From the very early days of the Church, there were both cenobites and hermits among the various groups of religious. The cenobites lived as monks in community life. The hermits lived in retirement to pray and meditate alone. So too, from the early days of the Franciscan Order, there were small hermitages where the Brothers could retire to give themselves more completely to a life of prayer and meditation.
Francis himself always felt drawn to remote places. Even as a young man, he liked to go with an unnamed companion to a grotto or cave near Assisi where they could talk undisturbed and where St Francis could pour out his heart to God. After he renounced the world at the court of the Bishop of Assisi, he spent the next several years living as a hermit and wearing the garment of a hermit.
When Francis and his eleven companions returned to the Spoleto Valley from Rome after their Rule had been approved in 1209, they first discussed among themselves whether they should live strictly as hermits or live a mixed life of prayer and preaching the Gospel. But even while they chose the mixed life of prayer and apostolate, Francis still wanted a number of places of retirement, called hermitages, where some at least of the friars could lead a life of seclusion and to which others could retire at least occasionally.
Thomas of Celano makes mention of such places a number of times, sometimes without giving their location, at other times speaking more precisely of the hermitages of St Urban, Sarteano, Rieti, Poggio Bustone, Greccio, La Verna and one even in Spain.
The Quest for Solitude
There are two sides to seeking solitude. There are those who are running away from something; and there are those who are running after something. The first are those who seek solitude as a relief from their frenetic and busy lifestyles in the city with its crowds, noise, the stress of the workplace and hectic social life. They seek times and places of solitude for rest and renewal. For them solitude is an end in itself. Then there are those who seek solitude because they are running after something. Monks, nuns and hermits seek solitude in order to find someone.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God. (Psalm 42:2)
Dry as a thirsty land, I reach out to you. (Psalm 143:6)
We all know that, for concentration upon a given matter, a certain detachment from competing interests is necessary, both externally and internally. So solitude provides that environment for this to happen in our desire for a more intimate relationship with God.
Sometimes, when we approach a person and wish to speak with them personally, we will ask them "Are you busy?" or we will knock on the door of the office and ask "Are you alone?" meaning "Are you free and disengaged?". This is what is being sought in solitude.
The privacy of the room, to which our Lord bids us to go, and to shut the door to seek God's face in prayer has a depth beyond a warning against spiritual pride. The room, like solitude, is a necessary place of separation conducive to being attentive and focussed on Him speaking to us.
This slide show, prepared by the Brothers, is intended to convey to the viewer something about their ethos, their vision and their life. For those who've never been to Eremophila, it also gives some idea of the surroundings in which they live.
IntroductionEverything we do is related to the life of prayer, the prayer of the community and the prayer of the individual. In choosing a life of prayer we seek to create an environment that aims at nothing except living in the presence of God. The contemplative life exists for its own sake and to fulfil the first and the most important commandmen4 March, 2010 God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the most important commandment said Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The great joy in the solitary life is not found simply in quiet in the beauty and peace of nature, or in the song of birds, or even in the peace of one’s own heart. It resides in the awakening and the attuning of the inmost heart to the voice of God - to the inexplicable, quiet, definite inner certitude of one’s call to obey Him, to hear Him, to love Him, and worship Him here, now, today, in silence and alone. It is the realisation that this is the whole reason for one’s existence. (Thomas Merton)
In not engaging in pastoral work, preaching and other apostolic activities we seek to offer a clear alternative to these in the life and witness of the church. It is ironic that, in the very giving up of seeking to change the world through these activities, places of contemplative prayer exercise a profound influence.
The following is our understanding of the principles expressed in the rule for hermitages.
SizeEach hermitage is to have three or, at the most, four brothers, which means that they would be both little and fraternal.
AuthorityAuthority resides in the group and not in a single person or leader, as understood by these words:
We envisage a federation of hermitages, with three or four Brothers in each, and the Custos being elected from among the brethren who live in the various hermitages.
WorshipLiturgy of the Hours is the focus, and sets the rhythm of the daily prayer.
In order to protect this focus, those that join the Brothers should remain in whatever ecclesiastical state they are in, before and after joining.
Those who are priests are to relinquish any licence to celebrate or perform any function pertaining to their office.
MinistryThe hermitages are not to be places or centres of ministry.
The life itself is a wordless sermon.
SolitudeWithin this framework, Brothers could withdraw for periods of solitude.
Their first care should be to strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Mtt. 6:33)Jesus said:
So then, anyone who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew hard against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock.Therefore we need to ponder and pray the Gospels because they are the only books in which we have Jesus’ life and teaching.
That Jesus and your love for Him is the most important thing in your life.
The Qualities necessary for those seeking Membership