Welcome, Lovers of Solitude!

TAKE NOTICE, ALL YOU WHO STOP BY!  

Thank you to all who took our 2016 survey online.

Hello All from Still Wood!
Paul & Karen

WoodB

 

 

Whew!  Are we ready to follow “Wood Be Hermit” on the path to greater solitude and to meet the unexpected challenges that crop up even when we are forewarned?  This calling could be dangerous, even life threatening! Our mental balance will certainly be questioned, even by our nearest and dearest.  Once they learn of our attraction to simplicity (traveling lightly); to silence (no unnecessary conversation or even electronic noise); and to solitude (living alone filled with the Holy), they may consider us seriously delusional.

Are we?  True, our company on this narrow, twisting road may be as strange as goats, burros, and tight rope walkers – all individuals who are quick on their feet and who depend on their ability to keep to the straight and narrow.  Those of us who attempt the climb of Corkscrew Mtn.. ( also known as the eremitical life) are aware that starting out is crucial but the determination to see this through to the end marks the difference between a wannabe and a genuine solitary.

We are opening a new discussion topic and we earnestly invite you to share with our family of hermit bloggers by sharing what initially attracted to you to hermit life and what were the first steps you took.  Did they turn out to be wise or did you need to recoup and start over – perhaps more than once!

Just go to the new post: “How I Began … More than once!” and share whatever you wish.

A Rich Posting – April 18    The Order of Watchers

We were profoundly inspired by this name of a hermit group in France and feel it speaks to the heart of eremitic life.  Go to it and share YOUR thoughts and comments, please.

 

 

196 thoughts on “Welcome, Lovers of Solitude!”

  1. Hiya

    Welcome both! Its always the right time to pay heed to one’s Calling, to seek to rediscover a silent place within, that nurtures our innermost, unspoken, most precious aloneness in abandon to a Higher Power that unites us in Oneness, which is Love.

  2. Hi Paul and Karen,
    I am disabled–in fact I’m on SSI. Yet I really feel called to this lifestyle in spite of myself. I hope to earn enough to support myself ghostwriting for content mills and proofreading. Then whatever SSI remains after the deductions would go to help the less fortunate. I know that next to prayer, work is an important part of hermitical existence.
    This opens up the question of social media and blogging–perhaps under a pseudonym. A lot of these are questions only I can answer.
    A minor problem is the attitude of my protestant church. They already look at me strangely because I’m single and on Zoloft. No telling what friends and family will say if I tell them I prefer to be alone.
    By the way, my dad is my minister.
    Could I please have some information to help me find a director or something? Maybe the oblates of St. Julian of Norwich? I want to make sure I haven’t gone off the deep end–swimming, not drowning. 😉
    Yet I feel a strange peace that I don’t when I’m depressed or psychotic (I haven’t been truly sick in years. If I need help I can leave my hermitage to get it.)
    It’s true that God loves psychotics as well as saints!

    1. Dear Rachel,
      Peace! Thank you for sharing how you have found your vocation despite a debilitating health problem. It is obvious you have found your niche and resolved a number of problems that beginners experience. God can use our health to nudge into the very place we are meant to be. Finding a spiritual director is a problem that hermits and solitaries often have to deal with. For that reason, we asked our Raven’s Bread readers to let us know if any of them felt they were qualified to fill that role if asked. We published a short list in the August 2013 issue which I will attach to an email to you. In the meantime, let us pray for one another. Karen

  3. I came across this website that totally makes sense to me. Thanks for this initiative. I just wrote a book Hermit in Modern Times that i ll send to Ravens Bread. Writing the second one The Power of Silence ( still thinking about the tittle since there are so many books with the same name) but that is the topic…Silence.
    I would love to exchange some experiences and thoughts with other hermits around the world.

    1. It would be interesting to hear about your book, Hermit in Modern Times, Alicia.
      Could you share that with us?

      And, of course, welcome and peace.

  4. Unity in diversity! Seeing our similarities, not the differences, is a most down to earth ‘recipe’ for any individual’s stability in today’s outwardly tumultuous, secular world. Thank you again friend Karen for the pointers and your time. It is appreciated. As an Enneagram 6 any kind of reassuring stability is vital.

    John

  5. Thank you for sharing Toomas. No we are not alone in our musings at all. Within, we have the presense of God, Who is always there to offer a supportive hand when we falter and fall, and each time we fall, we become stronger as we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and carry on doing what we came here to do. This unique site offers a space to share what most moves us, something I’m grateful for. Karen has been a sweetheart, simply brilliant in answering my questions on sexuality (homosexuality) and spirituality. There is a clearness, I can pick up from her, no doubt from living many years now close to trees, streams, good company, a strong faith in a Higher Power. Her books, Consider the Ravens, which I’ve just started to read and A woman’s Journey into Solitude, wow! They actually become animate for me, books that are poignantly, elegantly, simply shared.

    In fact, in esotericism, sexuality and spirituality are one and the same thing, but doing the dance with any kind of dignity and heart takes a lot of practice ne ce pas? A life of service of some kind, is what hermits are called to take on, whether in a bustling city like where you perhaps live or in suburbia like me, or close to the wilds like fortunate Karen.

    Being born in India where spirituality is a daily part of life, I was much to the chagrin of my family, drawn to the quiet spaces as a child, and growing up in the UK brought a huge identity crisis for me. I had no material ambitions, and suffered from bullying, depression and loneliness, which made me a loner since my early twenties. I had an experience of some kind at around 24 yrs old, this gave me hope that life is not the hell that I thought it would always be. I read voraciously, and soaked up anything ‘spiritual’ like yoga, eastern philosophy, UFOs, occultism. Nothing seemed to click for me, what I really wanted was simple peace and quiet, space to think, to make sense of all the noise and mindless chatter going on in my mind, noise that was driving me to find out what and where lies the cure for all these things. My walks in Nature brought a sense of perspective of what my demons were doing, gradually, and here I am many years later, getting my life together through what the Silences have taught and are still showing me.

    A sense of Oneness is gradually permeating my everyday awareness, it likes the woods are coming to Mohammad; even in a busy supermarket where I presently work, it is there in the background, and here where service lies. I find my service is a kind of darshan, wordless, just doing what’s right in front of me, sitting for lunch, cleaning the floors, doing errands, going home via a stroll along the beach, sitting alone with my latest book, watching an interesting tv programme. Kahlil Gibran opened a door via books for me a long time ago in my early twenties, and around the same time, a sense of the mystical haunted me, a something that would perhaps ‘save’ me at last one day.

    Brought up a Catholic, I left at only 17 yrs, because I felt personally the church was not bringing out the best in me. At odds with my religion were my (wasp in the ointment) homosexuality, my growing sense of the mystical, my need to find something not to be found in books, sermons, tradition, and such like, a daunting burden for such young shoulders to bear, plus family who were very homophobic and still are to a lesser degree. In fact I was treated like a girl in my formative years, so great was their aversion to things deemed not of the norm. I absolutely love them to bits now, and always have deep down.

    So I end this as I began to emphasize Toomas that no one who relies more and more daily on a Higher Power is ever left alone. In fact, he/she is connected to the Soul of the world and to all persons who feel the same. Thank you for inspiring me to share with your good self.

    Blessings for you,

    John
    jakesey at yahoo dot co dot uk

    1. Dear John,
      Peace and blessing! How can we thank you for your sharing of your intimate life and struggles? You will soon hear, I suspect, that what seems to be most uniquely personal turns out to be universal. At least, that is what I have experienced when readers of my books tell me how their experiences match mine! If we focus on what unites us and not what divides us, we find we are a very closely knit human community! Your post on Raven’s Bread website will prove enriching for many. We are very grateful that you have spoken out of the Silences that are your guide. May you be blessed in every way! Oh! and thanks for your good words about my books. Much appreciated, Karen

    1. Dear John,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this blog (and thank you, Karen, for responding).

      I, too, am marked by same-sex attraction, and yet I try to follow a kind of Catholic lay-hermit vocation. It is good to know that one is not alone.

      For what it is worth, I remark that I find the sexual thing to be the most awful nuisance, with inherent theological problems exacerbated by social attitudes: not in a big way by homophobia (that is only a medium-sized or small-sized problem), but by the idea that all same-sex-attracted people are to fit a kind of Hollywood-glamour stereotype, made visible here in Toronto by the colourful “Church Street and Jarvis Street” cafe-and-discotheque culture, and put on view to cheering heterosexual crowds every June in a street parade. When will Toronto realize that a stereotype is a stereotype?

      I actually have a kind of possibly-“gay” hero. This is (everybody will laugh, I admit) Henry David Thoreau. Well, he was single, ahem, and when young he had the right scruffy-bearcub aesthetic, if the bronze statue near the car-parking area at Walden is, ahem, a reliable guide!

      One of the high points in my life was sitting at Walden Pond a few years ago, by the rocks which constitute the remains of Thoreau’s cabin. There can hardly be a more moving place in all of North America.

      On the concrete side of hermit life, I find it helpful to read the materials here at Raven’s Bread, and additionally Sister Laurel’s stuff at notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com. The Divine Office helps quite a lot. I find it calming to say Lauds, Vespers, and Compline in Latin, as depression and fortitude, or failures in fortitude, may from day to day allow.

      Merton and Sister Wendy Beckett are of course deep and wonderful. A little less intense and daunting, but still deep and wonderful, are the writings of Fr Henri Nouwen.

      I think at the heart of everything has to be a theology of service – service to the poor, service to the marginalized, service in scholarship or teaching or handicraft, service in defending urban forest space at the podium in Town Council, service through prayer and contemplation in the manner of Merton, whatever – we all have different ways of serving, and we have to do the best we can, finding joy in our own particular flavour(s) of external and inward poverty. Sister Wendy Beckett says somewhere that joy, unlike mere happiness, is in a way a rather stern emotion.

      Toomas (Tom) Karmo; Toomas dot Karmo at gmail dot com; www dot metascientia dot com

      1. Toomis or Tom!
        Thank you SO much for taking time to offer John (& lots of the rest of us!) such a balanced insight into hermit life as lived in today’s world. We know the authentic when we hear it and you definitely fall into that category. I was particularly delighted by your touching on a theology of service. How true that is! From what I hear out in hermit land, everyone who is genuine has an outer, as well as inner, expression of service. When I was living in my little cabin in WV, people came to me and I received them. Hopefully when I sent them on their way it was with the Peace of Christ. Fortunately for my peace of soul, they didn’t come everyday! But there were always certain “bundles” (as the Friends like to call it) that I knew I was meant to carry and I did my best to accept them wholeheartedly. May God continue to bless you, Toomas! With grateful prayer, Karen

  6. Dear John,
    Peace and blessings for 2015! You ask some good questions and without more details it is hard to give more than a generalized answer. No, solitude and sexuality are not incompatible. Solitude and having a sexual partner could be problematic but it doesn’t have to be. We have a surprising number of “married hermits” as part of Raven’s Bread readership. Some times it is just one partner who lives mainly in solitude; sometimes it is both. The key is understanding and acceptance. A stable relationship can be a true blessing if the partner helps one to have the space and time for solitude. Love and solitude are not incompatible. In fact, it is love which makes our solitude fruitful in God’s eyes.
    As I said, this is only a “general” answer but it might perhaps guide your thinking. Blessings, Karen

    1. Thank you for responding Karen, I meant to be general not personal. Your advice generally tells me to keep a balance on the sexual and spiritual aspects of my life. I get lost and distressed running after advice here and there, only to realise that the best advice comes when I become still and listen to the still voice within, and follow its counsel. I’m a complex person, so very drawn to Nature, which speaks to me when I decide to become still and not get panicky by thoughts flying this way and that. Also a solitary spirit, loving solitude, I find it internally disturbing to be in close company for very long, preferring friendship to love relationships, yet an aspect of me loves to experience the latter, hence my need to be still, clear and focused, and Mother Nature comes in very handy here. I am very inspired by your books!

      John

      1. Dear John,
        You’ve answered your own question beautifully. And you’ve named one of the sources of your confusion – seeking too much advice! It’s bound to be contradictory in part because we unconsciously color our story to meet the understanding of the person we are consulting! Spiritual guidance should be sought from a single source. A man with your background has the inner resources to find most of your answers within yourself. Occasionally you might need a spot check with someone who knows you well to confirm your insight. If that’s not possible, time itself will reveal the answer. The discipline of waiting always strengthens us so is never “wasted time.” In reading my books, you may have noticed that one of my own inner guiding principles was the “comfort”, the tranquility that a certain decision gives us over a period of time. Your need to be “still, clear and focused” echoes what we all need! Allow the muddy waters to clear and then, see what you see. Prayers, Karen

  7. Dear Karen

    I have always been drawn to solitude and silence. I am 50 yrs old, a gay man who finds it tough to be celebate/chaste. How can I become a solitary hermit if I have these desires as part of my make-up? Is it possible to have both, to live with both solitude and sexuality? I’m not looking for approval, just clarity of how to proceed on this pathway. Anything you care to say to help will be appreciated.

    Blessings,

    John

  8. To Menavathsai:
    Hang in there but remember that nothing happens unless you do your part. Do you feel in your heart what seems most necessary right now? Forget logic! Listen to your heart. This, too, is a love process. There are no wrong steps so long as you keep your goal in mind. Oh, yes, and be willing to be changed! Karen

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    1. Thanks, Carson, for your approval of the general style of the blog. For that, we must thank our contributors who share so soul so wonderfully. The “bread” we through out on the water will always come back to us multiplied one hundredfold! Karen

  11. Dear friends,

    Last week was the seventh month anniversary of my husband’s brutal death from leukemia. That evening, I sat in the burgundy chair opposite our fireplace, watching the plays of light from the setting sun. On the mantle stood several lighted candles, several small oil paintings of the nature reserve we loved, and one large photograph of James. The longer I gazed at the scene before me, the more I realized I had seen it before – in our previous home in another town, long before we had purchased this house, long before I had purchased the burgundy chair, before my husband’s diagnosis, before he became ill, and even long before the picnic took place where that particular photograph was taken.
    A deep peace suddenly fell upon me, a profound knowing that James’ and my entire history had been conceived in the mind of God at the first moment of time itself. All of his sufferings and all my vicarious sufferings witnessing James’ deterioration and death had been divinely inspired by the Originator of Love Himself. No moment had been an accident. No anguish was out of place. Every moment had been conceived in the mind of God since “in the beginning.”
    James’ own father died when my husband was only sixteen. James said that only a few months after that funeral, he knew deep down that his father had died at preciously the right moment, that human history, including his own loss, had unfolded with his father’s death as an integral event. Apparently I am now feeling what my husband felt long ago, that in the Divine Economy, every moment is divinely inspired, God knows the fall of every sparrow, every hair is numbered, and every human life and every human death is safe in the arms of Almighty God.

  12. At my husband’s funeral in January, I had prayer cards printed with this quotation from “The Treatise on the Love of God” by St. Francis de Sales. James had been a scholar of biblical languages, and had many Jewish friends, so I chose this quote because it fits so well with both traditions. Utterly beautiful, and so perfect for those who have chosen the more interior life.

    Lord, I am yours, and I must belong to no one but you.
    My soul is yours, and must live only by you.
    My will is yours, and must love only for you.
    I must love you as my first cause, since I am from you.
    I must love you as my end and rest, since I am for you.
    I must love you more than my own being, since my being subsists by you.
    I must love you more than myself, since I am all yours and all in you.
    Amen.

    1. Bonnie, this is a truly touching and meaningful prayer. I just wished to say thank you so much for posting it here for all our hearts.

  13. Hi Karen and Paul –

    I want to thank you for several things:

    First, for the song you are using in “A Hermit’s Journal – The Time Between” videos has found a permanent home in my heart and head. I seem to awake with it in the mornings, and it is part of my prayer throughout the day. Such a blessing. There is such peace in making our home in God.

    Then the blog. I recently put a couple of thank you’s there, but it really goes beyond that. The suggestion from Chris about the BBC’s airing of “The Big Silence” by Abbot Christopher Jamison of Worth Abbey was greatly appreciated. That entire series is outstanding. There are 12 15-minute segments wherein five individuals from various walks of life and spirituality (ranging from no faith to strong faith) had the opportunity to partake in a eight days of silence. It apparently was aired in the UK over three weeks in one-hour segments. Such a blessing for anyone – but especially for those trying to find silence in the busy, hectic world of their everyday lives.

    Then the suggestions by Chris regarding the BBC’s airing of Ascetic Christianity which was the last of Fr Peter Owen Jones’ journey into three religious traditions – Buddhism, Hinduism, and Coptic Christianity. Fr Jones has given a glimpse into mysteries that are beyond comprehension, but a stepping stone. There were gems in each of his pilgrimages as an Extreme Pilgrim, but I felt especially blessed to be allowed into his final 21-day period of silence and solitude in a cave near that of St. Antony the Great. It was particularly meaningful to me as my own charism in solitary life is the Desert Fathers, and a trip to Egypt is something I most likely will never be able to do.

    That final episode led me into videos presented by Fr Lazarus Al-Anthony, the hermit who lives in a cave immediately adjacent to that of St. Antony of Egypt roughly a thousand feet from the Monastery of St. Antony. His presentations were directed to Coptic youth and had originally aired over the Coptic Youth Channel.

    I don’t know if you have taken the time to sit with any of these. I believe Fr. Jones’ experience in the Ascetic Christianity and Fr. Lazarus’ talks are definitely worth the time for anyone drawn to or living a solitary, contemplative live.

    Thank you for providing a way that such resources can be shared with others.

    1. Dear Anne,
      Your evaluation of Chris’s recommendations is very helpful and assures our blog community that these internet program are particularly worthwhile. Thanks, too, for mentioning our videos. The song you comment about is by the Irish Poor Clare musician who has taken the “Bookmark of Teresa of Avila” and set it to music. “Let Nothing Disturb You” is found on the CD called “Woman’s Song of God” composed by Briege O’Hare, OSC and sung by Marie Cox, RSM. The entire CD is deeply moving, being songs inspired by the writings of women mystics such as Julian of Norwich, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Clare of Assisi, Gertrude the Great,and Hildegard of Bingen in addition to Teresa of Avila. You can order it by going to Hermitage Productions website: http://www.poorclaresireland.org ; email: poorclares@poorclaresireland.org or call: 353 (0) 42 937 1966 .

    2. Hello Anne,

      These recommendations were originally made on the IFSB – International Fellowship of Saint Bruno – mailing list which you can join for free at http://www.yahoo.com (look for groups at the top of the page), if you like.

      This Carthusian mailing list has been in existence since about the year 2000.

      Oh, I shouldn’t fail to mention that 2014 is the 500th anniversary of Saint Bruno’s canonization.

      O Bonitas!

  14. Greetings Karen & Paul,

    Now that the two of you have become YouTube stars in your own right, I thought that I would send you links to 2 programs that you and Raven’s Bread readers ( as well as those watching your ongoing YouTube presentations) might find interesting.

    1) BBC show on Ascetic Christianity

    http://youtu.be/9VjU_505i6E

    There are several related/referenced videos on this page for “Fr. Lazarus Al-Anthony” – also definitely worth watching. Father Lazarus is an Australian convert to Coptic Christianity who is presently living as a modern day desert hermit in Egypt.

    2) BBC show on Silence

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_zDtdYu3mA

    1. Thank you Chris for these opportunities. I have a couple of books written by Abbot Christopher Jamison of Worth Abbey and find him to speak to the deeper part of my being in a very simple way. I encourage others to take advantage of the opportunity you have provided here.

  15. Whoa, folks! I’ve been living as a hermit for 7 years now by the sheer grace of God and it’s really not all that bad, trust me. There’s plenty of light & joy in this path and no, you do not need all those vows, canons (cannons? little joke), nor Rules to get started. On a good day, I had the occasional spiritual director to consult with, but they seemed to rapidly come to the conclusion that I was rather Odd. Sure, these things are nice and reassuring, but they are merely props because – never forget – this is a vocation and a calling from God Himself and we are tremendously Honored by it. No, it is NOT an alternative retirement lifestyle in any way – it is a Grand Adventure and you will end up in places – both physically & spiritually – that you never imagined or considered. Let God be your travel agent!

    I rarely give advice, but the way this blog is going, God nudged me awake this morning saying, “You go, girl…” So here ’tis: (1.) Give up and become simple. St. Augustine said it best: “Love God and do what you will.” (2.) Take your spiritual vitamins – whatever floats your spiritual boat. For me it’s the Desert Dads who, I notice, “retired” to the Egyptian Sun Belt without a thought for pensions or Social Security! (3.) We were chosen by God to pray for others – if nothing else, this will keep you out of the self-centeredness trap which is a real danger for hermits. (4.) Occasionally, fry up some pancakes, eat them while watching K&P’s videos in your pajamas – the ones with the crosses printed on them (natch!) (5.) Let God give you things to do, not other well-meaning people and Focus, Focus, Focus. He’s worth it.

    Luv & Bless ya’ll…

    1. Dear “Sr. Nostalgia”,
      Peace! Thanks for sharing some Easter joy as well as wisdom with “companions on the Way”. We notice you are a reader of Raven’s Bread but will guard your anonymity – especially to protect you from unwanted “cannon” bursts! We hope to hear from you again.

    2. What a delightfully uplifting message from Sr. Nostalgia. Thank you. When we keep our focus on the God who chose us, how can we keep from singing the praises of our Lord.

  16. Further to my previous post, perhaps i should try to clarify the question…this being more around how does one balance the tension in being in community whilst also nurturing simultaneously the call to solitude..i guess this is a question that many have faced and sat with and written about…. If anyone has any book titles and/or contemplations that might share of this…. wonderful..

    Miriam

    1. Miriam, Raven’s Bread offers books and other Resources on its website: http://www.ravensbreadministries.com . I would recommend the book Paul and I co-authored as a handbook for hermits. You may also be encouraged by reading my memoir: Where God is Ever Found. And, come to think of it: we have just completed a series of ten videos about my three month stint as a trial period in hermit life in Ansted, WV. You can find them by clicking on the video on the front page of this blog or by going to YouTube and keying in: A Three Month Trial – Karen & Paul Fredette. They are posted on David Holmes YouTube site, a good friend in the UK.

  17. Dear fellow pilgrims,

    What a joy to finally come here to discover this blog here…Bless your hearts warmly Karen and Paul for this endeavor and offering of love..there certainly are so many challenges and tensions in aspiring to live the hermit life, and it is wonderful to have fellow souls to accompany along the journey..
    It is insightful and special to read all your posts here and be sharing with others walking this path………. As a soul also as a member of a spiritual community; yet also deeply drawn to the eremitical life…I have a topic that is on the surface and wondered if others may share this; and that is around the dynamic and tension in being called to the more solitary hermit vocation whilst also being a part of a spiritual or religious family…. For me personally it is around certain commitments required as a member of community alongside a very free spirited nature that struggles with this, and although I find a strong sense of inner nourishment also in community, alongside there is a deeper feeling of the hermit within somehow feeling ”contained” of sorts, perhaps not free enough to follow that radical call and the creativity and spontaneity that she embodies.. it is hard to put into words and to discern but is poses a real tension for this soul here, and a wondering if there were others who also struggled with/felt and was aware of this within their own hermit/contemplative lives.

    Peace to your hearts and for a truly blessed and special Easter.

    Miriam TCOSF

    1. Dear Miriam,
      Peace and blessing during these Holy Days! Thanks for sharing your question with our fellow lovers of solitude. Yes, many of us have dealt with similar challenges – how to honor our call to solitude while having a religious commitment that requires things which feel contrary to a more eremitical life. Somehow, I feel you are coming to a point where serious discernment and decision making are surfacing. I hope you can find an open-minded guide to walk with you as you sort this out. It sounds (to me) that you cannot ignore this growing attraction … nor, if I dare say it, some serious discomfort with the requirements of community life. I lived as a Poor Clare for 30 years and for most of that time, I was nourished and supported but there came a time, when I changed and had to step out into a new calling. Mind you, I spent a year in serious discernment before making my final decision. Be assured of our prayers!

      1. Thank you Karen for you wise words of counsel here and prayerful presence.. It is always a breath of relief to know that one is not alone in such questions and inner searching s. I sense the resonance here in your insight; ”coming to a point where serious discernment and decision making are surfacing” as you say, and like your own year of discernment before coming to this place inwardly, I feel God saying to just ”be” with the balance of all of this for this time. I have a spiritual director, a Dominican sister, who is a very contemplative soul and a real source of wisdom for the journey, but as far as I know has never lived as a hermit herself- but I am sure there are echoes between our journey’s that may be similar. I will raise this later in the week when I see her…It is precious to be able to share here also with souls who have sat with these questions in their vocation to hermit life and the dynamic of this with community…… More recently I have been doing some reading on Benedictine Camaldolese spirituality, and wonder if perhaps there may be an opening here for insights into how to carry and live this tension of solitude and community. I’m reading this most wonderful book ”Alone with God” by Benedictine Dom Jean Leclercq, a guide to the hermit way of life and based on the teachings of Blessed Paul Giustiniani and with a very memorable preface by Thomas Merton. Wonderful words, a very inspired book and so very inspirational.
        And thank you so much for your mention of the books and videos. I have read your beautiful gift of sharing in your memoir ”where God is Ever Found’ and have read ” Consider The Ravens”, but admit I have yet to watch all the series that you and Paul have done on your earlier journals as you entered hermit life. I have seen only a handful so far. What a wonderful gift you are both giving to other souls on this inner quest . Thank you for your sharing the fruit of your own journey, and for others who share the road you have already traversed along.

        Miriam

    2. Dear Miriam ,
      yes…
      I have just reread ‘A simplified life: a contemporary hermit’s experience of solitude and silence’ by Sr Verena Schiller,CHN, (Norwich, Canterbury Press, 2010),
      helpful…
      Carol

      1. Dear Carol,
        My deepest apologies for not replying sooner, for I have just seen your recommendation post here now over a month later. I will look in to this book as in my plethora of books, it is not one that I have or have read. So thank you for this. Wonderful!
        Miriam

  18. I am in the midst of reading WELCOME TO THE WISDOM OF THE WORLD by Erie Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister and have found it to be wonderful and so thought provoking in terms of spiritual growth. I have only read one other book by Sr. Joan although she has been a prolific writer for many years. As an author she has a way of making the profound more down to earth by telling relevant parables from, in this selection, the great religious traditions. As a result, I have been brought to ask myself many life transforming questions and meditate on my answers; these meditations have often made me feel quite humble about my own spiritual growth.

    Karen, you mentioned on one of the other blogs how Scripture often speaks directly to your needs. I have had this happen frequently in my life, as I do now with this book. It’s a library book and one that I had thought of taking out on another occasion but didn’t! Apparently that must have been the Holy Spirit guiding me to wait for the most receptive moment.

    Have any other of my friends in solitude read any of Sr. Joan’s books or any others they would recommend?

  19. I discovered again today that sharing my grief about the death of James is a blessing for others. I just called to cancel his New York Times. The operator started to cry when I told her that I buried him with the Sunday edition. She said she would pass that story around her department. James had been a faithful subscriber for a long, long time. What a blessing for me to hear total strangers so deeply impacted by my loss.

  20. Greetings to all on this forum! (And apologies for any misstake I make in writing, English not being my mothertongue). I just want to express the joy I feel realizing so many people are longing for solitude and silence in their seeking for God. Though I’m married I have since a couple of years been reflecting on the possibility of increasing silence and inner solitude in my life pondering what options are available to me. Needless to say, I know nothing about the future but one can prepare oneself in so many ways. Learning to pray regularly, getting rid of lots of diversions, getting accustomed to silence and just being at home with yourself – and in that presence finding God. I’m just a beginner on this road but I find it comforting to know that others are traveling this road together with me, all with his/hers specific calling and grace. Blessings in Christ!

    1. Dear Ylva.
      Peace! So glad you have joined us! Moving into solitary life is a process and you are doing all the right things. Many of us are “hidden hermits” for quite some time before we can live our calling to the full. By the way, your English is very good! Prayers with you!

  21. Thank you for this website. I recently discovered through the book “Consider the Ravens” that people were embracing the hermit lifestyle. I was thrilled! I am currently discerning a vocation with the Secular Carmelites who meet once a month, but I plan to add more aspects of “hermit” to my current lifestyle. I have been called shy, quiet, odd, too religious, even strange because I naturally do not like to socialize with people very much. I can socialize and I have forced myself to try to be what people call normal. Now I know that I am really ok. I receive so much from just being with God alone. Thank you for the validation, even though a true hermit would not need it. Thank you for providing a wonderful resource for us newbies!
    Much love to all,
    Laura

  22. Dear Ken Coit,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to my situation. I’m so sorry to learn that you lost your wife to that horrible disease. I know what it is to stand helplessly by as someone you love deteriorates. When I saw the effects of leukemia cells invading my husband’s brain, I very nearly despaired.

    How nice that those people originally focused on your grief have evolved into a “dinner club.” The friendships I’m evolving with other widows in the village nearby are evolving into a “dinner exchange.” In April I have the challenge of preparing an Indian meal.

    I hope your years ahead are filled with beautiful memories of the life you and your wife shared, and that you are filled with peace and gratitude until you meet again.

    My best-
    Bonnie

  23. Thank you, Brother Carlo, Paul and Karen for your most welcome insights. I’m not even close to considering pursuit of the Canon 603 route, but I’m becoming convinced that the Camaldolese spirituality and charism are closest to what I’m looking for….as was the case with Merton in his yearning for eremitic life. It was, in fact, in reading Merton’s “The Silent Life” that I was suddenly struck with the realization that cenobitic life was not to be my calling. The Camoldolese Oblates may be my answer.

    Presently I’m caught up in the magnificent writings and insights of Bede Griffiths, and I highly recommend him to anyone here who hasn’t discovered him. He’s certainly opened my eyes and allayed my initial skepticism.

    1. Dear Jeff and Bro. Carlo,
      Peace! Just want to let you know that the excellent booklet Br. Carlo mentioned is available from Raven’s Bread Library if you are interested in borrowing it. It’s so great to have a chance to support the exchange of info this blog makes possible. Love, Karen & Paul

  24. I think this blog is inherently valuable, especially to “secular” hermits who are not part of a formal structure and monestary. Sometimes the questions of a hermit are best understood by others who share that solitary experience.

    Although! Additionally! I still like the idea of some sort of structured “hermit convention” where we can meet, discuss pressing issues, tell stories around the fire and talk about our pet dogs.

    1. Good to see you here, Edward! You understand very well the purpose of this blog as a mutually supportive “gathering” of lovers of solitude. Keep talking up the “hermit convention” idea. It has merit, especially for those of us who are “secular hermits” and need the support of others’ experience in this relatively new lifestyle in the Church. We will see what happens when the time is right. In the meantime, let us pray for one another and all!

      1. Edward Binns and all:

        Apart from the ‘conference’ of sorts (in Germany, I think it was) that was mentioned in Raven’s Bread recently, I don’t know of any such “hermit convention” gatherings…but then I’m not so well connected to this subculture as Karen and Paul must be.

        What would be worth your while ‘en lieu’ of such a gathering, if you are able to find it, is a little booklet of papers on the hermit life. It is a seminal little booklet that comes out a gathering held at St. David’s Wales, in autumn of 1975. Brother Ramon, the Anglican/Franciscan hermit who is now deceased, was in attendance and thereby greatly influenced by all that transpired there. (I wonder if any of our RB brothers and sisters might have also been in attendance.)

        The papers do not likely adequately reflect the grace under which this gathering took place, but surely it must be representative enough. It was published as Fairacres Publication No. 66. While I did hear a couple of years ago that there had been plans to republish it, I don’t know that it was. The two copies I have owned were purchased through the internet on one or another of the used books sites. If you’re interested, look for Solitude And Communion, edited by A. M. Allchin. It is still a worthwhile little booklet to read.

        Peace and all good to you.

        Brother Carlo.

        1. The book, Solitude and Communion, is at this moment available at Amazon and at Abe Books. That’s as far as I looked. Abe had several copies. Hope this helps someone, as I liked the book very much when I had it years ago.

          Janet

        2. Dear Brother Carlo and other readers,

          SLG Press the publishing ‘room’ of the Sisters of the Love of God Fairacres have a number of books which are both inexpensive and helpful to those who seek solitude and silence within the Great Tradition. As for Brother Ramon SSF his books are most helpful and a recent one published since his death explores the Jesus Prayer. I had the blessing of meeting Brother Ramon and have had 32 years association with the SLG who have done so much to support and encourage eremitical vocations within the Anglican Communion and beyond.

          Always in Christ Fr. Gregory ( priest associate SLG Australia)

  25. Karen and Paul, this blog promises to be a most welcome supplement to the newsletter, and follow-on to “Consider the Ravens,” which I found extremely valuable. I have found myself somewhat unexpectedly on a pure eremitical path, after realizing through painful but prayerful discernment that my place was not be be at Mepkin Abbey as a Trappist monk. I somewhat reluctantly told them that I will not be coming, because I feel in my heart that my place is to be “alone with God,” as described so eloquently by Dom Jean Leclercq in his book with that title. I am considering pursuit of full consecrated life recognition under Canon 603, and also the possibility of becoming a Camaldolese Oblate. I will be most appreciative of any thoughts and suggestions you or others may be willing to offer me. I live alone in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania, in my humble apartment quite well-suited as an urban hermitage, but only a block from my church so daily mass is easily accomplished. My fellow parishioners aren’t quite sure what to think of me – they don’t understand why I don’t want to be more involved in planning social events and the like. I guess being a hermit doesn’t necessarily lend itself to being understood. And that’s okay.

    1. Dear Jeff, my brother, I wish you great grace in seeking to listen to and obey your calling.

      Indeed, Alone With God is an inspiring volume. One may also read it (and compiled material) in Camaldolese Extraordinary, wherein the preface by Thomas Merton has been retained.

      I would venture to say ‘not being understood’ is a part of the ‘solitude’ of one who is called to eremitical life. The movement of withdrawal (however and to whatever degree one is called to) is a mystery to me. I practice it also, all the while listening very intently to what the Lord would have me do,* and am determined to set aside preferences according to the light I am given at the time. Yet, I think we must keep in mind that what attracts us is not always merely what will indulge our ‘preferences’ egoically, but that God uses our whole make-up as a person to lead us however he or she will. I am not implying so much that God is ‘baiting’ us as he or she is ‘wooing’ us. That what attracts, seemingly just in keeping with personal preferences, can also, be what is called for in fulfilling the divine will.

      Peace from your brother in Christ, Carlo.

      * In the end it is not so much about ‘doing’ as ‘being’…. ‘alone with the Alone’, I think, is the phrase Giustiniani borrowed from the Neo-Platonist.

    2. Dear Jeff,
      Peace! Welcome to joining other lovers of solitude. We can resonate with the difficult but wise choice not to join the Trappists as you began to realize that your truest calling is to a more eremitical way of life. I (Karen) spent 30 years in a cloistered community and gradually outgrew the community lifestyle and had to make the leap out of the monastery into a hermitage in a holler in West Virginia. A word of advice about seeking commitment under Canon 603. A bishop will only give you serious consideration if you can show that you have lived the hermit lifestyle for a few years and with a good spiritual guide. It’s like you have to put in your “novitiate” on your own before you apply for vows under Canon 603. Many of Raven’s Bread readers are Camaldolese Oblates and have gained much from the Benedictine rule. Joining them can prove to be a great preparation for eventually be recognized publicly as a hermit in the Church.
      Have you checked out our list of hard-to-find Resources for hermits listed on our website? http://www.ravensbreadministries.com/Resources Stay in touch. You have the prayer support of Raven’s Bread readers.

    3. I hope you are familiar with Sr. Laurel O’Neal, the c. 603 hermit in Oakland CA who writes the Notes From Stillsong Hermitage blog. I’ve gotten a lot from her.

      Very best wishes,
      Janet

  26. Dear Bonnie,
    Blessings on you. You, in your wonderful authenticity, have blessed all of us who have found this blog – hopefully more will be joining us on this shared journey. Your openness with your hidden but loving supporters and friends is a gift and also an example of what a true hermit or solitary is about. We applaud your courage to begin PTSD counseling. What you have experienced is equal to having a bomb go off in your face and take your dearest buddy. Our prayers will be with you as you begin this next step in your healing journey.

  27. We look at hermit life as a lifestyle that can be lived on a “continuum” with total recluses at the far end and the many who seek moments of solitude in the midst of busy lives at the other end. Does this make sense? We wonder how others might feel about this?

    *****

    This is my first time looking over the blog and I thought I’d leave off my $0.02 from the other side: I’m a full-time worker and mostly have to contain (with varying results!) my quest for solitude to the weekends any day I get off. From the start what I’ve most liked about Raven’s Bread is it’s inclusiveness to someone like me, making the conception of Hermit-like living something you can do before 9 and after 5 (and even a bit during!). The path I came to early on in my life is yoga mediation but Raven’s Bread Ministries (the newsletters, the books, the talks, [and behind it all Karen and Paul!] have been a very important and valuable resource for me, helping to look at my spiritual routine and breath new life into it.

    I also very much like the glimpses of others lives I get from the newsletter and now the blog. It’s sometimes the “little” less obvious details, the angles and approaches in peoples postings that hit home, and hit home at times they do!

    1. David,
      Good to find you here on the blog! Over the years we have realized that hermit life is as much a way of living as a way of life. Even when we are busy in the outer world, the true hermit dwells quietly within, finding silence and solitude wherever s/he can. For the truly called, there will come a time – sometimes gradually – when we can and will withdraw into fuller solitude. And what a gift that will be! We will find ourselves already prepared for it!

      1. David, Paul and Karen:

        I want to simply underline David’s appreciation that “From the start what I’ve most liked about Raven’s Bread, is it’s inclusiveness to someone like me making the conception of Hermit-like living something you can do before 9 and after 5 (and a bit during!).”

        I also think this is very important and I am grateful for your care in keeping this open to the blowing of the Spirit–that respect is shown of each person’s ever deepening discernment in this.

        Namaste.

        Carlo.

  28. Dear Brother Carlo, AnnM, Karen and Paul, and my entire invisible family of lovers of solitude.

    Please know how touched at the many “just a note(s) for Bonnie.” As Brother Carlo wrote, I am “flat on (my) back…with the equivalent of a spiritual body blow, feeling the deep need of fellowship and support.” I am feeling so raw right now, that it was a blessing to read your words that I am a “dear child of God.”

    Thank you to AnnM, a widow of 35 years, who said, “tears are our most heart-felt prayer.” They truly are.

    Since I saw my husband die twice, and actually encouraged him to die the final time, I think I’ve endured more than a wife can bear, so tomorrow, I begin PTSD counseling with a gem of a woman who works with soldiers in shell shock. With the support of God, friends, RB and this woman, I’m confident I’ll find my grounding again.

    It’s sad that many of the friends I’ve had for decades have abruptly dropped out of my life. I’m guessing they don’t know what to say or do, so rather than risk doing something “wrong,” they have left my life altogether. I’m guessing too that the magnitude of Jame’s sufferings the last few months of his life were too extreme for their limited definition of God. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the purpose of this life is spiritual evolution. Since I saw that dynamic perfectly fulfilled in James’ life right up to the bitter end, I know that God was at work during this ordeal, and I am comfortable with that belief. But for some not firmly rooted in this understanding, the sufferings my husband and I had of necessity to bear proved too intense for their definition of a loving God. It was James who kept reassuring me that his death was part of the Divine Plan. I could plainly see that God was present despite what appeared to be pointless agony. James was evolving right up to his death. So was I. So my disorientation right now is just psychic exhaustion. My relationship with God is still intact. I thank Him for that.

    Maybe the hundreds of subscribers who are not actively engaged with this website are, like my former friends, afraid of saying the wrong thing. Maybe they have their own definition of the perfect things real hermits should say, and are afraid to simply be themselves. I promise to bring to this dialogue all the authenticity and genuineness I am capable of, with the hope that others will find the courage to volunteer their experience with our mutual invisible friends of RB.

    My sincere best wishes to all-
    Bonnie

    1. Bonnie Werner:

      I bow to Christ within you. Though you may feel utterly weak, I can taste the strength of your being. Like St. Paul may God’s strength be made perfect in your weakness. It is sufficient, as you say, “to simply be [yourself]” in God and through God. May God help us all to be thus.

      May the care you will receive in PTSD counseling help steady the flickering of the beautiful flame of your soul.

      May God grant you all the blessings you are capable of receiving this day.

      Peace.

      Carlo.

      1. Dear Brother Carlo,

        After reading the first six words of your message to me, I was in tears, and after reading the second paragraph, I realized that I would have to compose myself to write anything more that “Thank you” followed by a thousand dots. Please know that I am profoundly grateful for the sensitivity, empathy and compassion you have expressed to me.

        Though sadly my previous friends have largely withdrawn from me and my situation, God has mercifully provided new relationship which are quickly revealing a depth and a richness which I treasure. Thank you, Brother Carlo, for being among those whom God has sent my way during this time of grief and pain. I am honored to be able to refer to you as ‘my brother in Jesus Christ.’

        For everything-
        Bonnie

  29. I, like others, shy away from blogs, but this blog is something quite special. Even so, I only check in every three or four days to see what’s been posted. Again, thank you, Karen and Paul for all – the newsletter, the website, the blog, the video series, the books, the sharing of yourselves . . . .

    Thanks to all who are sharing here. It does help to know there are kindred spirits nearby.

    Just a note to Bonnie. As I read of your recent journey with James and your grief and pain, I simply sit and listen. Thank you for sharing. As a widow myself for over 35 years, I offer you my prayers as our Lord gives you comfort and peace in the days ahead during this time of transition. Truly, there are times when our tears are our most heartfelt prayer – the only prayer we can utter – prayer that touches the heart of God.

    Thank you Brother Carlo for your thoughts. The words of John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease,” have held a special place in my heart for many years. May our hidden lives – wherever on the continuum we may find ourselves – be our way of decreasing while He increases. For when our Lord, Jesus Christ, shines forth brighter than all else, then the true Love and Peace of God extinguishes the pains and sorrows of this vale of tears.

    And finally, thank you Buffy for another thought-provoking, soul-searching poem. Absolutely beautiful. Yes, “Oh Holy Fire of Christ”! Your poem gives much food for thought to enrich our Lenten journey. I find several areas that could be included on a list of things to “Fast from” and “Feast on” (e.g., fasting from earthly distractions and feasting on the Holy Face).

    Blessed Lenten journey to all.

    1. Thank you, AnneM for the words of appreciation: for the resonance of the words I offered. To your prayer: Amen and Amen.

      Peace to you and all.

      Brother Carlo.

  30. Dear Paul and Karen,
    I enjoyed, Consider the Ravens very much and sent copies of the book to a few people who are interested in the solitary life. They, also, found the book very informative and helpful. I am sure that your new blog will offer many additional helpful insights. Thank you for you many good efforts.

    1. Donald, thanks so much for “dropping in” with your encouraging words about our book, “Consider the Ravens”. It seems to fill a niche for it serves as a “handbook for hermits” written by all the hermits’ experiences that have been shared over the years in the newsletter, Raven’s Bread. Blessings!

  31. My dear Karen and Paul,
    how can I ever thank you for a most profound and deeply felt broadcast….from this past week. Karen, you really took a dive into sharing with us your journey with the shadow self….ironically, these are so similar to our own doings with our false self…..finding our way home to our true nature, the God within. I send another poem, as it reflects some of this, from a meditation I had. You are truly dear souls, and I have no way to express my gratitude for what you are sharing in this segment from your personal journey.
    with loveblessings for a soulful Ash Wednesday……Buffy Bernhardt

    PRAYER TO THE SACRED FIRE by Buffy Bernhardt
    Come, oh Sacred Fire.
    Consume my entire being with your Love.
    Envelope me in your golden shaft of Light.
    Teach me how to empty myself,
    so that you may fill my nothingness,
    and every cell in my body becomes soaked in God.

    For lifetimes I have been exiled in this earthly prison.
    Free me from this land of sorrows.
    Liberate me from the obsessions of my mind.
    Guard me from these illusions that hide the truth,
    whose shadow clouds God’s Holy Light.

    Burn away my thoughts that disempower,
    that judge and steal Love from my fellow man.
    Burn the darkened imprints that rob the truth from my original essence.
    Burn all limitations that keep me in ignorance.
    Burn away the clouds that darken the sky from God’s brilliant sun.

    Oh Holy Fire of Christ,
    I invite you to enter this thirsty body,
    I invite your river of Grace and Light,
    to course through my veins like golden blood.
    Know that my aching soul opens wide to you,
    and wishes to drink in your Light,
    so that my entire Being becomes filled with Grace.

    Teach me to surrender to God’s will.
    Burn to ash my karma of eons.
    Help me to stray from distractions of this earth,
    so that I may gaze upon your Holy Face.

    Transform me into purity and light.
    Mold me into holiness and mercy.
    Fill me…. oh fill me with the wine from your sacred chalice.
    Make my breath the breath of the Holy Spirit.
    Make of my body the bread of angels.
    Saturate my heart with the blood of your Sacred Heart.
    Drown me in the ocean of your Divine Love.

    1. Thank YOU, Buffy, for your rich sharings, especially in your inspiring poems. We appreciate your comment on our weekly videos for it helps to confirm that what felt like a major risk is becoming a blessing for others. God uses the strangest things, His wonders to perform! Journal entries from 25 years ago seem a most unlikely venue of the Spirit …. but we offer what we have and God does the rest. I have to thank Paul that the journals still exist for I fully intended to destroy them as I went along but he insisted on saving them.

    2. Thank you Buffy Bernhardt for revealing something of your heart through your beautiful poems. Your latest poem or prayer had me dig out a prayer of ‘fire’ I ‘wrote’ , or was given, a year or more ago. I offer it in gratitude for your generosity in sharing your ‘spirited’ words:

      O Christ, my True Friend, / let me be your companion today. / In the midst of the desert of my experience, / let me return to your dwelling place, / for on the altar of my heart is the fire of your love / burning with joy, warmth and holy light. / O Christ, I thank you for this divine hearth / where I can pray without ceasing. / Amen.

      With peace and all good, from your brother, Carlo.

  32. Thank you Bonnie Werner for sharing your heart-felt love and the ache in such a love. May James continue to be a blessing to you for the life and love you share together, as all that is given to God is not lost. Peace. Carlo.

    And thank you Paul and Karen for your ministry, I always so look forward to each issue of Raven’s Bread. and now I appreciate what is possible through this blog. May only God’s will be done. Amen.

    I am deeply moved for the grace of sharing even a spec of the Love reflected to me in Bonnie’s story, and I am encouraged that the dialog found in the newsletter’s forum may be broadened through this blog. I say this even though I tend to withdraw from all dialog: I do not spurn fellowship, but I am always more drawn to the hidden life within than to more talk. Having declared my inclination, I now offer you my thoughts on your query about the hidden hermit:

    “We look at hermit life as a lifestyle that can be lived on a ‘continuum’ with total recluses at the far end and the many who seek moments of solitude in the midst of busy lives at the other end.”

    Yes, I do think “this make[s] sense”. However, I wonder if ‘hidden hermit’ might not be a good descriptor of all on this continuum, and not just a description of those who might seem to be further or furthest from ‘recluse’ end of the continuum. Yes, some ‘hermits’ may be officially recognized as such and may be seen as such, but all of us, I hope, have a deep (or deepening) appreciation of being ‘hidden with Christ in God’.

    In my ‘religious life’ (the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans) and among my ‘religious friends’ (Yonge Street Monthly Meeting, my Quaker community) my eremitic life is recognized to some degree, but in ‘secular life’ at work in a library and among the Anglicans I also worship with, I am a ‘hidden hermit’–only a few people might be truly aware of my calling to inward and outward solitude.

    Those of us who are more graced with external solitude (I have a hermitage near my home where I can retreat to, but do not always have opportunity) and those of us who are experienced in abiding in the cave of the heart, must equally deepen our way of being in the world. All of us are being drawn to the charism of John the Baptist, or at least to his deep inner understanding that ‘He must increase and I must decrease.’

    While years ago it was Thomas Merton who more truly and more often ‘spoke to my condition’ (as a hermit), now I find it is Henri Le Saux, OSB (a.k.a Swami Abhishiktananda) who speaks to my condition: I have of late moved from steeping myself in the tradition of the Desert Mothers and Fathers to that of the Sannyasa tradition of India, for therein I find as deep a resonance as I found in the Desert Fathers and the Franciscan tradition of the desert. What a wonder is the life of obedience to the eremitic call! May we all walk truly in the way each of us is being called. Om shanti shanti shanti.

    Yours truly, Brother Carlo

    1. Dear Brother Carlo,

      After spending most of last night crying, I found your entry this morning and read, “I am deeply moved for the grace of sharing even a spec of the love reflected to me in Bonnie’s story.” How profoundly beautiful. Thank you from my innermost heart.

      I too am distrustful of blogs, and have always been apprehensive about entering any dialogue. Now though, I am in such a painful place, that I reconsidered that if any blog was worth my time, it would certainly be Karen and Paul’s Raven’s Bread. The care and support offered me the last three days has been so powerful and so appreciated. I am deeply grateful to have found such friends.

      My best to you, Brother Carlo, and to all –
      Bonnie

      1. To Bonnie and Brother Carlo,
        We are so glad that this blog is serving you both. And that you are supporting one another on your journeys. What you offer is also supporting the other blog “companions” who are reading your heartfelt sharing. We don’t know who all the silent “lurkers” who are following this blog may be … but we trust they are supporting all of us in prayer. Paul and I often compare the world-wide linking of people via the internet to the mystery of the Body of Christ… we are connected in a mystical way so that what affects one, affects all. A blog is just a peek into our inter-connectedness. Let us all continue to pray for and with one another.

        1. Dear Paul and Karen:

          I take your point that this is bigger than any of us, that being part of the Mystery, the Body of Christ, means that we are called to participate, even if that just means praying for all and not necessarily writing something for the Raven’s Bread Forum or for this blog.

          While I understand that I can do without RB and this blog, one never knows when one may find themselves ‘flat on one’s back’, as it were, with the equivalent of a spiritual body blow, feeling the deep need of fellowship and support. In fact, that is very much how I regard spiritual direction. It is good for someone to know you well in many phases of the journey, for when a crisis comes, there is someone there who can go to the heart of your experience without being distracted with a lot of particularities about your way of being in the world (which can be misunderstood and distract from what is crucial) and truly touch you where you need to be touched.

          I may continue lurking the Forum, but I always seek to obey when I believe the Holy Spirit asks me to give up anonymity.

          Shalom. Carlo.

          1. Br. Carlo, We fully understand reticence about “blogging” since we don’t do it ourselves! However, it is apparent that the “nudge” from the Spirit to offer this option to lovers of solitude is genuine. It allows lurkers to share their special insights and wisdom when they (like you) are inspired to do so. Yes, it is a risk – but what is the saying: “Nothing risked, nothing gained? Thank you so much for stepping into our conversation in the Spirit.

      2. Dear Bonnie Werner:

        Thank you for your response to my March 4 posting and for reading this tardy reply now.

        You are welcome to any kindnesses Holy Spirit may encourage us in. I am grateful for the little offered through me. May we all remain open to what is offered to us, and to what we may offer others. Amen.

        I don’t know that for me it is so much apprehension about dialog and simply a calling to ‘shut up’ in the sense that I do not feel the necessity of words so much, and prefer ‘silence’. No, I’m not ‘Mr. Holy Silence’ ( I am merely a beginner before the Lord) and do not like to write such things as I have precisely because I dislike the ‘making of impressions’ and would rather choose hiddenness. Even putting down these words seems superfluous. (This accounts for why I have been a lurker in our ‘paper forum’, content, up until now apparently, to simply read my brothers and sisters contributions.

        Yet, I am truly grateful that in this place there is some solace for you. And that you feel safe enough to admit some of your pain. Indeed, Thanks be to God! for the venue Paul and Karen have gifted you in this time of trial. Our hearts are with you, in so much as Spirit allows us to enter into a little of the ache that must be ever present to your tender heart.

        God’s peace to you, dear child of God.

        Your brother, Carlo.

  33. I have been reading Raven’s Bread for many years, Karen and Paul, and have always appreciated your generosity in taking on this ministry. I’ve also enjoyed your books and, lately, your talks on YouTube. God bless you for this blog!

    As one of those “hidden hermits”, I certainly agree that, for me at least, becoming a hermit is a continuum, a journey, a growing into the Lord. It is something that has its timeline within God’s time, not mine; He is in control.

    Again, thank you for all you do.

  34. Hello everyone. Thank you Karen and Paul for this avenue of communication.

    I resonate with Karen’s description of hermits on a continuum. I’ve been drawn into the solitary life since I was a little girl, when in an emotional crisis, I stumbled into a state of contemplation. Though I eventually married and had four children, I still spent a great deal of time in my own spiritual world. Two months ago, though, my husband of forty-two years died a brutal death from leukemia and kidney failure. The sufferings of a battlefield horrible to witness. So now I’ve progressed further on Karen’s continuum into the realm of truly being a solitary. I live in the country in a little one-room schoolhouse built in 1855, surrounded by fields, woods, cows, horses and Nature, a bucolic setting, certainly, but I am struggling – struggling not only with grief but also with the void left because I no longer have to care for James hour by hour, plus the void resulting from his death. I’m also rather traumatized that I signed the papers to withdraw life support, then for the next two unforgettable hours helped him die.

    I’m trying to formalize some sort of routine to keep me stable in this period of disorientation, “to hold my senses on”, as Emily Dickinson says. I tried returning to the Divine Office, but truthfully I don’t have the attention span to concentrate on the words. Grief is overwhelming. So far, I spend most days in front of the fire drinking herb tea, knitting, and just feeling numb. I’m grateful to have found this site in which to share with kindred spirits my pain and feelings of abandonment.

    Blessings and peace to all,
    Bonnie

    1. Dearest Bonnie,
      Thank you for sharing with us – your family in solitude – the traumas you have been through and are still enduring. Perhaps the place on the “continuum” of solitude where you are asked to be at this time is simply “Endure.” Let your grief be your prayer – it is the deepest and most honest expression of where you are … and where the Lord looks to find you at this time. Numbness; tears; questions about your decision re James’ death …. this is more than enough to be your heartfelt prayer. No doubt you also find anger flaring among all of the above. Let it be; let it be. Savor your tea; the warmth of the fire; the rhythm of knitting … all of this is a form of the Divine Office, a prayer designed to sanctify the hours of the day. Your Hours are holy as you endure your grief through them. Just one word of caution (which you may already have found) – live only in the present moment. The decisions of the past were made in love to spare your beloved husband further misery. Put any questions in the Lord’s hands…. and leave them there! We are praying with you and for you. Karen & Paul & your friends in solitude

      1. Dearest Karen.

        A thousand appreciations for your sensitive response to my grief. Your note arrived at the very best time, because today is the second anniversary of the first trauma. He actually died at home two months ago this morning, but since we didn’t have the DNR papers in place, the rescue squad was forced to revive him. He was dead for a full twenty minutes in that truck, unimaginable! When I saw him next in the ER about fifteen minutes later, most of his brain was dead. The miracle though was that though he was having seizures and his eyes were wild, he recognized my voice. When I got right in his face and spoke loudly to him, “Christ is here! There is nothing to fear!” he settled down. Then the seizures started again. The doctors agreed that recovery was impossible, so I signed the papers that life support be suspended, according to state law, 48 hours later.

        It truly was a blessed death, Karen. After all the tubes were withdrawn, I got into bed with him and told him that the Father was waiting for another prodigal son, that Paradise was waiting for another grateful soul, that though he was about to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he need fear no evil for Christ was with him. Unforgettable. I felt 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide, too huge for the room! I must have been channeling pure Grace, because when I felt his pulse points and there was nothing, I said so calmly to him, “Well done, James. Well done.” I can’t imagine how I did that. How on earth did I do that! I certainly don’t feel that powerful now.

        Thank you for saying that grief, knitting and drinking tea are my Divine Office now, for giving my life purpose when it seems now to have none. I am very grateful to you both for your ministry. Friends such as you are a Godsend.

        My love,
        Bonnie

        1. Bonnie,

          I lost my wife to Alzheimer’s almost two years ago. She was diagnosed a decade earlier and under the care of Hospice of Wake Co, NC twice. They provide a wealth of support to anyone who needs it. Perhaps you have resources where you are that can provide you with information on grief and even group and individual grief counselling. I did both and the counselling group turned into a monthly dinner “club.” We don’t spend a lot of time on our individual struggles, but it is clear that we have bonded and care for one another.

          May the Peace of Compassion be with you.

          Ken

    2. It’s funny that this came up today, but I’ve just been thinking about how I need to turn inawrd and look at what really matters to me now. I often feel like I’m just going through the motions of life without any sort of overarching focus. I’ve been in subsistence mode, just doing what it takes to reach my family making goals. Maybe it’s time to get back on a journey, spiritual or otherwise, in the great hope that the family building part will come to a conclusion around 8 months from now. Then it’s time for the next step. And Martha, I do love your perspective.

  35. Dear Cindy,
    Good news for you – embracing silence and solitude will always require a struggle! That doesn’t mean it is’t right for you …. but, trust me, it is worth the struggle!

  36. Thank you for this addition. I am attempting to be a “partial” hermit in that I must work full time at present. Additionally, though I know that silence and solitude are the best path for me I often struggle to embrace it. I look forward to this new opportunity to gain knowledge from the experiences of others.

  37. Thanks, Karen and Paul. I continue my own struggle to define this call to more and more solitude and silence, so I welcome our connection. The blog idea is a wonderful addition as I, like others, have wished for a more frequent boost from my hermit community.

  38. May God bless you for making it possible for us like-minded ones…whether we are a ‘recluse’ or a ‘recluse at heart’… to be able support one another… and yet… remain hidden.

    “Above all things…Love Silence”
    St. Isaac of Syria (7th century)

    1. Bless you, Jane Marie, for so exactly expressing what many of us are are this point in our lives. Keeping up with Raven’s Bread ministries, tending my family (husband and four four-footers), and responding to community needs means that my solitude is often only in my heart. But the “recluse” there is alive and well. Let us continue to support all lovers of solitude.

  39. I have just finished reading and sitting with this blog. Like the others, thank you Karen and Paul for this opportunity. Such treasures. The Newsletter has been a part of my journey for many years as well. And I, too, find that the video series for the Tau community leads me into deepening my own relationship with God and to better know and understand myself. So many opportunities for sharing and growing in the solitary life. And Thank You, Buffy, for the beautiful, thought-provoking poem. Blessings to all.

  40. Dear Karen and Paul,
    congratulations to your wonderful continued ministry in serving those with a contemplative soul. You touch me deeply each week with your Tau broadcast. Your personal journal is truly an amazing contribution. Would you consider publishing it on this blog…..I would love to have it to read….sooo powerful, and it moves me to look and travel deeper into the hidden depths of my own being. I send this poem for your blog. May God hold you in the palm of His hand and plant you in His heart. With loveblessings, Buffy Bernhardt

    SWEET LIBERATION by Buffy (from a morning meditation)
    Mighty rivers run deep inside my veins,
    washing away the density in my soul.
    My muscles soften and melt in a mysterious comfort.
    The boundaries of my body disappear.
    Resistance evaporates.
    I merge into Nothing.

    I jump out of a moving plane.
    A parachute opens.
    I let go….
    free falling, I glide with the raptors upon wind currents….
    no agenda, no thought, no mind.

    I am in the ocean.
    The waves carry me out to sea.
    A breeze blows upon the water.
    White caps lap up upon my face.
    My body bobs and drifts with the seaweed.
    A jelly fish floats by.
    I too become transparent.

    How did I get here.
    Life has churned and purified me;
    ground me to a spec upon the burning anvil,
    until I am no more.
    I am freed from myself at last.
    Is this the truth?
    It is not what I thought it would be….

    Nothing…drifting…….
    no Will to keep me together,
    no defenses to patch up the illusion of my broken parts.
    Just vastness…..
    eternity in union with nothing.

    Oh sweet liberator….
    unleash the chains that bind me.
    Take me home to my original state,
    where I no longer exist in name or form,
    but am a particle of heavenly dust
    that lies beneath your Beloved feet, my Lord.

  41. Not only do I love to receive each issue of Raven’s Bread, I am excited to now find out about your blog. I have taken issues of Raven’s Bread to my spiritual director many times to share what has spoken to me deeply.

    I also loved your comment about “hidden hermits.” There are certain words that the Lord has used to draw me in the last few years, and “hidden” is one of those. Secret, cloistered, enclosed are a few others.

    I loved the first sentence on the first page of the August 2013 edition of Raven’s Bread that says, “I have longed for the simple life but find that when I try to get away from it all, I end up taking it all with me.” How true, how true!

    Is there a way or will there be to sign up to receive your posts via email when they are published?

  42. Thank you for this addition to the ministry. I am one of the “hidden hermits” you mentioned and love your newsletter, books and YouTube programs.
    Blessings to you both.

  43. Dear Karen and Paul,

    Thank you for this wonderful on-line supplement to Raven’s Bread. I eagerly wait for each quarterly issue and I feel we are all so blessed for this wonderful ministry of yours. Now we have another gift from you.

    I look forward to participating with other hermits especially when I need some support and encouragement.

    God’s abundant blessings to you.

    1. Thank you, Carol. You understand so well what this blog is meant to be – an additional means of exchange among lovers of solitude. For many have told us that they wish the newsletter came out more frequently. Hopefully, this blog will help fill in the time between the quarterly issues of Raven’s Bread. Prayers, Karen & Paul

  44. Thank you for putting up this blog. I love receiving your newsletter though I am not a hermit (yet?). It nourishes me and draws me to seek my Lord more and more.
    God bless you!

    1. Carol,
      Thanks SO much for letting us know that our hermit ministry is valuable to all “lovers of solitude” even if they are not hermits in the accepted sense of the word. We believe that many folks are hidden hermits, cherishing quiet and solitude wherever they can find it. We look at hermit life as a lifestyle that can be lived on a “continuum” with total recluses at the far end and the many who seek moments of solitude in the midst of busy lives at the other end. Does this make sense? We wonder how others might feel about this? Blessings, Karen & Paul

  45. Thank you so much, Karen and Paul, for your ministry to those of us who try to live as hermits across the world. It is always so good to read about other hermits and how they try to live out their vocation in so many and varied ways.

  46. This seems a good initiative Karen and Paul. Thank you. Carol

    ps, I was online looking for this wise story below attributed to St Anthony (tr. Benedicta Ward), then I went to my emails and found RB. Maybe, from the desert to the being in the depths of snowbound winter, the story might say much? And also locked inside out of in our smokebound bushfires here in SE Australia too?

    ‘A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, “Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.” So he did. The old man then said, “Shoot another,” and he did so. Then the old man said, ‘Shoot yet again,” and the hunter replied “If I bend my bow so much I will break it.” Then the old man said to him, “It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.” When he heard these words the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.’

    1. Thanks, Anne, for your prayerful encouragement in this new venture. The blessing will be all our readers shared insights and support – like yours. We look forward to hearing more from you! Karen & Paul

      1. I’ve already made a couple of comments to different entries, but want to know one thing, or to suggest that it be mentioned somewhere if I’m missing it (then maybe other people are, too): Is there a place to write an introduction, even a brief one, or do we just jump in and answer something that catches our eye?

        This is, by the way, a wonderful idea and many of the entries I’ve read so far are helpful and heartwarming.

        1. Dear Janet,
          You’ve come up with great idea which will help to keep our blog community going and in touch. We are in the process of re-organizing the website and the blog and will make sure there is a place for introductions and hellos. Thanks for sharing what is likely a felt need by any number of our contributors! Karen

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Food for those in Solitude