your message. Prepare yourselves, therefore, to bear everything with patience and humility.
Source: The Legend of the Three Companions (36)
A Prayer of Abandonment
By Blessed Charles de Foucauld
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all. I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hand, I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself
into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Art Credit: Charles de Foucauld (Detail) by Jody Cole – jcoleicons.com
“When we pray for the living, we share in their joy in love, their grief at loss, or the terrible darkness of their despair. Having experienced pain, we pray for all who are sick and suffering: we lean in thought over the beds of those who, lonely and distressed, lie helplessly facing death. To think of the dead plunges our spirit into the depths of past centuries, or else our mind fixes on the invisible but dreaded path along which hundreds of thousands of souls pass everyday, having left their bodies often after excruciating agony…This sort of prayer makes one aware of the unity of all mankind, and to love our neighbor, and evolves into a natural impulse. Such prayer effectively furthers the salvation of the world, and every Christian sooner or later comes to pray for the whole world.”
Quote: Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938)
“The Holy Spirit teaches the love of God, and the soul yearns for God and with tears seeks Him day and night; but the enemy brings anguish, heaviness, and darkness, which destroys the soul. By these tokens can the grace of God be distinguished from the seductions of the enemy.”
Quote: Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938)
Since you are alone,
strive to find a companion.
What better companion than the Master Himself…
Believe that you should remain
with so good a friend for as long as you can.
If you grow accustomed to having him present at your side,
and He sees that you do so with love
and that you strive to please Him,
then you will not be able to get away from Him.
He will never fail you;
He will help you in all your trials;
you will find Him everywhere.
Do you think it is some small matter
to have a friend like this at your side?
Quote: Saint Teresa of Avila
19 APRIL 2020 – SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
“Everything we should ask of God and hope to receive from him is in Jesus Christ. We should try to enter into Jesus’ life, words, actions, suffering, and death, so that we can recognize what God has promised and what he always does for us. God does not give us everything we desire, but he keeps his promises. He is still the Lord of the earth who protects his church, continues to renew our strength, and does not impose burdens on us beyond what we can bear, but fills us with his presence and strength.”
Source: Letters & Papers From Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Stay inside your vocation,
inside your commitments,
inside your legitimate conscriptive duties,
inside your church, inside your family,
and they will teach you
where life is found and what love means.
Be faithful to your commitments,
and what you are ultimately looking for
will be found there…
There’s a rich spirituality in these principles:
Stay inside your commitments, be faithful,
your place of work is a seminary,
your work is a sacrament,
your family is a monastery,
your home is a sanctuary.
Stay inside them, don’t betray them,
learn what they are teaching you
without constantly looking for life elsewhere
and without constantly believing that God is elsewhere.
Source: Domestic Monastery by Ronald Rolheiser
Art Credit: The Mealtime Prayer (1885) by Fritz von Uhde
“This realization came to me today. If I have given myself to Mary, I belong to her. Then to use myself, body or soul, in any way other than the way she wants, is unjust because it is using what belongs to another contrary to her wishes. I have often been unjust. I must reform. Mary, help me.”
Source: Basil Pennington, OCSCO in The Monks of Mount Athos
Art Credit: The Virgin of Tenderness (Detail) by Jody Cole – jcoleicons.com
“I ask myself, what is it all about? What can a poor little creature say or do before God? I feel so trapped in myself. I want to go out of myself and be centered in God. But this is ecstasy — his gift. I can only lean towards him and desire and love. And this, too, is gift. If I can only transcend all the pulls of passion and sense and even intellect — and be to him.”
Source: Basil Pennington, OCSCO in The Monks of Mount Athos
If you would retain prayer, you must love those who offend against you and pray for them until your soul is reconciled with them, and then the Lord will give you prayer without ceasing, for he gives prayer to those who pray for their enemies. The one who loves his enemies soon comes to know the Lord in the Holy Spirit. But the one who does not love his enemies is to be pitied, for he is a torment to himself and to others and does not know the Lord.
Quote: Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938)
When you lie down on your bed,
remember with thanksgiving
the Blessing and Providence of God.
Once filled with this good thought,
you will rejoice in the spirit
and the sleep of the body
will mean sobriety of the soul;
the closing of your eyes,
a true knowledge of God;
and your silence,
brimming with good feeling
and with all its strength
glorify Almighty God,
giving him from the heart
praise that rises on high.
Source: 170 Texts on Saintly Life by Saint Antony (251-356)
The cloud of cares
is made of evaporations
from the principal passions:
love of pleasure,
love of money,
and love of glory,
so that a person who is free from them
is a stranger to cares, too.
Quote: Theodore of Edessa (9th Century)
The past and the future are only other forms of self; God is now.
Quote: Dom Edmund Futterer, OCSO (1901-1984)
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb (John 20:1)
It is for others to serve God,
it is for you to cling to him;
it is for others to believe in God,
know him, love him, and revere him;
it is for you to taste him, understand him,
be intimate with him, enjoy him.
Source: The Gold Epistle (16) by William of Saint Thierry (1085-1148)
When we have reached love,
we have reached God
and our way is ended.
We have passed over to the island
that lies beyond the world
where is the Father with the Son and Holy Spirit.
Quote: Isaac the Syrian
Art Credit: Untitled by Alan Fishman
During a time of trial, what should we think?
During a time of suffering, how should we act?
During a time of uncertainty, for what should we pray?
As always, the Little Poor One of Assisi, shows us the way.
Where there is Love and Wisdom,
there is neither Fear nor Ignorance.
Where there is Patience and Humility,
there is neither Anger nor Annoyance.
Where there is Poverty and Joy,
there is neither Cupidity nor Avarice.
Where there is Peace and Contemplation,
there is neither Care nor Restlessness.
Where there is the Fear of God to guard the dwelling,
there no enemy can enter.
Where there is Mercy and Prudence,
there is neither Excess nor Harshness
Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!
Source: Admontion XXVII by Saint Francis of Assisi
Praying with Jane during the final months of her long life was a small thing. Bringing her the Eucharist was as much a blessing for the minister as it was for the communicant. Never had a person so sick approached the end of life with such courage, grace, and yes, even some sense, with joy. Months after Jane died, a generous gift was received, but most important and forever remembered was the card containing a word of thanks and an old Irish blessing:
May God give you,
for every storm, a rainbow,
for every tear, a smile,
for every care, a promise,
and a blessing in each and every trial;
for every problem life sends,
a faithful friend to share,
for every sign, a sweet song,
and an answer for each and every prayer.
The Jesus Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
“In order to walk, one must take the first step; in order to swim, one must throw oneself into the water. It is the same with the Incarnation of the Name (of Jesus). Begin to pronounce it with adoration and love. Cling to it. Repeat it. Do not think that you are invoking the Name; think only of Jesus himself. Say his Name slowly, softly, quietly (Basil Pennington, OCSO in The Monks of Mount Athos).”
“The invocation of the Name is a prayer for all seasons. It can be used by everyone in ever place and at every time. It is suitable for the beginner as well as for the more experienced; it can be offered in company with others or alone; it is equally appropriate in the desert or in the city, in surroundings of recollected tranquility or in the midst of the utmost noise or agitation. It is never out of place (Basil Pennington, OCSO in The Monks of Mount Athos).”
How To Be a Poet: To Remind Myself
By Wendell Berry
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge, skill,
more of each than you have,
inspiration, work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time to eternity.
Any readers who like your work,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Live a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no un-sacred places:
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
Source: Given: Poems by Wendell Berry
A Prayer for Guidance
By Saint Francis of Assisi
Most High and Glorious God,
bring light to the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith,
and perfect charity.
Lord, give me insight and wisdom,
so I might always discern
your holy and true will.
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with members, friends, and followers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or smile.amazon.com; or by sending a donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. May the Lord give you peace!