Saturday, August 10, 2013
If two hermits meet in the woods, do they make a sound?
Yesterday I met an old college friend for lunch. We had been in touch by e-mail, but we live in different cities and hadn't actually met face-to-face in a couple of years.
We talked about some life changes, in his case, some major ones. And he told me that because of some of those changes he'd had to seek release from the Secular Franciscans. I was saddened by that - as long as I've known him he'd been involved with the Franciscans in some way, from considering ordination as a Franciscan priest to profession as a Secular Franciscan. Indeed, one of the first times we'd spoken was back in the 1970s after we were part of a group that went to see Brother Sun, Sister Moon.
I was pleased to hear that he was now in formation with the Secular Carmelites. In fact, we were able to meet because he was driving by the town where I live on his way to a weekend Carmelite retreat at a local retreat house.
My friend has always been one of the most religious men I have ever known, and that has not changed. He talked about various retreats he'd been on, not to boast, just to share, and the spiritual books he'd read, wondering if I'd read some of them. He confided that he lived near a church that had a perpetual adoration chapel, and he went there regularly. He even had a key to get in during odd hours.
As part of our discussion, I mentioned that I felt increasingly drawn to a more hermit-like life. He beamed. He, too, had been feeling the same call. He had moved to as small apartment to live a simpler life, and was now close to that chapel where he goes to pray alone. I mentioned that my parish also had a perpetual adoration chapel, and that I stopped by there periodically for private prayer. I also said that I often took walks, sometimes into the woods, just to pray and commune with God through nature.
I told him about Raven's Bread Hermit Ministries and the network of hermits and lovers of solitudes (of varying degrees and life circumstances) that it connects. I'll be sending him the contact information.
As we talked, it occurred to me that I had added my own private place, my own small hermitage, in our home without even realizing it. I've converted the bedroom of one of my daughters - who long ago moved out - into a workspace/library/spiritual retreat. The room had turned into a storeroom and it is still a bit cluttered, but this past week I got it to the point where I can use it. I will continue to organize it, but I am grateful that I have it now and for realizing that it is indeed a kind of hermitage!
My friend left for his retreat. I drove to the cemetery in a nearby town where my parents and grandmother are buried, replacing the flowers, cleaning the headstone. I was pleased to see the small angel I'd put on their headstone was still sitting there. I said a few words to them, and then drove home.
I felt happy and at peace because of my time with my friend and at the grave. And I am smiling still to know that I share the desire for and love of solitude with a friend.
Pax et bonum