Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Poustinia - More Hermit Musings
My current interest in the hermit life is actually not something new. Back in the 1970s it was a lifestyle that interested me. I read Thomas Merton's autobiography (The Seven Storey Mountain) and several of his other books. My wife and I still regularly visit a local Trappist monastery.
I also encountered Catherine Doherty, who founded Madonna House up in Canada, and wrote a number of books, including one about the concept of "poustinia." Based on Russian eremitical tradition, poustinia for western folks involves getting away to a "cabin" - some isolated place - for 24 hours alone with a Bible, a cross, a bed, a desk, a chair, some bread and water (or coffee). The poustinik uses that time alone to pray. Some of these temporary hermits might even consider such a lifestyle on a more full-time basis.
I tried it one day back in the summer of 1977. I was working at my college for the summer, staying in the dorms. I had access to unused dorm rooms, and one weekend I went into one such room with my Bible, some coffee and bread, and a notebook. I spent 24-hours alone, reading the Bible, thinking, praying, and writing.
It wasn't easy. I was looking forward to rejoining my roommate and my girlfriend.
But it was still a good experience. I thought of doing it again, but never got around to it.
It would be hard to do now. I don't think my wife would like me to disappear for 24 hours. And the dog needs walking a couple of times a day.
But you never know.
I have to dig out my copy of Doherty's book.
Pax et bonum