Community & Solitude

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.




Morning, I wanted to talk about community and solitude. And Father Kent had asked before that I say something about our own history, and so this is a good time to do it, since that's sort of our fundamental structure, is the access that runs between community and solitude. We have, for a long while, well, in our history, we've always had both the Synodian and the Hermitage. And the Hermitage itself turns out to be a semi-hermetical community, which means that it's a balance between solitude and community. This is at different patterns, but it's a marvelous thing to usually think a cluster of cells with a common church and other common buildings, and then with a certain amount of common liturgical prayer each day on the part of the monks. And common meals, that would vary with the different communities.


And then with the possibility of reclusion, which is a completely solitary life, somewhere inside the person, although in a separated cell. Our outfit was started by St. Romulus way back in the 11th century. St. Romulus originally, they used to say that he lived for 120 years. It's pretty sure that he's a classical age for monks, if you died earlier than that, they would tell you. But later historians say that it's probably 75 years. He died in 1027. He founded Chimaldi, which is then the most durable of his foundations, in about 1012. Now, he started a hermitage at Chimaldi. There's only about five or six cells up in it. Very difficult place to live. It's cold. It's up in the afternoons. It's a short summer, and there's lots of snow.


And there must have been really tough men to be able to do it. It's a little like the Carthaginian situation. Not as harsh as the situation we're in today, but it's pretty tough. Unless it's not the Alps. That's an answer they didn't want. And then a little later on, they found that it wasn't enough just to have the cells, just to have the hermit life. That they had to provide something else. They had to provide, first of all, a kind of a hospice for visitors, a place to take care of other needs. So they started the hospice at Chimaldi further down the mountainside, which later became a kind of medical community, and also later became a kind of training ground for the hermitage. And the polarity between these two poles, between these two communities, then sort of the polarity of our life, I kind of would say.


So they represent, in a way, the community life and the solitary life, and play out in a symbolic way, sometimes quite a violent way. The tension between the two, which can be a spiritual tension, or which can be a deceptive tension. The community life and the solitary life instead of, they support one another and feed into one another and grow up from one another. Or they can work against one another, or they can pull against one another. You can see that we can lead any individual. So St. Romuald, he didn't start a congregation. He was a very charismatic figure. He was a little like St. Francis. And he was moving around a lot. Although when he would go to one place, he often set himself up in a cell. He didn't tell us where he was. But sometimes he'd go to a monastery and he'd try to straighten it out. And he'd be sent there sometimes, every now and then. And he'd reform monasteries and found monasteries and so on.


He'd try to make an abbot. He was abbot for a while. I guess they wouldn't send him. They wouldn't go along with him. But he was too severe. And so he just grew down. He was a big, strong, emotional person. But he always was a spiritual father. He couldn't escape that vocation. Even though he tried to put off on his fellowship. He founded the Maldives. And a number of other hermetic groups were succeeded at it. The hermetic is a very evidential thing, I think. Because very often it can't be produced. And you get a couple of new, mature monks and put them out of the fellowship. But they're really serious about living their hermetic life. And they're not interested at all in keeping the thing going. Setting up a formation program and all the things that you need if you're going to have young monks coming in


and make it successful and so on. Some things may just vanish after a few years. That may be all right. Maybe that's fine. But that happened in a number of cases. Now, St. Romuald wrote hardly anything. We don't have any of his writings. All we have is some scattered things that were likely applications. In fact, some of them are the applications that were sort of borrowed and contributed to St. Romuald. Like that one about staying in the cell in the cell with his children. That had been already said in the 4th century. And yet it was attached to St. Romuald. He was familiar with the monasticism and the hermetic life in the East. Because there were a lot of Greek monks around in Italy at that time. Because over on that side of Italy, on the East side of Italy, you're not too far away from Yugoslavia and Greece and so on. And he came from Rovenna. He originally went to a monastery in St. Apollinarium in Stockton, which is in Rovenna. And he lived there, I guess, for two years. And he had, after a kind of dramatic conversion,


a dig in St. Apollinarium. And then, he left after a while for Palestine. He used to think a lot about, kind of mournfully, anxiously, about how much of a mixture there was in our vocation to the solitary life. You know, it's not all God's call, it's a lot of psychological evasion and so on. But St. Romuald's vocation itself is not all that unambiguous. Because this is what he left for the unambiguous, right? He was thrown out an upstairs window in the monastery. Because he was too hard to get along with. He was too much of a reformer, he used to be. He used to get up early in the morning and pray while the rest of them would be snoozing and stuff. They decided that they couldn't live like that. So he left and went out. And he found his spiritual father named Marinus, who was a very sinister, psychopath. He would say a couple of times, a couple of times, I don't know. And he was a little violent with his arm,


and he would whack him on the ear and he didn't reduce the soundscapes. Evidently he couldn't read. He came from a wealthy family. His father was a kind of nobleman. He was also a violent man. He killed his wife. And his mother couldn't even do it. And that was the occasion of St. Romuald's conversion. They say that maybe Marinus was reading the Psalms in the Greek. But Romuald must have known how to read Latin. This is what one of our contemporary photos is showing. But Romuald must have understood the Latin. That's the reason why he had trouble reading. And therefore he had to whack him on the ear. At one point Romuald said, well, you shouldn't expect that your father can't hear anymore. Not with the other ones, but whatever you say. He was very patient. It was because he was doing it in Greek and therefore he couldn't understand it. But anyway, that's a small point. So Romuald didn't found a congregation.


He just started a bunch of little hermitages, most of which ceded out. The one at Thermaldi remained. It's at this time that it stays. I guess there have always been hermits there. Shortly afterwards, as I said, the hospice grew up. And after a while the hospice became a sizable cenobitical community. And this has a long, long history of interaction with the hermitage. And sometimes a very tense history. Two would pull against one another. Because the cenobium would become large and would become autonomous, develop its own life. And yet the hermitage would try to maintain control. Because that was sort of the theory, that the hospice, the monetary, is subservient to the hermitage. It's an infirmary. It's a training ground. It's sort of a base for supplies, a bakery, and everything else. But that it should be kept under the hermitage in some way. All kinds of difficulty with that. The two were just a couple of miles apart. Hermitages were just higher on the mountainside.


Now, Sangrando didn't write anything hardly. They say he wrote a treatise on warfare with the demons. But nothing that kind of came down to us. And a commentary on the Psalms. The one that's attributed to him belongs to somebody else. Blessed Rudolph, who was the forefriar of Somaliland in about 1080, wrote down the customs of the place, the consulatudinate. And those are our first legislations. But they're not the first literature about the tradition of Sangrando. That comes from St. Peter Damian, who was his disciple, even though evidently he never met him. He was born too late. Peter Damian died about 1072. Romualdo died in 1027. But he wrote the constitution of the customs of Santa Evolana, which is another monastery over by the Adriatic, which obeyed the teaching of St. Romualdo. It was reformed, evidently, by St. Romualdo, even though it existed before he came along. And Blessed Rudolph knew on that,


on those customs, when he wrote the customs of Somaliland. Okay, during the Middle Ages, the Camaldos expanded very much. Many houses were attached to them, sometimes because they'd be regular Benedictine houses, which were attached to the Camaldos congregation for reform or for supervision, or one thing or another. So at one time in the Middle Ages, I guess, the 1,200, 1,300, there were probably more than 100 monasteries Most of them were in Catalonia. Unlike the Cistercians, they didn't spread into other countries of Europe, not very much. At one time, we had a French congregation, but that was later on, probably the 17th, 18th century. Then there was a decline, as in many monastic communities, towards the 14th, 15th century. And an attempted reform, just about the time of the Protestant Reformation


and the Counter-Reformation. And that was led by a couple of people. One of them was called Corini, they were both from Venice, and the other was Paul Giustiniani, who was the superior of the Camaldolese, of the Hermetic Church, in about 1500 or 1510. And he decided that there wasn't enough poverty there and there wasn't enough solitude, and largely because of the relationship with the Cenobitic community, which was in fact the monastery, he intended to pull in another direction. But he went off and he started something else, a very poor and solitary type of community, which later turned into a congregation of its own, and that's the Congregation of the Hermits of Monte Caruana. Some of you may have seen a book called Caruana of God, which is a collection of the writings of a person called Giustiniani on the Hermit Life, which was compiled by John Leclerc, and an introduction by Thomas Ray. It's out of print now, but he didn't book it.


But he was very severe. If you read his chapter on poverty, it's very serious. Very fervent. So this is a reformed Camaldolese congregation. We represent the unreformed. It's the unreformable. Unlike the Carthusians, who have never been reformed because they never needed to be, we've just never been reformed. So in our half of the congregation, there's quite a bit of diversity. We have Cenobian. We have Hermitans. The Caruana Hermits only have the Hermitans. They did away with the Cenobians. They sort of beheaded the Hermitans. So they have a semi-hermetic life, which is quite a bit like ours, but it tends to be stricter and also, in a sense, more conservative. They haven't done much, so much in the way of renewal, especially with the license. It's harder for them to do that. They're about the same size as we are, the American members.


We have a number of Asian members. Our own size, we can just about have it as a thousand now. In Camaldolese, there are two Cenobia, besides San Gregorio Otelio, and in all the countries we've seen them, we've seen the studies coming from the Hermitans. And then there are these three Hermitages. The one at the Maldives, one could be over there by the Adriatic, and one in Mexico. And there was an idea of making a foundation in Brazil, but that's been given up now because the people that were trying to do it have not been able to get together on it because they're in California as well. The more vigorous houses are Camaldolese itself. There's about 50 members now, about 30 of them are in California, and one of them has a house in California. There are also Camaldolese nuns, about 50 of them. There's one in France,


about 50 in Italy. The one in Rome is about 30, and there's an American retreat over there, and she's the only woman Hermit or nun that the Maldives has ever had. The reason is because of the monetary situation. And there's one in Italy, one's in Tanzania. The Maldives has started its studies in the States, and that's in France, and there's so many more in the Middle East. So we'll make that attempt, and we're not able to set that up right now. We have one Hermit that's outposted in the Maldives, and if you feel that, it's certainly the best thing. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Camaldolese community was about to go through the political depression. It happened largely in Italy, but also elsewhere. There were three successive depressions, and the negative worsening was in the 19th century,


about 1860, about the time of the Arab War. It was the last 18th century, and nearly went out, and the properties were all taken away, some were lost, some were actually taken away. There were only a few of the left, which was concerning. And another problem during this time was the split between the congregations. The tradition strike men into about five different congregations, and then there were just two that remained. One was the Pentecostal congregation, and the other was the Hermit congregation, and they went along side-by-side for about 400 years without ever getting together. During which, as you can see, the Hermit tradition became rather narrow. Then the Holy See put them back together in 1935, a little bit violently, as we've been hearing the effects of this then. So there's been a strong tension between the synagogical sort of current and the hermetical current


from 1935 up to the present. But now, it's a bit more time-consuming than it was 20 or 25 years ago. Neucomausole was founded when the tension was quite strong. And so we were founded as a kind of reaction in the direction of solitude, and with a kind of rejection of community life, which was not too wise. It was unfortunate to be founded in the middle of the middle of the struggle, I think. So we've been trying to live down the effects of those things. Right now, the congregation is in the process of incorporating these different kinds of religions. In fact, the General was over there last month in January, and I don't know if he's back in Italy right now. He and Fr. Bernardino were one of the General's assistants, one of the visitors now. It's been 20 years since he's been here, three or four years ago. Neucomausole was founded in 1958 by a monk, Franco Mausoleus,


who had been a Jesuit for so many years. He spoke English very well, a very dynamic man. His name was Augustin Magatti, M-A-G-T-I. And the buildings were completed rather rapidly, so that everything was upwards so that he had that kind of experience. And he's had a lot of problems, a lot of trouble finding a way. The presence of the religion has continued on about 20 or 22, but the production of the Ecclesiastes has had a lot of difficulties. Half of the people there now are not into the platform, but the congregation will continue on. The most important recent change is the switch to a more central form of formation, so that we have a lot of community life among the Carthaginian families. And that has turned out to be much better than where we were in the beginning.


So we have to allow for a lot of pluralism in our community and our life, and a graduality, starting out with a lot of community life and only very gradually moving into politics. Otherwise you get rather warped people and we simply don't develop them. That's about all that I'm going to say about our community in my case, and questions afterwards. Meanwhile I'd like to say a little more about our community in Massachusetts and its history. The Carthaginians are in Massachusetts. This is a monument, a monument. And the Monte Corona community, that's the other congregation, the Reformed congregation, are in Ohio, Bloomingdale, Ohio. It's called Holy Family Hermitage. That means nobody is quite sure. It means the Big South something or other,


either the Big South Country or the Big South River. Yeah, that's Spanish, I think, the word search for South. It's probably the Big South Country, better said the south of the Monterey Peninsula. The Big Southern Wilderness, as it were. But it was a very wild, unreachable place up until the federal government put in the highways and got Massachusetts, where you had the horse tracks and had to blast their way along the coast and it's a very rocky, irregular coast. Well, before, they had to be pretty self-sufficient, I mean. They had to go over, back through the mountains to King City, which was a day's journey by horse tracks to get their provision, or to Monterey, which is where they live in the village, where they were guarded. That is, from where we are, that's 50 miles from Monterey, and King City is probably,


maybe about the same distance, a little less, but up and down over those mountain ridges. All over. In fact, we didn't have any Californians for years. But that's one advantage, is if your life is a little different, if you're in a location that comes from all over, you're not restricted to one area. It's a local area. But if there are only one or two communities at that time, then you can go up to no one either. We've had an upswing in vocational requests. Since we put an article in our smallest vocational program, it was called Ministries to the North. That was a help. We've had a lot of lean years since we've had vocations, way up until about two years ago, up until we started as community. We had a program in the summer for about five of them,


which was focused on quite a bit of the community life. And out of that, there was a community first formation group. It was a program, I suppose, a little like Father William's program. A little different than ours. It was different for us because we hadn't had a cenobitical formation in the summer before then. But it really was. Well, no, they were all built way back before 1964. So there were 25 cells they were receiving, considerable numbers. Actually, it looks like we don't even need them now. We're having to make them all available. We've been needing some of them for various things like a wardrobe cell, an office, like that, so now we have to make them all available. At one time,


they were planning to make about 30 of those cells. A hermitage ordinarily is not that big. If you look at most of the ones over in Italy, it's not always an exception. They have about 25 cells there. But especially the hermitages in the month of the Rhone congregation tend to be small. There may be 12 or 13 cells. That's all. It's not so easy. We go to town once a week anyway on Fridays. In the old days, there's some wild stories about the big killer. He was a rancher who broke his leg or something and he got an infection in his leg so he told his hired man to take a saw and cut it off. There wasn't any doctor around there. So he recovered. They were tough old boys. Well, let's see.


I didn't bring a copy along with me but it's very simple. Visuals now are done privately by the professionals and the novices and postulants get together for them at four. And the professionals usually go in the C30. And the visuals for the novices and postulants get together for some of the stuff that's done. Our visuals used to be four but one time we did it at 130 in the middle of the night and went back to bed. Not many people do that anymore. On Sunday night or the evening of Sunday, Saturday night, we all have to do it together at 12 o'clock. And then everybody gets together except one person. Now there's 100,000 the next day. There isn't any novice mentor so it's mostly me right now. I'm going to try to get the junior professors


now that we're going to have some to help them out. And I'll go to Michigan and see what I can set up for you as a junior professor instead of working with any novice mentor here. Or vice. You know. Some novice men. And we have one Italian father there, Luigi, who is helping out during the classes. That's about it. We don't get much help from the professor community because we get those all day usually for one reason or another. Oh well. They're not that much harmless. But if we go to church together, I'll continue to schedule that one. That's for sure. But we go to church together, ordinarily, twice a day. Once for morning prayer and Eucharist, very much as you have. But the two are put together. Oh. No, it's


five minutes walk from the furthest cell to the church. And that's walking. I thought it'd be more. We get together twice a day. Once for morning prayer and Eucharist, which we're doing together, and the second time for evening prayer. Then on Sundays we divide the mass and have it at eleven o'clock. So we get together four times. We all get together on that day. We only have one meal together during the week. All of us. And that's Sunday dinner. And we have conversations on Sunday. Whereas the novices and post-monks, they have dinner together every day. And they take breakfast and stuff to it and have it separately. The work is officially three and a half hours from one-thirty to five in the afternoon. That's almost everybody. At least all the professors do more than that. Maybe they do more to do. Yeah, we have a lot of fruit trees,


but they haven't gotten the attention that they should have. So, neither the trees produce very well as some do. And the raccoons get most of the fruit. The raccoons and the birds are very screwed up. We get what's left. They take one bite and they throw it away. That's the way the raccoons are in California. I don't know how they are around here. So, they ruin each clump. Oh, no. We don't have anybody from Somalia except the visiting Italian father, Father Luigi. There are, let's see, just ten there now, I think. And then we've got two outposts that are simply for fish. And they come from all over the state. We have one French-Canadian and one English father, Father Pete, who was in the


British Army at some point. He was in the U.S. at the time. Then he went to Somalia. Yeah. It's pretty expensive to live. Okay. Yeah. We make a fruitcake. That's how we keep ourselves afloat, among other things. Okay. I'll continue with that thing that I had prepared there. We can come back to the questions afterwards, if there remain any. I'll abbreviate this a bit, though. If we ask about the relationship between community and solitude, you get basically two


possibilities. Either they're side-by-side alternatives, or one comes after the other. And if one comes after the other, then obviously community would be the preparation for solitude. And most of the tradition says that. You remember St. Benedict. He says, the hermits are those who are not in the first fervor of the novitiate, but after a long preparation, they go out to after they've learned how to fight the devil by the help of many brethren. I remember there's a variation on that. They've learned to fight their brethren by the help of the devil. They go out into the single-handed combat of the devil. Charity, that's what this fight is about. And that sounds pretty fierce, but there's something to the business of the spiritual combat, and that at least it puts things in the right light. The person is not just going out for repose. He's not just retiring. He's not


going out for a long time to quiet or to evade anything, but he's going out to something which is more of a challenge. It's very important. You can go two ways into a mentality. You can either be running away or you can be going to meet something. I like to use the word facing to answer this question now. The question of facing life or fleeing life. Is a person following a direction of discourage or is he moving in the direction of his cowardice and his laziness when he moves into solitude. That's the basic question. Now we don't want to be too severe about it because often a person's motives for going into solitude can be mixed and that the Lord can work in it and bring him around and purify him. But if it starts off on the wrong track it's likely to continue on that track. So the basic question is, is the person in moving into solitude, is he really facing or is he backing away? Is he facing life? Is he facing challenge? Is he


facing death in a sense because the life of solitude is a confrontation in a sense which means that there has to be a quality of self-denial about it, a quality of sacrifice. Is he facing God in a sense? Is he facing himself? If you read Merton's talking about solitary life you'll find it's a question of facing yourself or yourself. And is he facing reality or is he turning away from reality? That's the criterion between a healthy life and a neurotic life. In fact, between a life of virtue or a Christian life and a life of untruth, a life of sin. If a person is facing reality, is facing truth, then he's not going to be living a life of sin. He has necessarily to turn away from truth and reality and wrap himself around himself and become blind in order to


continue on a life of sin. Well, anyway, if you look at the tradition you find different currents on this. For instance, St. Peter Damian in the 11th century was not in favor of having, of sending people who wanted to be hermits to Sanovian first. He wanted to take them safely in the world because he showed the Sanovians the monasteries around and that they were not good enough. They wouldn't produce his candidates. They would spoil his candidates. He didn't like it. But he did think that the Sanovians had the wrote his institute about the Sanovian life. Anyway, the concept is about the solitary life and principally addressed to Hermann.


So he takes that very much deliberately into his focus. And you find very often that he's got a strong plan. In fact, there's a real imbalance on the side of solitude. So he doesn't give the centipedical life its due. When he's writing about the centipedical life, he does. But when he starts writing about the Hermann life, he starts putting down the centipedical life, maybe undoing it. An example is in the prologue to the Constancy, where he goes on like this. He's just finished the Institute. He's been writing about the centipedical life. And he says, My little boat has now to venture out among the perils of much deeper water than before. And then he goes on with things that they won't even read about the loftiness of the centipedical life. It makes you flush when you read them. I pass now from the outward invisible life of the monk, the subject of my earlier book, to the invisible life of the inner man,


from the vocal prayers of the canonical office to the unceasing prayer which St. Paul commanded. You see how he lines it up very clearly, very black and white, calling the centipedical life the external discipline and the solitary life the interior discipline, the interior life, like St. Paul. It's almost like the Old Testament and the New Testament. And calling the centipedical life the canonical prayer which is at certain times during the day and the solitary life the unceasing prayer. But you see what he's doing? He's deliberately confusing a couple of different things there. Because you can look at this as much as an interior life and a centipedical life as you can in a solitary life, but there is a reasonable centipedical life. It's not right to separate those things in that way and line them up in that way. It's a typical schematization and abuses the reality in which the schematization is built


to say that interior prayer and unceasing prayer belong only to the solitary life. He's got another conference, Conference 19, where he talks about the end, that is the purpose of the centipede and of the hermit. And there it's a little different story. He's quoting Abba John and Abba John returned from the hermitage to the Cenobia. And this is very interesting. And he gives the reasons why he did. And evidently he was good. He was a good contemplative. And he returned because he said there were too many preoccupations with the hermitage. Because it was all right in the early days when the hermits were few and far between. But as the visits began to fill up, there were too many visitors to take care of, too many preoccupations.


But also the fundamental thing about the hermit life, the way they lived, is that the hermit could not be poor. And he could not be obedient. He didn't have anybody to obey him. That's the way he writes sometimes. But principally he couldn't be poor. He had to worry about his own maintenance. So he had to pile up something and have something to eat and to stay and so on. So he could not be without the occupation of the hermit and the medical ministry. Now he tries to respond to the question about the difference between the purpose of his life. The Cenobite aims at mortifying and crucifying all of his self-will, but taking no thoughts for the moral, as the Gospel says. It is claimed that only a Cenobite can reach this perfection. Because the hermit has to worry about himself, because nobody else is going to. The hermit aims at freeing his mind from all earthly thoughts and to unite it with Christ so far as his human weakness allows. These are two different aims.


The two different aims. Unless the follower of each way attains his aim, he will gain no good from the hermits of the earth and others. Each perfection, then, is partial, not complete. Perfection in the full sense of the gist of God is rare indeed. The truly perfect man, at least, can endure with an equal peace of mind the austerities and loneliness of the desert and the weaknesses of his brother in the community. In neither mode of life is it easy to find a complete person. The hermit cannot achieve contempt for material possessions. The Cenobite cannot achieve the pure prayer of a contemplative. Now, see, that's a whole different story, where he got them set side by side, almost as if they were two different locations. But yet, then he goes on to point out that the hermit is no good unless he comes out of the community, that unless you have the community preparation, the solitary life probably won't work. It is only... Because you won't have your vices eradicated, you won't even know what they are, so you just take them with you into solitary. So there's a kind of a fluctuation here,


but the general tradition, and also in Chaston, is that the Cenobitical preparation for the solitary life is ineffective. That's a constant of tradition. The later... The thing is St. Peter's Day is the exception. And then he talks about the people who go into the hermit life without being meditated. Some become rather like animals, going to the long silence of loneliness and shrink away from man's approach. They get subhuman. Who is it that says this? Either... I mean, St. Thomas is... He says that a person who lives in solitude will do so either as an angel or as a beast. But being separated from your fellows either attempts to sanctify them and make them like the angels or like the animals. And Chaston tells you why. He tells you how. Shrink away from them, of course, they become... In solitary, they lose their ability


to relate to other people. And you can see this happen to them. When they're brought out of retirement for a short time by visiting brethren, they shy away with obvious signs of strife. This usually happens to people who have become hermits prematurely and without a good previous training in the community life. Their faults are not eradicated. They are as poor hermits as they are centivites and are blown about here and there by puffs from every troublesome breeze. On the one side, they're annoyed and impatient of meeting other monks. On the other side, they dislike the loneliness and silence that they have chosen because they don't even know the true reason for choosing them. They think it is the supreme merit to be aware of avoiding human company or seeing human faces. It is very incisive. So the big mistake is to think that it's a good and holy thing simply to separate yourself from other men. To mistake this life of mankind, this life of others, for vocation,


for a good control of others. And strangely, it's easy to do that. We're so blind about our own interior and our movements that it's easy to do that. And then Germainus goes on and asks, well, what about us who are precisely in a position that we've come to the desert without having a sufficient cenobitical preparation? And then John goes on to say, well, even if there's no reason to do it, you can just point out how you can find your problem, your defect, and how you can heal it. I won't go into that. Now, there are other places where it turns out that the cenobitical life is identified with the life of obedience and that the fault, the sin of the cenobite is a fault against obedience. Whereas the hermit life is identified with unceasing prayer, with contemplation, and the sin, the fault, the fall of a hermit


is an interruption or a loss of this unceasing prayer. Now, that, too, is a kind of schematization. That, too, is an over-simplification, of course. But there's clarity to find in people like that themselves, because at least you can orient yourself with it, you know what it's doing. And then later on, you can put in the nuances. Okay, John Climacus talks about the two kinds of life, too. He's very pithy, you know. He talks about three kinds of life, as a matter of fact. He says you can live either in a cenobium, in a monastery, among many dozens. You can live a solitary life as a hermit, or you can live what he calls a royal way, which is in a kind of skeet arrangement, or a laurel arrangement with three or four brethren. And that's really what he seems to prefer, rather than the totally solitary life, and rather than the life


in the size of a communion. He's got some, in step number 37 of his, is it 27? Of his ladder, which he entitles Holy Hesychius, or Solitude of the Claudian Mind. Now, Hesychius, that word doesn't mean solitude. Literally, it means silence, like quiet, quiet, or like the tranquillitarist that Sebastian talks about. Hesychius, it's a very important word in the Eastern spirituality. You know, like a hesychast, believe it or not. But he's talking about it as a way of life, not as an interior state. Well, he does talk about it as an interior state, but basically, it's the solitary way of life that he's talking about, and then it gets into more interior dimension. That article of, there's an article by Thomas Westward on Hesychius in,


where was it? I can't think of, Geology and Theory, which is very good, but I can have those different levels of Hesychius. Okay. He gives the signs of a fruitful solitary life and of a bad solitary life. This is number 37, 36, 37, 38, and then step 27. I'll read a little bit of it just so you can get the flavor. He who is still troubled by bad temper and conceit, by hypocrisy and remembrance of wrongs should never dare to set foot in the solitary way, lest he gain distraction and nothing else. So you can see that he expects that there's going to be a community preparation before anybody goes into the hermit life. And the big thing seems to be this irritability thing, this anger thing. If you've still got that, if that's still unchecked, then that means that you need more community preparation. You need to live with your brethren more and somehow have that transformed before you'll be ready for solitary. So it would look like


the function of community is to humble a person, removing the conceit, and to soften a person, removing that anger, that irritability, that tendency towards resentment, remembrance of wrongs. Here are the signs, courses, and proofs of those who are practicing solitude in the right way. An unruffled mind, tranquility, sanctified thought, rapture towards the Lord, recollection of eternal torments, the urgency of death, constant hunger for prayer, unsleeping vigilance, wasting away of lust, ignorance of attachment, death to the world, loss of gluttony, a sure understanding of divine things, a well of discernment, a truce accompanied by tears. Truce must mean their reconciliation with God, a kind of eternal peace. A well of discernment, let's see, loss of talkativeness, anus or hametsu, I'm not too sure. At least that's fine there, you know. Whatever be their other virtues. And many such things


which the common run of men are wont to find quite alien to them. And here are the signs we're practicing solitude in the wrong way. Dirth of spiritual wealth, increase of anger, hoard of resentment, diminution of love, growth of vanity. Okay, it's pride and it's anger which are the marks of the wrong, when the solitary life is going the wrong way. Pride and anger is a kind of inflation and a kind of setting one against one's brother which indicates it's going the wrong way. And on the contrary, all of those other signs, there are many more signs of being in solitude in the right way, but they all amount to this transformation of the heart. So it's a question of humility and of neatness, a kind of neatness, of the heart of that thing, the core of that thing, I think it's the compunction, the compunction of the heart, the communion with God, in the solitary life. Penetration, compassion, compunction, remember how St. Bernard relates this to the two degrees of truth.


Unless a person has really sunk himself into the first two degrees of truth, it's unlikely that he'll be ready for it, aware of the truth. In the solitary life, he's supposed to be aware of it, because the third, the third degree of truth, keeping the truth in itself, that is, in pride. Although, once again, we always have to be careful about schematizing it, relating one interior state to one exterior way of life, but this doesn't work quite that simple. And then he talks about the signs of a fruitful cenobitical life and not the bad one. And he simply calls it obedience, the signs of those who are lawfully, unadulterously, and sincerely wedded to this orderly, how he goes on with it, with his literary life. Then he talks about hatred, diminution of lust through continual scrutiny, ignorance of despondency, increase of zeal, compassionate love, banishment of pride. And then he tells the signs of a bad imaginary life.


Reproach, hatred, alignment. Pollution, forgetfulness of death, insatiability of stomach, lack of control of the eyes, working for vainglory, pining for sleep, hardening of the heart, deadness and insensibility, rank growth of wrong thoughts and an inclination to fall out, captivity of the heart, disturbance of spirit, disobedience, contradiction, attachment, unbelief, skepticism, talkativeness, and worst of all, pre-familiarity. Worst of all, pre-familiarity. And still more wretched, a heart without compunction, which in the negligent is followed by indifference, the mother of devils and foes. So there. I'm not going to say a whole lot more about the relationship between community and solitary. There's a lot of good stuff here that both on community and solitary that I won't be able to read to you,


a lot of good texts that are worthwhile. I would like to recommend a book of John Bonnier's called Community and Growth on the Life of Community if you're not familiar with it. And I'll read a little sample just for what you're up to. He talks about community in a rather unusual way. Far from a romantic way, anything but. He's the person you want to read if you want to get your feet back down on the ground. That's the reading, Eastern Theology with its lofty celestial contemplative insights. He's like Coleman, he says, you know, let's talk about the passion and stuff like that. But that's what he talks about, but not in the way of the old, the old Joseph Hunt. When he talks about community, he's really down to earth. First of all, he starts talking about the way that people seek community in this day when people are so fragmented and isolated and there's so little community in the world. There's so much loneliness.


So community can appear to be a marvelously welcoming and sharing place. But in another way, community is a terrible place. It is the place where our limitations and our egoism are revealed to us. When we begin to live full time with others, we discover our poverty and our weaknesses, our inability to get on with people, our mental and emotional blocks, our affective or sexual disturbances, our seemingly insatiable desires, our frustrations and jealousy, our hatred and our wish to destroy. While we were alone, we could believe we loved everyone. Now that we are with others, we realize how incapable we are of loving, how much we deny life to others. And if we become incapable of loving, what is love? There is nothing but blackness, despair, and anguish. Love seems an illusion. We seem to be condemned to solitude and death. So community life brings a painful revelation of our limitations, weaknesses, and darkness. The unexpected discovery of the monsters within us is hard to accept.


The immediate reaction is to try to destroy the monsters, to hide them away again, pretending that they don't exist, or to flee from community life and relationships with others, or to find that the monsters are there in our house, projecting a shadow. But if we accept that the monsters are there, we can let them out and learn to tame them. That is growth and liberation. If we're accepted by the others in the community, with our limitations as well as our abilities, community gradually becomes a place of liberation. Discovering that we are accepted and loved by others, we're better able to accept and love ourselves. So community is the place where we can be ourselves without fear or constraint. Community life deepens through mutual trust among all its members. So this terrible place can become one of life and growth. There is nothing more beautiful than a community where people are beginning really to love and trust each other. And of course, the song of Behold, how good it feels. In community life,


we discover our own deepest wounds and learn to accept it so our rebirth can begin. It is from this very wound that we are born. There's no romance left. And he goes on to talk about friends and enemies in community. We hate to think that we have enemies. When we read about the love of enemies in the gospels, we have to realize that what the Lord means is the people with whom we feel a lot of things, the people whom we don't like. And that we, in our emotions, we prove we do have our enemies. And our problem is to face that and to learn to love them. The two great dangers of community are friends and enemies. People very quickly get together with those who are like themselves. We all like to be with someone who pleases us, who shares our ideas, ways of looking at life, and sense of humor. We nourish each other. We flatter each other. We are marvelous.


Oh, we are. We are marvelous because we are the most intelligent and clever. Human friendships can very quickly become a club of mediocrities enclosed in mutual flattery and approval. Friendship is then no longer a spur to go further to be of greater service to our brothers and sisters and so on. Friendship becomes stifling, a barrier between ourselves and others and their needs. It can become an emotional dependence which is a form of slavery. There are also antipathies in communities. There are always people with whom we don't agree who block us and contradict us and who stifle the treasure of our life and our freedom. Their presence seems menacing and brings out in us either aggression or a threat to serve our regressions. We seem incapable of expressing ourselves or even of living in a religion. Have you had that experience? Others bring out our envy and jealousy. They are everything we wish we were ourselves and their presence reminds us that we are not. Their radiance and their intelligence


underline our own poverty. Others ask too much of us. We cannot respond to their increasing emotional demand and we have to push them away. These are these enemies. They endanger us and even if we dare not admit it we hate them. Certainly this is only a psychological illness that exists in America because it's not deliberate. But even so we just wish these people wouldn't exist. If they disappeared or died it would seem like a liberation. These blocks as well as attractions between different personalities are natural. They come from an emotional immaturity and a whole lot of elements from our childhood over which we have no control. They can do no better than deny us what they have to say and then he goes on to talk about life. Gradually we have to live with these things until they are here. And here lies the forgiveness of human beings and forgiveness of ourselves too. There's another part in here about drawing from community


to myself to myself for the community. A community is only a community when the majority of its members is making the transition from the community for myself to myself for the community. When we start worrying we always have to invest in what can A community isn't just a place where people live under the same roof nor is a community a work team. It's a place where everyone unless realistic the majority is emerging


from the shadows of egocentricity to the life of a real love. There's a lot more of that kind of thing in the book. It's very rich. There's one point in here which is particularly significant for me despite the fact that we're running over time. I'd like to give you a little bit of that. In this community context you mentioned already that deep wound which people have had and in some way it's our death. And we begin to discover even in communities and it's our limitation, it's our inability to love, it's our fear, it's all of the neurotic junk which is inside of us. And he describes it most often as the wound of loneliness. We all carry our own deep wound which is the wound of our loneliness. We find it


hard to be alone and we try to flee from this in hyperactivity. Some people think their wound of loneliness will be healed if they come into community or they'll be disappointed. While they're young they can hide their disappointment behind the dynamic of generosity. They can flee from the present by projecting themselves into the future into a hope that things will be better tomorrow. But towards the age of 40 the future is past and there are no more great projects. The wound is still there and we can become depressed especially as we're now carrying all the guilt and apathy of the past. Then we have to realize that this wound is inherent in the human condition and that what we have to do is walk with it instead of feeling common. We cannot accept it until we discover that we are loved by God just as we are and that the Holy Spirit and the mysterious way of living is essential to the wound. Then he talks about people who get married in order to heal the wound but that doesn't do it either. And at


the end of the book he returns to the subject of the wound. This book is about community. Community is the place of forgiveness and celebration, growth and liberation. But when all is said and done each of us in the deepest part of ourselves has to learn to accept our own essential qualities. In each of our heart there is a wound, the wound of our own loneliness. It hurts when we feel that is not just loneliness it's a hundred things. But we feel that it's only ours, that nobody has had this trouble except me. Death is a passage which cannot be made in community. It has to be made completely alone. And all suffering, sadness and depression is a process of death. So when we talk about healing and we talk about therapy and we talk about getting healthy we have to remember that we're never going to get healthy and we're going


to get cured of death until we go through it and to not be able to die because it doesn't work for us. So even healing, even our desire for health, for wholeness has to be made relative, has to be put into the perspective of the past and the present because that's the only direction in the world. A manifestation of our deep wound which is part of the human condition because our heart's thirst for the infinite will never be satisfied with the limitations which are always a sign of death. The fact that we accept all these limitations isn't an act of sacrifice but living in a community, saying we're living under a wall, all these things that we can't do, our poverty, our death, and our obedience. This is an acceptance of the effect by which we try to get beyond it. We'll only find peace when we discover that our setbacks, depression, and even our sins can be an offering and a sacrifice and so open the door to the eternal. We will only find trust when we've accepted our human condition with


all its limitations and contradictions and stand in search for happiness. And when we discover that the eternal wedding cake will be waiting for us like a gift from God, he's a little too pessimistic. He needs a little of the radiance of the interior light of the eastern of the earth above. The fact that the wedding banquet is already inside of us, it's already in our hearts. The light is already there. St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that light of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus is within our hearts. Even the most beautiful communities can never heal the pain of For this sacrament is purification in the presence of God. If we stop fleeing from our own solitude and if we accept our wounds we'll discover that this is the way to meet Jesus Christ. So it's that confrontation of death


again. Then he goes on about the people who get married trying to find a solution to this wound. We can only accept our own deep wound finally when we have discovered that community is a place where our heart can put down roots, a place where we are at home. The roots are not there to comfort us but to turn us in on ourselves. Quite the opposite, they are there so that each of us can grow and bear fruit for man and for God. Okay, I had some things from Merton to read for you but I better not go on any longer this time. I'll mention a few things of his and then maybe just read one more piece. In talking about solitude, one is inclined to turn to Thomas Martin because he thought about it and he wrote about it so much and


one of the things that I always think of is that notes for a philosophy of solitude is really questions where he does some deep thinking about the subject and writes well about it. He starts out by saying that all men are solitary and it's like this Wunder Blumen that we're all solitary and that we do everything to avoid confronting facing this solitude that we have inside of ourselves and if we're called to face that solitude we're called to face the truth and yet solitude is not isolation but communion and there are three ways you can go in solitude. You can either go into the kind of desert where you run out of motivation and run out of steam and you just sort of vegetate or you can go into the kind of


isolation that clouds solitude and is a person who says I'm not like other men and he doesn't think that he's pride. We never feel about pride as pride. It always seems like something else. It always seems like something good. But he's a person basically who is in solitude in order to build a wall around his own self in order to sort of confirm his own identity to solidify his own ego instead of losing it instead of dying to it. Martin talks about the solitary the monk as being a sort of cast off a person who in the eyes of the world is a failure and that part of the meaning the paradox of his life is just in the dissolution of his inner self. But if he can't be the big real spiritual man or spiritual giant or something like that


he's supposed to fall apart as far as his inner self. And he says that that's even a question he needs to realize because the prayer of the termite may be a very poor thing it may be more poor more empty more dispassionate more disturbed less satisfying less mystical than the prayer of the inner self. Because this solitude also can be experienced in community if you got it inside of yourself then it won't come out anyway. Ultimately it seems to me that solitude is a function of interiority. That's that movement from the false self to the exterior self to the interior self. I'm just going to read you a little bit from the end of this philosophy


of solitude which expresses that beautifully. What then is the conclusion that this solitude of which we have been speaking, the solitude of the true monocos of the lone one, is not and cannot be selfish. It is the opposite of selfish. It is the death and forgetfulness of self. But what is self? Remember once again at the past conference that we come back to this circle, the central point of death and resurrection, which is the core, the crown of the heart of the monocos. What is self? The self that is core of the monocos. What self? The


core of the heart of the monocos. What is self? The core of the monocos. I think it's an honest thing. It must have been a way of disappointing me that somehow it seems to me that man's interpersonal dimension, the dimension of love between people, deserves more confirmation, more affirmation. And true self, who comes to full maturity in emptiness and solitude, and who can, of course, begin to appear and grow in the valid sacrificial and creative self-dedication that belong to a genuine social existence. But note that even this social maturing of love implies at the same time the growth of a certain inner solitude. Without solitude, or some sort,


there is and can be no maturity. Unless one becomes empty and alone, he cannot give himself in love, because he does not possess the deep self, which is the only gift worthy of love. But to find that deep self, you have to go, have to face that wound of loneliness that Kanye is talking about. And this deep self you immediately arrive cannot be possessed. My deep self is not something which I acquire, or to which I attain after a long struggle. That's the risk in that true self way of thinking about things. You begin to think about the true self so much that you begin to consider it almost something in the ground, like all the other things that you reach upon, another ego object. It is not mine and cannot become mine. It is no thing, no object. It is I. The shallow I of individualism can be possessed, developed, cultivated, pandered to, satisfied. It is the center of all our strivings for gain and for satisfaction, whether material or spiritual. That's the false self. But the deep I of the spirit,


the solitude and the love, the true self, cannot be had, possessed, developed, perfected. It can only be and act according to deep inner laws which are not of man's contrivance, but which come from God. They are the laws of the spirit. He lights the wind, blows where he wills. At this point, the law has become liberty. The law which governs our external life has become the liberty which is God himself, the liberty of the spirit. Working in our own liberty. This inner I, who is always alone, is always universal. For in this inmost I, my own solitude meets the solitude of every other man and the solitude of the spirit. So we meet in our solitude sometimes. There's a lot of peace in here. For as long as we're in this life, the solitude and the breath of individualism move from the heart to that solitude, go to that interior to the tomb. The self, which is a kind of externalization of the heart, the interior self, and the tomb


into which Jesus descends in order to emerge on the day of the resurrection. Prepare the solitude for a moment to discover. Remember the solitude that I mentioned. This is that place of waiting, the place in between the life and the Friday of suffering and of trouble and between the resurrection and the life of solitude as we descend into that place of quiet. Once again, we see the relation of marriage to the contemplative life and to the contemplative life. The place of quiet is of expectation, is waiting, awaiting the resurrection. But in that awaiting, in the interior self, in the heart, the resurrection is already certain, the life is already certain, new life is already there. So it's a time of pregnancy as well. And there again we're reminded of Our Lady. She who always, like the woman in the Apocalypse, is giving birth, giving birth out in the desert to the new life. Hence it is beyond division, this inner I, beyond limitation, beyond selfish, selfish


affirmation. It is only this inmost and solitary I that truly loves with the love and the Spirit of Christ. This I is Christ himself living in us and we in him living in the Father. Other things that Martin has written about, he's written about it all over. There's one particularly interesting little article in Contemplation of the Word of Action called The Cell, remember? Where he starts out talking about the tedium and the boredom and the difficulty, the impossibility of the solitary life. And then talks about, at the end, tells a story of this hermit who was about to leave and he has a vision of the maiden who comes and says, don't go away, don't leave. None of the things that you're worried about are going to happen to you. Stay here and dwell with me. It's a beautiful story. He was just about to leave. Then Divine Grace appeared to him in the form of a virgin who


encouraged him and said, do not go away but stay here with me so none of the evils you have imagined has ever happened to you. He obeyed and stayed there and at this moment his heart was here. And they lived happily ever after. And he interprets this as being Lady Wisdom. This is Lady Wisdom who appears and becomes a companion of the solitary. And remember that the first variety of solitude is what? The celibacy. The first species of solitude simply is not having a wife and a family. And the end, somehow, of solitude is to discover this other dimension opening up within one. It's what's called the Holy Spirit, something called the Glory Earth, the Wisdom of God. And he ends up with this quotation from the Book of Wisdom. For she is fairer than the sun and surpasses every constellation in the sky. Compared to light she takes precedence, for that indeed knights the plants, for wickedness prevails


not of the wisdom. Indeed she reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well. Her I loved and sought after from my youth. I sought to take her for my bride and was enamored of her beauty. Like St. Francis has his Lady Poverty and has his Lady Solitude, it turns out to be this Wisdom of God. This mystery which is revealed only somehow when we disappear into it. Disappear into the ground of our being. There's another article called Love and Solitude which originally was the introduction to the Japanese edition of Boston Solitude. We've printed in this little Love and Living, which is a beautiful thing, but I won't take any more time to read it. It's a beautiful poetic education of the poetry of solitude which Merton does beautifully. This is the first one. No writing on the solitary meditative dimensions of life


can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind and the pine tree. Merton is the poet of solitude. I don't know anybody else that writes about it. Not that he had that much of it. Even when he lived in the hell of it, he lived. Any other questions? I don't think we should be asking that. He says there is true joy when they have visitors. He says, yeah, he's got it.


He's full of joy when they come. He's full of joy when they leave. That's the way they are. Good. A true hermit is not anti-social. Even though if you read The Desert Fathers, look at Arsenius. Some of them, boy, they were severe. They seemed very unhospitable sometimes. It's hard to generalize even there. But no, he can't be anti-social. That can't be the reason for his being in solitude. But some of them, in the old days especially, they would have that external thing of not being. Arsenius is a good example. That's part of our Jewishness, I think, is to be able to see context even in a positive light.


Not that we enjoy fighting with one another. But we don't consider that conflict or tension is a disaster or is it not. But we don't panic. We just consider it to be part of life, to be born with. And to face the fact that we have to have conflict in our life, or that we have to have tension in our community, to face it, to accept it, and to live with it. And that can be done. But if we panic, and if we think every time there's a little tension that the relationship is destroyed, that's a lack of faith, really. We have to learn even to fight with one another and still to love one another. And often through that tension and through a flare-up, the relationship becomes even. Often, sometimes at least. Sometimes that's the way few people get to know one another and get really to like one another by having a fight. But before that, the two shows have not been broken. The two forces have not been broken at all. It's actually, usually we're not dealing with the other person. We're fighting with somebody.


We're not really fighting with him. We're fighting with something else. We're fighting with his shell or something like that, like locking arms. We're not really looking at it in a real sense. That's not really us that's involved either. It's something else that we're looking for. If we could really see one another the way we are in our core, in our center, it would be much better. That is a kind of a macho thing, which makes it possible to do that,


a kind of pride. And you can do that. The soldiers can do like that too. They can be trying to blow one another's head off, but they can be buddies and stuff like the old airplane stories in the First World War. I don't think the heart has anything to do with it. It's not much, in the case of us. It's a kind of camaraderie. When it's within the rules of the game, you see, but it's different when it's your whole life that's put against the other person. You can do that in sports. It's not so easy to do it in business. It's not so easy to be out to get somebody in business and then to be his friend at another point in life. You can do it in a game, but you can't do it in life.


Somehow the game is circumscribed. The game is boxed in. You know what the rules are. You know what the understanding is in the game. You know you're safe from that on the outside, but it's not that way in business.