Interview with The Coming Home Network, International

Recently our friend the hermit was interviewed by The Coming Home Network, International. They have given us permission to reprint the interview below.

Interview with Brother Rex

February 6, 2014

1) Br. Rex, thanks for taking time to speak with us today! Tell us a bit about yourself and your early formation — are you a convert?

Thank you. It’s good to chat with you. Yes, I am a convert. I was baptized in the United Presbyterian Church but left the practice of Christianity as a teenager. I had a spiritual awakening in my early twenties and returned to the practice of Christianity. By the grace of God and out of a deep love for Jesus Christ, I “came home” to the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil in 2000.

2) Tell us a bit about your conversion process — what was it that drew you to the Church?

My attraction to Catholicism began in the late 80’s or early 90’s when I began to long for I-knew-not-what. There was something missing in my experience as a disciple of Jesus Christ, so I began to search in earnest for what was missing. By the grace of God, through the study of Church history, reading the Scriptures, and daily prayer, I eventually discovered that the “something missing” was an encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ in His Eucharistic Presence within the community of the visible Church He established.

3) So what is a hermit, anyway? How did that all come about, and how did your family feel about it?

A hermit is an individual whom God calls to live a life of prayer and penance in the silence of solitude for God’s glory, the good of His Church, and the salvation of souls. In my case, the Bishop of the Diocese of Portland, Maine has recognized my vocation as a part of consecrated life in accordance with Canon 603 of the Code of Canon Law.

Like every vocation, the call to eremitic life is a great mystery. God calls, we respond: to the single life, to marriage, to some form of consecrated life or to the priesthood. From my initial return to Christianity and my eventual entrance into the Catholic Church I have kept saying “yes” to Jesus as best I can one day at a time. I have kept putting one foot in front of the other, albeit falteringly at times, as the mystery that is my vocation has unfolded.

Members of my family of origin are a bit baffled, I think, by my vocation, even though it has been thirteen years since I began my life as a Solitary. From a Protestant perspective they have no category (except maybe “He’s off his rocker!”) in which to place me.

4) What does a hermit do all day? What’s the purpose of an eremitic vocation, and how do you live it out?

The primary focus of life in the hermitage is conscious awareness of God, the needs of His Church and His world and to pray accordingly. In other words, the vocation to which I have been called is to love. To that end, in whatever I do — preparing my meals, washing the dishes, reading the sacred Scriptures, spending time in Eucharistic Adoration or praying the Divine Office — I endeavor to be open to God in Christ and to pray for people and situations as the Holy Spirit leads. It isn’t easy, this vocation to live and love God and others through prayer in the silence of solitude. I must admit that I often fail miserably. Thankfully, our God is an awesome God full of mercy and grace. As often as I fall, He helps me to regain my footing and continue the journey.

5) Don’t you live in Maine? How did you get connected with CHNetwork?

Yes, I do live in Maine but I am originally from Ohio. I became associated with CHNetwork years ago through the Defending the Faith Conferences at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I attended several conferences, met a number of the staff members and learned that the headquarters for CHNetwork is located close to my parents’ home. I began to drop into the CHNetwork office when I would travel to Ohio to see my family. A couple of years ago, Marcus phoned to ask me if I would be interested in partnering with the CHNetwork ministry team. I would provide ongoing intercessory prayer for the Network and its members, and spiritual companionship/direction on an as needed basis for individuals coming home to the Catholic Church. I prayed about it, asked the permission of my Bishop to do it, and here we are!

6) How do you serve our members?

I have been blessed with the extraordinary gift of having permission from the Bishop to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the hermitage chapel. I make a Holy Hour daily to pray for the intentions of the people affiliated with CHNetwork — be they staff members, individuals who have come home to the Catholic Church, or people still on the journey home. I also provide spiritual direction, encouragement and support via email and phone conversations when asked to do so by the Network.

7) What gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction in working with clergy on the journey or who are new to the Church?

My greatest sense of satisfaction comes from helping individuals deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior in the context of full sacramental communion with Him in His Church.

8) You spend a ton of time praying for other people — how can we pray for you?

Thank you for offering to pray for me. Pray that I will be given the grace to live faithfully the vows I have made because of my desire to love God, His Church, and His world: evangelical poverty; life-giving celibate chastity; and whole-hearted obedience to Christ and His Church.


Honoring the Body of the Savior

“Do you wish to honor the body of the Savior? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honor it in church with silk vestments while outside you are leaving it numb with cold and naked. He who said, ‘This is my body,’ and made it so by his words, is the same that said, ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ Honor him then by sharing your property with the poor. For what God needs is not golden chalices but golden souls.” ~St. John Chrysostom

Pope Francis’ 2014 Lenten Message

Vatican City, 4 February 2014 (VIS) – “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” is the title of the Holy Father’s Message for Lent 2014. The title is drawn from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians in which the apostle encourages them to show their generosity by helping their brothers in Jerusalem, who were experiencing difficulties. In the document the Pope explores the meaning of St. Paul’s invitation to evangelical poverty in our times. The full text of the message is published below:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’. The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean to us today?

Christ’s grace

First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: ‘though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …’. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things. God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances. God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus ‘worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin’.

By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says ‘that by his poverty you might become rich’. This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptised by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of the ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’, that he is ‘heir of all things’.

So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbour, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbour to the man left half dead by the side of the road. What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up his ‘yoke which is easy’, he asks us to be enriched by his ‘poverty which is rich’ and his ‘richness which is poor’, to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the first-born brother.

It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

Our witness

We might think that this ‘way’ of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelisation and human promotion.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can so this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are ‘as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything’, sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe”.

Pope Francis on Consecrated Life

Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during the Angelus on Sunday, February 2, 2014 to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is also World Day for Consecrated Life.

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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

Today we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. Today is also the Day of Consecrated Life, which recalls the importance for the Church of those who have received the vocation to follow Jesus closely along the path of the evangelical counsels. Today’s Gospel gives an account of how Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple 40 days after his birth to offer and consecrate him to God according to the prescription of the Jewish Law. This Gospel episode also constitutes an icon of the gift of their life made by those who, by a gift of God, assume the traits of Jesus as virgin, poor and obedient.

This gift of ourselves to God regards every Christian because we are all consecrated to him through our baptism. We are all called to offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus and like Jesus, making a generous gift of our lives, in the family, at work, in service to the Church, in works of mercy. Nevertheless, such a consecration is lived in a special way by religious, by monks and by consecrated laypersons, who, with the profession of their vows, belong to God in a total and exclusive way. This belonging to the Lord permits those who live it in an authentic way to offer a special witness of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Totally consecrated to God, they are totally given to their brothers, to bring the light of Christ where the darkness is the most impenetrable and spread hope to discouraged hearts.

Consecrated persons are a sign of God in the different spheres of life, they are the leaven for the growth a just and fraternal society, they are a prophecy of sharing with the little ones and the poor. Thus understood and lived, the consecrated life appears to us as it really is: a gift of God, a gift of God to the Church, a gift of God to his People! Every consecrated person is a gift a gift for the People of God on its journey. There is great need of these presences that reinforce and renew the commitment to spread the Gospel, Christian education, charity toward the neediest, contemplative prayer; the commitment to human formation, the spiritual formation of young people and of families; the commitment to justice and peace in the human family. But think about what would happen if there were no sisters in the hospitals, sisters in the missions, sisters in the schools. Think of a Church without sisters! You can’t. They are this gift, this leaven that moves the People of God forward. These are great women who consecrate their life to God, who advance the message of Jesus.

The Church and the world need this witness of God’s love and mercy. The consecrated and religious are that God is good and merciful. So, it is necessary to appreciate with gratitude the experiences of consecrated life and deepen our knowledge of the different charisms and spiritualities. We must pray that many young people answer “yes” to the Lord’s call to consecrate themselves totally to him in view of a disinterested service to their brothers, of consecrating their life to serve God and their brothers.

For all these reasons, as it was just announced, next year will be dedicated in a special way to consecrated life. From this moment let us entrust this initiative to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who, as the parents of Jesus, were the first to be consecrated to him and to consecrate their life to him.

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic form ZENIT.ORG]