Thursday, June 19, 2014

Swiss town's resident hermit resigns. Problem? Too many people stopping by

And now for something completely different. This is not, I repeat, NOT, an article from The Onion.

In Switzerland, City Seeks a Hermit Who Also Likes People
Switzerland's "Katholisches Kirchenblatt," a Catholic weekly, recently carried an unusual job ad: "Are you an idealistic, religious person who enjoys meeting people?" The ad was placed by the small Alpine city of Solothurn. But Solothurn isn't looking for a new social worker or priest. It is searching for a hermit.

The town's hermitage, built into the rock face of a striking gorge, has been empty since March, when its resident hermit, and the first woman to hold the post since 1442, resigned after five years.

Her complaint: People. The constant stream of tourists to the hermitage and neighboring chapel was just too much to handle, according to the city. This time around, Solothurn has updated the job description. "Along with acting as caretaker and sacristan, responsibilities include interaction with the many visitors," the ad warns potential applicants.

"There's a bit of a discrepancy between the job title of hermit and the fact he or she has to deal with throngs of visitors," says Sergio Wyniger, the head of Solothurn's city council. So far, the city has received 119 applications and expects to make a decision by next week.
The Hermitage of St. Verena, near the small Swiss city of Solothurn,
is searching for a new hermit.
Some thoughts:
--The Catholics still have actual hermits??
--since 1442??
--The Catholics turned a lifestyle into a job description?
--'Hermit wanted: must like people'. Hmmm, HERMIT...


All kidding aside, and believe me, I'm restraining myself right now, in the false religion of Catholicism, hermits actually have a long history. That history not only exists through to today, but is increasing in popularity. Even as recently as last year, Catholics were putting out the call for hermits. In the Swiss town mentioned above, 120 people applied for the job of "hermit".

Modern-Day Hermits: Answering the Call to Solitude, Prayer
While we might think of hermits as relics of the Church’s medieval past, today there are many who devote their lives entirely to solitary prayer.
There are Catholic hermits in the US. There are male and female hermits. There are even hermits who are not affiliated with a religious order. Hermits are consecrated by taking certain vows and following certain rules.

In the article above, a US hermit named Maria, who raised her kids and now wants to answer the call to hermit life, explains the rise in recent Catholic hermitism.
"Maria, who lives on the Gulf Coast, thinks the increase in hermits may also be a sign of the times. “The call was answered in the early Church when there was heresy and persecution,” she said. “The world had become so wicked; people could not exist in it anymore.” "

That is the point, the world IS wicked. Christ came to provide the Light of the way to heaven, and imputed His righteousness to Christians, who by the power of the indwelling Spirit by His grace and love for people, we transcend the mundanity and wickedness of the world and point the way to Christ.

In living the life of a hermit, Brother Martin said he imitates Christ. “In the hermitic life one retreats from the world, much like Christ did when he went off for 40 days in the desert to pray or when he went to lonely places to pray,” he said.
Catholics see no discrepancy between the life of a hermit and the mandate to evangelize. Brother Martin mentioned above explains that a hermit's call is to evangelize the souls of others in the form of intercessory prayer in private and in solitude-
Although Maria is discerning whether she has a call to the hermitic life, she, like Brother Martin, sticks to a strict schedule called an horarium. Some of her daily activities include prayer, daily Mass, lectio divina, meditations, study, physical exercise, household chores, and gardening. “It’s a very intensely busy life,” she said. “But it is all centered in silence and solitude, so you grow to the point where you can hear and discern God’s word.”
Catholic solitary ascetic life-styles are not just expressed in hermit-living. Anchorites and anchoresses were common in medieval times. Wikipedia explains the anchorite's lifestyle:
Wikimedia commons
Anchorite or anchoret (female: anchoress) "one who has retired from the world", from the verb anachōreō, signifying "to withdraw", "to retire") denotes someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, and—circumstances permitting—Eucharist-focused life. Whilst anchorites are frequently considered to be a type of religious hermit, unlike hermits they were required to take a vow of stability of place, opting instead for permanent enclosure in cells often attached to churches. Also unlike hermits, anchorites were subject to a religious rite of consecration that closely resembled the funeral rite, following which - ideologically, at least, they would be considered dead to the world, a type of living saint.
Of course, most of us are familiar with the notion of Catholic cloistered monks and nuns. In fact, the Catholic Church has codified the different forms of 'Christian' living, or as they call it, 'The Consecrated life." The Catechism of the Catholic Church states
From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practising the evangelical counsels. They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved. [emphasis mine]
Every man's way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice... (Proverbs 21:2-3)

Some of the different consecrated lifestyles approved by the Catholic church are, consecrated virgins, consecrated widows, hermits, anchorites, or new forms of consecrated life not yet invented. The United States Lutheran church recognizes the hermit lifestyle, but they call those who choose to separate from the world "solitaries".

What does the bible say?
Of course the bible does not in any way endorse separating from the world. Jesus did not pray that the Father take us out of the world, not at all.

"I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." (John 17:15). We may not leave the world until we die or are raptured. Until then, as Jesus prayed, for the sakes of those who would believe in Jesus, we remain so the world will believe God sent Jesus. (John 17:20-21)

Loner Sects have always existed, though.
Non-religions hermit Valerio Ricetti lived in a cave
in New South Wales, Australia.
The site is now on the State Heritage Register. Source
Essenes, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, were a faction group who  believed the Pharisees and Sadducees had corrupted the Temple (the Essenes were not wrong on this point) and split apart from the other two Jewish groups to live a celibate, monastic life in the desert. (They were wrong on this point, though).

GotQuestions explains who the Essenes were, The Essenes were a Jewish mystical sect somewhat resembling the Pharisees. They lived lives of ritual purity and separation. They originated about 100 B.C., and disappeared from history after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The Essenes are not directly mentioned in Scripture, although some believe they may be referred to in Matthew 19:11, 12 and in Colossians 2:8, 18, and 23. Interest in the Essenes was renewed with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were likely recorded and stored by the Essenes.

GotQuestions continues with an explanation of why John The Baptist, though thought by some to be an Essene, wasn't. The main reason is that John lived in the desert but was at the same time a very public figure, and had disciples and followers. Solitary living apart from the world is not in view here, since it is not what Jesus wants of us.

This is because we are to interact with the world while maintaining a Kingdom perspective. After all, the lost are in the world, and it is they to whom we are called as Christ's Ambassadors to share the Good News. (Matthew 28:16-20). Living a private and solitary life denies the Christ who told us to go into the world among men. It also denies us the opportunity to edify one another, (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to bear one another's burdens, (Galatians 6:2), to pray together, to break bread together. (Acts 1:14). Removing one's self from the world into a cloistered (enclosed) or solitary life also denies the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us strong and resist temptation while we are faced with daily pressures. Resisting these temptations and living a life in His glory is an important way to show His glory to the lost world.

We are to be IN the world but not of the world. (John 17:14-15). The world is ruled by satan, and whether one is in the middle of Times Square in NYC or alone in a desert cave in Australia, one is still in the domain ruled by satan. Removing one's self only tells the world that you are relying on your own self to live a life pleasing unto God. A hermetic life, a 'consecrated' life; or a cloistered life, is just all about you, and not about Jesus. Sin will still get you. Read this anecdote from a sermon of John MacArthur's:

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Oscar Wilde, once told a story. It wasn't true, he just made it up but I [think] it illustrates the point. He said:

The devil was crossing the Libyan desert and on his way across he met a whole pile of his demons who were really working hard on an old hermit. Now this hermit was a saint. He had been, you know, set aside by the church and held had taken his vows and he was a very holy hermit. And so he's out there in the middle of the Libyan desert, you know.

He said, "No" to everything in the world and he had taken his cross and he had gone to the desert.

And so, these demons were out there really trying to get him to stumble ... really trying to tempt this old hermit. And they were going at it full bore. And Satan came along.

And Wilde says this: "Steadfastly, the sainted man resisted their suggestions." They weren't successful, they couldn't get him to fall into sin. "Finally, after watching their failure in disgust, the Devil whispered to the demons, 'What you're doing is too crude, permit me one moment.' And then the devil whispered to the holy man, 'Your brother has just been made the bishop of Alexandria."'

And Wilde says: "A scowl of malignant jealousy crossed his face. 'That,' said the Devil, 'is the sort of thing I recommend."'

Get the point? They can't get us in some places, they'll get us someplace else
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The Dangers of the ascetic, solitary life

Living alone or within a very small group is dangerous, as well. Mysticism runs heavily through the cloistered life, as we saw from the description above of the Oregonian hermits' daily schedule. It included contemplative prayer accompanied by Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina ("Sacred Reading") is a mystical, Gnostic practice whereupon the seeker seeks not to understand the revealed word, and not to ponder the attributes of the God who revealed it, but to experience it in a two-way conversation with God. It is an example of a spiritually sounding exercise that is devoid of the power of God. (2 Timothy 3:5).

Most of the world's false religions, cults, and sects were started by one or two disaffected persons usually having had received a vision. The Essenes were disaffected Jewish mystics who retired to the desert alone. Famously, Muhammad was living alone in a cave when supposedly the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him and revealed the Quran.

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:16)

Founder of Mormonism Joseph Smith said that when he was younger he participated in religious folk magic. One night alone upon a hillside in prayer he received the first vision that led him to found the cult of the Latter Day Saints.

Wikipedia:
"According to the account Smith told in 1838, he went to the woods to pray about which church to join but fell into the grip of an evil power that nearly overcame him. At the last moment, he was rescued by two shining "personages" (implied to be Jesus and God the Father) who hovered above him. One of the beings told Smith not to join any existing churches because all taught incorrect doctrines."
From the article I quoted above, we read the hermit Maria saying,
“In the ’70s, I became very ill, and on many occasions, the Blessed Mother actually came to me in various ways, and brought me comfort,” said Maria.

It is well-known that ascetic and mystical practices that focus on an ascetic interior life, including Lectio Divina and Contemplative Spirituality, actually provides a fertile breeding ground for visions and apparitions. In other words, if you want to gt a vision, live like a hermit according to man-made rules, and eschew solid biblical study for personal experiences, elevate yourself and your thoughts and your life above everyone else's by showing the world how spiritual you are and go live in a hermitage or a cloister.

Or, if you want to please Jesus, live a life of unremarkable faith, persevering in His statutes, living in the world, resisting sin,  and loving your neighbor. And that doesn't mean the neighbor hermit in the next cave over.


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Further reading:

Some famous non-religious hermits

What is New Monasticism?
Christian monasticism is based on an extreme interpretation of Jesus' teachings on perfection (Matthew 5:48), celibacy (Matthew 19:10-12), and poverty (Matthew 19:16-22). Monks and nuns attempt to control their environment and surround themselves with like-minded devotees. Many followers of Eastern religions also practice monasticism, the Buddhist monk perhaps being the most recognizable.

Smith's Bible Dictionary: The Essenes

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