Saturday, February 17, 2018

Catholic Hermit: Nightmarish Illness a Lesson


Yesterday the throat and sinuses worsened, especially the throat. Fever rose although battery on thermometer did not work.  Could tell from severe headache and body aches, and the terrible sore throat--looked like strep although could not stand but a couple minutes to look in mirror: White splotches.

So I tried again with the doctors' clinic, begging to have an Azithromycin (Zpack) called to pharmacy.  They refused.  Said I had to come in.  I explained all over again as I had been for the previous two days, that I am too ill to come in.  It was not my fault that the doctor I saw on Monday morning neglected to write down my asking if I should have an antibiotic for sinus infection coming on nor mention I told her of my sore throat for two days--then.

A nurse was going to try to contact the doctor who only is there two days a month. I had suggested that perhaps the doctor would remember and could tell them, for the clinic folks continued to say that since it was not written in my chart, they could not call in the needed antibiotic.

Round and round we went.  I said would be ridiculous for me to have to take an ambulance just to get a z-pack; but the person at clinic said that would be what I'd have to do unless I'd get someone to bring me.  Again I explained that I cannot manage being up for more than two minutes and then must get back down; I would not make it from my place to the road to get into a car, nor from a car into their office.  I cannot risk falling due to the rods in my back.

The couple from the parish--the man--was willing to pick me up from clinic as I did find out from the Fire and Rescue Dept. that if I'd call 911 and they would dispatch them, they could take me to the doctors' clinic and not charge.  But I'd have to get a way back and get the z-pack from pharmacy.

The clinic said they would fit me into their schedule if I could come in.  The couple was leaving the area for the weekend later in the afternoon.  I called 911, and they put me through to their emergency nurse.  I had to go through the entire tale once more, and it is not easy for others to grasp that with the back issues and high level of pain, and with a sinus infection as well as now strep throat, I could not make it by car.  

The 911 nurse could not grasp and kept insisting I take a taxi; none here although she looked online and gave me a number.  I did not bother to tell her they no longer are in service.  A bus?  I explained again I could not stand up long enough to make it to a bus stop!  She said that I am able to get to the bathroom--yes, but that is 12 feet away from my sleeping bag on floor.  That's a short distance compared to farmhouse door to road.  

Anyway, it ended up that she did tell me Doxycycline would not help the throat but I needed a Zpack. Yes, I knew that, but it helped to have professional support on that fact.

While I was on the line with 911, the nurse from clinic had called.  I returned the call; she had not gotten any response from the doctor I'd seen on Monday. I said that I knew she would not for I had called the doctor's other office in another area, and the doctor was on vacation that day and hence.  I mentioned I had not answered the nurse's call as I was talking with the 911 emergency nurse, as the local Fire and Rescue operator and her supervisor thought I should call 911 to get an ambulance, be assessed and brought to the clinic that way.  Yes, extreme, but what could I do?

I explained again it was not my fault that the doctor had not written down half the reason I was there on Monday morning, and that the doctor had told me to wait a bit before an antibiotic.  So between perhaps the extreme I was going to have to take to get my body there, as I explained yet again I seriously cannot get out to a car, and the man willing to pick me up is older than I am, and I cannot make them responsible for trying to hold me up to get me into a car, nor at this point did I want to expose them to strep as it is very contagious.

So the nurse said she'd try one more thing. 

People were praying--friends in email and text contact.  The couple had left the area by this time but had agreed if I could get that zpack called in, they would try to find someone in the parish to pick it up and bring it to me--drop it off.  With 90 minutes remaining before pharmacy closed in the evening, a nurse practitioner called.  Once more I had to go through the entire saga, and she finally relented and said she'd call in the z-pack only if I'd make an appointment to come in on Monday to be seen.

(Evidently she was accepting that I would be better, that I truly needed that Zpack, perhaps after I'd said what the 911 emergency nurse had said.  We do have to have "authorities" backing us; what do we know, huh?)  While I reminded the NP at the clinic that they are closed on Monday, she then said Tuesday; turns out they don't have openings Tuesday but they said then Wednesday would be all right.  They'd call in the zpack.

By then less than an hour remained to get the needed medication.  Texting back and forth with the parish couple who were going to be out of cell service the next day, and they with a man named John, they said he could pick up the medication and bring it and for me to tell them when it was ready.  I'm not sure why they could not put John in contact with me, other than people are extremely cautious in these parts, and I have learned to be that way, also--but not with those I've known for over a year....

So from that one breakthrough with the clinic who agreed to call in a simple z-pack, all went smoothly.  The pharmacy has even started taking the Part D medication insurance I pay for, so what otherwise would have been an over-priced z-pack was inexpensive.  They got it ready immediately, another text sent to the couple with reminder to tell John to bring a flashlight as is quite dark on the property until one gets to a point of flood lights coming on.  And just before the pharmacy closed, and soon after, I had the z-pack.

Of course, I'm "sicker'n a dog" as my late dad often would say when we kids had something beyond the cold or light flu.  I considered just how chaotic and horrific was the ordeal of trying to get that medication in hand.  There is much I've left out, such as telling the clinic staff that I was documenting all and texting and emailing friends and family so that they'd have the information should something happen to me.  I pointed out that while the clinic kept justifying their not calling in that medication when Wednesday morning they said they would--saying my symptoms were not mentioned in the doctor's notes--that a judge and jury would think otherwise given my documentation.  More than that, of course, GOD KNOWS.

I also mentioned that the Fire and Rescue team were appalled at how the clinic was digging in their heels when I had explained reasonably, even if not typical scenario, that I truly could not physically get into the clinic by car, and that ambulance was not a sure thing although the Fire and Rescue people were so disgusted with the clinic that they assured me they would once 911 sent them the dispatch.

Yet despite all the finagling, God worked it all out in an instant once one Nurse Practitioner agreed to bend the rule, which the Fire and Rescue agreed has not always been the case at that clinic.  Regardless, they will get their money for an appointment as I don't mind going in once I am better and able, which I figure I will be by next Wednesday.

I marvel at the way God allowed this craziness to go on for three days, in which I grew steadily more ill.  And for all the effort I had to put out in just getting some help over something that would have easily been handled had the doctor been more thorough in note-taking.  And true, I was surprised as that doctor seems to be the brains and head-on-straight person in that clinic.

But once the persevering was done, and I and others had prayed and prayed, and I relinquished myself into God's hands and said I would simply have to accept whatever outcome in my health with the strep throat--God broke through the barrier and all else unfolded so easily, beautifully, and even better than I figured given the pharmacy having added my insurance plan.

I have since reflected about Lent, about how we must never give up until we have exhausted all avenues no matter how ridiculous or unnecessary or extreme.  We must relinquish ourselves to God once we've done all humanly possible, and accept whatever fate.  And we must accept the timing of God and the added suffering in the interim, for had I been given that Zpack on Wednesday, I'd not now be so sick.  

Last night I was able to be up under three minutes, long enough to put a cup of rice in a saucepan with a couple cups of boxed chicken stock, turn on stove, and collapse back down on the sleeping bag.  A half hour later I was up under two minutes putting some in a bowl and shoving the pan in the refrigerator, and back down on the floor. Legs are so shaky and am so nauseated, that the effort to get up is taxing.

I had texted the couple, also, to see if they knew of anyone in the parish who perhaps would be willing to drop off some bananas or soup from a store deli, but that was too much to suggest, I realize.  Yes, people are cautious, and I realized that people who are highly scheduled people think in terms of others being likewise, and that others would have their schedules full and would not be able to fit in an added purchase and drop off.

And likewise, those who are not scheduled people probably assume that others are not scheduled, and thus have no set plans and can do and go without much difficulty in arrangements.

And, I also considered that I still have two grapefruit in here, although my stomach not yet up for them, and I have yet this last box of the chicken stock with the rice, and if I can gain enough strength in time to be able to make it as far as pole barn and back, I can get a loaf of grain bread from the freezer and eat that with peanut butter.  And I have some frozen Edamame that can be microwaved, and in the fridge freezer, once my throat can swallow that.

God provides. I will make do with gratitude and trust.  Again what would traditional hermits of yore do in such circumstances?  Well, not lean unto their own understanding, and cast their cares upon the Lord.

So that is what I must do, hope i have done, and plan to do going forward.  And to take to heart today's Gospel reading in which Jesus points out that the healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.  Jesus is the great Physician, and I am sick of and with sins and sick in body as well.  So He's the One to turn to, in prayer and thanksgiving!  And I will wait with the Lord here until healthier days come.

God did allow the devil to push and push for three days with that clinic staff, but God prevailed in the final hour.  And God's prevailing is really all that matters when all is said and done.

Note:  A quite practical lesson I have learned and will carry forth for my earthly days remaining:  Never leave a doctor's office until assured the doctor has made note in medical records of all symptoms discussed. 


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Catholic Hermit: Lenten Illness


A contemporary aspect that helps a Catholic hermit consider all the more the early Christian hermits, is that of illness.  In living in a more solitary environment, remaining "hidden from the eyes of men," not being a hermit connected with a religious order...the issue of illness can become a challenge.

The early desert fathers and mothers were not part of a religious order--at least back in the first few centuries.  Prior, the prophets who essentially were eremites, lived alone or at most with an understudy.

Thus, in more recent centuries, hermits who did not associate with a religious order or a lara (hermit grouping in separate dwellings but in a type of hermit "community"), those Catholic hermits who live in solitude with few close-by person contacts have a challenge when it comes to being ill.

I was recently exposed to flu B, but I also have been dealing with sinus troubles.  Sinus infections and flu have similar symptoms.  In past years when I'd become ill, it was very difficult to get antibiotics needed sooner than later.  Since I do live in solitude and have but now the one contact, a couple from a parish who bring me Communion once a week when they are not otherwise engaged), I need to get to a doctor before I become too ill to be mobile.

So it was, that on Monday when at a doctor appt., I mentioned a sore throat and sinus issues flaring, and should I have an anti-biotic.  The doctor wanted to wait.  Sure enough, by the following evening, I was down and out with what seems a nasty sinus problem.  No over-the-counter efforts of remedies in the hermitage helped stop the onward movement of illness.

But after last year's five-weeks' of awful illness that ended up with lung troubles--pneumonia of some type and two rounds of antibiotics, and much, much suffering.  Yes, it was during Lent.

After that horrible ordeal with being misdiagnosed by medical practitioners, dragging out the healing process, a friend from afar sent Doxycycline to keep on hand.  With my increased back pain, my physician who is available but two days a month only, prescribed some anti-nausea medication due to the low back pain radiating to stomach, causing near-constant nausea of varying degrees.

So I took the Doxycycline and the anti-nausea medication night before last and yesterday morning, and the nausea is so strong that it is all I can do to not vomit.  And when weak and dizzy from sickness, not easy to even get up to bathroom.  But, the sore throat is waning some, and the head pain lessened: progress!

I had called the doctor group although my physician not there for a couple more weeks, and explained the situation that I'd just been there, but really need a Z-pack due to nausea from Doxycycline.  Was told they would put the message through and just call it in, as I was too ill to drive myself to the office, but thought I could ask the couple to pick up a prescription and drop it off by my door.  I do not want to risk others getting ill just in case I'm contagious.  

Waited all day, and called a couple times.  The message was given to a doctor who I knew would not cooperate, nor would I trust for a proper diagnosis even if I were well enough to get to office.  But I held out hope for they were encouraging that the prescription would be called in.  Z-packs do not cause such nausea....  

Finally got a call this afternoon.  Nurse wanted to know more but said the doctor wanted me to come in, even though I'd just been there although with different doctor.  Explained the situation yet again.  She was going to pass message on to a different doctor but thought I'd unlikely get a prescription called in.  My only recourse is to take the anti-nausea med and the Doxycycline, and to pray my way through the horrible nausea and pray to keep the medication down.

I have thought how amazing it is, though, that God provided through the friend from afar who sent the Doxycycline they had left from her husband's inability to take it, even with anti-nausea medication.  I may be joining him, but thus far this is my only option or else face out of control infection that in prior years then gets to the lungs and into pneumonia.

And while I had not recently been to civilization for needed food provisions, there are some edibles in the pantry and freezer, even if not able to cook, and the food supplies are low, I must rely solely on the Lord.  When medication nauseates, one is not interested in eating, anyway!  In that sense, God removes the potential problem of not enough food on hand.  

Not at all easy when a consecrated hermit who lives within the silence of solitude.  It is just the circumstance that the Lord has chosen my vocation as a hermit to be, at least for now, more severe in the solitude.  Just as when my eye had the splinter, I have considered how the traditional hermits of yore lived in faith in God when ailments beset them. 

It is the living out of God alone, of trusting in God's providence, and in having full acceptance of the unknown of how long one will be ill or if one will survive or not (in severe illnesses of which one is never quite sure how bad is bad).  Other than a brief period today in which the reality of all the work I have yet to do to finish this hermitage in order to sell it (nearly out of money lent me by family member to do so) tempted me to frustration, I am laughing a bit--and marveling--about how this ailment was in full force on Ash Wednesday--yesterday.

Each year for many years, there has been some surprise awaiting during Lent.  I'd just had a letter from my spiritual father, telling me to not be concerned about anything for Lent as my pain and the hard work I was doing was plenty of penance and sacrifice!  But, the Lord surprises us with whatever He knows in His omniscience, as to what we need during Lent to help us develop whatever virtues we need to improve in and to whittle away whatever vices yet plague us.

It is Lent.  And if I can see all the glory of God in all that has transpired, including not being able to have a non-sickening antibiotic but have a free antibiotic even if it makes me suffer in the taking of it--it all works out!  If by some chance this is the flu, it will pass in time, or if it worsens (for an antibiotic will not heal the flu), then I will know in a worsening of symptoms, and accept whatever God wills in surviving or passing.

I have some Scriptures and other aspects of the hermit journey in mind to write, prior to this health challenge, but they will wait as I must wait.  Not well enough to work harder at writing than this simple description of how illness affects a consecrated Catholic hermit who is living in a solitary mode, and the way in which one must rely upon the Lord in the silence of solitude.

And, there is never a lack of prayer content.  I have my little window to the world, as I lay here on the floor on top of the flattened out sleeping bag.  Laptop is on top of a dish rack so I can write in prone position; my back has long been too painful to sit to do much of anything, and with this illness cannot be up for more than a handful of minutes.

The horrific school shooting has been foremost in the prayers.  Yet the other prayer concerns that are given me through email or text message, or a phone call or two--including the doctors denying the Zpack to be called in--fill my days and nights with a major work of a hermit:  Prayer.  And always with prayer, we are to Praise the Lord God Almighty!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Catholic Hermit: "Solitude" by Charles Burchfield


"Solitude" by Charles Burchfield, American artist (1893-1967) [1918]; 1944-1963; water and charcoal on paper, 40x62 inches.  Collection of Burchfield Penney Art Center. gift of Charles Rand Penney, 1994.


Image may contain: outdoor

This nothing consecrated Catholic hermit has been drawn to the art of the late Charles Burchfield.  I knew nothing of his work until this past year, from postings by the Burchfield Penney Art Center which include photos of his art as well as excerpts from his journal.

I find it particularly interesting in reading the excerpts and noting the dates given, that the artist would often create a work of art, such as the above painting, and yet later--years later--would put it back on his easel and work on it more: reviewing, altering, lending experience and perspective as his life and vocation progressed.

This painting, "Soliltude", particularly draws me.  I notice the appearance of a cave opening beyond the pool or calmed stream of water.


Catholic Hermit: Solitude Visual, Physical, Interior


[I'm technologically challenged, and somehow am having difficulty embedding the photo of Charles Burchfield's (1893-1967) painting: Solitude.  I will put in a proceeding or preceding post for you to see.  Perhaps at some point I will figure out how to embed in this blog, but thus far the writing gets blocked by the image.  Time to finish up some painting of walls in a closet here in Te Deum Hermitage!  Time to cease fiddling with the art of computer technology.  Praising God I was at least able to rescue the words written, even if not essential to anyone's existence, that is for sure!]

This nothing consecrated Catholic hermit has been drawn to the art of the late Charles Burchfield.  I knew nothing of his work until this past year, from postings by the Burchfield Penney Art Center which include photos of his art as well as excerpts from his journal.

I find it particularly interesting in reading the excerpts and noting the dates given, that the artist would often create a work of art, such as the above painting, and yet later--years later--would put it back on his easel and work on it more: reviewing, altering, lending experience and perspective as his life and vocation progressed.


This painting, "Soliltude", particularly draws me.  I notice the appearance of a cave opening beyond the pool or calmed stream of water.

Since my own recent need to assess and review aspects of my hermit vocation, events which let my mind, heart, and soul know that all was not as it ought be, required alterations, corrections.  

Of course, when we make an alteration in some aspect of our lives and beings, we are not assured that we will hit upon the correction we hope for or desire--or more importantly what God desires and wills for us.  We only know and sense that something is not quite right, or that we recognize something seems incomplete, or that there is some new learning or experience which we must try to incorporate into our "art" of living.

The past few days, having set (or perhaps re-set) boundaries as far as how much communication and the types and content of communication, adaptation is taking place.  (I'm sure the others of whom I had to request a respite from so much communication, also are adapting.)  Adaptation is good, all around!  

We grow through adaptation; we evolve.  We seek and heed and allow God to further form us in His will and also more in His image.

As to solitude, there is more to it than meets the outer eye.   Solitude can be visual, sensory and interior.  We may most often consider solitude as being alone.  The thought or action of being alone can be daunting if not frightening and uncomfortable--even unbearable to some.  I suppose the reaction to sensory solitude is a clue as to our vocations and God's will.

There are a few married hermits in the history of the Church, but if so, they tended not live together.  St. Nicholas of Flu comes to mind.  It thus stands to reason that those called to the married vocation will not be comfortable with much sensory solitude, nor should they; their life's work and purpose involves a spouse and most often, a family, a career outside the home for one or both after children are older, or if need be, while children are young.

For a hermit, sensory, physical solitude is requisite.  The process of adapting to increasing degrees of sensory solitude may take time; but the desire is there, the ability to live in sensory solitude is a grace God gives to those He calls to be hermits.

Solitude is also visual.  We can see with the outer eye many examples that reflect or inherently proffer the essence and reality of solitude.  A cave, a hut in a woods or field or desert, a lean-to or tent, a burrow, a hole in a tree, a closet, cellar, a nook or cranny such as under a stairway in a building--can trigger in our thoughts a reminder or aspect of solitude.

Even colors can evoke and suggest solitude.  Gray tones, bark of trees, stones, deeply dark waters, charcoal of fires--perhaps these hues and shades stir essences of solitude.  

Or, we may see someone who appears to be alone--if we remain with an initial case of solitude as that of "being alone".  We may see someone who reminds us of someone homeless, or who bears the stereotypical visual, exterior affect of the hermits or recluses of history: unkempt hair, long fingernails, wizened and hiding from the hustle of an active life.

Visually, the more I view Charles Burchfield's artistic rendering of "solitude", the more I see solitude in the scene.  The forms of nature, the colors, even the medium of charcoal on paper--all within this work of art delineate and lead further the image of solitude.  And the image is not simply exteriorly visual, sensorily so.  The depiction draws us into a deeper grasp of solitude as an interior experience, a grace.

Rain evokes solitude, at least to me.  Fog and overcast, frost, and heat waves rising from earth, snow, ice, and cloudless skies--visuals, to me, that remind me of the intimacy with God that solitude gifts.

A single word, or a phrase or sentence--can lead to reflection upon the beauty and freedom in solitude.

There can be visual and other-sensory forms of solitude; but all reminders, nudges or outright shoves of solitude, can and hopefully should, lead us toward interior solitude.

And the amount and degree, level, of interior solitude varies depending upon the person and God's will for that person--the person's vocation in this life.  And the phases and degrees of exterior and interior solitude will fluctuate--even and perhaps nuanced especially so in the life experience of a hermit.

Thus, lately I have understood far better why it is that a hermit would not be that involved in the details and dilemmas of those in married vocation or active single life.  In this way, the hermit vocation finds similarity to a priestly vocation; or as a Catholic hermit is in the consecrated life of the Church, there is more a draw to interior life such as many in religious orders. 

However even with priests and ordered religious, a hermit is called to more visual, sensory, and interior solitude than priests and ordered religious.  Even those in contemplative orders, are not called to the amount of sensory solitude to which a hermit might be called by God.

That is why a rare few in the religious orders may become a hermit, live as a hermit, within the religious order's agreement but outside the communal monastery habitat.

St. Charbel Maklouf, comes to mind; or Bl. Charles de Foucald, a hermit priest who lived outside the Muslim community in the Sahara.  Or in essence and substance, actually, lived Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich--so confined to her bed in a rented room and tended by her sister, visited by a priest now and then and later on, by a man God sent to write her visions.

(While she did not profess vows in the eremitic vocation, as she was an Augustinian nun whose order had disbanded and dissolved), she is an example of some of the forms and phases of solitude that a vocational hermit would, should experience.) 

For a hermit, when there is much noise in the thoughts and the emotions erupt in frustrated cacophony, it is time to bring up to the easel, the "art work" of the hermit's exterior and interior rendering of "solitude".  Adjustments, alterations, adaptations are in order.  Serenity that accompanies solitude, or perhaps more so enhances and fulfills solitude, must be restored, increased, embellished.

The result will be exhilarating in a daring and challenging way.   The element of the unknown and blind-faith of going forth further into the fog, the mist, the unknowns of solitude's interior reaches is worth the awkward moments when one tries to grasp--let alone explain to others--the need for change, for separation from that which is not the hermit's path outward into the temporal world of which so many belong and exist as their rightful place and ways of life. 

This is not to say that those not called by God to be hermits should not desire, pray for, and make time for solitude which includes sensory solitude exterior as well as learning to still the mind, heart and soul for some times of interior solitude.  It is just that due to their obligations in active life (and this for priests and ordered religious in active ministry or living in cloister but yet surrounded and interacting at various times of day with others), the solitude will be far less, and hopefully, for the times in which solitude can be theirs, to cherish that solitude.

The eruption of frustration, desperation, and chaos of which I found myself feeling "over-peopled"-- even when there was but one couple who physically came on Sunday morning bringing Holy Communion"--has beautifully calmed.  Jesus is in my boat, slumbering but awakened to my frantic cries that I was being buffeted and on verge of going overboard from too much intrusion, too much communication, too much dependency by those in the outer world, upset with their temporal trials and various issues.

Jesus has stilled the storm all about me and within me.  I had to cut the tethers and set out into the deep, not knowing quite where for the overcast surrounds, not knowing how deep for solitude is unfathomable.

Yet there is such peace and beauty in the exterior and interior of solitude once again.  The painting of woodwork and walls reflects a functional piece of art that takes one into its evocations of the essences of solitude itself.

God bless His Real Presence in us!




Saturday, January 27, 2018

Catholic Hermit: Timely Vocation Review


Even the first coat of paint in Te Deum Hermitage living room (dubbed Living Waters by couple who brings Communion on Sundays), just seems "off"in color compared to adjoining walls.

I mix Super White with Manchester Tan, but this time I neglected to remember that in prior mixing for other rooms, I used Aura and Regal; in this room I mixed both colors in Regal level of paint (Benjamin Moore brands).  Maybe there is something a tad "off" due to the slight variation in paint grades?  Or perhaps it is also due to less lighting in the living room than the kitchen-back sitting area in which there is more light and vaulted, white-plank ceilings.

The sense of something being a bit "off", I realized, is a signal more so to reflect on my vocation, as lately I came to what seems a fork in the road in some relationships.  They seemed "off", as well.  And upon further review, I realized my vocation had floated outside the narrow stream, and it was "off"--not a lot, but needs review, narrowing, correction.

In two relationships that began more as answering spiritual questions and teaching whatever tips I could in turning to Christ increasingly, implementing Church teachings and the Living Word (Scriptures) into everyday life dilemmas--the relationships had widened into therapy.

And I did my best for quite a long time, using the clinical psychology skills I'd learned in over half a doctorate in course work and hours of internship work I'd done in the past.  I also tried to keep pointing the persons to the spiritual view, to the Scriptures, to what saints might be quite helpful even though increasingly their issues dealt with temporal problems. 

When others we love have chronic issues to which they want suggestions but for whatever reasons cannot seem to deal with the issues or try suggestions, what can one do?

Just pray. 

Return to the Lord, ask for His Wisdom.  Place our cares upon the Lord and lean not unto our own understanding. 

Traditionally, from hermits of yore of whom I've read their lives and their writings, there were some words of spiritual benefit given to those who would come and ask.  But the hermits did not allow dependency on the hermit but rather a sense of detachment with turning those others to the Lord and being firm in that turning.

Hermits are hermits for various reasons.  The Lord knows how He wills the hermit's life to be structured and lived.  I am learning along the way, these 17 years since profession of vows.  Am still learning!  

This morning another prayer need came from an elderly couple.  The man is having an unexpected cross to bear having to do with mind more than body.  Not even what one would expect such as dementia; not that.  Prayer concerns came from Fr. V. in Africa; I'd not heard from him in several months, and his email was filled with serious prayer needs for persons and their souls.  

The praying continues for the concerns the couple mentioned of their contacts--people in need, mentioned when they came to paint.  And of course I pray for those whom I'd needed to send forth on their own, telling them to focus on God and their married vocations, for, yes, I had inadvertently but assuredly strayed from my hermit vocation and need to correct and focus.

The words of St. Paul to Timothy made me realize I need to ask the Lord for this particular fruit of the Holy Spirit:  self-control.  "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.  

I stopped in my thought-tracks and prayed, asking for self-control.  I had not been utilizing this tremendous gift, this virtue.  I'd gotten myself frustrated in my ensnarement in the frenetic conditions of those whom I had not responsibly kept from dependency.  The lines of spiritual guidance blurred; my prayer life hindered by too much temporal detail and psychological disturbance.

At least for my hermit life, despite perhaps other hermits feeling more called to take on "clients" in long-term direction or counseling, I am to remain more hidden yet open to a multitude of prayer concerns of which the Lord brings, yet with the type of detachment that allows others to hopefully take what few bits of wisdom the Holy Spirit might relay through me to them, and thus to enable others to be on their ways with the spiritual means to manage their temporal lives and carry their earthly crosses.

I recall the time a decade or more ago in which my spiritual director told me he'd taken me as far as he knew, and that it was time I applied what I'd been taught and lean upon the Lord for guidance henceforth.  We would be instead of director and directee, anam cara.  

I recall reading that when Padre Pio was not allowed his spiritual director any longer; no more correspondence or contact would he have with the priest and spiritual father of whom he had become dependent.  Yes, Padre Pio did grieve that loss.  But God provides otherwise; ultimately, God is our guide and is best to be.  Or if other type of counseling is needed for various other reasons, we must seek out the proper help to progress.

The elderly man for whom I am asked to pray, along with his family members trying to cope with the unexpected mental state, are frustrated with having to wait two more weeks for an appointment with a psychiatrist.  We never know, no matter how old nor how faithful we have been in life, what life events will cause us unexpected crosses to bear.

In all this, I continue to pray and ask the Lord to help me review the phases and development of my hermit vocation and to accept His will and way that it is to unfold and be lived.  Regardless of what others may think or live their various vocations, even of my fellow consecrated Catholic hermits--I must listen and be in tune with the signs and signals from God that will guide and inform my path.

God bless His Real Presence in us!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Catholic Hermit: Prudence, Boundaries in Hospitality


The past few days have been overcast with having to come to a decision regarding relationships and the wisdom involved in knowing when "hospitality" must be limited.

Hermits have had, traditionally, a willingness to receive those who come to them.  However, in our time period, the "visits" can come with phone calls and emails more often than an in-person visit.  And, hermits have varied in the degree and amount of such visits and visitors.  Purpose and content of the visit, the need of the visitor, and the length and frequency of visits, are factors a hermit ought consider.

My "visitors" are not in person, other than the couple who come on Sunday mornings with His Real Presence.  My "visitors" either email or phone call; and most email.  Thus, when I refer to "visitors", they are those who email or write a letter and mail it.

This rather hidden, consecrated, Catholic hermit has let some visitors and content and needs of visits get a bit out of bounds.  The situations began on a more spiritual base of encouraging in the spiritual life, answering questions regarding matters of the faith, or of application of the Gospel Rule of Life to "guests" temporal lives.  Over time the contacts changed and grew into my doing more therapy effort than spiritual guidance; although always I would continue to try to instill and point the "guests" back to the Lord, to the Scriptures, and to prayer, to encouraging spiritual reading.

But it seemed that the spiritual was an aside rather than the point of such visits.  And the problems of the visitors manifested as chronic, of which even when I'd go into clinical psychology mode and utilize all aspects learned in this field in the past, there was not progress.

In counseling, there is a rule of thumb that if the client is not making progress after as soon as six weeks and no longer than six months, the counselor needs to recommend cessation of sessions and to suggest the client seek another therapist.  In cases in which the person is unwilling to try any of the suggestions or strategies, the counseling needs to cease.

As a hermit, the lines are not as clear cut as if one were practicing as a clinical psychologist.  For one thing, the client (visitor) is investing monetarily for an hour appointment, once a week or so.  The purpose is clear, and the client does not have free-reign to email or call directly.  And due to the professional setting, the client tends to take the advice and therapy revelations more seriously.

As a hermit, the boundaries need to be clearly set for those "visiting" be it by email or phone or in person.  And this means set within the hermit's mind and way of being hospitable.  The spiritual must remain central; and time limits are appropriate.  

Of course, a hermit's "visitors" will have personal life struggles they wish to discuss and receive some type of guidance and suggestions to propel them forward and through temporal trials.  But there is a limit to how much repetition especially in chronic issues.  And for the issues that are chronic and the visitor is not progressing, continuing visits become time-consuming and ineffective for either hermit or visitor or both.

From reading the lives of various traditional Catholic hermits of the past centuries and in more recent times, the hermit prefers to not have visitors but in charity tries to accommodate.  However, it is true that in most hermits' lives, people can become rather insistent, repetitive, and dependent upon wanting to talk with the hermit.  They want spiritual direction or may say so, but there is usually if not always the therapy-aspect inherent in the desire to talk, to receive feedback.

I think we all know how this can be for those of us who are Catholics, who have gone to priests for confession and perhaps desired and rather depended upon getting some personal counsel as to how to handle life's difficulties.  And this is all right, for receiving input from others can be so helpful.  But priests also know well to set firm boundaries, and to limit the purpose and content to spiritual point.  And there is a time-limit for such encounters.

For those of us who are sought for spiritual input--and which includes life-input for all is connected--it is requisite to not allow others to become dependent and chronic "patients".

I've come to this point, as I mentioned above, recently.  I've had to set very firm boundaries and to not answer phone calls but rather to encourage an email, of which I can more easily see through the purpose.  It also causes the one seeking input, to write out and see in their written words, what they are trying to express.  It takes more effort to write than to call; words do not flow as indiscriminately.

If the emails become too frequent, then the hermit can simply write and explain it is too much.  If the person continues, the hermit can choose to not respond or to comment back:  Praying for you.  After all, the major work of a hermit is prayer, and not to become a therapist.  Once all has been taught regarding helping a visitor know where to turn and how to turn to progress spiritually, that person is on his or her way.  The hermit needs to know when it is time for closure yet to know it will not be easy for the other who is unlikely as comfortable with detachment as would or should a hermit be.

If a hermit's time and energy and emotional, mental, and spiritual "space" is overtaken by a couple or more chronic visitors, a hermit runs the reality of not being available to whom God may send for prayer at any present moment.  And, once a visitor has been given all the advice and spiritual direction the hermit has to gift, there is the aspect that the visitor may be ignoring others in his or her own life who the Lord is wanting that person to help spiritually progress.

At this phase in my hermit vocation and daily life, more silence and less discussing or writing in response to chronic problems is best.  The Lord is with all people, and He guides all of us.  There comes a time, or should, in all our lives in which we spiritually come to that level of faith.  God is with us, God is guiding us, God counsels us and answers our questions and needs.  Might not be instantaneous but will always be perfect.

God bless His Real Presence in us!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Catholic Hermit: A Disadvantage of Solitude


As a consecrated Catholic hermit--or this could be true of any contemporary hermit--there is one unpleasant effect of solitude.

There is not the usual build up of antibodies for various ailments, mostly viruses.  Since I rarely am around people, when I do encounter people it is easy to catch whatever "bugs" are going around.

I'm now coming down with a cold or more likely a sinus infection, since the sinuses are mostly involved.  I assume they were compromised when the sinuses were affected the other night from the sawdust in the eyes.  I had worn a mask, but the eye irritation caused sinus reaction.  Was blowing the nose all night and day as autonomic reaction of eye pain.

It seems always something; and I am hopeful to not have this become what usually ends up sinuses going into a lung problem, and the lung problem ending up a pneumonia-type illness lasting a month or more.

Perhaps I encountered someone ill when I was driven to the eye specialist two days ago.  This would not come simply from my sinuses being irritated; chills, odd-head sensation, and aches lend more to virus or infection of some sort.

Despite taking various supplements to try to ward off ailments, like all people, we hermits can catch whatever we are exposed to, and perhaps more so depending upon the degree of our solitude and being "hidden from the eyes of men."

One would hope that the Lord would provide a grace of illness-protection to those who are consecrated to a life of prayer.  Such a foolish hope--for suffering is also part of prayer and of offering in loving sacrifice in uniting ourselves to the cross of Jesus Christ.  In fact, as far as my life is concerned, I tend to be graced by more rather than less, when it comes to forms of suffering.

It is all right, although I would love to have a stronger disposition in body to fend off illnesses.  I'd like to think that my construction zone environment has been part of the problem in the long-duration of most ailments I "catch".  However, I consider in years past when in a lovely hermitage, and the illnesses especially involving the lungs, lasted a good while.

Was just more comfortable in cozier place; and I did not have the added work around me that was begging to be completed.  Today, for example, I was hoping to caulk and fill trim in a small room, and then do the final paint coat.  And, had the drywall mud, applied yesterday, dried in earlier, better light, I had aspirations to do another coat.

I've done nothing other than rest, make a chicken broth soup, take a phone call from a long-time friend whose birthday was this past week as we stay in contact a couple or three times a year, and do some research on the advantage of sucking on zinc tablet to shorten the duration of common cold....

I've written some emails, and I've prayed.  

Of course I've prayed.  That is my main privilege and work as a consecrated Catholic hermit!  I have been praying for the person in a long-held cycle of acting and reacting in an abusive marriage.  I had to once again be firm in not responding to specific question of what the person ought do in a given situation.  The good Lord has helped me realize that what I can "do" to help is to encourage the person to build self-esteem and realize that the Lord has given intelligence to start figuring out what to do in any situation of which the person has questions.

I do understand that part of the insecurity is due to fear of the reaction of the spouse, either way.  Yet, if we are to progress in our spiritual lives and in our earthly relationships, we must learn to have courage and faith to make decisions and to know that the Lord will provide the strength we need.  (The situation is not physically abusive or dangerous in that way, so taking the risk at worse will result in more arguing or verbal insults or anger.)

Time to turn to reading St. John of the Cross again, for me.  I saw a photo of the old gardens in my previous hermitage, and I had a pang of sorrow that I'd left, that circumstances were such that I rather needed to leave; but throughout the day I realized I'd have to detach from such beauty and delight and comfort at some point.  And, so I had to detach, and the process of detachment may have little threads still hanging out there like sticky, wafting cobwebs that seem to grab us now and then.  A photo was all it took this time.  The feeling was fleeting.

Here, I have been living out detachment, day by day.  The Lord has had quite a time with my stubborn self; but over the nearly five years here, I've grown increasingly detached.  Had to!  No choice, other than to remain angry or resentful, weeping or frustrated!  Had to get with the Lord's program, and even still, today, realizing I am coming down with something and hindered, I had to detach from my desire to make more progress on that little room....

Praying for the abused children in southern California whose parents tortured, starved, and imprisoned them for years and years.  So I do understand various aspects of what being abused mentally, emotionally, and those who also are physically abused--how they lose self-esteem, confidence, and fear more abuse of any type.  But I am to pray; and in my little case at hand, I am to encourage courage!

God bless His Real Presence in us!